Today was an incredibly full day. Not only did we get in line before opening time at the Musee D’Orsay, but we also splurged on a once-in-a-lifetime 3-star meal, and went to two other museums. As I mentioned in my last post, my wife and I are in France on a vacation, which has nothing to do with my trip around the world last summer, but I thought I’d update the blog with my new travels. Here are the photos (don’t forget to click on the images to enlarge):
After beating most of the crowds here, we had a pleasant visit to the Musee D’Orsay. When I was a kid, I once had a tiny sculpture displayed in the basement here as part of a school project. Much to my chagrin, it has long since disappeared.
The Impressionist galleries have some great views of the city.
I’m not the only one who figured out that the views weren’t so bad. The old train station clock makes a great look-out.
One of our favorite portions of the museum was the Art Nouveau section. We were pretty much the only people there, and we saw some great Horta, Van de Velde, and Guimard work.
We had to leave the museum sooner than we might have liked because we had reservations at Allain Passard’s Arpege restaurant for lunch. This is our major splurge of the whole vacation. Allain Passard originally made a reputation, and developed a 3-star Michelin rating, as a master of grilled meats. About ten years ago, he decided that he couldn’t stand meat anymore, and decided to focus all of his attention on vegetables (almost; there is still some meat served, and the French don’t seem to consider fish meat). Amazingly, he maintained his 3-star rating after completely changing his restaurant, and turning it into a mostly vegetarian place. Since then, he has been called a “master of vegetables,” and we were keen to test the moniker. As a bonus, lunch is about a third the price of dinner! These amuses bouches were the first things we got to try, and they did not disappoint. They were thin potato crisps with three different fillings.
Four different kinds of vegetable dumplings in a light broth.
An onion gratin with fresh vegetables. All of the produce comes from the restaurant’s own farm, on which they do not use any modern machinery. The fields are plowed using horses.
Fresh steamed vegetables in a grapefruit pepper sauce. Amazingly light and flavorful.
A white asparagus with sauteed sorrel, flavored with fresh bay leaf.
Around this point, we started losing track of how many courses we had eaten. This was veloute with the smoked herring dollop on top.
New potatoes with the first peas of the season.
The staff brought out the turbot that would be our main course, to show us what it looked like fresh off the grill.
The finished product. The fish was caught just off of France’s Atlantic coast.
The cheese course. Chevre is hidden under the thinly sliced yellow beets. Although I had not first noticed it, I now realized that I was getting full. Of course, this might have had something to do with the eight slices of house-made country bread that I ate throughout the course of the meal (they just kept refilling my plate. What was I to do? Let it go to waste?).
Dessert, Part I: an assortment of bite-sized treats. The macarons were provided in two different flavors. The pink ones had a beet and mint filling that was surprisingly fantastic (not too sweet, and a just the right zing). Elizabeth and I could not come to a consensus about what filled the lighter ones, although I remain convinced that they contained white grapes.
Dessert, Part II: an apple-rose tart in a crispy chocolate crust with a salted caramel topping. The roses contained candied almonds instead of stamens. A terrific end to a meal that we’ll be thinking about for a long time to come. Plus, as a souvenir, they gave us the knives that we used for the meal, so we’ll be thinking about it every time we use them.
The restaurant just happened to be directly across the street from the Musee Rodin, so we took a much-needed constitutional stroll through the gardens.
I needed to get some thinking done. What would we do next?
Why is it that hell always looks more exciting than heaven in artists’ depictions? This is Rodin’s vision of hell’s gates. My hell would be much more boring, and would involve easy listening music.
“What’s your problem?” These kind of photos never get old for me.
“What are you having trouble understanding? I’m carrying a big key, and I’m going to lock this door.” In all seriousness, I am always amazed at Rodin’s ability to capture motion in a sculpture. Supposedly, he was once accused of casting from life, although I’m not sure how that would actually be possible.
The sun finally pokes out at last on the temple of consumerism: the Bon Marche, the world’s first department store.
Home of the world’s greatest bread!
After our feast at lunch, we opted for a light self-catered affair for dinner, featuring pain Poilane.
After dinner, we walked over to the Louvre to take advantage of the fact that it’s open late on Wednesdays.
The best time to visit the Louvre is late on a Wednesday because most people only come during the day, and they don’t know about the extended hours.
Elizabeth takes in the hellenistic sculptures.
This is the ubiquitous photo of people photographing the Mona Lisa. When I add captions to these photos, the program tells me, “Alt text for the image, e.g. ‘The Mona Lisa.'” It seems that I’ve just ruined my one big chance to literally use that phrase.
There aren’t many greater settings for this genre of painting.
Nike of Samothrace, and the stunned audiences she attracts.
A quiet Louvre is prepared for closing.
Contrast. Tomorrow: Versailles!
Maybe three museums in one day was a little too much. Our feet were killing us when we finally got home. It was our favorite day so far, though.