The sun was shining down as we walked out of the Orsay Museum. “Wonderful!”, I quipped. It still amazes me how the weather in Paris could go from raining to shining in just a few minutes. I think the ones that hated the sunny weather were the numerous peddlers with their umbrellas standing outside the museum looking blankly at the crowd.
The first bridge that we encountered was the Pont de la Concorde, which connects Place de la Concorde on the right to the Assemblée Nationale across the Seine. What amazes me the most about the French traffic is that no matter how fast they drive, the drivers always stop for pedestrians on the zebra crossings. Well, most of them do anyway. But to all foreigners planning to visit Malaysia, please keep in mind that the rule does not apply here. You have been warned.
No matter how fast they drive, the drivers always stop for pedestrians on the zebra crossings.
The next bridge is far more famous — the Pont Alexandre III. It is regarded as the most ornate bridge to cross the River Seine. The 4 ‘Fames’ statues lie on the 4 towering socles, provide the counterweight to the arch of the bridge. Allowing viewers a clear look at either the Grand Palais or the Invalides, on either side. Marvellous!
“Check out the huge garden!”, exclaimed the wife excitedly. I declined to correct her that this is known as the Esplanade des Invalides. The grass are kept short and neat, there was a kickabout soccer game in progress, a few French locals were playing fetch with their dogs. All these in the middle of the city! Beats me where we could find such a sight in my own country. At the end of the esplanade lies the collection of buildings known as Les Invalides. This complex houses the Musée de l’Armée, the Musée des Plans-Reliefs, Musée d’Histoire Contemporaine, the Dome Church, a hospital and a nursing home for the war veterans. Everything is military-related. It is notably the burial site for Napolean Bonaparte.
Musée de l’Armée was supposed to be one of the stops on my itinerary as it is covered by the Paris Museum Pass. But we were pressed for time, it was already 3 in the afternoon when we arrived here. So we had to skip it, including Napoleon’s Tomb. “Some other day, old friend!”, as we went past the queue and head for Musée Rodin.
Musée Rodin is located just a stone’s throw away from Les Invalides, it is also covered by the Paris Museum Pass. Now you know why it is worth to splurge on the Pass itself. Surprisingly, the crowd isn’t that great here, probably because it is not one of the must-sees for the tour groups. The Pass allows us to bypass the short line and into the gardens. We started off from the gardens since the weather was holding up, it was a bit cloudy but at least the sun was not shining as bright as before.
“Aha! There it is.”, I pointed at the famous statue — The Thinker (Le Penseur). Before you start claiming that this isn’t the original statue, I have to remind you that there are probably 20-30 authorized copies around in the world. And no, he doesn’t look constipated, nor is he sitting on a toilet bowl. He is actually contemplating fate.
There are probably 20-30 authorized copies of Rodin’s The Thinker around the world
The garden is a good place to lie around in the afternoons, clear of the crowds and in a much comfortable enclosed area. There are a couple of benches strewn around the garden, if only we had the time. However, we still have the time to have one look at another famous statue or maybe, a door — The Gates of Hell. All doom and gloom from where I was standing. Nobody even dared to venture close, in case the doors suddenly open and you get sucked into the vortex. “Go on, go and touch it.”, urged the wife. I was still contemplating (like the Thinker, mind you) when the heavens (sort of) opened up and rain came falling down. Phew! That was close.
Luckily, we could enter the mansion, which is part of the museum too. However, bags and backpacks would have to be checked at the counter. Unless you plan on carrying them around like purses. This is just a safety precaution, which you will soon realize its importance in a room full of sculptures.
The famous sculpture inside the mansion would have to be The Kiss. It was the first work that the public loved, but it was hated by the sculptor himself as he felt it was too simplistic. There are 16 small rooms to be explored in the mansion which was getting crowded by the minute due to the rain outside. Everyone was pretending to like what they saw in the mansion and it was hard to get around. We decided to give it a go and dash for the entrance, where the gift shop lies. Magnets! Give me the magnets!
(to be continued)