August 31st, 2013 – Stormy & Overcast, then sunny
Musee D`Orsay, Louvre, Eiffel Tower
I discovered “pain au chocolat” when buying croissants for breakfast today. Pain au chocolat was basically a square croissant with a little bit of chocolate stuffed inside = Heaven! I also had wine with breakfast for the first time in my life (leftover from last night’s bottle I swear…) The weather forecast was less than optimal because rain was predicted to last the entire day. We were going to take the train to Versailles but we adjusted our plan to visit another museum that was highly recommended by guidebooks instead: Musee D’Orsay.
Musee D’Orsay (M.O.) was converted from an old train station located on the riverfront and it housed numerous impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces. M.O. was deceivingly large with numerous galleries and sub-floors – we originally anticipated a two-hour visit but we ended up spending more than 4 hours there and we only covered about half of the museum. By the time we reached the 2nd floor we were exhausted and luckily there were full sized sofas where it was comfortable enough for visitors to nap in! Right next to the sofas was a gigantic clock window left over from M.O.’s train station days which was quite photogenic in my opinion. Highlight of the museum included countless sculptures, paintings from Monet, Renoir, and of course Vincent Van Gogh (the reason why I wanted to visit and stay in the town of Arles was because of his painting “Starry Night”). Once we exited the museum we suddenly realized that it was 3PM and we neglected lunch again. There was a sandwich shop near the exit of the museum (an obvious tourist trap but we didn’t care) where we purchased the last two sandwiches available + a 3 euros Orangina. The sandwiches were happily consumed on the steps of Musee D’Orsay while a local Jazz band filled the air with fantastic 50’s music (bad sandwiches don’t exist in France).
After calming our hunger we visited Louvre across the river where I retook some photos that turned out to be out of focus from the previous day. One of the advantages of the Paris Museum Pass was that we could revisit any participating site we wanted repeatedly (highly recommended for Louvre and Musee D’Orsay). The weather seemed to be turning for the worse as wind grew stronger and light rain started to coat the dry ground. The changing weather also brought some much welcomed relief from the supra-30s heat; however, the dip in temperature was short-lived as the wind made short work of the rain clouds.
As we slowly made our way back towards the 7th arrondissement on foot along the bank of River Seine (we wanted to visit a particular restaurant recommended by friends called “Les Cocottes de Christian Constant”… reviews to come at a later date), several rest stops were needed to rest our achy feet (I told my wife to wear comfortable shoes, but apparently looks > function still held true). The riverbank was quite lively with street vendors, street performers, wine/beer bars, tourists, and locals all enjoying the breezy riverfront. Bikes were also a common sight along the banks (and really they were all over Paris) and that was when I first took notice about the citywide bike rental program called Velib’ (more on that in a separate post later).
It took about 40 minutes to walk from Louvre, along the riverbank, to our destination restaurant. Since the restaurant did not accept reservations our brilliant plan was to get there early to beat the dinner rush at ~5:30 PM. Our brilliant plan fell flat when we realized that most restaurants in France opened at 7 PM for dinner service… what should we do for the next hour and a half? With the Eiffel Tower in plain sight towering over the typical 4-5 story French buildings that surrounded us, we bought a cold beer along with some ice cream bars at a corner store and headed for the Paris landmark. We returned to the restaurant shortly before 7 PM where we enjoyed our first proper 3 course meal in France (first of many). We concluded our evening walking past the Eiffel Tower once again on our way back to our apartment.