after paying our respects to sartre and de beauvoir, we walked along boulevard raspail to the musee d'orsay. being a big fan of the impressionist movement, i just HAD to see it. in fact, the musee d'orsay was the main reason i included paris in our itinerary in the first place. i had been ready to abandon the louvre, but nobody would have been able to convince me to skip the orsay.
it took us 45 minutes to walk from our hotel to the orsay. along the way, we chanced upon a small street market selling fresh produce, as well as cheese, sandwiches, and quiches. we each bought a quiche and had that for breakfast while walking to the seine.
the museum is on the left bank of the seine; the louvre faces it from the right bank. the orsay's impressive collection is housed in the beaux-arts structure of what was known as gare d'orsay, an old rail station where trains to southwestern france would depart from. however, the gare d'orsay's short platforms could not conform to the longer trains that were starting to be used, so in 1939, it had to be closed. it then became a mailing center during the second world war. in 1977, the french government decided to turn it into a museum, and started conversion works that spanned six years (1980 to 1986). the museum opened in 1 december 1986, under the government of president francois mitterand.
when we reached the museum, there was a line snaking from its revolving doors. it didn't take long for it to move, though, and before long, we were by the ticket counters. susie and i had agreed earlier to get the two-day museum pass. it's EUR32 for two days, and gives you access to a number of museums and sights in the french capital. it also lets you skip the long lines at the ticket booths, which is the reason we went for it. in paris, you not only line up just to enter, but the line at the ticket booths can take up a lot of your time. if you're staying for four days or more, you can also avail of the four-day paris museum pass. this is actually a lot better than the two-day one, since you can spread out your museum visits in four days, and have time to see the rest of the city. before you do get one, though, make a list of the museums that you want to visit, tally the admission costs, and see if you can get your money's worth. the museum pass is available in the establishments that it grants free access to, as well as airports and tourist centers.
after paying for our tickets, we made our way to the gate that leads to the main hall. i paused by the entrance for a bit to take it all in. this is it, i told myself. i'm in the orsay. i'm in paris. there were plenty of people milling around, but it wasn't noisy at all. the museum was undergoing repairs, so there were new signs to lead visitors to the different halls. i look to my right and saw IMPRESSIONISM and POST-IMPRESSIONISM, and made a beeline for them, with susie trailing behind. here, i saw works by degas, manet, renoir, toulouse-lautrec, pissarro, and other greats.
i had to request for a break once we were done with the halls on the right side of the museum. it's surprising how walking from one gallery to another, and looking at paintings, can be tiring. luckily, there was a cafe at the ground level of the orsay, so susie and i bought drinks and shared a ham and cheese sandwich to tide us over. after that, we tackled the halls on the left side of the museum. here, i saw works by honore daumier (sadly, "rue transnonain," the only daumier work that i'm familiar with, is not in the orsay), and paul gauguin's tahiti paintings. there was also a sala dedicated to van gogh, where i saw "the church at auvers" and "le docteur paul gachet" both painted the year he died.
after that, i scoured the rest of the museum for edgar degas's "young dancer." we went upstairs and sped through the art nouveau furniture collection, but took our time with the rodin sculptures. when i couldn't find degas, i decided to go to the information counter to ask. there was a man asking for the specific locations of every painting he wanted to see. he asked for "bal du moulin de la galette" by renoir, another painting i was looking for, i strained to hear the response: "sorry, that painting is on loan." when it was my turn at the counter, i asked about "young dancer," and received the same reply.
i felt disappointed, since i wanted to go to paris to go to the orsay, and wanted to go to the orsay to see those two things. but of course, when i look back on the paintings that i saw that day, i can't really say that the trip was a disappointment. the orsay wasn't just about those two works. i got to see an amazing collection of artworks in one of my favorite periods in art history. i actually stood in front of a picture that renoir painted many, many years ago. it's not every day that i get to meet these images, and i am very, very thankful for the opportunity to see all these masterpieces. as for "moulin de la galette" and "young dancer," they shall be the next excuse for me to visit paris again.
view more photos of the musee d'orsay.
address: 62, rue de lille, 75343 paris
metro: solferino (line 12)
buses: 24, 63, 68, 69, 73, 83, 84, 94
paris museum pass
2 days for EUR 32
4 days for EUR 48
6 days for EUR 64