Paris: Day 4 - Orsay What?

I realize that these blog posts are getting later in the day every single day that I’m here. The city is starting to get a little more reasonable to navigate every time and we are seeing a lot of things every day. I like to see a lot of stuff while we can, and we had a four-day pass which will be expiring at the end of what will be Day 5 here.

In hopes of using our museum pass to it’s fullest and also to see a bunch while I was here, the plan for the day was to visit the Musee d’Orsay and then get a Paris lunch, and walk along the seine to the Archaeological Crypt of Notre-Dame. We woke up fairly late by our standards again, crawling out of bed at about 10am - but if you can’t sleep in on vacation, when?

It was Sunday, so the patisserie which was just down the street was closed when we walked by, but there was one which is closer to the Saint-Michel Notre Dame station which was open, and we again got some croissants and some other sweets for breakfast. Diana isn’t happy with the breakfasts that we’ve been getting here. We had planned to go to Breakfast in America on Sunday, but it was a bit late to get started. We sat down in a park and had the breakfast foods instead of eating on the Metro platform like the day before. There were some pigeons which came around and obviously are being sustained through the fact that croissants are super crumbly. I have to admit that I will be spoiled for croissants from anywhere else after having them in Paris - they are super crumbly and delicious. Just bread has no right being that delicious.

After the small breakfast we headed to the Orsay, which I wanted to see mostly because it has some more recent paintings and a great collection of impressionists from the beginning of the last century. Unfortunately there are no pictures inside the Orsay, which I have to say doesn’t please me to see in a museum but the whole place would be infinitely worse if there were people taking pictures of every painting in the place. It is an old train station which has been re-purposed into a museum and it is beautiful inside, but there are many side rooms that are small and while they hold plenty of people in them, the addition of cameras always seems to make a room that much fuller because of people avoiding the camera’s line of sight.

The paintings inside were all pretty great and I was very pleased to see many of the impressionists paintings where the paint actually takes on more of a 3D quality and you can see the strokes of the artist more. They also appeal to me because they seem somewhat similar to some other styles of art where you are trying to get a lot across in a very small information, like pixel art. There was also some pointillism there which has even more similarities. I also was interested in the Van Gogh part of the collection that they had there, which was great. I was also pleasantly surprised to find out that they had a good collection of Rodin sculptures which were displayed outside of the paintings rooms. We spent a couple of hours there and then decided to head out to find a lunch.

I made a big mistake planning to find a meal “on the way” to Pont Neuf from the Orsay museum, doubly so on Sunday. We walked through a part of the city which was mostly made up of art boutiques and galleries, but they were all closed. We also spotted a number of restaurants and brasseries that we would have stopped at on a normal day but they were also closed. After a long walk and stopping at a convenience store for something to keep Diana going (she was getting very hungry, understandably), we found Les Bistrot Mazarin which looked like a good place to stop.

I have to admit that I was quite hungry and stressed out at that point. I was hoping to find a place for lunch with a menu that we could order directly, because I was hoping for an experience which was a little cheaper than our normal la carte dining so far. The meals here have been pretty expensive, with each lunch and dinner coming to about 50 € each time. It’s okay because we have the money, but if we can get a menu at 20 € per person, it would be better for us in the long run. There wasn’t any of that here but I was tired of walking to find a place. The menu that we got was in French, and I could have asked for one in English but I was actually trying to understand the one in French because it is somewhat important to me that we try to actually speak the language. It didn’t work out that great, because somehow I ended up ordering a cornish hen (or similarly sized duck) and while delicious, I find whole or halves of poultry incredibly difficult to eat with a fork and knife. I am ordering some buffalo wings this coming Sunday for the football game in defiance.

The meal was wonderful though, and the dessert that we had afterwards was great. I finally got the dessert du jour which was a cream cheese fruit tart thing which was actually delicious. Diana got the first creme brûlée of her trip, which was equally great.
In true Parisian style we had coffee after the dessert. Despite the negative reviews, I was really happy with the bistrot. At the end of the meal, I was fed and much happier, and the waiter was actually willing to put up with our broken French.

After the meal, we walked up to Pont Neuf and onto the Île de la Cité. We’ve thought about taking a seine sightseeing tour, but haven’t been able to have one yet. There is one which takes off from Pont Neuf, it would be the closest. We walked through the island and past the Palais de Justice de Paris which is decked out in gold. We headed along a pedestrian street across from it and then headed to the Archaeological Crypt.

The crypt was very interesting because all of the rocks that were there are mostly in the same place, or at least that is the illusion that they are trying to keep up in the museum. It was very dark but it had a lot of information on the sides about the history of Paris, which I was glad to read in English and pick out the words that I knew in French as well. The exhibits were more interesting because in most places, there is a dual exhibit, of when the island was used by different settlers in different ages. They had different parts that you could light up to see the changing ruins and point out the areas which were different. There were also a lot of little models to show what you were looking at in a little less crumbled style. It wasn’t a long tour which was also appreciated.

When we were finished with the crypt, we headed topside to see Notre Dame in full light (and with all the tourists of a normal day). There were plenty of people on the square getting their pictures taken. We decided to walk through. They were just starting the night Sunday service, but we were just walking along the outside to see all of the large stained glass windows and such. We had a pass to see the towers, but it was just after the last entry to them, and I don’t think Diana would have been game for a long stair climb anyway.

Even though it was only about 6pm, we were really tired from all the walking. We went back to the hotel room for a little break before dinner, which is also held late in Paris - we headed out at about 9pm. It was starting to rain and quite cold when we went down the street. We stopped at Cluny Bar which was on Saint-Germain and seemed reasonable. They also didn’t have le menu but I mostly didn’t care because it was cold. I had rum steak with pepper sauce and fried potato slices, and watched France get beat by Spain in a FIBA basketball game on the TV. I also had a white beer which I have rediscovered here and really enjoy.

The waiter in the restaurant brought us English menus right away which was actually unwelcome. We know that we’re American of course and don’t expect to not be noticed as American, but the waiter was being it seemed very patronizing to us and a lot over the top. I think it might just be a little more than normal though, because I observed him being somewhat silly with a couple that he very clearly knew well (they did the French kiss-greeting).

When we were done with dinner, it was straight back to the hotel, rushed on a little by the fact that it had started to rain in earnest by that point. I read until I was falling asleep and then turned out the light. Another full day in Paris.