Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Our visit to the Museums of Paris

During our trip to Paris in December, we got all cultured. We did this (primarily) through buying the Museum Pass and going museum crazy.

We are museum lovers and prefer to visit a museum over & over, slowly absorbing the incomprehensible displays of grace and beauty BUT a week long trip to Paris only affords a precious hour or two in each place. Even then we missed some must-sees. We're sorry. This action packed museum itinerary was exhaustively carried out over 2 days and was so incredibly worth it.
Foucault pendulum

A glimpse at some greatness.

First stop:


This was the major landmark by our airbnb apartment. Located in the Latin Quarter in Paris, it is a secular mausoleum containing the remains of distinguished French citizens such as Marie Curie, Victor Hugo, Voltaire, Rousseau, etc. Modeled on the Pantheon in Rome, the building is known for Foucault's pendulum a simple device conceived as an experiment to demonstrate the rotation of the Earth. While it had long been known that the Earth rotated, the introduction of the Foucault pendulum in 1851 was the first simple proof of the rotation in an easy-to-see experiment.

Curie's tomb

Panthéon tombs

 2nd stop: 

Musée de l'Orangerie

This beautiful museum sadly doesn't allow photos of its most illustrious treasure, the eight Water Lilies murals by Claude Monet. The upper rooms are designed to display the pieces and they are truly breathtaking. My fixation is on modern art, but there is no denying the eeiry beauty of these pieces.

Though I am loath to be guided by anyone but Ian, Ian is devoted to Europe travel guru and NW native Rick Steves. Ian used Rick Steves's guide to Paris to channeled Rick and allowed us much further insight into the museum and Monet's work then we would have had without it. Well done Porter.

And this is not to say that is all there is to see. I am glossing over works by Renoir, Cézanne, Picasso, Modigliani, and Matisse. The wonder and the frustration of so many world class sites to see.

3rd Stop: 

Musée de l'Armée in Paris

Wherever we go, Ian needs to make it to a war museum. The man loves a bloody war story. While the museum offered many lovely views of the Eiffel Tower outside, it was not the greatest war museum we've seen.

What was awesome - Napoleon's tomb. E gads the man had an ego didn't he? It is truly massive and awe inspiring. As was the building that housed it. Gorgeous.

Napoleon's Tomb Paris France
Napoleon's tomb

Musée de l'Armée in Paris

Stop 3:  

Centre Pompidou

The French are both known for the iconic architecture and their distaste for it. Novelist Guy de Maupassant claimed to hate the tower and supposedly ate lunch in the restaurant every day to avoid looking at it.

Such is the case with the Pompidou Identified by it's external skeleton, it is the premiere museum for modern art in Paris. I was in love.

Montmartre from center of Paris

The escalator offers views of the city including a unique view of Montmartre.

I was blown away by this museum. We didn't have a set time to spend in each museum, but after 4 hours we realized we really need to move on. This is a tiny sampling of the mind-blowing and dramatic pieces and exhibits:

Within the exhibit

This last picture doesn't look like much, but it could easily be the best thing we saw. In a section about movement, it was a tape (like out of a cassette) being blown by a fan. The base was created in such a way that the tape flew about wildly, but never left the space between the base and fan. Mesmerizing.


Stop 4:

Crypte Archeologique

Sadly, not much to say about this site in front of Notre Dame. We actually ducked in primarily to get out of the rain for a minute (I know - shameful). It is the remnants of the Roman city that once stood before modern Paris stomped all over it. If you're into ruins, it's a nice little museum. Us, not so much.

Stop 5: 

Arc de Triumph

Arc de Triomphe
One of my favorite sites of Paris, the Arc (officially known as the Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile) stands in the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle. A symbol of France, it is beautifully ornate and massive. I have admired the Arc from afar, but this was my first look up close.

It honors those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. Beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I. We had hurried here for the sunset:

Eiffel Tower city of Paris
View from the Arc de Triomphe
Good God those views are glorious! Highly recommend coming for sunset. And while the stairs are impressive, there are multiple areas in which to pull off and catch your breath. 2/3 of the way up, the museum is small but a unique space. The best thing it offers is ruins of some of the figures that adorn the exterior.
Arc de Triomphe Museum
Stop 6:


Looking through the very handy guide & map that comes with the pass, we realized we were close to the place Marie Antionette was imprisoned. We're off!

We happily skipped past the line (the pass offers you expedited entrance to many of the museums) and were immediately entranced by a temporary exhibit. Bêtes Off disturbingly paired animals with art. I was in love with the absurdity.

Bêtes Off exhibit Paris

Paris Conciergerie France Museum

Paris Conciergerie France Museum

Paris Conciergerie France Museum

Paris Conciergerie France Museum

Paris Conciergerie France Museum

An absolute wonder. This is one of the best things we saw in Paris. Sadly, this space is often left empty as the former dining hall of the prison. If you have the chance to see this exhibit - GO. The main exhibit was low on info in English (understandable, but not so good for us) and a little hoaky. Whatevs, the special exhibit was where it was at.

Stop 7:


What more is there to say about the Louvre? From trusted fact source Wikipedia:

"The Louvre Museum or simply the Louvre – is one of the world's largest museums, the most visited art museum in the world and a historic monument."

We had done a run through the museum on our last trip to Paris, but to even marginally cover the place you need days. Again, we didn't have enough time to do much more than admire the grandiosity of the museum itself.
Entrance to the Louvre

Ridiculously massive rooms. It takes some time to even walk across this room

can never resist a good smiting

inside Paris Louvre Museum
Venus de Milo and tourist throngs
many signs warning of pickposckets

I took this picture last time, but I love it. Most people walk up, snap a pic, and walk away. Another common move is to pose in front of it. WTF?! People be crazy.

Whew - that was some serious museuming. Two places among the zillions we didn't get to that are at the top of our list for next time (oh yes, we will go again):
  • Catacombs - NOT included on the museum pass, these sound amazing but we were kept pretty busy with all of the other museums.
  • Sewer Tour - Did you know Parisian sewers make up significant portions of Victor Hugo's Les Misérables and that crazy things like jewels worth £12million have been found hidden in the sewers? I did, but I yearn to know more. This tour sounds fantastic, is covered by the museum pass, BUT is not open Thursday & Friday. Well, piss.

What is it? A pre-paid entry card that allows entry into over 70 museums and monuments around Paris (and the Palace of Versailles). The card allows you to jump lengthy queues. The pass does not become active until your first museum or site visit when you write your start date.

  •  2-day €35
  • 4-day €50
  • 6-day €65
*Note these are consecutive days.

Where to buy it? Available from participating museums, tourist offices, Fnac branches and all the main Métro and RER train stations. (We bought ours from the Pantheon, the 1st museum we went to, with no problems or line)
Worth it? YES


~ cheryl said...

Thanx for the tour - feel like I just had a whirlwind visit of Paris's museums. Great photos, too!

Cyril said...

Typical: I have never been to l'Orangerie, the Crypte, the catacombs and I think I was 8 last time I went to the Invalides ;-)
About Napoleon's tomb, they are not sure that it is actually his body in it (or that there is one)... historians are disputing the facts...

About Arc de Triomphe, I told you it was much better than the Eiffel Tower... and definitely less queue!

Regarding Le Louvre, I think that since it was extended to cover all the aisles and underneath, 20 years ago (with the pyramid entrance), it became the largest museum in the world.

Liv said...

I love the Musee d'Orsay because I think the work of the Impressionists is wonderful, but seeing Napolean's tomb is interesting becaus, much as I hate to admit it, in all my visits to Paris I have never been inside Invalides!

ianandebe said...

It's hard to go wrong with museums in Paris....or anything in Paris. It was a pretty amazing day.

We're Back in Berlin Ja!

We're Back in Berlin Ja!
ebe & ian at Yak-toberfest 2008