Freeway Free in France: On my Own at the Orsay
We took our separate paths yesterday as planned. I strolled around the neighborhood re-familiarizing myself with some of the restaurants I might want to try again, then down the Seine bank looking at all the quayside life to the Musee d’Orsay, home of Impressionism and much else. The place had been shut down for renovation for a couple of years, with many of its gems traveling to SF, Chicago, and New York for display in the meantime, and I was eager to see what had been done.
Opinion: the d’Orsay Sculpture Court, that jaw-dropping entry into the museum, has been vitiated into ordinariness by the inexorable forces of pragmatism and logistics. The expansive view has been cut up into a narrow “Allee” with increased display space in little rooms carved out of each side. So no traffic-impeding “Wow!” moment as you enter, but a lot of diversionary stops: Here’s where you get your bag checked, here is a gift shop, here is where you get your ticket checked, here is where you pick up your plan of the museum.
One logistical improvement: if all you really want to see is the Impressionists, you can walk briskly to the back of the museum, start with Toulouse-Lautrec on Level 0, then take an escalator for a big dose of Van Gogh and Cezanne on Level 2, then return to the escalators for a direct route (no exits on Levels 3 or 4) to Level 5, where the rest of the gang is displayed. There are some jaw-dropping moments here – a lovely huge Renoir never displayed in its entirely before, and Caillebotte’s Floor refinishers, which I sat and looked at for quite a while.
After a quick visit to the battlements to thumb my nose at the Louvre (which I will probably visit anyway today) I walked down to St. Germain de Pres via the posh Blvd St. Germain and looked in all the shop windows and at all the places made famous by Hemingway and Fitzgerald and “Midnight in Paris.” I stopped for lunch at a little cafe where I ate a nice omelette with frites, then on down to St. Sulpice, one of the wealthiest and loveliest churches in Paris (featured, to its humiliation and resentment, in Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code”) , and now undergoing restoration which hides some of the malarkey-inducing elements from the frivolous visitor.
Bus back to the hotel (This is a key discovery for this trip: the bus system near the Rue Cler is great – at least three bus routes come right through – and it is more fun to be above ground than trudging through Metro tunnels.). I Met WB and we went together for a glass of wine and recap of the day at a sidewalk cafe on Rue Cler, then met later for dinner at Au Petite Tonneau – a wonderful meal of Things We Would Not Eat at Home (snails, veal kidneys, toasted goat cheese). Then we bused over to the Tour Eiffel and managed to get up to the second floor for some great nighttime views, then caught the last bus back to our corner.