First Trip to Europe, Day 4 – Monet, Rodin, Napoleon, and The Louvre

We originally set aside two full days for museums in Paris–the Friday and Saturday after Christmas. Most Paris museums close on either Monday or Tuesday, so make sure you check the museum websites before you set your itinerary. Friday and Saturday are probably more crowded days all year long, but it’s what worked in our schedule. We purchased the Paris Museum Pass before leaving home. You can have them shipped to you, or you can pick them up at the local office once you arrive in Paris. We had ours shipped.

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Josh and my dad got ready before us that morning and went to grab breakfast again while my mom and I finished getting ready. We then took the metro to Musee Marmottan, way across town in the 18th. We didn’t realize it wasn’t covered by the Museum Pass, but we decided to go inside anyway and paid the entrance fee. The line was short here, and the museum wasn’t crowded. The Marmottan is often referred to as the Monet museum. It’s off the beaten path and full of his works, including large waterlilies. We learned a lot about Claude Monet, his influences, and his personal life. I found the timeline of his life printed on the wall to be pretty enlightening. The featured exhibit at the time of our visit was Impression, Sunrise. We paid for audio guides here (3 euros), and it was neat to hear and see how Monet was influenced by other painters but developed his own impressionist style.

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After Marmottan we took the metro back towards central Paris and Les Invalides. We stopped in at Le Cafe du Musee for lunch, which looked more like breakfast to me. We had omelets, which I enjoyed enough to take a picture of. I wanted ketchup so badly, but refused to ask for it. No silly Americans here! My potato omelet really could have used some ketchup, though. The service was good, but nothing special. I suppose this is a prime example of the kind of traveler I try to be. I would have really enjoyed ketchup on my omelet, but I try to blend in and do as the locals do whenever I can. Asking for ketchup would not have won me any points with the waiter, so I didn’t ask. Some people might not care what the waiter thinks of them, but I suppose I do!

The entrance to the Rodin museum was just around the corner from the cafe. Musee Rodin is entirely dedicated to the sculptures of Auguste Rodin. He is the master behind iconic works such as The Thinker, The Gates of Hell, and The Kiss. There is a small exhibit inside, but the main attraction here is the garden where his sculptures each occupy their own space. I imagine that the garden here is lovely in the spring and summer, and luckily for us it wasn’t raining or too cold the day we visited. It did get a little muddy in some places, so wear appropriate shoes for sure. The Thinker is enormous in real life, as are The Gates of Hell, and pretty much all of his sculptures. There are smaller versions at other museums, but the full size sculptures are something else.

It’s a short walk (across the street) from the Musee Rodin to Les Invalides and Napoleon’s Tomb. There was no line, we just showed our pass and walked right in. Underneath the dome is a huge area with Napoleon’s giant red sarcophagus in the center. You can view it from above or walk down stairs to view it from the side. For military and history buffs, this is probably a really neat place to visit. For us it was kind of just checking a box. The building was beautiful and there was a gorgeous altar and angels surrounding the tomb. It was worth the visit, but I wouldn’t call it a highlight of our trip.

From Les Invalides we went back to the hotel for a break (and a nap for me as I was still under the weather). Mom and dad ventured out to find us a quick dinner to bring back to the hotel and we ate sandwiches and quiches in their room before heading to our next museum. The Louvre is open until 9:45pm on Friday nights, so we took advantage of the late hours. It had rained off and on most of the day, and this night I had to use the cheap Paris umbrella we picked up at a tourist shop. I somehow managed to keep it from turning inside out in the wind (this takes skill!) and stayed pretty dry on our walk across the square into the Louvre. I don’t know what’s up with the red lightning looking streak in the pyramid, but it kind of kills the majestic mood (and my pictures). Our museum passes came in handy here, where we only waited in a short line to go through security and then we were inside! The Louvre is split into a sort of confusing layout, where you have to show your ticket at the entrance to each wing. The lines for audio guides were insanely long, so we skipped those and I read from a walking tour on the Louvre’s website. They have several walking tours (“Visitor Trails”) outlined, but next time I will remember to use the Rick Steve’s podcast I downloaded before our trip. I can’t believe I forgot about it!

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We were lost most of the time we were inside the Louvre. We did manage to see the highlights that we came to see, however. We saw Winged Victory, the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, The Wedding Feast at Cana, The Coronation of Napoleon, Odalisque, The Raft of the Medusa, the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and Virgin of the Rocks paintings by da Vinci, and the Inverted Pyramid. Make sure you grab a map when you enter. Better yet, take one of the guided tours. The museum offers them in English at certain times each day. Trying to see the Mona Lisa and get a selfie or picture nearby is pretty difficult. I can’t imagine what this is like in the summer or during peak times. Of course it’s something you have to do, but it’s not quick or easy.

We wandered the Louvre for about two hours, then stopped in a cafe on the way back to the hotel. I had my first real creme brûlée finally, though it was a little burned for my taste.

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My next post will cover a pretty slow day. We did a hop-on-hop-off bus tour, visited Laduree to buy macaroons, tried to visit the Grand Palais, did a whirlwind tour of the Musee des Arts et Metiers, and ate dinner at Balzar.

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