We (that would be Mrs. Blog and me) have had the great good fortune to enjoy the glory and fun of outdoor adventures. From hiking, backpacking, climbing hills and mountains, kayaking, ocean sailing to just absorbing the sweeping grandeur of sites, both natural and man-made. But in this dispatch we retreat, mostly indoors, to share visits to those splendid edifices, large and small, that are museums. It’s a benign pursuit that is richly rewarding, and most of these places have interesting, if not outrageous, back stories.
A Bad Day at Work for M. Pellerin
It was a cloudy autumn day on October 22, 1895. The Granville-Paris Express was running late on its way to the Gare Montparnasse terminal in central Paris. Anxious to make up time, the engineer, Monsieur Guillaume-Marie Pellerin, was driving the train at a hasty clip. It entered the station still barreling along. The brakes failed to fully stop the train and momentum carried it through the entire concourse. It crashed through a wall and fell outside into the Places de Rennes, some 33 feet below.
Over the following decades, the station became less and less relevant. By the 1970’s it was slated for demolition. Then the idea to construct a museum was introduced. It would be a figurative bridge between the Louvre and the National Museum of Modern Art. In 1986 the old railroad station opened as the Musee d’Orsay. Located on the Left Bank, it’s one of our all-time favorite museums.
Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and Friends
Now we cross the Seine to the Right Bank to see the world’s most famous museum, the Louvre. It’s also one the largest and has over 8.5 million visitors a year. The Louvre is the very definition of a museum: a repository for historical art and artifacts. It conserves, exhibits and researches its inventory, invigorating the knowledge, the enjoyment and the beauty of their treasures. And it does all of this in a most perfect way. It’s pre-eminent reputation seems sullied in the eyes of some Parisians regarding the pyramids (one large and three other smaller ones). Critics feel the structure intrudes on the aesthetics of the imposing and stately historic Louvre, a centuries old castle that was once the world’s largest royal palace. In any event, however, the complex is a must-see site.
The crowds can be overwhelming at times, but almost any price should be endured to see the vast collections of art and artifacts. It’s interesting to see the people viewing (or attempting to view) the Mona Lisa. One hears constant murmurs as the visitors navigate the sea of people: “I can’t see it”; “It’s so small”; “Would you please move”. And when one needs some fresh air after a day at the Louvre, it is a short walk to the beautiful Tuileries Gardens.
The Spectacular Outdoors Museum
Also on the River Seine’s Right Bank, but 50 miles northwest of Paris in the bucolic village of Giverny, is the awe-inspiring Monet Gardens. Breathtaking flower gardens, the meandering lily pond and Claude Monet’s house comprise this splendid place. Monet lived here for 43 years until he passed away in 1926. The gardens and lily pond offer an explosion of color and seemingly endless subjects and scenes to paint. One of the most beautiful scenes where Monet enjoyed painting is the Japanese Bridge.
Reproductions of his work can be seen in the house where the furniture and other household items remain exactly as they were. We understood the impact the gardens had on people when we heard variations on the remark, “I feel like I’m in a Monet painting.”