One of the things I have learned about Paris is that she is one hell of a sassy woman. She behaves as she pleases without giving a damn about her people. One minute she is hot, and the next she is cold. New York isn’t really like that. Neither is San Francisco. And the third world? It’s hot and humid and polluted day in day out.
After a glorious second day, our third day in Paris kicked off in the most unusual-for-summer manner– chilly and overcast. If you follow our Italy/France expedition from the beginning, you would be familiar with my number one travel rule which is museums and churches are always reserved to days when weather gets uncooperative. That isn’t to say I don’t visit those sites if the weather is all sunny and breezy. The truth is I have never been fortunate enough to experience all-around perfect weather in all of the places I have been to. As a result, our first stop of the day was Musée d’Orsay.
Before heading out, I took this shot of the corkscrew staircase in our building. I really dig this type of incredibly artsy staircase. It’s not commonplace in America and Asia, but apparently is very much so in Italy and France. Passing through Jardin des Tuileries on our way to d’Orsay. Even on a grey morning, it still exudes so much beauty. There exist literally hundreds of museums throughout Paris, but before the trip I managed to whittle down several that I’d have to go at whatever costs. The reason we didn’t choose Musée du Louvre on this particular morning was we wanted to devote the entire day to exploring the left bank of Paris, and Musée d’Orsay is conveniently located there.
I’m not exactly passionate or knowledgeable about arts, but I truly appreciate it and fervently believe that the more museums a city has the more cultured and intellectual it’s. Thus, it’s beneficial to visit at least one in each city especially in Europe. d’Orsay houses some of the most renowned French modern artworks such as those by Monet, Manet, Van Gogh to name just a few. There are a legion of paintings, sculptures, furniture and photography as well, but the time constraint didn’t afford us the opportunity to see them all. We were there specifically for the Impressionist collection.
(If you plan to do the same, here is the trick I learned: once inside, look for the escalator toward the far wall. It will take you to the fifth floor where the Impressionist paintings and sculptures are. Try to visit early in the morning to avoid the crowd. You’ll get to enjoy the arts uninterrupted.)
The visual feast that we were fed really was off the charts especially Monet’s paintings. Now, I really understand why fashion designers often cite arts and paintings as their inspiration. Also, if you’re an arts novice like me, I highly recommend you drop by the souvenir section at the end of your visit and buy a book about the painter you’re interested in knowing more. I bought one about Monet, which puts everything I saw in context and gives me a nice walk down the Parisian memory lane every now and then. I only have two photos of d’Orsay because photos are not allowed inside. The clock one above and the one below were taken before the French lady informed me of the policy. I’m a very law-abiding citizen so I made no more attempt 😛 We spent about 2 and a half hours there. We were starving by the time we finished, but fortunately the cafeteria downstairs came to our rescue and offered some good lunch options. Biological batteries were fully recharged for the rest of the day, which was all about wandering. The next stop of the day was Place St. Michel. I’d liken it to a welcoming sign that says you have officially stepped into Latin Quarter territory. The walk from d’Orsay to Place St. Michel is an easy and enjoyable exercise. Along the way, you’re rewarded with a romantic view of the beautiful buildings on the right bank as well as the prominent Notre Dame. We utilized THIS guide to navigate our way around the neighborhood.
However, when we arrived at Place St. Michel, we were welcome with less than open arms and soon found ourselves being jostled by a mob of tourists and touts. We didn’t even have the chance to get up close and personal with the fountain. Basic instincts told me to leave right away, which we did. We kept strolling along Boulevard St. Germain with Panthéon in our mind. Latin Quarter lovers, don’t hate me but I was less than impressed. You might call it a skewed judgement because I have only spent an afternoon there and thus barely scratched the surface, but truth be told what I saw didn’t measure up to all the hype I had heard. After all, maybe Le Marais has set the bar too high! Nevertheless, I truly enjoyed Panthéon and the surrounding area. While not original and equally known, Panthéon Paris is on a bigger and grander scale than Pantheon Rome. Below are some photos of Saint-Étienne-du-Mont, which according to Wikipedia “contains the shrine of St. Geneviève, the patron saint of Paris. The church also contains the tombs of Blaise Pascal and Jean Racine. Jean-Paul Marat is buried in the church’s cemetery.” The church wasn’t in our itinerary at all; in fact, I didn’t even know of its existence. As we asked the French guard at Panthéon the direction to Jardin du Luxembourg, he was nice enough to recommend us this nearby church (nearby = 2 minute walk). There were just a couple of people inside so we were able to walk around, marvel at the intricate details and take pictures without being intruded. For any traveler in Paris, that is a real perk. Some streets outside Saint-Étienne-du-Mont. I have a weird fascination with deserted streets where muggers most likely are lurking around. And last time I checked, you do stand a chance of being mugged in Paris. As tempting as they are, I think I’ll steer clear of these empty streets from now on. In the next part, we continue to explore Latin Quarter. Plus, I’ll let you in on my least favorite part of Paris. Yeah, I like it even less than Place St. Michel and Champs-Élysées. Don’t forget to tune in 😉