Reluctantly leaving my bench by the window at Musée Rodin, I begin walking down Rue de Varenne towards Le Metro. Musée d’Orsay isn’t so far away but in the gathering dusk of the end of a Paris day it feels like every moment counts in a way it didn’t when I started out this morning. Shadows are longer here, the wind has a bit more chill to it than it and while I still have that same happy glow I started out with at the Louvre I feel the urgency of the end of Free Museum Day as it closes in on me. I know d’Orsay closes at 5 pm. It’s 3 pm. Standing near the tracks I wonder when the train will come and once it does I find myself tapping my foot in that way which probably so irritates my fellow passengers. I’m excited for The Impressionists!! I’m buzzed from all the beauty I’ve already seen today.
Yet, I make a friend. A fellow American is kind enough to take my portrait with Vincent! It will be one of the few images I have of myself in The City of Light and later I will cherish it even though I’m not thrilled about the way I look or the way it is composed … it’s me, in Paris! Even going on four days into my trip, I still have to pinch myself that I am here after all the years of dreaming about this day.
With a sinking feeling in my chest, I cross Quai d’Orsay and see an enormous line still in front of the museum. I don’t know how long a wait that represents but it has a look that strikes me as being insurmountable. Spying colorful banners with gems and jewels adorning the front of a building next to Musée d’Orsay, I wander over intent on discovering what they are advertising. I also need to decide whether or not I really want to spend the rest of my evening standing in a queue waiting to see if I will actually be allowed to visit with my Impressionists.
The building next door to Musée d’Orsay is Musée de la Légion d’Honneur. There is no queue to enter, there are – amethysts and diamonds and so many things that sparkle, I find I can’t resist entering. I’m not so into the owning of expensive jewelry but I definitely have that quality of being fascinated by the sparkly and the pretty. So, I spend a little time exploring a museum that wasn’t even on my agenda when I got out of bed this morning. I’m rewarded with a sense of French history I may never have gotten anywhere else. I think back to my research and realize I don’t even remember anyone mentioning this place when I was exploring what there is to see and do in Paris. I make a mental note to write an article for someone, somewhere so that other tourists can benefit from this place as I am doing. (Sidenote: that article will premier soon and I’m excited to share it with you! Thus, I can’t give any more details now about the time I spent at Musée de la Légion d’Honneur in this post.)
Again, I approach Musée d’Orsay but this time the queue has shrunk to just a few tourists and one Frenchman who says he never misses Free Museum Sunday. A scant 5 minutes and I am in the hallowed but expansive space of The Musée d’Orsay.
Immediately I wish for my mother’s presence. This is the place she feels most close to me in Paris. As a painter who once reproduced Monet‘s iconic “Waterlilies” it seems almost wrong to be here without her. I can’t remember when my love affair with the Impressionists started, though I’m sure she influenced me. I can remember days in the Art Institute of Chicago, which has one of the most extensive collection of Impressionist work in the United States, where I very seriously contemplated how I might avoid detection and sleep in gallery 241. I also think back to my first visit to the MET where I contemplated never leaving the Hall of Rodin. Now that I’ve seen his work in Paris, I must see Jeu de Volant for myself and wonder what Whistler’s Mother is thinking. This museum houses so many of the original works I’ve only ever admired in print from all my most-loved artists.
Standing in front of a set of paintings by Renoir who is another of my favorites [ these two are Dance in the City and Dance in the Country], I make a snap decision. Ignoring the rule which says photography isn’t allowed – I take a picture. Then, another. Before getting carried away – I move on. Until I spy an open seat on a bench in the exhibit dedicated to The Nabis.
Here, I journal. Here I think back on a whole day of art in Paris. I’ve made the most of Free Museum Day. I always intended to of course but there were moments of exhaustion where I didn’t think I’d make it past one museum. This morning with espresso and croissant in hand I was on cloud nine. I can’t say I really left that cloud. I’m so thankful to the French for a day of truly budget-friendly fun and a date with so much historical and artistic beauty!