Paris, France: Art overload (aka paradise?)

Tommy and I spent a couple weeks back in the Midwest while we were in the process of switching continents (we are now back in Asia!), so blogging once again took a break.  Whoops!  But I am still dedicated to catching up on each and every place we visited this past year, so I return with some photos from one of our longest-ago trips – Paris, back in late September/early October 2018!

As Tommy can attest to, you cannot take an art history major to Paris without them going absolutely bananas.  Over the course of 6 days, we went to 5 art museums and a whole bunch of chapels and other historic buildings that were either full of art or fell into the category of architecture-as-art.  (I also spent a lot of time eating cheese plates, drinking cheap wine, and talking about how romantic everything was.  I love France!)

Day 1: Neighborhood finds

We arrived from Germany by train in the afternoon, so we didn’t have enough time to make any museum trips worthwhile.  Instead, we walked around a park near our AirBnB and got a grocery-store dinner to eat outside of a nearby castle.  Not a bad start!

Day 2: Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Sainte-Chapelle

We bought our Paris museum pass and fortified ourselves with some McDonald’s coffee before heading to the Louvre.  (Side note – I know we should be ashamed of going to a McDonald’s in France, but they were one of the cheapest options in this very touristy area and how else would we have discovered that they sell macaroons at the McCafe counter?  So I actually feel pretty justified). 

I won’t bore the non-art nerds by gushing over all the crazy art, but suffice it to say that I had a great time at the Louvre!  My main takeaways were:

  • It is as big as everyone says it is, so I should’ve eaten a big meal before heading in.
  • The Mona Lisa was still cool to see in person even though I’ve always thought it was a bit over-rated. But the funniest part about it was how everyone was shoving to take photos of it while ignoring the giant painting right behind it!
  • The ceilings deserve some major love too!  The Louvre as a building is absolutely fantastic, and there are such cool details in every corner.

Right outside of the Louvre is Paris’ Arc de Triomphe so we saw that as well.  We had a quick pasta meal to regain our strength (unfortunately paying for water as well, since we forgot to learn how to order tap water), then headed across the river to see Sainte-Chapelle.  It is tiny and crowded, but absolutely breathtaking.

Day 3: Château de Vincennes, Pantheon, Atelier des Lumières

This was probably the most off-the-beaten path we got in Paris, except maybe that local park we walked around the first day.  Our AirBnB happened to be right across the street from a 14th+17th century royal fortress, so I headed over there in the morning to check it out.  It was almost completely empty, with only a small school group and a trio of girls wandering around the large complex.  Château de Vincennes has quite a history, so it was interesting to see traces in the decorations of how it had served as both a royal residence and (later) as a prison.  The large, separate chapel was designed by the same man who is tentatively believed to have designed the more-famous Sainte-Chapelle that we visited on Day 2.  It was a lot brighter, lighter, bigger, and less crowded – really cool to see them both!

Tommy joined me in the afternoon to visit the Pantheon.  As with most buildings in Paris, it’s just really hard to describe the incredible scale (in this case – height of the dome, cross-shaped floor plan) and ornate details in photos, so I won’t go on about it.  There are also a lot of famous people buried in the crypt, which was an interesting contrast architecturally as it is very simple.

That evening, we went to a relatively new museum called the Atelier des Lumières.  It is a modern art museum with only audio-visual installation pieces, but don’t let that scare you off.  It surprised both Tommy and me by being one of our favorite things in Paris.  The animated artwork is projected onto the floors, walls, and ceilings in a large room with multiple different areas that people can sit or stand.  When we were there, the main 30-minute piece was of Gustav Klimt’s work.  There were also two 15-minute contemporary pieces in the main gallery, and two other short contemporary pieces in the small bar area.

One of the contemporary exhibits – the Klimt one was “prettier” & had classical music, but I didn’t take many videos of it

Day 4: Musée de l’Orangerie, Musée d’Orsay, Musée Rodin

Tommy is a wonderful husband who was very patient about all the art museums I wanted to visit, but I will say that this day probably broke him a bit.  We started with an impressionist & post-impressionist museum best known for its Monet paintings (which Tommy had a great time at, it’s pretty small), then moved on to an 18th & 19th century French art museum (which he started to get a bit tired at, as it’s quite large and I was determined to see everything), and finally ended at a Rodin museum (you can see the pain in his eyes in all the photos we took at this museum).  We certainly made the most of our museum pass and I was very happy, but it wasn’t a day for the faint of art. 🙈

Musée de l’Orangerie

Musée d’Orsay

Musée Rodin

Day 5: Versailles

The two most impressive things about Versailles are its lines and its fountains.  Not to say that the building itself isn’t magnificent, but you are only allowed in a limited section of it and those rooms are super crowded the entire time.  As impressive as the hall of mirrors is, it can be hard to really appreciate how elegant it is and imagine the lavish court parties they held there when it’s filled with selfie-snapping tourists (us among them). 

Luckily, the gardens are huge enough to feel uncrowded and we arrived when the fountains were just about to begin.  The variety of fountains and synchronized water shows are pretty amazing.  Tommy had visited Paris and Versailles back in high school, and the fountains were definitely the thing he had talked up the most.  Although personally I don’t think they quite lived up to Tommy’s hype about them, they are very impressive and definitely worth a visit!

Day 6: Notre-Dame, Eiffel Tower

In light of Notre-Dame’s fire this past year, I’m so grateful that we were able to visit when we did.  It really makes me think about all the beautiful architecture in the world that could be severely damaged at any time – definitely motivation to keep checking locations off my art history bucket list!  Notre-Dame is yet another example of awe-inspiring Parisian architecture with amazing scale and beautiful details.  I can’t imagine regularly worshiping in such a stunning space!  Even the back of the building is gorgeous and worth a walk around.

This post is already getting quite long, but for those unfamiliar with the Eiffel tower’s original purpose and the negative reaction it originally got from the people of Paris I recommend a quick read about it here.  Tommy and I are glad the 19th-century naysayers didn’t get their way.  We had a relaxing time hanging out on the long green lawn before going up and enjoying the sprawling views of the city from the top.  It was fun to people-watch all the couples and families having picnics – there were even guys walking around with beer and wine for sale, just in case you forgot your own!  We didn’t buy anything on the lawn, but we did have some super tasty macaroons at the top. We were there around sunset and got a few glimpses of it beginning to light up as we were walking back to the metro, but didn’t stick around because we had a super early flight leaving out of the faraway budget airport the next morning.  Maybe next time, Paris! 😉

Now that Tommy and I are settled into a more regular schedule in Malaysia, I’ll be aiming to get back into the habit of 1 post every 10 days.  Keep an eye out for our next one! 👀

2 Replies to “Paris, France: Art overload (aka paradise?)”

  1. HUGE POST!! Huge amount of time doing it. Thanks so very much, Emily!! I feel as though I have been to Paris, even though I haven’t. May God continue to keep you two safe on all of your many travels!!
    Love you,
    Gramps S.

  2. Thanks,
    Emily and Tommy, great coverage! Thanks also for the very nice visit on Grandmother’s day! Really great to be able to visit with you and see where you are living! I also appreciate learning more about your teaching experiences! Have a fun and educational time!
    Grandma Pat!

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