On the first Sunday of each month, most of the major museums and many monuments in Paris are free. So last Sunday, February 1, I spent the day indulging in as much art and culture as I could handle without getting killer fatigue. I started by bicycling from the hostel to the Marais to visit the Musée Picasso. The museum is in the Hôtel Salé, a beautiful building in the Marais, and includes over 3,000 works by Picasso as well as works he collected from other artists. While the quantity of works is impressive and covers Picasso’s entire career, most of these aren’t famous recognizable pieces. In that respect, it’s more of a biography than a highlights exhibit. Since the museum wasn’t originally built to display art, it was a little hard to navigate at times. Although I was thinking about how people my age might go through the museum differently from older generations. We’ve spent so much time with video games where if there’s a room to the side, you have to explore it before you can move on. Or it’s just me who can’t stay on the path.
After the Musée Picasso I walked to the Centre Pompidou. The Pompidou is my favorite museum in Paris due to its amazing collection of modern and contemporary art. I especially like that they recreate art installations to be as close to how they were originally displayed in galleries. It’s mindblowing to see so much significant art in one place. You can gaze at paintings by Ellsworth Kelly, Mark Rothko, Marc Chagall, Yves Klein, or Jasper Johns while in the room with or around the corner from a sculpture by Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, or Louise Bourgeois.
While I was touring the Pompidou I thought about how I’ve visited Paris enough times to connect people with many of the places. I will always associate the Pompidou with Elizabeth due to her art history enthusiasm, for example. Or I think about visiting the Musée d’Orsay with Cecilia, eating crepes in front of the Eiffel Tower with Hannah, going to the Arc de Triomphe for the first time with my family, and celebrating New Years on a bridge over the Seine with my assistant friends.
After eating a falafel, I moved from modern art to impressionism and went to the Musée de l’Orangerie. I’d never been before and had heard that Claude Monet’s “Les Nymphéas” were displayed in the way he’d intended them to be shown. I wasn’t disappointed. There are two oval shaped rooms that give you a 360 degree view of his long waterlily canvases. As gorgeous as the two soft lit rooms were, the rest of the museum wasn’t that interesting to me. So I figured, why not go to the Louvre.
The crowds were as crazy as I expected, but as long as I stayed a safe distance away from the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo it was fine. I walked through the French sculpture, Naploeon III’s apartments, and the decorative arts wing before sitting for a while with the French paintings. I’d been walking all day and my feet were killing me, so it was nice to just relax and look at Théodore Géricault’s “Le Radeau de la Méduse.” Eventually I made myself wander a little more and saw the African art and then was herded out with the rest of the visitors at closing.
I relaxed a little at the hostel and then went out again, this time to the Eiffel Tower because I thought it would be pretty at night. Which is was, but not much else was going on. So I walked to the Arc de Triomphe and realized it was still open and free (because of the first Sunday) so I climbed to the top and enjoyed some panoramic views of Paris at night. It was freezing and after I walked down the Champs-Elyéee to warm up.
I ended up at the Place de la Concorde to take the metro and while I was looking at the Obelisque the Eiffel Tower started sparkling its blue lights. It doesn’t get much better than that.