Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Day Alone in Paris

September 16
By Chuck

The title is misleading, as I was not alone – there were at least 10,000 Frenchpersons in front of me as I looked in any given direction this day; this was in addition to those darned tourists who kept crowding me as I jockeyed for position in the Louvre and the Orsay. I could tell they were all foreigners by the funny way they spoke.

The trip into Paris was uneventful – this is always a relative term for us. We got temporarily displaced along the way; but, we recovered nicely – we are trainable, though we were greatly humbled by our muni travels around the City of Light. We said our goodbyes at the transfer station and each set off. Claire has documented her experiences in another posting.

My planned trip was to exhaustively cover the Louvre, the Musée d'Orsay and Sainte Chappelle! I am not serious, of course: if you were to spend 30 seconds in front of each article in the Louvre, it would take two months to see them all! But, I successfully completed the day – healthy and tired, but satisfied: I simply decided to call what I had achieved for the day a victory – two out of three ain't bad. So, the stained glass windows of Sainte Chappelle will have to wait for another day.

The first time we tried to go to SC, we could not find it; the second time we tried, we were on our way to a second site and stumbled upon a line so long it discouraged us. On my final attempt, I simply gave out and up – my body and feet were complaining and I was inclined to pay them full attention: after all, I want to end the year still feeling positive about culture. Since I have quickly learned that we cannot do it all, even with a year to spend, I put it behind me.

I got off on the wrong foot at the Louvre. I arrived later than planned, about 9am, and had to wait in the long line at the very high-class Tabac to get my 2 Day Museum Pass; then, I rushed to the security line in order to shorten the wait to enter; but, that meant I ignored Rick Steves' advice to orient myself before entering the museum. I never fully recovered. I did eventually find all the blockbuster exhibits, but only by asking or by following individual signs. They were all I could want. I also spent time in the Egyptian and Middle Eastern areas (Mesopotamia, Iran) and saw the subterranean section that shows how the Louvre looked in the Middle Ages – old stuff fascinates me!

In the afternoon, I moved on to the Orsay on Claire's earlier recommendation. It covers the period from 1848 to 1915 and focuses on Impressionists. I was surprised to find this collection more engaging than what I managed to see at the Louvre; also, the building itself was fascinating – a former train station converted into a world class art gallery. It was frustrating to find that some of Rick Steves' audio tour was no longer accurate – not his fault, as things do change and he warned me about that.

I was glad that I had two maps of the city and the public transportation system to guide me, as I made several changes to my proposed return trip and was ultimately able to smoothly navigate the return journey to Claire and the campground. “Smoothly” means that there were no catastrophes along the way, not that I did not have some panicked moments as I questioned whether I had made the correct decision regarding the best return route.

Arriving safely back at Homer, I noticed Claire's note immediately: At the restaurant. I learned from her previous trip there that she would not leave without notice – but that time I did not think to look for a note and wondered for some time why she had not let me know she was off someplace. I should have known that she had left helpful information for me.


Toni said...

Sorry you missed SC, Chuck, but you're right, you can't do everything. I hope you were able to find the Impressionist stuff in the Musee d'Orsay. We found it hard to find the floor where it was and wandered around for a long time before stumbling upon it. When my book comes out, you can read about my experience there on my second trip to Paris (the one when I got sick). Musee d'Orsay was one of the few places I forced myself to go, despite being sick.

Chuck and Claire said...

The Orsay was a good choice for you to make under the circumstances. I was delighted by it; but, I still expect my body to behave like it did 35 years ago. Expectations can be harsh masters.

Carol said...


I'm so glad to hear you blog about your experiences at these 2 museums. When I'd read Claire's earlier post that you guys were splitting up and you were off to the Louvre I was looking forward to your thoughts. Glad to see your blog on the experience.
I LOVED the Louvre and the Orsay. There's so much to say and ask you I can't put it all down in a comment. Lucky you that you saw some of the Egyptian collection at the Lourve and like you I found the foundation of the Louvre, dating back to the Middle ages fascinating. Our guide pointed out some of the signatures of the masons in the rock...symbols, not writing because most people could not write, but a mason was paid daily by the number of stones he set, so marking the beginning and end of a daily set was how he could show how much he'd accomplished for the day. Loved the Orsay and everything in it. Thanks for your post!

Carol said...
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Chuck and Claire said...

I am sorry to have missed the guided tour of the "dungeon" of the Louvre; thanks for sharing the detailed information about the masons.