Friday, April 25, 2008


I've been determined to visit the Musée d'Orsay ever since I was unceremoniously informed last week that the majority of the galleries had been closed to due a museum personnel strike. As I stood in line yesterday afternoon to purchase my advance tickets for the evening, I made a silent appeal to the French bureaucratic gods that today would not be a day for making statements. My efforts must have worked. When I asked the lady at the ticket counter whether or not the employees were en grève, she replied with a rather disappointed sounding "non."

The Musée d'Orsay is not only worth visiting because of the amazing works of art within, but also because of the beauty of the building itself. The museum is actually an old train station that was fully remodeled to serve as an exhibition hall. Located across from the Seine on the rive gauche, its ivory exterior gleams while its spacious interior inspires awe. In fact, there are even lookout points within the museum that allow you to admire its wide open spaces, and windows in some of the galleries provide spectacular views of Paris. Known mostly for sculpture and its collection of Impressionist paintings, d'Orsay's halls also hold decorative art and photography. The Van Gogh salle is not to be missed.

D'Orsay might be less famous than its grand neighbor across the river, Le Louvre, but I think that in many ways it is the better museum. Because its smaller in size, the Musée d'Orsay feels less daunting; you don't need a lifetime to see everything within, a good day or two will suffice. The Louvre can feel dark and cavernous, while d'Orsay is filled with light and space. And while she might not contain the Mona Lisa, the Musée d'Orsay has countless un-overrated classics that you don't need to fight a sea of camera-snapping tourists to see. A visit to Paris should always include a visit to the Musée d'Orsay. Just be sure that on the day you show up, so do the people with the keys.

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