Orsay and The Orangerie

The finest collection of Impressionist art in Paris is at the Orsay Museum, across the Seine from the Louvre. It was once a railway station but was converted into a beautiful museum. A quick note about the bridge in the foreground of the image below: there is a long-standing tradition where lovers buy a padlock, write their initials and date, attach the padlock to a bridge, declare their undying love, and toss the key into the Seine to seal their destiny. As if. The center of this activity used to be near Notre Dame, but the city leadership became concerned about the damage to the bridge railings due to the weight of the locks, so they tore down the wire mesh railings and replaced them with plexiglass. So the practice has now relocated.

Orsay Museum

My own must-see item in the entire museum is Degas’ “La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans” (the Little 14-year-old danser). How a 14-year-old gets that girl’s attitude, I have no idea, but she has always been for me a source of motivation for better parenting! I don’t know how profitable she was for Degas, but a copy sold in 2009 for over $14 million.

Also in the museum is a scale model of Lady Liberty. There is at least one other in Paris, exhibited outdoors on an island near the Eiffle Tower. Hopefully our boat ride later this week will get us a view of it. The statue was a gift from France to the USA in 1886. Remembering that the USA cherishes the phrase “the pursuit of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as much as the French cherish “liberty, equality, brotherhood (liberté, egalité, fraternité) helps to see why the French like having their own copy of what might seem an American symbol.

Lady Liberty

From the Orsay we headed across the river to the Orangerie. Originally built to protect the Tuileries garden’s orange trees during the winter, it now exists to house Claude Monet’s masterpiece “The Water Lilies” (Les Nympheas). We wanted to be sure to see this epic work before our day trip next week to Monet’s garden, the inspiration for this piece. The first time we were here, photos were forbidden. The city has since relaxed its ban in many museums, including both of today’s, where now only flash is prohibited. What you see here is one of four similarly-sized panels.

Les Nympbeas (1 of 4)

We rewarded ourselves for a hard day of museum-hopping with a stop at Angelina’s, the tea room where the most extraordinary hot chocolate is found. To get there was just a quick walk through the Tuileries gardens, which give a very nice green area to spend a warm summer day. Here you see the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, gateway to the Louvre.

Tuileries

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