Previously on Paris 2017, we actually left the City of Lights to visit the Palace of Versailles, where we sauntered around the residences of the French royal family before eating one of our favorite French treats – crêpes! (Famous Breton-style ones!) But we had learned to adjust expectations after Versailles…
Many photos incoming, Yelp reviews for the below spots to come soon.
Bellies happily full of Breton crepes, we headed off to the Musée de l’Orangerie. Originally built to house orange trees, this beautiful art gallery is now home to impressionist and post-impressionist paintings. Most famously, the Musée de l’Orangerie features Claude Monet’s Nymphéas series, the famous impressionist water lilies.
Musée de l’Orangerie fact: The oval-shaped rooms that house the Nymphéas were, in fact, specially designed by Monet and architect Camille Lefèvre to utilize natural light and the plain, curved walls for these paintings.
The highlight of this museum is Nymphéas and the very striking rooms that house them, but the Musée de l’Orangerie is also home to other great works.
From there, we went to our next museum that Ben was super keen to visit: the Musée d’Orsay.
Musée d’Orsay fact: Built in a former train station, the Musée d’Orsay is home to the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist pieces in the world and is one of the largest art museums in all of Europe.
It’s a good thing we visited l’Orangerie before d’Orsay, because that collection is completely dwarfed by the volume and breadth of the collection at this gorgeous, gorgeous museum.
We were able to see the Cézanne exhibit, which was a really cool, in-depth look at this impressionist painter and his life and his career. (I didn’t take photos because I wanted ot just enjoy the exhibit, but also I was starting to feel a little hangry at this point and I took that out on Paul Cézanne, I am sorry.)
What got me really excited was seeing pieces by my favorite artist, Edgar Degas. Here is just a sampling of the many works they had by the man responsible for my love of both impressionism and the visual aesthetic of ballet.
Degas fact: Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans actually has 28 copies, and you can see her at 14 art museums around the world. Ten of her are privately owned. She is the only sculpture that Degas ever showed and it garnered an intense amount of negative criticism. I actually really love Degas’ raw “unfinished” sculptures, maybe as much as I love his gorgeous paintings.
From d’Orsay, you can get a really fantastic view of Sacré-Cœur Basilica in the distance.
As the museum started to get ready for closing, Ben and I found ourselves really regretting not dedicating more time to this vast collection and beautiful building. We sped through Van Gogh…
… took in the building itself and a few sculptures…
… and found this ballroom that somehow put Versailles to shame?
And then, just like that, we were being asked by security to please get out.
The sun was out for a rare moment, so we were grateful to be able to stroll along the Seine with blue skies overhead for once.
And then it was time for dinner!
For this trip, we didn’t want to be restricted to too many reservation times to worry about and potentially be late for, but we did make one reservation for a celebratory dinner at Auberge Nicolas Flamel.
Nicolas Flamel fact: YES, this is the same Nicolas Flamel that J.K. Rowling credits with creating the philosopher’s/sorceror’s stone. He is the only character in the Harry Potter universe that is based on a real person. The real Nicolas Flamel is associated with a pre-HP reputation as an alchemist. And yes, the restaurant offers a “Harry Potter” kids prix-fixe meal.
After some disappointing eats, we were worried that this restaurant wouldn’t live up to the hype, but after walking past a lot of super trendy art show lines (people were lined up around the block for shows featuring risqué photos and abstract paintings), we enjoyed one of the best meals of the entire trip.
Nicolas Flamel fact: Auberge Nicolas Flamel is the oldest stone house in Paris, commissioned by Flamel and his wife Pernelle to offer food and lodging to workers. Their generosity was granted with just one requirement, which is still inscribed above the doors today:
It was such a beautiful meal to end a beautiful day that I will always, always remember.
Because on that beautiful day, I got engaged.
While I would definitely highly highly recommend visiting the Musée d’Orsay, I would only suggest going out of your way for l’Orangerie if you are really intent on seeing the Nymphéas. The collection is significantly smaller otherwise, but Monet’s waterlilies are quite spectacular. It’s also a good stop if you don’t want to visit a really overwhelming art museum. Of course, if you have the Paris Pass, there’s no reason you can’t visit both!
Who are your favorite impressionist artists? I am really partial to impressionism largely because of Degas but also because of Monet’s gorgeous waterlilies. I’m not sure how I feel about post-impressionism, but it is growing on me!
Do you have a favorite art style/movement? I’m not sure I do. I like impressionism, but… it’s so hard to pick a favorite art movement as a whole and I’m not sure I consume enough art to make that call just yet.
And yes, I’ll tell you about how I got engaged really soon!