Saturday, November 6, 2010
We woke and met Bill and Susan for breakfast around 7:30AM I think. It seemed early, but it really wasn't. Best part of getting up was the coffee machine near the "lobby" of the boat. You can just press a button for a latte, cappiccino, decaf, etc.
As it turned out Versailles was closed due to the strike so there was another optional tour to another chateau on offer. This other chateau predated Versailles and was home to an official in the court of Louis the XIV. Louis liked it so much he hired the architect and told him he wanted the same thing only bigger and better. The result... Versailles. We opted out having already decided to return to the Musée d'Orsay.
The restaurant on the second floor of the Musée d'Orsay. Beautiful, good service and the food was great. Not too pricey given it is a museum restaurant.
The Louvre in the rain.
As it turned out we finally ran out of luck as far as the rain was concerned, but we didn't mind. We had packed folding umbrellas, but that was not the reason we didn't mind the rain. The lines at the museum were shorter and the museum was not crowded. It probably wasn't the rain alone. November isn't the height of the tourist season after all and the Parisians don't get up early on the weekend. So, Bill and I along with our respective Susans grab a taxi at the stand near the dock at Pont de Grenelle and go to the Musée d'Orsay.
What a difference from our first visit. We are relaxed and there is no time schedule to meet and no bus to return to and we aren't exhausted from what felt like a forced march from Notre Dame. We take in the Gerôme exhibition with a rented head set for commentary. It is wonderful... with gladiator and harem paintings and the time to read the informational plaques throughout giving background of his life and travels for research. He really is a master of light, detail and staging. Some of his paintings were used as models for gladiator film sets and stills from films were part of the exhibit. He was also an excellent portrait artist, sculptor and painted spectacular nudes.
We enjoy the museum's Van Goghs, Seurats, Bonnards, Renoirs, Mary Cassatts, Cézannes, Courbets, Gauguins, Degas... there is so much to see and the building itself is a masterpiece. We split up and meet Bill and Susan for lunch upstairs. The restaurant is the only place were we could take pictures inside the museum so you can get an idea of what the rest of the place looked like. Not as spectacular as the restaurant with paintings on the ceiling, but equally well done. Lunch is one of the best meals on the trip and we just ordered the daily special. The museum shop is also worth a visit with books, posters and all types of artistic souvenirs.
After the Musée d'Orsay we decide to visit the Monet exhibit at the Palais Royale. We grab a taxi from the stand in front of the museum and he drops us at the Louvre telling us this was the place. Turns out after walking about and asking some people we discover that the exhibition is at the Grand Palais, the glass building where the worlds fair was held. I remember going by it on our bus tour, but it didn't dawn on us until we had walked about and were standing at a taxi stand for 15 or 20 minutes. We give up waiting for a cab and walk around the corner where we find taxis lined up at a stand just two short blocks away. The ride back to the boat is just about 15 minutes and we enjoy just sitting and watching Paris blur by the window of the comfortable and warm Mercedes taxi.
We are happy to get back to the boat and relax. We have a few cocktails before dinner and contemplate packing and the journey home. We spend the time laughing with Bill and Susan right through the cocktail hour and dinner. It is a good last night in Paris. And, of course, there is the planning of our tips. We had saved enough Euros to take care of tips and whatever cash we might need at the airport. The entire crew, 37 people, share equally from a common tip pool we are told and Viking suggests tipping $10-$12 per day per person. That is $160 for the cruise for the two of us with everyone sharing equally... about $4.32 per person. I decide to do it differently. I give our favorite servers, bartenders and the room attendant who made up our room 10 Euros each and then tip the pool the remainder. We tipped the guides all along. Frankly I found the entire exercise annoying. I definitely prefer an all inclusive vacation experience, but when in Paris....