Paris for Art Lovers

After a nice introduction to Europe in London, Rebecca and I journeyed on to the artistic capital of Europe – Paris! We had five days there to see all the major attractions and art museums, and we also took day trips to Giverny and Versailles. I didn’t completely enjoy my first trip to Paris, so I was excited to give it a second chance!

Day 1: Musee Rodin, Champ de Mars & the Eiffel Tower

We bid adieu to London in the morning, making our way over to Kings Cross Station and then taking a Eurostar train to Paris. After we arrived, we got on the Metro and got off at a stop close to our hotel. After a little walking we made it to Hotel Esmeralda. This cute little hotel with stone walls and quirky decor is right around the corner from Notre Dame–in fact, we could see it out our window! We had an excellent experience there and loved the location of the hotel in Paris, so consider it if you’re planning a trip!

Our hotel was right around the corner from Shakespeare & Company bookstore!

Our first destination was Musee Rodin, and it was a lovely day so we decided to walk there instead of taking the Metro. We walked down along the Seine for as far as it would let us, seeing lots of Paris’s beautiful architecture and some highlights like the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay along the way. Eventually we made it to the Musee Rodin, and just in time (I think about 5:15pm) – we were the last ones they let in for the day! We bought Paris Museum Passes and the attendant was nice enough to date them the next day since we were buying them late that day… so had we been in Paris one more day we could have gone to even more attractions for free!

Musee Rodin was lovely. There are gardens with some of the most beautiful and colorful roses I have ever seen! Also in the garden are replicas of some of his more famous sculptures, like “The Thinker”, “The Gates of Hell”, “Adam” and “Eve”. The museum itself is housed in an old hotel, so each room is elegant and pulled together with a crystal chandelier. Inside you’ll find an abundance of Rodin sculptures and information about his process. There are also works by his contemporaries and friends, like sculptures by Camille Claudel (I loved “The Waltz”) and Impressionist paintings. We did get through the museum in the 45 minutes before it closed at 6pm, but would have liked a little more time in the gardens. We only saw the ones out in front of the museum, and there appeared to be much more out back. In fact, I think if I had one day to myself in Paris I might spend a good portion of it at that museum, since you are away from crowds and in a really beautiful setting. 😉

After we left the Musee Rodin, we tried to find a cafe or something, but nothing was open in the vicinity. We thought this was perhaps because it was a Sunday. We continued on past the army museum (where the tomb of Napoleon III is) and eventually did find a cafe, where we had some very pricey smoothies. We also struggled with the European you-have-to-ask-for-the-bill concept–it took quite a while to flag down our waiter!

We walked on, headed in the rough direction of the Eiffel Tower, but were enticed to stop first in a French bakery to purchase some eclairs. They packaged them up in a cute little pyramidal package, which we took with us to Champ de Mars park, where we decided to watch the sun set behind the Eiffel Tower. The park has plenty of grassy space where you can lounge or lay out a picnic. We found it a great chance to people watch and do a little painting and sketching. I mostly sketched/painted the sunset and the Eiffel Tower while Rebecca mostly sketched people. There were other people creating art, picnicking, relaxing, and some guys playing ‘football-tennis’ on the path. We had our eclairs (which turned out to be butterscotch and excellent) and stayed there past sunset so that we could see the Eiffel Tower lit up and sparkling at 10pm.

At that point we were getting pretty hungry, so we got a close up view of the Eiffel Tower, then walked around it to get crepes near the Trocadero. We both had crepes sucre-citron (lemon citrus) and found a bench in the Trocadero area where we could eat them and people watch for a bit. We left from the Trocadero Metro station (which was SO busy) and took a long Metro ride back to our hotel for the night.

I was already liking Paris a lot more than the first time I’d been there – the walk along the Seine was lovely and I was really impressed with the Rodin Museum. I highly recommend that you have your Eiffel Tower experience at Champ de Mars and NOT at the popularly recommended Trocadero. We had a much more peaceful experience watching the sunset than anyone was having over at the tourist-packed Trocadero! With one pleasant day spent in Paris I was looking forward to seeing more of the city; I already had a much better second impression than I did the first.

Day 2: Day trip to Monet’s home in Giverny

For our first full day in Paris we had on the itinerary a morning trip to Giverny, where we would see Claude Monet’s home and gardens. This whole trip unfortunately did NOT go quite as well as we’d hoped and it ended up being pretty much a full day trip instead of a half day. If you want to do a trip out of Paris to Giverny, I now recommend taking a bus trip, or at the very least do NOT plan on walking from Vernon to Giverny unless you have a whole day planned for the trip!

Anyway, we had a little bit of trouble when we got to the train station (Gare St-Lazare) because we got sent in circles by the staff while we were looking for the platform we needed, so by the time we figured out where to get tickets we had missed the train that was at ~8:30am and ended up buying tickets for the 10:19am train. I had thought for some reason (possibly an online article) that there were trains every hour, not every two hours. Technically this is true… but every two hours it is the short train ride (under an hour) and on the off hours it’s a longer one that takes about two hours. So keep that in mind if you’re planning to go yourself!

Therefore we had about two hours to kill at the train station, which luckily was set up more or less like a mall. We did a little shopping, found an ATM, bought some bath bombs from Lush to use at the hotel later, and had some croque monsieurs while we waited. The train was pretty nice and we got good seats, so the 41 minute ride went off without a hitch.

When we got off at the Vernon-Giverny train station, however, there were tons of other tourists and a very long line to get on the buses to take you over to Giverny. We were looking at a map of how to get there by walking (and perhaps were shamed/guilted into walking by the old couple looking at the map who had proclaimed that it was ‘not so far’) and decided to give it a go, thinking we’d have to wait forever to get on the bus anyway. The map said 3km, and we thought hey, that’s like less than two miles and we’ll get to see some French countryside – let’s go for it.

It started off alright… we found a really nice park along the river with some fountains, and then we crossed the bridge and set off to Giverny. That is where things started to go wrong. The path wasn’t marked so well so we got a bit turned around at first, and soon we realized that the path went right along the road so you were up against traffic for a lot of the walk. We quickly realized that the 3km must have been from the river, not the bus station. It felt like it took an eternity to actually get to Fondation Claude Monet… later when we looked it up we figured we had walked closer to 6km (3.72 miles) and because of getting turned around, wondering if we were going the right way for most of the trip, being careful near traffic, and some pretty uneven terrain that we were not dressed for, it had taken us almost two hours to get there! The bus would have taken all of 15 minutes (probably including the wait), and there wasn’t much at all to see along our walk besides a few wildflowers. There were also no taxis… we didn’t realized when we started that we were so committed to this hike and couldn’t have called a taxi when we got tired! So anyway, first word of advice: if you do decide to take the train, also take the bus from the train station!

When we finally arrived at Fondation Claude Monet, we had to skip the Impressionist museum and wait in line for quite some time before buying tickets and eventually getting into the gardens. Once in, our day didn’t improve too much. It was extremely busy. Children under 7 years old are let in free there, and there were several large groups of students or day care kids touring the grounds… I’d imagined his gardens would be a peaceful experience but they are not at all now! We decided to see the house first, and we quickly thought that they should have limited how many people can go in at a time. It isn’t a huge house by any means and it was packed, which made taking photos and moving around difficult. They also had way too many paintings crammed in there with no interpretive information to go with them, so you weren’t sure which were actually by Monet and which were by his artistic friends or from his personal collection. After leaving the house I felt like I hadn’t actually learned anything new about the man, which was disappointing.

At this point we really didn’t have much time before we needed to make it back to catch the train, so we did a quick walk through his main gardens and then took the tunnel under the road to the oft-painted water lily garden. This was really cool to see, and probably was the one thing that made the whole excursion worthwhile. Unfortunately it was also packed with tourists… We did manage to get pictures of each other at one of the less-crowded Japanese bridges in the gardens, however, and to take a little bit of time to enjoy them before we had to go.

Back across the street at the main house and gardens, we were relieved to find a vending machine selling bottles of water (Evian, of course) and were able to pick up a few for the train ride back. This was where things went completely wrong again. We went to the bus stop (we would have died inside if we had to walk back) but there was no schedule or buses in sight, and unfortunately no taxis either! Eventually after some vain searching we found a British couple and shared a taxi with them back to the train station. Unfortunately by the time we got back our train had already left, so we had to wait two whole hours for the next one! And on top of that, I’d bought the wrong tickets so I had to re-buy tickets for the next train (I had tried to buy the flexible ones but must have messed something up). The train station attendant was nice, though, and did give me 25% off since I had the other tickets and had missed our train.

At that point we probably could have gone into Vernon and found a cafe or something (like the couple we had shared the taxi with did), but we didn’t want anything else to go wrong so we decided to just sit around, have a snack, and use the train station’s wi fi for the time being. With the help of the internet, the time went by pretty fast. 😉

The train took about 40 minutes to go back again, although our seats weren’t as good since there were so many people heading back from Giverny at that time. Then we took the Metro back to our hotel. Theoretically we could have gone out and done something, but the day had been rather frustrating and we decided we “just couldn’t even”. So instead I used the bath bomb I had bought that morning and read my book in the bathtub for a bit to decompress.

At a suitably Parisian time we went out to one of the cafes near our hotel and had dinner, enjoying our nighttime view of Notre Dame. I had escalope of veal with pasta which was pretty good. The one caveat to our dinner was that we saw some rats in the shrubbery near the restaurant. 😐 In fact, it seemed to be one of the waiter’s jobs to go pour water on them every so often so the patrons wouldn’t have to look at them. But that’s Paris for you… not quite as picture-perfect as you might expect!

Day 3: Sainte-Chapelle, Musee d’Orsay & Petit Palais

Our next morning started with a short walk over to Sainte-Chapelle. I was really excited to see it since it looks gorgeous in pictures and I didn’t make it there on my last trip to Paris. It did not disappoint! The stained glass is, of course, amazing. Standing in the middle of the cathedral, walled in completely by colorful stained glass, is not an experience you have often! What really impressed us was the level of detail in the from floor to ceiling. The ceiling was a beautiful deep blue with stars painted on it, the floors had tiles with beautiful designs, and there were carvings of saints to go along with the stained glass panels. Unfortunately the experience is hard to capture with photos, but I did my best! I definitely recommend seeing it when you’re in Paris because it’s breathtaking.

Afterwards we had brunch/lunch at a nearby cafe. Mine was a ham & emmental cheese omelette, which was delicious. We walked to our next stop, Musee d’Orsay, enjoying the gorgeous weather along the way. We also passed by Pont Neuf, which seems to be the new place to put love locks in Paris. On my last trip that honor was held by a bridge behind Notre Dame, but after the city replaced the panels of the bridge with glass ones (that you couldn’t attach locks to), it seems that tourists have turned their romantic gestures on Pont Neuf instead. You can’t stop love… or vandalism. 😉

We ended up spending about three hours at Musee d’Orsay because it is huge and full of really interesting artwork! In that time we were able to see pretty much the whole museum. I loved seeing Francois Pompon’s polar bear (who seems to be kind of a mascot for the place – they even named the cafe after him!). The Impressionist and Post-Impressionist galleries were amazing–I loved seeing all of the pointillism works, a lot of Van Goghs and some really important Monets, Renoirs, Degas, Cezannes, and Manets. At the end of the Impressionist gallery is a restaurant and near there is access to a beautiful terrace which overlooks the Seine–it was nice to stop and sit down out there for a bit.

The Musee d’Orsay also has a room of wall-sized Courbet paintings that was pretty cool. I had no idea that the famous “A Burial at Ornans” featured life-size people! Other highlights include large collections of Symbolist and Orientalist works and a finely-furnished ballroom.

We crossed the Seine next to arrive at the Tuileries gardens, where we rested on a lovely shaded bench for a bit before we continued through the gardens and onto Place de la Concorde (where they used to guillotine people!). We crossed it and then made our way to Petit Palais. There’s a nice park to the backside of it with gardens and one of Paris’s iconic city water fountains, where we happily resupplied our water bottles.

Petit Palais was a really nice art museum, and best of all, it’s free to visit! The building housing the artwork is beautiful, and they had a nice collection of French sculpture, painting, and decorative arts. There was also a really great gift shop there, but unfortunately the art books were all in French… if they weren’t we probably would have bought quite a few!

We took the Metro back to our hotel and had a bit of downtime before we decided to try to visit the Sainte-Genevieve Library. It was in the Latin Quarter, as was our hotel, and online pictures told me it would be beautiful! Unfortunately our information from Google was incorrect and it closes to visitors at 6pm, so we missed out being able to see it. 🙁

Since Rebecca wanted to try as many different foods as she could while on the trip, we decided to get sushi for dinner at a place called Sushirama. The restaurant was almost empty so we were a little hesitant to go at first, but the food was good and in the end the quiet atmosphere (with some nice classical music playing) was a welcome change from the hustle and bustle of our day.


We took a meandering walk back to our hotel along the Seine, enjoying how pretty Paris is at night – it’s called the City of Light for a reason. Notre Dame looked beautiful all lit up, we could hear some distant street performers on the other side of the Seine, and both the sky and the water of the Seine were a nice, deep blue. It was a great walk and when we reached the hotel we went to bed, because there was a full agenda for the next day!

Day 4: The Louvre, Musee de l’Orangerie, Notre Dame & Centre Pompidou

We started off the morning with a walk to the Louvre, wanting to get there a little before it opened. There was a security line, as expected, but our Paris Museum Passes got us in a bit faster and let us skip waiting to buy tickets once inside. We wanted to start with the Napoleon III Apartments, but soon found out that the upstairs of that wing did not open until 10am. In the meantime we saw the Code of Hammurabi (which I was excited to see after my World History class in college), the Marly horses, Assyrian sculptures and reliefs, and a large collection of French sculpture.

Once we were allowed in the upper levels, we went to the Napoleon Apartments right away (and were glad we did because when we were leaving them they were much more crowded than when we started). These are some ridiculously extravagant rooms; the main highlights were the Gold Salon (aptly named since almost everything in it was gold-encrusted) and the huge dining hall!

Then we continued up to the paintings of Northern Europe, where we saw some Dutch masters, but unfortunately no Vermeers, because that part of it was under construction. We weren’t too disappointed however, since we knew we would see some in Amsterdam. 😉

Finally we headed into the belly of the beast to see the Mona Lisa. On the way we saw a few other things, like the Winged Victory of Samothrace, some Neoclassical sculpture, and several other daVincis. At that point–having faced the most crowded part of the Louvre–we were ready to leave, planning to return in the evening to see a few more works that we had missed. (We were taking advantage of the fact that the Louvre is open later on Wednesdays!)

We had lunch at a nearby cafe. I’d always thought a croque madame would be an amazing sandwich, and I was glad that I was able to have my suspicions confirmed at that cafe! 😉

Croque Madame

Musee de l’Orangerie was on the agenda next, and we walked through the Tuileries gardens again to get there. The main thing to see there are two oval rooms featuring wall-to-wall water lily paintings by Monet. The atmosphere is somehow serene despite how many other people are there and the paintings are beautiful! For some reason I had thought there was only one 360 degree water lily room at the museum, so it was a really fun surprise to find that there were two! Both rooms were especially cool to see after being in Giverny a few days before as well. 🙂

I was also surprised to learn how nice the rest of the collection at Musee de l’Orangerie was. There was an exhibition of Japanese artwork and their permanent collection has many important artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, like Matisse, Rousseau, Picasso, and Cezanne, as well as some really interesting ones I hadn’t heard of before, like Marie Laurencin. The galleries are laid out really nicely and there is a ton of interpretive information, so I can now recommend this museum if you want to see art in Paris but don’t want to be overwhelmed by the crowds or vast collections of the Louvre or Musee d’Orsay!

On our way back toward the Latin Quarter, we stopped at the Mazarine Library, which is located at the Institut de France. Of the three libraries I really wanted to see in Paris (Sainte-Genevieve and Richelieu were the other two) it was the one I was least excited about, but the only one I ended it up seeing–it’s funny how that works sometimes. 🙂 Luckily, it was free to visit. We just stopped by the front desk and got visitor stickers and then were able to go inside to see the beautiful library. Photography was not allowed, but we didn’t realize that until we were leaving so… here are some pictures for you. 😉

After a quick stop at our hotel–which was so close to Notre Dame we could see it out our window!–we headed over to check out the interior of the well-known cathedral. The stained glass was as beautiful and the atmosphere as peaceful as ever. We sat for a while and did some sketching (me of the front altar area, Rebecca of the people around us), and while we were doing so we ended up being treated to a free concert of sorts! The choral music was beautiful, and we decided that it more than made up for missing the Evensong service in London. 🙂

The only downside to our time at Notre Dame was that we were five minutes too late to go up and do the belfry tour, which was something I had been excited to do, having missed it the last time. Be advised that they stop accepting people for tours quite a while before they actually close the tours for the evening at 6pm! Oh well, I guess that’ll just give me an excuse to go back to Paris again. 😉

We did a bit of souvenir shopping nearby and dropped off our finds at the hotel before setting out again to Centre Pompidou. This interesting building holds the national modern art museum of France. For some reason the Contemporary Art floor was closed, but we rode up the funky escalators to the Modern Art floor. We saw some modern masters like Matisse, Kandinsky and Chagall. I also liked the rooftop terrace–there was a sculpture garden, a water feature, and an excellent view over Paris, all the way to Sacre Coeur. However I only really liked half of the modern art floor… quickly we got into some weird stuff, like atonal music, solid-color canvasses, and a terrifying wedding dress-type sculpture made out of doll parts…

For some relief, we had some ice cream afterward. There is a cool place to hang out next the museum–it’s just sort of a sloped cobblestoned square, but people sit and chill out there, which was fun. Then we decided to return to the Louvre, and I was excited to see some more ‘traditional’ art after some of the things we’d seen at the Centre Pompidou!

Getting into the Louvre was a snap this time, since it was nearly 8:30pm and not exactly peak time for the museum. We saw the Venus de Milo and the Sarcophagus of the Spouses–two ancient beauties–first. Then we saw the interesting two-sided “Battle of David and Goliath” by Daniele de Volterra.  Since we were in the area, we revisited the Mona Lisa. We were actually able to get near her this time to get a better picture! If you go ‘behind’ the Mona Lisa at the museum, there are two wings to the left and right with some really important French paintings. We were able to see “The Raft of the Medusa” and “Liberty Leading the People” off to the left wing; in the right was “Grand Odalisque” and “Oath of the Horatii”. Next we went to the Egyptian section, and we were so close to seeing the Seated Scribe (which was also on our list) when the museum staff told us they were closing the wing.

It was only 9:30pm then, so it’s good to note: even though they are open until 10pm, there is a large section of the museum that closes earlier than that! It was really nice to go later in the day when there were fewer crowds though, so consider buying a ticket on Wednesday or Friday (when the Louvre is open until 10pm)… then go in the morning or early afternoon, see the less popular stuff, and come back later in the evening to see the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, etc.

After such a long day of museum visits and walks across Paris, we decided we were too tired to walk back to the hotel, so we took a bicycle-taxi. The guy was actually really nice and gave us a bit of a tour of Paris on the way, pointing out some of his favorite places and telling us the name of the fountain by our hotel that we’d been wondering about. Once back ‘home’, we bought some crepes down the street (one sweet, one ‘savory’ each) and ate them in our hotel room. We were pretty tired at that point, and I’ll admit I was a little bit art-overloaded after visiting three different art museums (and one of those twice–plus a library and Notre Dame) in one day. I was relieved that the next day would be a little different, since we would be heading to the palace of Versailles and its beautiful gardens!

Day 5: Chateau de Versailles & a Ballet at Palais Garnier

Thankfully, our daytrip to Versailles started out much more smoothly than the one we took to Giverny. The train ride was a breeze because we could leave directly from the Saint-Michel station outside our hotel. Once we got to the train station in Versailles, it was just a short walk to the palace.

Unfortunately, we were going on the one Thursday a year that was a Musical Gardens/Fountain day at Versailles… (because of Ascension Day). We knew it would be busy going into it, but there really wasn’t a better day of the trip to go and we thought it might be cool to see the fountains in action. So when we got to the palace we weren’t too surprised to see the long, snaky line of people waiting to go into the palace. We had a vain hope that our Paris Museum Pass would get us in faster, but we saw other people with them ask about it and soon learned that it only let you skip buying a ticket. We waited for about 45 minutes before we finally got inside and went through security.

The whole inside of the palace was very crowded, and everyone just sort of got herded through… lots of people had guides with them so it was very loud, with tour guides explaining things in different languages. It wasn’t exactly a pleasant experience, but the palace was certainly very opulent and I’m glad I got to see it. So many other palaces/mansions have imitated it over the year! Nearly everything was gilded and there were little intricate details everywhere. The Hall of Mirrors, with its crystal chandeliers, painted ceiling, mirrors, and windows overlooking the garden, was definitely a highlight. It also let you have a breath of relief from the stifling crowds since it was a wide open space with views to the outside! After the Hall of Mirrors, we were ushered through a few more rooms (some of the royal apartments, I believe), before the route through the palace ended.

We decided to have lunch at the Angelina Restaurant while we were there. We had afternoon tea (with hot chocolate instead of tea, finger sandwiches, macaroons, madeleines, and other pastries) which was quite good. It wasn’t actually too pricey and we were able to sit and rest from the crowds–looking back on it, that was probably one of the best parts of our day at Versailles! After lunch we were headed out into the gardens, where we were excited to see the fountains and to try to claim a shady spot for ourselves to do a little painting.

Afternoon tea at the Angelina Restaurant

Unfortunately after our meal we needed to use the restroom, which entailed a near half hour wait in line. Then, once mercifully outside again, we found out that not only did our Paris Museum Passes not cover the gardens so we would have to pay (because it was fountain day) but that we would have to wait in line again. We took advantage of that time to put on some sunscreen and meet the English ladies behind us, who thought that Rebecca’s BFA in Painting and our art-themed trip were both “brilliant”.

Once into the gardens we were a little disappointed, to be honest. We found out that the fountains do not go all day… they are on between 11am and 12pm, and from 3:30pm to 5pm. Well, when we got out to the gardens it was a little after noon, and we had planned to leave at 3pm. We decided to extend our stay until 4pm, as it seemed silly to have to pay extra to see the fountains and then leave before any of them were on. There were also not as many shady spots or benches as we had hoped for… and we wondered where the 300,000 flowers the pamphlets bragged about were hiding.

There are a couple of fountain shows set to music that run every 10 or 15 minutes throughout the day, so we did see the one at the Mirror Pool. It was pretty cool, and set to classical music from the appropriate time period for Versailles. Once we saw the fountain show the experience started to turn around for me and I was able to enjoy the gardens a little more.

We then decided to walk to Petit Trianon, Marie Antoinette’s favorite little abode, and saw some more fountains (like the famous Apollo one) along the way. Unfortunately there was also a line to get in at Petit Trianon, and then a line to use the restroom… but we did finally get in and it was pretty cool. The decor was in a much simpler style than Versailles, though still elegant. The little music room was probably my favorite!

Once done at Petit Trianon, we decided we weren’t up for another walk or line to see the large Trianon, so we headed back toward the Fountain of Apollo and sat in the shade for a while, waiting for the fountains to turn on at 3:30pm. The Apollo Fountain did not disappoint! It was cool even without the fountain going but afterward… it was really something to see. And a swan even decided to float by us, making the scene even more picturesque. We walked back through the gardens to the palace slowly, checking out several fountains on the way, and happy that we had decided to stay to see them flowing.

The train ride back to the Saint-Michel station was a bit crowded, and we ended up sitting by some older guys from Granada and a young American couple. We realized that most of us spoke Spanish and ended up having a really fun conversation with them. The men were expounding on all of the wonders of Granada and assured us that the Alhambra is much more beautiful than Versailles. They also said that when Bill Clinton visited when he was president that he said it was the most beautiful city in the world. This anecdote led to some laughs because at first I didn’t understand ‘Clinton’ in their accent and thought it was an odd Spanish word that I was unfamiliar with! Talking to them was fun… and I am definitely going to visit Granada someday!

Once back in Paris, we theoretically could have gone to do the belfry tour at Notre Dame, but we were cutting it close and wanted to be sure not to miss the ballet we had tickets for that evening. We also wanted to rest for a bit and freshen up, since we had spent a good portion of the day out in the sun, so we went back to our hotel for a while. The ballet was at Palais Garnier… I had seen the outside of it on the last trip, but I was very excited to see the interior, since it looked beautiful in pictures and inspired works like The Phantom of the Opera. It did not disappoint… the architecture inside was amazing! Our tickets were only €25 each… it turns out that this entitles you to fold-down seats. While not exactly luxurious, they were comfortable enough, and you couldn’t really not feel elegant with such lavish surroundings.

Before going I really had no idea what to expect of the ballet itself – I had just figured that if it was €17/person to tour the Palais Garnier and the cheapest ballet tickets were €25, why not do that instead? It turned out it was actually three different ballets, and the common thread between the three was that Maurice Ravel had composed the music for all of them. There were intermissions between each ballet, and after each one there was a (ridiculously long, imo) curtain call. The orchestra was very good throughout, and we enjoyed seeing Parisian ballet in such a fabulous setting.

The first ballet, El Valse, was the most traditional and probably my favorite… the costumes were beautiful and the main ballerina ends up dancing with ‘death’, who transforms her costume to black before she finally succumbs/dies. The second ballet, “El Sol”, was a lighthearted beach scene, with all the costumes reminiscent of vintage swimsuits. The final one was, to say the least, weird. It was Ravel’s famous and repetitive “Bolero”… the dancers all wore the same costumes, which featured the outlines of their skeletons in lace. There was a large mirror suspended above the stage so that everything was double, and different black and white lighting effects were shone on the stage throughout the performance. Rebecca loved this one and was on the edge of her seat all through it, but I felt incredibly sleepy, as if the repetition of the music and dancer’s movements and the swirling black and white lighting effects were hypnotizing me! Later we saw an interview with Marina Abramovic (a famous performance artist who designed the set for that portion of the ballet) in which she said that Bolero could almost put you in a “trance-like state”… so I guess that’s what happened to me! 😉

Anyway, the experience was really fun and I would recommend it if you want a fancy (but cheap-ish) night out in Paris! We also bought one of the programs for €10, which was really nice and more like a book than a program. It had a nice summary section in English too, so we were able to interpret a bit more of what we had seen on stage after the performance!

We took the Metro back to our hotel and decided to spend our last evening in Paris having a nice three-course dinner at a restaurant near our hotel called Le Depart. We started with the quiche du jour (which was something with potato) and a salad, then I had saumon au basilic (salmon with basil) and we finished with crème brûlée. I also had a couple of mimosas… all of it was delicious, and an excellent way to end our time in Paris. To quote *someone*: “After all, Miss, this is France… and dinner here is never second-best!”

Overall we had an excellent time in Paris! I’m happy to say that, while it’s still probably not in my ‘favorite cities’ list, I did really enjoy my time there and I wouldn’t turn my nose up at going back. 😉 And of course, in this artistic capital of the world, we were able to see a ridiculous amount of famous and influential artwork! We had a great, busy five days there and were ready for a more-relaxed pace at our next stop: Amsterdam.

Paris for Art Lovers

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