Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Seine and The Musee d'Orsay

Big, Bright, Tiring

Today we mustered the energy to take in the beautiful Musee d'Orsay. 

Getting there was half the fun delivering views of the Grand Palais, the (very full) Seine, and the breathtaking Eiffel Tower.

Miss M and La Tour Eiffel

Like any architect or engineer, I love the Eiffel Tower. It is perhaps the most cherished symbol of France and certainly the most recognizable icon of Paris.

It stood as the tallest structure in the world from 1889 until 1930 when New York's Chrysler Building eclipsed it.

When German troops occupied Paris, the French cut its elevator cables so that Hitler would have to walk up the 300 steps to the observation deck. Upon arrival he remained at its base.

When the Germans put the obscene swastika bearing flag on the tower, providence blew it off. They followed up with a smaller flag only to find it soon replaced by a Frenchman who scaled the Tower and returned a tri-color flag of France to the top.

As the Allies neared Paris, Hitler ordered his retreating troops to destroy the tower. Admirably, his troops disobeyed.

Since December 1999 the tower has operated new high power searchlights and blasted 200,000 flashbulbs every hour making it "sparkle". This is a sight not to be missed.

The Musee d'Orsay

The Musee d'Orsay occupies a former train station just across the Seine from the Louvre. The magnificent Beaux-Arts steel building was completed in 1900.

The Gare d'Orsay opened along with Paris' dazzling new Metro subway system in time for the World's Exposition Universelle.

Amazingly, less than four decades later, short platforms made it impractical for modern trains. It fell into disuse.

By 1977 the government decided to repurpose it as an art museum in conjunction with the major renovations of the Louvre. It opened as a spectacular new art museum in 1986 and is now easily the second most popular museum in Paris.

It now showcases the works of the French Impressionists and France's stunning mid-1800's era sculptures.

Now, I have to admit, as I get older I have become weary of "squint" art (impressionism). So I found myself breezing through a lot of the galleries. I do, however, love this museum's model of the Paris Opera and its unparalleled collection of French Art Nouveau furniture, art, pottery and whole rooms. 

Regrettably, three things gigged today's d'Orsay visit: they no longer allow photos, they are in the middle of an extensive renovations (i.e. no access to the inside of the big upstairs clock,) and all that walking caught up with us rendering us a couple of droopy-eyed bench zombies at mid-day.

After rallying, we crossed the Seine on the nearby footbridge (the Passerelle Leopold-Sedar-Senghor). It has a statue of our most famous Ambassador to France (Thomas Jefferson) on the Left Bank!

Fastened to the bridge are lots and lots of padlocks. I bent down to look at them and realized each has names. A little research discloses that lovers sign the locks, lock them to the bridge, and throw keys into the Seine. Seems appropriate for the world's most romantic City.

The "Love" Locks

The not-so-romantic Paris City government, frustrated with the practice, removed them all one night last May. So these are the new locks added in just the past seven months!

Once across the bridge we were again in the Tuileries Gardens.

Perfectly Manicured Trees
Parisians Walking Beloved Canines
(News flash: Many now clean up after their dogs!)

Our chilly stroll led us back to Place de La Concorde where the sun was setting.

Sunset Place De La Concorde

In front of the hotel we stopped to watch some darned good street performers. A fitting end to a great day.

Street Performers on the Champs Elysees

Tomorrow we ride one of France's uber high speed trains - destination: Amsterdam!

Roadboy's Travels © 2011

1 comment:

Bernard said...

This tradition of Love Padlocks is very sweet indeed ... but it's not only in Paris that you can have troubles by doing so ... in Rome if the police catch you putting a padlock on any public building you will have to pay 50 € !
There is a new way to do that ... it's on the internet !

Feel free to visit :

Kinds regards with love,