As you may know, I had the opportunity recently to spend almost 10 days in Paris. While I’ve recounted some French word nerdery, I’ve yet to write a lot about what we saw and did. I was going to write one giant post, but have decided to divide it into more bite-sized parts. This part: museums.
As always, I visited a lot. While I didn’t see as many as I did in Spain — if only because I was in France for a shorter amount of time — I still saw quite a few.
Despite this being my third visit to Paris, this was the first time I was seeing Centre Pompidou, also known as Beaubourg because of its location, and named for Georges Pompidou, who was president of France from 1969 to 1977 and commissioned the building.
A friend we met during our last visit told us to be sure to take in the view, which we did:
Arab World Institute
I never would have thought to visit the Arab World Institute, aka Institut de Monde Arabe, but Yiannis had read about it and I agreed it sounded interesting.
Originally built in 1987, the newly redone building was unveiled in February 2012 — and what a very cool redone building it is.
The artifacts themselves were lovely and fascinating, from paintings, to ancient scrolls, to traditional clothing for religious ceremonies. Of course before we went into the museum, as per tradition, I had to get something to eat at the cafe:
I thought I had overdone it, but I ended up eating everything save for the chickpea ball, which was a little dry for my taste. Everything else, however, was delicious, especially one with a kind of tangy cheese and mint. Yum!
Foundation Louis Vuitton
I had read that the Foundation Louis Vuitton was a new museum that’s a must-visit. Construction started in 2006 and the building opened in October 2014. The architecture, by Frank Gehry, is very cool —
— but the art was mostly head-scratchingly bizarre. A lot of weird videos, although I did enjoy the one installment of young British people dancing by themselves. I watched one of a white dude who was very enthusiastic and, as Yiannis said, bordered on actual dancing sometimes, but was mostly spastic, and another of a black girl who was extremely shy at first and barely moved, but then suddenly got comfortable and broke into a big smile as she danced.
The Foundation also has a couple of cool outdoor areas but no cafeteria, only an upscale restaurant. There was a long line so we didn’t even bother.
Musee de l’Orangerie
I’ve already written about the origins of the Orange Museum but not the museum itself. I loved it, although not necessarily because it’s all Impressionist and post-Impressionist art. It was on the small side compared to other Paris museums and therefore totally doable in terms of listening to most of the audio guide.
Plus the line wasn’t too long — I did happen to get there shortly after it opened — and it wasn’t too crowded even though most of the other museums in the city were closed that Monday.
And the jambon-beurre at the cafe was good too.
The last time I went to the Louvre was during my first trip to Paris 11 years ago. I didn’t go with Yiannis two years ago as I still remembered the crowds and couldn’t bear the idea of dealing with them again.
I didn’t expect to go this time either. Thinking the museum was closed, I planned on simply walking the perimeter of the courtyard. Then I saw some people go in a side entrance and thought, What the heck, and followed them.
Turned out the place was open and that particular entrance had almost no line, maybe because it was out of the way or because it was only machines. Either way, after not too long, I had my ticket.
It was a crowded as I remember, perhaps even more so because of the plethora of smartphone cameras and (barf) selfie sticks. (That was something new this trip: goddamned selfie sticks.)
I also don’t understand the purpose of taking a picture of every single piece of art. I just want to ask these people, What’re you going to do with all those photos? Have a slide show party? Frame them? I guarantee there are better photos that yours on the internet of these famous pieces of art.
Only worse is having one’s picture taken in front of artwork. Unless you’re doing something hilarious, don’t do it.
At the Mona Lisa, of course, it was a complete fucking madhouse.
This was my second visit to Versailles — palatial home to the likes of Louis XIV, Louis XVI, and Marie Antoinette — and it was lovely.
The chateau itself was crowded, especially with idiots who bunched up at the entryways, leaving vast open spaces elsewhere in the rooms, but the surrounding park were peaceful. Despite the intermittent rain, we took a rowboat out on the Grand Canal.
Yiannis and I agree that this is our favorite museum in Paris. We went on a chilly, rainy day, and every other tourist must have had the same idea because the line was hella long. Like through the museum courtyard, down the block, almost to the Metro long. But of course it was worth it.
This time I left the main floors for last, starting at the top and making my way down. On the fifth floor was a special exhibit, Dolce Vita, Italian design in the early 20th century. I really enjoyed it. Because it was a single exhibit, I was able to absorb a lot and to listen to all the audio guide entries. (I was going to get a guide for the whole museum, but the girl behind the counter was so rude, I said forget it. On the other hand, the Dolce Vita audio guide guy was cute and charming. Take my five euros, please!) The other floors had a similar vibe: art deco interior design but from other countries.
Another thing I love about the D’Orsay is that everywhere is beautiful, even the cafe —
The only negative about the museum is that the food at the basement cafeteria (not the above pictured) sucks. The bread of my baguette was dry and chewy, and the chocolate muffin left much to be desired. It didn’t even compare to chocolate muffins from NYC delis, not to mention that one from the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya in Barcelona that I still dream about.
Next up, amusement parks! (That’s right, amusement parks plural).