Sunday, March 16, 2014

Paris Museum Pass: 2, 4, or 6 days of bliss

This is the actual multi-day museum pass Frugal Scholar was referring to in her comment on my post on Musee D'Orsay this week.

I was simply suggesting you buy your tickets for the Musee D'Orsay on-line prior to the day you go, but she is right: the Museum Pass (which I have never used, fyi) does seem a great deal for the money: 4 days for 56euro? I think I'll buy one this summer when I am in Paris only for that short stay.

Researching the site further, I realize why I never bought one before: you can either have it shipped to you (for an additional cost, which lessens the economical appeal) ....or pick it up when arriving in Paris, on rue des Pyramids for free. Or buy it in the CDG airport, or FNAC outlets.

Okay, it's sounding better and easier.

Given that the pass includes entry to the Musee D'Orsay, the Musee national de l'Orangerie, the Musee Cluny (medieval art and culture), the Louvre, the Musee Rodin, and the Musees des arts decoratifs, when it costs me 16euro alone for the first two sites... and it will get me in without waiting on lines... and I'll have paid for all of my entries upfront and never have to worry/open my wallet again, this seems a worthwhile purchase.

It also means that I'll be bound and determined to get to at least 4-5 museums during my five-day stay, no matter what.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Musee D'Orsay: #1 tip for visitors to Paris

I have not exactly picked up the ball and run with it, or some other athletic metaphor. But January through mid-March has been another wild ride (why do I think my life will be quieter or run more smoothly or peacefully? It is a delusion I am consistently seduced by...)

But here is Paris share 1/50: The Musee D'Orsay.

Musee D'Orsay, from across Seine

Forget the Louvre. well, don't "forget" it, but let's get real: the Louvre is a wonderful repository of artifacts and global art--but if you want to "know" Paris go to the Musee D'Orsay. Spend a morning there, after which your entire Paris experience will be richer, deeper, more complex and interesting.

Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 9:30*-6 (except Mondays); open Thursday nights to 9:45 pm.
Cafes: 3 inside; carts outside, and nearby cafes (tourist prices)

The museum is a renovated train station and it is one of the most difficult interiors to navigate. Pick up a map. To get to the 5th floor: go directly to the rear of the main floor and take the escalators at rear center all the way to the top. To get to the niveau median: go left (East) or right (West), up one set to steps and down the long hall of rooms which open into/through/around one another.

Interested in Monet? Manet? Degas? Van Gogh? Toulouse-Lautrec? Gaugin? Caillebotte? Renoir? Courbet? Corot? Any painter/sculptor/designer/photographer of the 19th century? You'll find them here, in juxtaposition with their peers. If you pay attention, this is as much about the evolution of Paris during the 19th century as it is about the evolution of art.

For Impressionist Rooms: walk down this central hall to rear, take escalators

When heading for the Impressionists, ignore everything else.

In specific order, here's what you must see:
  1. The Impressionist section (fifth floor, SE corner). This is the intense collection of paintings and sculptures by Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, and their associated pals between the 1860s and 1880s. Come early to avoid crowds, ignore the tourists filming (instead of looking at) the paintings, and find bliss.
  2. The pastels and drawings of Degas, Lautrec, and others--same floor. Smaller, intimate dark rooms to preserve the materials/media.
  3. Van Gogh, Lautrec and later post-Impressionists:W side, 1 staircase up from entry floor, Rms 71-2 (Niveau median).
  4. Individual (free/unticketed) exhibitions.
Of course, if you have a ticket to a special exhibition, these are usually very popular and crowded, so go there after #1 (Impressionists are ALWAYS the most crowded and thus annoying rooms.)

Impressionist Rooms, Musee D'Orsay

If you are interested in decorative arts or early/mid-nineteenth century art, go there last. I say this because these rooms are always empty and you will not be battling crowds. You can then enjoy these spaces at your leisure. Both are rich, rich, rich in materials: you will find yourself nearly hypnotized by the holdings.

Last---but far from least!--go to the bookstore. Even if you are uninterested in art history books and textbooks, this is one of the best museums shops in Paris. It is filled with great gifts for children (or wonderful stuff for your children of all ages, if they're with you), mothers & mothers-in-law, and everyone else. This bookstore is not as good as it used to be, and yet it is superb.

My final recommendation: buy your ticket (or tickets) ahead of time. If you do so, you will eliminate all standing in line: you will sail by all those standing outside as if you were Queen Elizabeth (or Wills and Kate). I suggest buying through FNAC, if only because you can open an account and buy all your museum/event tickets early here, print them before you leave the US, and enjoy waving royally at the wilting peeps in the "line."

*If you do not have a ticket, be in line by 9:15 am to get in nearly as soon as the museum opens (May-Sept); if you do have the advance pre-ticket... see "Wills/Kate" note above.

Directions: The museum is located on the Left (South) Bank of the Deine, directly across from the Louvre. It can most easily be reached by taking the #12Metro to Solferino, or the RER C to Musee D'Orsay, or walking across the Passarelle Solferino from the Quai des Tuileries. Here's a map. It is a longer, but lovely walk from the Place de la Concorde across the Pont de la Concorde and along the Seine.

Associated museums:
Musee Marmottan Monet, 16th arrondissment: Monet, Morisot, Renoir in small museum
Musee Victor Hugo, 4th arrondissment: Hugo's home with special exhibitions. Bonus: located in the Place des Vosges!
Musee de l'Orangerie: 1st arrondissement: special exhibitions of Impressionist painters
Musee Carnavalet, 3rd arrondissement: a museum of the culture of Paris, medieval to modern times. Bonus: location in the Marais district!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

2014... and now what?

I have definitely been absent for a while. 2013 turned out to be a complicated, crazy year full of twists and turns.

For 2014, I look forward to a return to, well, calmer waters. I have plans to spend the summer in England, teaching in both London and Oxford. I hope to take a bookbinding class, starting to learn a new skill... an "old school" kind of one.

I am also continuing my attempts to de-clutter my house and life, to get and stay healthy, to develop and strengthen my personal community, and to be more creative on all levels.

What's new, then, in the Pearl 2014 blog?

Recently I've been asked by no less than five friends to give them advice about what to see and do, where to stay and eat, and similar questions about Paris. Not surprising, really, since I've lived there twice (1999 and 2008) and visited multiple times since 1981. I know the city, although I am always learning more. Most importantly, I give great advice about things to do and see and buy while there.

I've decided to post my favorite 50 tips about visiting Paris. This will include information about travel, hotels, cafes and restaurants, shopping, museums and monuments, and even day trips. Since my travel budget was usually small, most of these will be inexpensive (verging on cheap), but some will be splurges worth every euro. I'll also point out etiquette along the way, manners and attitudes that will keep you from standing out as an Ugly American.

To my mind,the whole point of visiting someplace away from home is to engage with that place and its culture--not your own reproduced. Travelling broadens us because we aren't at home and can't act like it.

I'll also include a list of movies, books, and music that you can use to prepare yourself for visting Paris, or simply to indulge in a virtual visit.

This means every week will see a new tip plus new materials about Paris. So if you can't visit in person, you can still enjoy the City of Light.