Paris Stories and Tips

Day 4: Musée d’Orsay, Jardin des Tuileries and Arc de Triomphe

Musee d'Orsay Photo, Paris, France

It was raining when we woke up this morning. While eating my fresh croissant with a glass of cold milk, I poured over our Paris map to see where we can go when it’s gloomy outside.

I was willing to skip Musée d’Orsay, but a good friend told us that we should go anyway just to see the space. It’s open on Tuesdays, while the Louvre isn’t, so naturally, every tourist in the city had the same idea. We stood in line for about an hour with our new umbrellas so it felt so good to finally get in and warm our feet. But you know what? Seeing the lobby as soon as we walked in was just incredible.

What used to be a train station until the modern trains proved that the platforms were too short, Musée d’Orsay is now the home of Van Gogh, Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne and Gauguin among others. There’s also a nice collection of Art Nouveau furniture in several of the floors.

From Musée d’Orsay, we crossed Pont Solferino to the Jardin des Tuileries which was bare and quiet because of the rain. We walked to the carousel and crossed the street to the Obélisque, a gift from the viceroy of Egypt on the Place de la Concorde. I made a stop at a creperie and bought one filled with strawberries and ordered a cup of hot chocolate with it.

We walked and walked until we reached the Arc de Triomphe, something I’ve always wanted to see ever since I moved to New York City and saw Washington Square Park’s tinier version. I remember reading somewhere that when you finally see it, you’d feel like you’re in another place; that beyond the arc is a different world, sort of like an opening to something new.

The walk on Champs Élysées was long so we made a few stops along the way. It took €8 each, around 284 steps and some heavy breathing to finally get up the arc but the view was as rewarding as I expected. It was a bit cloudy from up there but to see the city’s traffic moving away from the arc and Georges Haussmann’s twelve avenues forming like the sun’s rays were pretty cool. Talk about city planning and practical architecture.

The arc was built as a monument to the triumph of Napoleon’s armies but today, it’s just known as a symbol of the sheer triomphe of being French. Parisians gathered here when they were liberated from German occupation and they partied here when they won the ‘98 World Cup. Every year, they still use it as the point of celebrating Bastille Day, the end of the monarchy in France.

We picked up a few items from a grocery store on rue Saint-Antoine on our way home. My feet were so cold I decided to cook dinner and stay in for the night. To find our way back, I remembered my friend's tip: stay close to the river and you’ll never get lost. I peeked from one corner and another to look for the water and then we walked to St-Louis-en-l’Ile. I stopped by La Ferme Saint-Aubin to buy a bottle of Bordeaux. I also bought several jars of jam from L’Epicerie for tomorrow’s breakfast before going upstairs.

Dinner was fennel-flavored chicken soup with rice and spinach. I started with a can of Leffe while cooking and finished with a glass of the red wine. We ended the night by doing laundry and figuring out what the French on the washing machine meant.

It’s not so bad when it rains in Paris.

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