Paris, France: Louvre, Musee d'Orsay, and more

Paris, hypnotizing and incomparably beautiful, imbues metaphors of romantic reverie. The sun sets on the Champs Elysees, spreading its last delicate golden rays across the Tuileries and visitors who sedately stroll along, admiring the gardens. In the distance, tiny, twinkling lights illuminate the figure of the Eiffel Tower, as the low pulse of the city gains in intensity with the impending night.

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There is no other city like Paris in the world. The glorious architecture, history, fashion, culinary status and museums intermingle with a sophisticated culture that is to non-Parisians an enticing and sometimes elusive enigma. This fascination forever draws admirers to visit the city and experience the energy, beauty and culture that are the magnificence of Paris.

The Louvre

The Louvre Museum is an excellent place to begin a Paris adventure. It is located in the center of the city in the first arrondissement on Rue De Rivoli. With its stunning French stone architecture and famous towering glass pyramid, the Louvre is one of the most beautiful and splendid museums in the world.

The museum originally started out as a 12th century fortress and Chateau. After several periods of evolution and French Monarchy, such as the Sun King, Louis XIV, the Louvre was open to the public as a museum in 1793. Today, it houses some of the world's most recognizable works of art from the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and The Winged Victory of Samothrace, to Psyche and Cupid.

The museum's collections are housed on four levels with each floor a veritable work of art in itself. Exquisite Frescos, gold-gilded accents and scrollwork adorn the walls, doors and moldings. With staircases and columns of marble flowing endlessly under immense arched ceilings of leaded glass and detailed sculpture. The French Sculptures, located in their enclosed marble courtyard on the ground floor, are one of the most magnificent and awe-inspiring exhibits in the Louvre. Luminous statues of life-like essence seem to whisper thoughts from their stone lips to the passerby. The second floor paintings of European masters will immerse the visitor in a world of creative beauty so captivating that time will vanish into obscurity.

Musee d'Orsay

Musee d'Orsay, located on rue de la Legion d'Honneur (next to the Seine River) in the seventh arrondissement, houses many of the world's greatest impressionist paintings, such as Degas, Monet, Renoir, Cezanne and Van Gogh. Many works of the neoimpressionism artists Seurat and Toulouse Lautrec are in residence as well.

From train station to the opening of Musee d'Orsay in 1986, the museum has instituted sculpture, graphic and decorative arts, collections of furniture, architecture and photography, as well as paintings. This rectangular building houses art collections on three levels with a beguiling turn-of-the-19th-century decorated restaurant. The gift shop offers a wide array of art books, collectables, prints and posters. The museum also features concerts, shows, cinema festivals, courses, lectures and films on the 19th century.

The impressionism art in the Musee d'Orsay is incredible and the softly light exhibit of Degas' pastel ballerinas in muted hues is breathtaking. Van Gogh's works draw many enthusiasts, especially his popular Starry Night painting. The upper floors not only feature great paintings, but offer tremendous views of the Seine River and sights of Paris.

The Musee d'Orsay is a magnificent museum and takes at least one full day to view with the addition of scaling several sets of staircases. Be adventurous and explore the upper reaches of the museum; these staircases (located on both ends of the building), offer great perspectives of the interesting design of the museum and takes visitors to little exhibit rooms that most tourists miss.

More Paris Museums

While there are at least 130 different museums of various sizes in Paris and possibly more, visitors generally only have time for a few. Of course, the Louvre and Musee d'Orsay are considered the top two essential. However, if you have time, pay a visit to the Musee Rodin to view the exquisite French sculptors' work, located on Musee Rodin 79 Rue de Varenne.

The Centre Pompidou on Place Georges Pompidou, features contemporary and modern art in an colossal and striking ultra modern architectural building that is vibrant with activity from opening to close. In addition, the Musee National Picasso located in the 17th century Hotel Sale, delves into the career and adventures of this famous artist. The spring and summer months in Paris are filled with tourists and the cue lines for the museums can snake seemingly into oblivion. Make sure to plan your museum trips in the off hours and days to avoid the biggest crowds.

If You Go

The city is divided into some 20 arrondissements or districts. Their number assignment, such as the eighth arrondissement, written in French as 8eme (where the Champs Elysees is located), refers to these districts. For visitors, the numbered districts make it easier to navigate. Visitors to Paris should not consider driving. The Metro is a fast, inexpensive and efficient way to traverse the city and goes virtually to every sightseeing location. Tickets and passes are available at almost all Metro entrances.

If you are a first time visitor, or a seasoned traveler to Paris, your enjoyment level will be greatly heightened by taking time to read up on, or refresh a little French language, culture and history. Although many Parisians speak English, if visitors don't speak a few words of polite French, you may receive an unfriendly response in your interactions, or worse, be ignored. This isn't always the case, but French culture is very different from American. Besides, most every country wants to feel that visitors to their homeland take the time to interact with local customs and take an interest in polite communications and niceties.

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Patrice RapleePatrice Raplee is an experienced travel photojournalist and editor of Travel Excursion and Seattle Spotlight for Positively Entertainment magazine. In addition, she writes a monthly travel column for the award-wining site Offbeat Travel and is a regular correspondent for travel radio shows. She is a member of North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA), International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) and the Recording Academy. Her articles and photographs have appeared in numerous international publications, as well as NW newspapers such as the Seattle Times, the Stranger and Seattle Weekly. Patrice travels the globe to cover destinations that feature fascinating culture, art, culinary, history and soft adventure. Visit her website Travel-Excursion for more information.

Unless otherwise indicated, all photos by the author

Updated: January 2, 2017

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