In Paris, on the first Sunday of every month, the museums are all free. So while my countrymen across the Atlantic were waking up and getting ready for barbecues and fireworks, I was perusing fine works of art.
I started with a walk along the left bank of the Seine, filled with booksellers and vendors. Past Notre Dame and past the Louvre, I was headed to the Musee d’Orsay. I grabbed a crepe and a coffee from the vendor near the entrance. The food is so much cheaper to buy from a vendor on the street compared to sitting down for a meal, and I figured I could have my breakfast as I waited in the line to get in. While free, the line still took time; bags are given cursory checks and, I assume, there is a capacity for the museum, but I’m not sure about that as it was pretty crowded!
The Musee d’Orsay was built in an old railway station and houses art from the mid 1800s to early 1900s. As you walk in, it is a long hall, filled with sculptures, and off to the sides and on the higher levels are smaller rooms and galleries. One of the most interesting things I saw was the model of the Paris Opera House. It was cut longitudinally and very elaborate and I’m assuming very realistic.
There were also play scenes from different plays, I liked the Shakespeare ones – Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, etc. I was also pretty pleased to see some Toulouse-Lautrec (very Parisian!) and some Monets, including the Blue Waterlilies. I have no pictures of my own, because, like a good museum goer, I obeyed the multitude of signs every 20 feet or so that said/depicted “No pictures.”
Some visitors were not so obedient. One worker at the museum motioned to a man with a very flashy and very big camera to stop taking photos. He nodded his head, but continued as she began to walk away. But this wasn’t her first day at work, she was still watching him and she came tearing back and started speaking to him in rapid French and motioned for him to put the lens cap on his camera. He complied finally, and she stayed right next to him for some time after that. I was glad I didn’t try to get a sneaky pic anywhere!
After a whirl through the gift shop, I headed to the Rodin museum. On the way out, someone asked me for directions to the metro. I was able to help them, and a few steps later, a Canadian family asked me for directions to the Rodin museum. “I’m going there myself!” I said. Thankfully, it wasn’t far and easy to get to; I would have felt bad if I ended up leading them in a circle. Granted, having a guidebook and map with me was really the only reason I knew how to get there, but still.
The Rodin museum is in what used to be the Hotel Biron, and Rodin stayed there for a time. It is now full of his sculptures, paintings and sketches. Most famous of which is The Kiss. The floors were wooden, creaky and buckling and warped in places, it squeaks as you walk around. Definitely not air-conditioned and a tiny bit claustrophobic around the more well-known pieces. I liked his work with hands; they seem like difficult things to paint and sculpt!
The hotel is also surrounded by landscaped gardens and more famous statues, including The Thinker, The Gates of Hell, and more. It was really beautiful and the sculptures were stunning.
From there, I wandered through the Luxembourg Gardens, undecided as to whether or not to call it a day. After a long walk to the Tuileries to find out the museum I had in mind for my last visit closed at 6pm and not 7pm as stated in the guidebook (pretty unimpressed with my guidebook overall, index page numbers are wrong, wrong closing times listed, etc.), I thought, yes, it’s time to head back. It was hot, my feet were sore, and I was definitely not the only one taking advantage of the free museums, but it was a good day!