‘Beauty and the Beast’ in Paris

This item appears on page 14 of the November 2015 issue.
One can see both power and grace in the Eiffel Tower. Photo: Linda Hill<br />

In Paris, the Musée d’Orsay (1 rue de la Legion d’Honneur; phone +33 [0] 1 40 49 48 14, www.musee-orsay.fr/en/visit/access) is a beauty, the most exhilarating art museum I have ever seen. 

The main floor contains stunning Beaux-Arts architecture designed around a long stretch of half-domed glass, once part of a train station that was built in 1900. As you enter the main door, you’re enveloped in brilliant, natural light.

My daughter Linda and I took time to gaze at it all, but it was suggested that before it became overly crowded we go to the fifth floor, where most of the well-known Impressionist paintings are located. The artwork on that floor was created between 1848 and 1914. We spent over an hour there, then another 2½ hours perusing the other floors, one of which was displaying a Pierre Bonnard exhibit at the time.

We would have liked to stay longer, but after having waited in line for over two hours, in the rain, in order to take advantage of the free admission on the first Sunday of the month (normally 11, near $12), the desire to sit down to a late lunch finally won out and we left.

At the recently reopened Musée Picasso, it took us about a half hour to enter without advance tickets, even though we were third in line! There were other groups and people with tickets already in hand, and they had to wait, too. I strongly suggest that you purchase museum tickets online long before you travel to Paris. 

A few days later I was standing beneath the Eiffel Tower, feeling that at any moment I might be scooped up and swallowed by a giant beast. At the same time, I was overwhelmed by the grace and laciness of the tower’s design, belying the power and strength of the structure, itself. It was even larger than I had imagined.

People waiting on the first Sunday of the month for free entry to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. Lines came from either side, one stretching for two blocks. Photo by Linda Hill

We were lucky with the weather that day, mid-morning on a weekday in early May of this year; it was cool, with blue sky and puffy clouds. It took only about 45 minutes to pay and gain access to the first elevator of the tower. The cost was 15 to go all the way to the top, which we did. What a treat awaited!

We spent over an hour circling around, enjoying the enclosed, 360-degree view of Paris. From there, a short staircase took us up to the very top. On one side, a gale was blowing; on the other, not much wind was blowing at all.

I found a protected niche, from where I watched an excited group of young Asians, probably students, taking selfies of themselves with a camera on a long extender. Their hair was standing either straight up or straight out from the strong gusts.

On my left, a middle-aged couple was kneeling behind the protective railing, kissing passionately, the woman with tears running down her cheeks. Along with the sights of this magnificent city, these images will remain with me always.


Portland, OR