Saturday, July 16, 2011

Paris travel advice (with museum links)

Tuilleries: the royal gardens beyond Louvre. the long building in the background is the Musee d'Orsay. at the right edge, you can see Tour Eiffel peeking out next to the tree.

while the memories are still fresh, here a list with advice for visiting Paris (and other larger cities), for myself and for all who are interested - with some extra notes on museums.

1) take the time to plan the trip. Paris, like other larger cities, is overwhelming. you can't possibly see it all. don't even try to. look for the sights you are really interested in, and add some time to stroll the streets and explore - and also, some time to just sit and relax in one of the many parks (that's what they are made for).

one of many chance bus moments: crossing river Seine. the bridge with the double lights is Pont Neuf, beyond it to the right: the towers of Notre Dame

2) get an idea of the public transport system. don't focus on metro or underground only: try buses. each busride is a sightseeing tour in itself. and: walk. get a good travel guide with some more detailed area maps for city walks.

3) get a museum pass. here's the page for the Paris one: Paris museum pass. this is only partly about the money saved: the main advantage is that the pass allows you to use the group entry. which saves you hours of waiting time (the normal lines are painfully long.) you rather spend this time inside the museum, or sitting in a park after the visit, then crawling in line to the entry.

museum l'Orangerie with Monet's water lilies

4) museums I:  for starters, i recommend Musee d'Orsay, which has both an amazing architecture (it's an old railway station), focuses on French paintings, especially the Impressionists, and from size and setting, is enjoyable to visit. for a virtual visit, try this video that captures both the setting + the art: "a day at the Musée d'Orsay".
if you are into Monet, make sure to also visit the l'Orangerie, a short walk from d'Orsay or Louvre at the Concorde/Seine edge of the Tuilleries: they focus on Monet's waterlilies, in rooms designed with Monet, as "peaceful reflection place in the middle of Paris." to get a taste, try this visite virtuelle (click on "Salle 1" / "Salle 2", both marked yellow)

5) museums II: for a great contrast to the classics + impressionists, and for a place with a great city view, visit the Centre Pompidou. there are permanent exhibitions on floor 4 and 5, to be reached with the outside escalators in tubes. on floor 5, there are also 2 terraces with city views, the first with a view towards the Seine and Notre Dame, the second with a view to Sacre Coeur. beyond the musuem is an art pond, and right in front a plaza to just sit and let things sink in. the museum website offers a whole string of views: 360 degrees - virtual tour of the Centre Pompidou

and of course, there is Louvre. visit the museum webpage to get a first feel of it: Louvre - Virtual Tours. and remember that Louvre is 3 huge musuems put together, with 3 separate wings. so it would be good to have an idea of what you want to see when you enter. my suggestion is to try a combination of formats and places, for example: French paintings, the sculptures, Egypt Antiquities, and the history of Louvre in "Medial Louvre" with the remains of the initial fortress.

6) books: if you are into books, make sure to visit the famous bookshop "Shakespeare & Company", across the bridge from Notre Dame. here's a bit of its history: "Originally established in 1919 by Sylvia Beach, in the 1920s the store was a gathering place for writers such as Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway, William S. Burroughs, James Joyce..". actually, this bookshop published Joyce's "Ulysses". there's also a connection to Gertrude Stein. some more notes on it, here, and here the wiki page. make sure to visit the second floor with the Sylvia Beach library and the literary magazine shelves, and get a copy of their Paris Magazine.

7) viewpoint + goodbye point: a great place to end a visit to Paris is Montmartre with the Sacre Coeur.  the huge stairwas in front of the church invites to sit and enjoy the view. at the first platform below the stairs, there are plates that point out the sights. for some quiet, there also is a small green park beyond Sacre Coeur.

8) more photos and notes
for more Paris photos, notes and links try this tag link: virtual notes / Paris
for a link list from the planning phase, visit: Paris links, places, museums

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