Paris – day 1

I stayed in Paris from Saturday 20 – Tuesday 23 May 2006. Here is a day-by-day account with tips for potential visitors. Photos will be inserted after they’ve been uploaded.

We arrived in the early hours of the morning at Charles de Gaulle airport. From there we took a taxi to our service apartment along the Champs Elysees. The location was superb – that’s the equivalent of staying along Orchard Road!
The weird thing was that when our porter opened our room door, a woman inside called out, “Who’s there?” and we realised she had not checked out yet! There was a bug in the hotel software that hadn’t been fixed for several days. The concierge apologised profusely. Since we had to wait several more hours before our room was ready, we decided to visit the museums.
View of Musee d'Orsay through a cab windowA taxi was called for us and wonder of wonders, the driver was from Guangdong! Along the way, he gave us some tips in Cantonese, telling us there was no need to take a taxi between the Louvre and L’Orangerie museums as they were only separated by a large garden. Across the bridge was the Musee d’Orsay (photo). A bit of a walk but all destinations were in sight of each other.
There was a queue to get into the Louvre, then another queue to buy tickets. If you plan to stay in Paris for a few days to visit museums, then I suggest you buy the Paris Museum Pass, which gives you either a 2, 4 or 6 day pass to visit over 60 museums in and around the city. It is sold in various museums and other locations.
If you wish to buy this pass in the Louvre, do not join the main queues as they only sell tickets for their museum – we found out the long way. The information desk will direct you to another room at the back of the museum, where more well-informed tourists can purchase their ‘season ticket’.
Of my entire journey from Paris to Madrid to London, the Louvre was the best in terms of content, presentation and crowd control. I felt the most comfortable in it, and left knowing there were still more things to see.
Mona Lisa As you can expect, the Mona Lisa was the most popular exhibit. It was so crowded that I didn’t bother taking photos of it – I couldn’t get close enough! Besides it was encased in plastic and there would be reflections.
Later on as I passed the Museum shop I took a photo of a replica.
There were other notable sculptures, such as the Three Graces. I like this photo of their three butts.
The three Graceful Butts
We liked discovering the hidden courtyards with many statues from Greece/Rome, and another series with artefacts from the Middle East. The medieval church section was also comprehensive and beautifully displayed – crucifixes lit up on shelves, and tapestry draped over entire walls. There was stained glass too.
Gudea, prince of Lagash Stained glass
We visited Napoleon III’s chambers. He was a small man, judging from the size of his bed (I guess he takes after grandpa). Also, his furniture was rather garish (the best word would be “obiang!” in Singlish). This was the only area I felt put off and didn’t take much photos.
Medieval Louvre
We explored an old part of the Louvre which actually had a moat.
We walked through the large garden and tried to get into L’Orangerie, but the queue was unimaginably long. Turns out that L’Orangerie was the most newly renovated museum, it had eight of the largest paintings by Monet, and it so happened that this weekend it was free entry for everyone. So our Museum Pass did not count. We decided to try again on Sunday.
We crossed a bridge over the river Seine, to the Orsay. We got in immediately because of our Museum Pass, bypassing the snaking queues of tourists and students. However, we still had to pay extra to see a special exhibit, so we decided to just look at the rest of the museum.
The downside was that we were not allowed to take photographs in many areas. I was disappointed to see that museum staff at the Orsay were less diligent than staff at the Louvre. Next to ‘no photography’ signs, people were flashing their cameras away at paintings and nobody gave a damn. Two museum employees were chatting to each other.
In other areas where photography was permitted, I found it rather boring and only took some photos of furniture.