Moments With the Masterpieces

Today was our last full day in Paris…sigh. Today was also Steve’s birthday, so he got to turn 45 in this beautiful city and I said it was his day, so we’d do anything he liked. He really only had two birthday requests – he wanted to ride a bike around Paris and he wanted pizza and a beer. Simple as that! We started the day with the first one and used the velo system to pick up a couple of bikes at one of the bike stations, to pedal through the city to the Musee d’Orsay. Now, this wasn’t just any old bike ride through the city, this was a morning peak hour bike ride through the city! We pedalled our clunky bikes with their baskets between the handlebars, through the teeming rapids of traffic…swerve…turn…race…pedal…brake…dodge…On we went, with cars and buses and taxis and motorbikes zooming and honking all around us! It was actually a lot of fun! We zipped and zoomed and zig-zagged like a couple of seasoned Parisian pedallers! We radiated vibes of Vive la France! Vive la vélo!  as we flew through the streets, this way and that and eventually arrived in a halo of adrenalin, at the museum. Forget caffeine, that’s the way to get a morning wake up buzz!!

We came down off our wild wheeling high and walked into the more sedate surroundings of the Musee d’Orsay, where we were hoping to add to our Louvre experience by seeing some more masterpieces, in particular the Impressionists. We were not disappointed! This museum was absolutely amazing! We strolled through the galleries and I saw so many artists and paintings that I recognised, not only recognised but artists whose work I have loved and paintings that have been favourites. I actually had butterflies in my stomach as I walked along viewing these masterpieces, it was that special. I saw one of my favourite paintings, ‘The Circus’ by Georges Seurat, one of my favourite artists and I was amazed by how big it was. Having only seen pictures of it, to walk into the gallery and see it filling a whole wall, left me muttering a quiet, but involuntary, “Wow.”

'The Circus' by Seurat
‘The Circus’ by Seurat. A personal favourite

We saw works by Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne, Picasso…those names and works I have known and admired in books, but today I got to see them for real! I was grinning! The only trouble was, everyone seemed to just want to arrive at a painting and take a photo, whereas I wanted to get up close and look at them, look at the colours and the brushstrokes and kind of experience what the artists did. Consequently I was always in someone’s way, who was wanting to snap a photo, without a short, annoying tourist in the frame spoiling the shot! So I had to keep moving. It was an amazing experience though.

A Van Gogh self portrait
A Van Gogh self portrait. I can’t believe I got to meet a Van Gogh!
A Gauguin
A Gauguin
A Picasso
A Picasso
A Manet that I'd often seen in books and now got to see for real!
A Manet that I’d often seen in books and now got to see for real!
Enjoying a close up inspection of a favourite Monet
Enjoying a close up inspection of a favourite Monet

If you could only go to one museum or gallery in Paris, I would go to this one over the Louvre for sure. The Louvre was great and we enjoyed it a whole lot, but Musee d’Orsay was the number one pick hands down. It was also in a beautiful building too, so it ticked all the boxes and I was happy!

The building, an old train station, was beautiful too
The building, an old train station, was beautiful too

After a few hours of stomach fluttering enjoyment and Steve smiling at my endless grinning and awe-struck face, we left the museum and strolled to the Tuilerie gardens to sit and have Steve’s birthday lunch. We sat ourselves by the lake and Steve found it pretty cool that he was perched in a spot where he could see both the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe at the same time, while he enjoyed his birthday crepe. That’s a birthday moment!

A birthday crepe
A birthday crepe

We continued strolling to take in some more sites and buildings on our last day in the city. We walked over to the Grand Palais, then down the street to the President’s official residence, then on to La Madeleine, a grand church standing out against its surroundings with its huge array of pillars. We went inside and sat for a while, enjoying the peace and reading about the history of the building and looking at the statues and frescos. The beautiful space was spoiled somewhat by the souvenir stands in the corner, but oh well…

La Madeleine
La Madeleine

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We continued our leisurely roam back through the city. I commented to Steve, how he was here, spending his birthday in Paris. “You got to turn 45 in Paris!” I said.

Oh, I am too, I’m 45! I hadn’t thought of that. Why did you say that, now I feel old,” he bemoaned.

You’re not old!” I said, “you’re just old enough to be able to be here and do this and be on this trip, old enough to be lucky enough to do that!” I reminded him.

“It’s pretty special,” he said.

Is a birthday in Paris better than a birthday in Northdown?” I asked.

Nope,” he said without a second thought, “Northdown is pretty good.”

We may like travelling but we are definitely homebodies at heart!

A final farewell to the 'Iron Lady'
A final farewell to the ‘Iron Lady’

We walked to a velo bike station and chose a couple of the dinky, but clunky sets of wheels, for the ride back to our hotel’s district. The afternoon pedal through the city traffic was no less heart thumping than the morning peak hour! We navigated four lane roundabouts…zoom… swerve…turn…we slid down narrow streets sandwiched between buses and cars…breath in…elbows in…be ready to gun it through the intersection…we raced across the wide, wide intersections and the big avenues and powered along with the masses of traffic. What a rush! What a buzz! What a whole lot of fun! The ride even finished with us having to pedal those bikes up the steep streets of Montmartre and those bikes are not geared for hills! It was good to feel the muscles working again!

The day was then capped off with Steve devouring a couple of very big and tasty looking pizzas from a nearby pizzeria, accompanied by a cold beer. I even joined him with a dark ale and toasted a very special and one-of-a-kind birthday. It was a super day to end our time in Paris, the sun shone, we again saw some amazing things, enjoyed some quiet sitting in a nice garden and just had a leisurely, but sensational day. Two country bumpkins from tiny little tucked away Tasmania, have loved their time in this city. Thanks Paris, you’ve given us some magic moments! Just magic!

4 thoughts on “Moments With the Masterpieces

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  1. Heidi I really admire your sense of adventure. Give me the hop on hop off bus any day. What a wonderful time you’ve had in Paris. Happy birthday to Steve.
    Will you be stopping of at Guernsey on the way over to the UK? Perhaps a little potato peel pie?
    Travel safely on the next leg of this fantastic trip.

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  2. I’m trying to develop a sense of adventure, but I still have a firmly entrenched sense of scaredy-cat too. I’m just trying to suppress the scaredy-cat as much as possible! No trip to Guernsey unfortunately, it’s off our ferry route, so straight from Ouistreham to Portsmouth. I did look at it on the map though a few days ago and wonder about how to get there – all because of the potato peel pie!

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  3. Happy Birthday Steve – what a way to celebrate your birthday 🙂 Hope the beer and pizza were good. So happy to hear how you are enjoying all the art, it is amazing to see them “in real life” 🙂
    Happy travels 🙂 🙂

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    1. Thanks for the birthday wishes, Steve did indeed enjoy the pizza. When he got it, his first words were, “I don’t think I’ll be able to eat all that!” Well…he did!

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