Friday was my favorite day in Paris. We had arrived the evening before (Feb 12) and strolled along the Champs Elysee before dining in a Lebanese restaurant. Saturday morning was grey with snow flurries. We lay in bed and discussed our options for the day. We made an excellent decision to have breakfast brought to our room. We lounged and ate croissants, pain au chocolat, baguette with butter, cheese and yogurt. We drank cafe au lait, which tastes way better than just coffee with hot milk. Our hotel was lovely. The room was barely as wide as the wingspan of a Gunter, but was impeccably clean and comfortable. Location was great, a few blocks from the Arc de Triomphe.
Our first destination was the Musée de l’Orangerie. The Orangerie building began life in 1852 as a hot house for oranges. After a few changes of personality (military, sporty), the Orangerie was selected as the location for a gift from Monet to France, his series of painting inspired by his home in Giverny, Normandy–Nymphéas (The Waterlilies). The Waterlilies is comprised of eight compositions divided into twenty-two panels. Two oval rooms with skylights were built in the Orangerie to house Monet’s vision. In the 1950s a second floor was added to the Orangerie to house an additional collection, but renovations completed in 2006 have returned natural light to these garden scenes.
Monet’s well-known pastels are gorgeous in these two rotundas. I particularly like the portions with weeping willows and the fiery colors of sunset. I wouldn’t mind having a serene Monet salon in my next house.
The rest of the Orangerie is dedicated to the Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume collection, assembled in the first half of the 20th century. I prefer small art museums where you can view the entire exhibit without getting overwhelmed or exhausted. And I particularly loved this collection filled with Renoir, Cezanne, Modigliani, Picasso and Matisse, along with some painters unfamiliar to me: Utrillo, Derain, Rousseau and Laurencin. I bought a museum catalog and looking through it just now I’m seeing pages and pages of paintings I loved viewing.
After the Orangerie we moved to the Musée D’Orsay. We ate lunch in a cafe right in front of one of the huge clocks that reveal the building’s origins as a train station. The D’Orsay is larger that the Orangerie, but we didn’t try to see everything. We focused on the French Impressionists and the Van Gogh room–it was thrilling to see a room of his works. You can really see how his strong brush strokes bring movement to the paintings. I saw the Renoir that was on the cover of my high school French textbook! We also enjoyed an exhibit of Art Nouveau furnishings. I think I’ll buy an art nouveau mansion in which to place my Monet salon.
After a wonderful day of gazing at some of the most amazing paintings in the world, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for an amazing dinner.