Archives pour la catégorie Paris, France

Orsay Museum

I’m not what you will normally describe as a fan of museums, however I have to say on our recently trip to the Orsay museum I was pleasantly surprised. In many ways it reminded me of the MET in NYC. Located in an former railway station built in 1898-1900, the Orsay museum is a site to be hold even for the jaded Parisian. After a brief restoration completed a couple of years ago, the building itself as well as the view of the Seine are breathtaking and worth the visit itself. Also most visitor to Paris put the Louvre at the top of their list, the Orsay museum provide a spectacular alternative. The price is 13$ (this is the standard museum admission fee for most of the museum in Paris) per person but admission is free if you are under 25 and show an ID at the cashier. Unfortunately, when we arrived it was already late and we were only able to spend 2 hours exploring, however I would suggest setting a side an half day. You might also consider that the museum is close on Thursday and you can have free admission on every first Sunday of the month. Note, this Sundays can be very crowded, so come early.

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As I mentioned earlier, most of the people consider the Louvre at the top of their list of museum to visit. Personally after our recent visit, I have to say with all things consider I prefer the Orsay museum. It is not as overwhelming in terms of scales and exhibitions and you won’t be as overwhelmed as you might trying to take it all in at the Louvre. I also felt a personal connection to these paintings, they almost talked to me. These are the paintings and sculptures you grown up seeing in books, movies and documentaries. I’m sure you will recognized at list one painting or sculptures for some moments in your life. To be able to get up close and see the marks of the brushes and see how meticulous the artists were in their work was informative and inspiring. Even as a novice like myself, being exposed to this grand masterpieces gave me the curiosity to pay more attention to the details and learn more about the artists.

You will find a large collections of impressionist and post impressionist masterpieces, from such legendary artists like Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Van Gogh… to just name a few. It is one of the largest museum in Europe. There is something to see in every corner, even if like me you do not necessary like art, I promise you will find a painting or exhibits that will touch your heart.

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If you decide to visit the museum, choose a day when the horizon is clear and the sky is blue. There are so many great view points on the second floor to take in the sites of Paris, especially of Montmartre. Unfortunately we didn’t have a great weather during our recent visit and the pictures we took just did not do the view justice. Luckily, there is a beautiful café on the second floor, located just behind the Railway station clock. The location is really cool and the food is excellent.

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My parents visited the museum 20 years ago and this was the first time they returned since. My husband has been pushing us all to rediscover Paris, through the eyes of a tourist and as opposed to a busy Parisian who doesn’t have the time to appreciate this amazing city. It is been a lots of fun to actually rediscover some of the city little secrets and hidden pleasures.We had a great day and I will definitely try to take my husband back when we have the time. If you happen to be traveling to Paris in the near future, you should seriously consider adding a visit to this museum on your list. 

If you are fortunate enough to have good weather during your visit, you might consider a nice leisurely stroll along the Seine. Stop at one of the many side café and have a coffee and some croissant as well as people watching like a true Parisian.

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As I mentioned, the Louvre can be very overwhelming, as one day might be enough for a visit at the Orsay museum, the Louvre might be 2-3 days. I have been fortunate enough to visit the Louvre around 5 times in my life mostly due to school visit. Now that we have visited the Orsay museum, I’ll make sure on our next trip that we have enough time to take in everything the Louvre has to offer as well. I will say that as a Parisian, I now appreciate even more how fortunate we are to have two such specials jewels in our wonderful city.

Catacombs of Paris

As many of you who follow my blog are aware, my husband is an American. Whenever we travel back home to Paris, I always try to make sure we have something unusual or off the beaten path to do. My husband always jokes as a life long New York City resident, he has never been to the top of the Empire State Building. I imagine, like most people wherever they are from, you tend to take the local attraction for granted and like most Parisian that is obviously the case with me. There are so many things to do and discover in Paris, that I have to admit, the Catacombs were never on top of my list. However, my husband has been talking about his fascination for the Catacombs since I met him. He has always wanted to discover and explore the city underground.  So on a cold, rainy day, I decided to take him. I have to admit in terms of all the wonderful attractions that Paris has to offer (Eiffel Tower, Champs Elysées…) the idea of visiting the Catacombs on an already depressing day did not thrill me.

I always pictured the Catacombs as dark, humid place with rats running around… well, I have to confess, I was very nicely surprised. The site itself is well maintained. It’s clean, well lit and no rats to be seen anywhere on the horizon. Picture yourself walking in a brightly lit, clean cave basically.

For those of you that are wondering what I’m talking about, the catacombs are a series of underground ossuaries in Paris. Located in the 14th district, you can take the subway to Denfert-Rochereau station. Inside after descending a long long long winding staircase, you will find tunnels containing the remains of over 6 millions human bones collected from cemeteries all around Paris, spanning a period of almost a thousand years dating back to the Crusade. One set of bones I stumbled across was dated 1780.  Taking a moment to reflect on that was very cool.  The tunnels themselves were created out of the limestone quarries that were mined to provide most of the stones that make Parisian style buildings so unique.

They highly recommend booking your tickets online, because the line gets long pretty quickly. They only allow a certain number of people at a time, because the space is quite small. Be aware, if you are claustrophobic, you should consider those things before you go. As  I mentioned before, it was not a very nice day in Paris, and we decided to take our chances and go without booking our tickets online. We did wind up having to wait in the damp and cold for about a half hour, but overall it was not that bad. Be prepared if you go on warmer days without purchasing your tickets online, the line might be considerably longer. 

The ticket price itself were reasonable, around 13€ per person. The actual visit itself doesn’t take too long, approximately an hour.

Be aware, that when you exit, you will be in a different location. So take notes where the subway station is located.

I was born and raised in Paris and was very surprised to discover how interesting this part of the city was to explore. I have read a lot of books about the Catacombs and learned about it in school but, I never really took the time to actually visit it. For those of you that are skeptical or might find the idea of this a little morbid. I would say on the contrary, it is incredibly interesting and informative, especially of you stop and take a moment to think that the bones you are looking at might be almost a thousand years old.

Paris has a lot to offer and you can easily get overwhelmed by all the beautiful and interesting places to visit. I would recommend the Catacombs for a second trip to Paris; because on your first trip you’ll want to be able to cover the basic tourist spots, then you’ll have the time to visit the more unusual and unique places that Paris has to offer. My family enjoyed the visit also and we were all nicely surprised. I would also recommend when you are done with your visit, to stop for a drink in one of the numerous café around the Denfert-Rochereau plaza and just relax while looking at the people passing by.

Is this a place you would like to visit? Tell me what is your favorite part of Paris.

 

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