VI: Louvre et Musée d’Orsay

On two separate days Kaila and I visited some of the famous museums in Paris, the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay. Neither of us felt the need to devote and entire day to wandering through an art museum, so we took a couple hours at the end of the day to visit the Louvre, and a couple hours during a rainy day to see Musée d’Orsay.

I haven’t fit this into any posts yet, but we had quite the adventure just getting to Paris in the first place. Due to a hurricane or tropical storm off the east coast on the night we were due to leave, all flights were delayed. We were supposed to fly through Reykjavik and only had a 50-minute layover to make it on our connecting flight to Paris. After being delayed for an hour, we knew that wasn’t going to happen. Eventually, after sitting in the airport for five hours, we were allowed to board the plane.

Finally on the plane to Norway!
Finally on the plane to Iceland!

By the time we arrived in Iceland, we had long since missed our connecting flight. Thankfully, the staff at IcelandAir was enormously helpful in reassigning us to the next available flight, five hours away. We also got two vouchers for 2000 Króna, so we were able to buy lunch and dinner. Neither of us were too hungry at 10 in the morning (DC time, Iceland time, Paris time, who knows anymore?), so we waited a bit before eating. We ended up eating lunch over the course of several hours in the freezing Iceland airport. When it came time to board the plane, we still had our second voucher for the cafe. It was only good for that day, so we decided to stock up on beverages for the week in Paris.

The line-up of freebies we got on the flight over.
Complements of IcelandAir!

There wasn’t much point to telling that story, except that delayed flights are a pain, IcelandAir seems to be a great airline (did I mention they give you a free bottle of Icelandic geyser water?!), and we decided to have a couple drinks before heading to the Louvre.



As difficult as it is to wade through some of the French websites, searching for open hours (which vary by the day) and admission fees (which vary by who you are and what day it is) and special tips for visiting (which depends on, you guessed it, day), it was very helpful in saving us some money for the trip. The Louvre is supposedly less crowded in the evenings it is open late (Wednesday and Friday). Many French landmarks also have free admission if you are an EU student; however, the Louvre supposedly had free admission for anyone under 26 on Friday evenings. With that in mind, after visiting Versailles, we took a short break and then headed to the Louvre for a few hours.

Inside the famous Louvre pyramid.
Inside the famous Louvre pyramid.

Thankfully our planning worked out; our IDs were checked for age and we were waved on through. With only a couple of hours to explore the museum, we targeted the famous Mona Lisa first and then broke off from the crowd. Even on a Friday evening the painting was swarmed. And you can easily find pictures with much larger crowds. Honestly, I liked the painting behind it a lot more. It’s absolutely massive and I found it more interesting to view.

The crowd around the Mona Lisa. This was around 7pm on a Friday night.
The crowd around the Mona Lisa. This was around 7pm on a Friday night.

After successfully completing the Mona Lisa run, we pinpointed a few other famous works and galleries we wanted to stop by, such as Aphrodite (the Venus de Milo), and the rooms of Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities. Of course, the Louvre was once a palace, so just walking around is interesting.

Louvre sphinx.
The Great Sphinx of Tanis in Egyptian Antiquities.
No detail overlooked.
No detail overlooked.

As it got close to 9:00 and the museum began to close, we made our way outside. Being accustomed to a much lower latitude meant I was constantly surprised by how bright it was outside in the evening. It seemed a shame to just head back to the condo, so we walked around the grounds a bit, and over to the Jardin des Tuileries.

Another view from inside the Louvre pyramid.
Another view from inside the Louvre pyramid.
A nice photo idea of Kaila's, of the Louvre architecture up close.
A nice photo idea of Kaila’s, of the Louvre architecture up close.

I’m sorry to say I’m not too interested in art museums, so our short evening trip to the Louvre was perfect for me. Even better was the nice sunset we were treated to! It was one of the few times during the trip where we actually got to see some blue sky!

The Louvre at dusk.
The Louvre at dusk.
Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, a smaller version of the famous Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile.
Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, a smaller version of the famous Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile.


Musée d’Orsay

Although the Louvre is easily one of the most famous museums in the world, it seems to me that many people prefer the smaller, side museums in Paris. Musée d’Orsay is by no means small or overlooked (only when compared to the Louvre), but I think the more recent art there is preferable to what the Louvre has on display.

Our first view of Musée d'Orsay, from the fifth floor.
One of our first views of the old train station turned museum, Musée d’Orsay.

Most of the work is by French artists, with a huge concentration on impressionists such as Manet, Monet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne and Van Gogh. The work by Monet was perfect to prepare us for our trip to Giverny. We saw many easily recognized paintings walking through Musée d’Orsay, two of which were Van Gogh’s Bedroom in Arles and Monet’s Blue Waterlilies. I also wanted to go see the Dancers of Degas, but those proved to be just as tricky to find as Gay-Lussac’s grave in Père Lachaise. Perhaps we were just too hungry and walked right by them.

There were very strict rules in each of the galleries, of no photos, no speaking, and no pointing, just to name a few. However, no one seemed to mind if you took pictures outside the windows in between galleries. I’m not sure who gets to go stand outside on the balconies, but they must get amazing views.

No pictures were allowed in the galleries at Musée d'Orsay, but guards didn't seem to mind pictures out of the windows, and the view was great.
No pictures were allowed in the galleries at Musée d’Orsay, but guards didn’t seem to mind pictures out of the windows, and the view was great. Sacré-Cœur can be seen in the distance and the Louvre buildings are easily spotted to the right.
Looking out of the Musée d'Orsay clock, over the city.
Looking out of the huge Musée d’Orsay clock, over the city.

Even if a bit more simplistic than the Louvre palace and Versailles, the old railway station is still a work of art in and of itself. Seeing the interior is one of the big reasons to visit Musée d’Orsay in the first place.

Even the train station ceiling has fine detail.
Finely detailed ceilings, even in the old railway station.
Looking out over Musée d'Orsay, toward the entrance. Only three floors were completely open when we visited.
Looking out over Musée d’Orsay, toward the entrance. Only three floors were completely open when we visited.

We also spent a just a few hours at Musée d’Orsay, but did get to visit most of the open floors while there. Unfortunately we left just as it began raining, and quickly ducked into a cafe for lunch. When the downpour started, lunch turned into an afternoon of trying to eat as slowly as possible, wrapping up with a delicious crêpe.

For anyone who is reading in order, you’ve probably noticed that this Paris trip is missing one of the biggest landmarks in the world. I’ve saved our trips to the Eiffel Tower for last, and those are coming up next.

One thought on “VI: Louvre et Musée d’Orsay

  • I’m not a fan of the Mona Lisa but the real story behind it must be intriguing! The Musee d’Orsay is very unique, the wall decorations got me thinking about the time, labor and expense involved in its construction. Fascinating that under 26ers get in free at the Louvre on select days/times. A policy I think that could be adopted elsewhere in the world, especially the USA. Like Kaila’s photo of Louvre, nice perspective. Ceiling decoration at the Louvre is over-the-top! The Iceland layover provides an interesting slant on air travel and still agreeable thanks to Icelandic Air!

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