Thursday, June 30, 2011

Day 5 in Paris - Orsay Museum, Les Invalides, Rodin Museum, La Defense

We had our first breakfast at Hotel Porte Doree which cost 10E that was not included in the price of the room. This was definitely better value than the one that cost 8E in Hotel Lyon Mulhouse and better than some of the hotels we stayed under the Cosmos Tour. There were 3 types of cereals, 3 types of juices, 2 cold cuts, hard boiled egg, yogurt, bread, croissant and other pastries, fruits (orange, kiwi, banana, peach and sometimes strawberry) plus either coffee or hot chocolate. Since this was served buffet style, you can eat as much as you want. You can probably get a decent breakfast outside for less but here it is more for the convenience and the variety it offers.

After a leisurely breakfast, we started our journey to the city. Since the weather forecast was cloudy with showers, I decided to visit museums in town and reserve Versailles for tomorrow that was forecasted to be sunny. Sure enough, it began to shower as we left the hotel. Morning was meant for Orsay Museum and the nearest stop is the RER stop at Musee d'Orsay so we had our first taste of the RER. This was at the Metro interchange wth RER at Gare d'Austerlitz. After some difficulty in identifying the correct platform, we boarded our first RER train. This was a double-decker train and looked rather ancient compared to the Metro trains.

We arrived at the Orsay Museum and we were met with many topless ladies. Sorry guys, no need to rush there, they were just statues outside the museum.

There was a big crowd outside and it was then that I realised the usefulness of the Paris Museum Pass. Look at the queue at the ticket counter
and also at the entrance for the Pass holders.
It may not be so clear in the photos but the one for Pass holder is definitely shorter. In any case, we still need to go through the security check. I missed a great videoing opportunity here since photography is totally not allowed inside the Orsay. As a responsible tourist, I followed the rule but I saw some visitors sneaking some shots. So we went through the major paintings in the museum, the Manets, Monets, Van Goghs, Gauguin and so on. A paradise for art lovers apart from the Louvre. In addition to the great paintings and sculptures, the Orsay also has good free public toilets!

From the Orsay, we walked to Les Invalides. On the way we passed the National Assembly where part of the French Parliament sits.

There was some event going on as I saw the broacasting van of BFMTV, my favourite TV channel for checking the weather in Paris.

We passed the ornamental Pont Alexander III (supposedly the most beautiful bridge across the River Seine)

before turning into Les Invalides.

There were many cannons in the courtyard and in fact all over the complex so you know this place must be connected with warfare.

We skipped the Army Museum

since we were a bit short of time and my wife may not be too interested in all the arms and the 2 World War stuffs and we headed straight to visit the Tomb of Napoleon at the Dome Church. We walked straight in with the Museum Pass as there was no need to queue for tickets. You have to bow and pay respect to Napoleon since you need to look down at his tomb that was placed at a lower level from the entrance to the church.

Looking up, there is a beautiful painted dome.

Napoleon is surrounded by his other family members. This is the tomb of Joseph, his brother.

A monument to Napoleon III, his nephew.

There was a beautiful altar at the back of the chapel.

From here we walked across a small garden outside the Invalides Hospital and crossed the street outside to visit the Rodin Museum. Again we walked straight in with our Museum Pass bypassing those queuing for tickets. (I hope by now you see the value of the Museum Pass!)

The main attraction was of course the Thinker sitting in the beautiful rose garden.

There are many more famous sculptures inside the museum building, some in sensuous mood.

Evoking a different mood are those located with the outdoor setting in the rose garden,

including his Gates of Hell.

It was time for lunch after we exited the museum. There was only one restaurant opposite the museum and it was jam packed with the lunch time crowd. We walked down the surrounding streets and found nothing suitable until we saw this Chinese Restaurant on Rue de Grenelle called Le Grenelle de Pekin.

We ordered just two dishes since we were not sure of the size of the portion. One was the barbecued pork spare ribs with honey sauce

and the other one was the stir fried Chinese pak choy (literally, white vege). This vege was rare in Paris since the only green vege we saw in all the Chinese takeaway shops was broccoli.

The portions came out pretty big, enough for the two of us with the white rice. So we had a good lunch, amply refuelled for our next walk. The rain began to fall again and I decided to do some indoor shopping so off we went to La Defence, at the end of Line 1 as I read somewhere about the shopping mall Les Quatre Temps there that has one of the largest Toy R Us in France. Our elder daughter has requested us to get for her some French kiddie stuff.

La Defense or rather the Grand Arch was surprisingly very quiet, maybe because of the pouring rain and we made our way to the shopping mall. It was pretty big and more upmarket compared to the one at Les Halles. After the mandatory queue at the public toilet (especially for the ladies), we headed straight to Toys R Us. After some searching, we managed to get what our daughter wanted - the all-rubber Sophie the giraffe! She (Sophie, not my daughter) is now celebrating her 50th anniversary this year and she is supposed to be a favourite toy for babies. Anyway, I have never heard of her until now.

For those interested, the small one cost 5.99E and the big package cost 16.99E, a value buy discounted from 29.99E (if I remember correctly). There were more packages in Galeries Lafayette but with different variety of items.

Because of the heavy rain, the shot of Sophie is the only photo I have to remember my trip to La Defence.

From here, we went for another round of shopping, this time back to Champs Elysees to visit another flagship store of French designer handbag, Gucci, to satisfy the shopping needs of my wife. Yes, the Metro makes it really easy to move around!

This store is at the corner of the junction between Champs Elysees and Avenue Montaigne and it was rather quiet. Along Avenue Montaigne there are many more upmarket stores like Christian Dior, Valentino and even a branch of LV if I am not mistaken. We walked to the end of the avenue to take another Metro back to the hotel for a rest to recover from all the walking today. My only captures here of note were the hotel Plaza Athenee and the Theatre des Champs Elysees along this avenue.

Since we were too lazy and a bit tired, we decided to have a casual evening stroll in the area around the hotel. Before that, two views from my window to put you in a relaxing mood.

The tranquility of our walk was broken by the screaming of fire engines and we followed the sound and came to the street where about 5 fire engines had gathered but we saw no fire. So we hang around just like the locals were doing, hoping to see some action. I supposed we blended in well as even one local French lady came and asked us (in French) what was happening. I, of course, could not answer and she went away disappointed. We still do not know actually what caused the gathering of fire engines there.

After that, we had our dinner at another of those Chinese takeaway nearby. Here, the braised duck was pretty good. After confirming with the weather forecast on TV that there would be sunshine tomorrow, we went to bed happy that we'll see Versailles in a better light, literally, come tomorrow.

Ronald Kowk

1 comment:

  1. I pondered to myself recently what were the most important things in my life. The answer seems to be clear that art was up there in importance. Why? Frankly, I don't really know. May be someone here can enlighten me?
    As was my wont w
    hen I have some free time, I browsed the marvelous site,, where they keep thousands of digital images for customers to select to have printed into handsome canvas prints for their homes.
    This image jumped out to jolt my reveries: Still life with bread, by the Cubist Georges Braque. Is art like this picture, as essential as bread and water, or should I say bread and wine?