Usually, the day when Mr. Misadventures and I arrive in Paris we arrive at our hotel, shower, go out for a meal and end up in bed at around 5/6 pm. We were beat from our flight, but in reality, we are wasting precious hours.
For our trip this past June, we had a traveling companion, a friend of Mr. Misadventures, so we wanted to make sure that he got to enjoy every single hour of Paris while we were there. I knew the best thing to do was to plan something that we had to pay for and therefore couldn’t talk ourselves out of, so I decided to book us a tour.
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Since we were staying at the Westin Place Vendôme near the Jardin des Tuileries I picked a tour at the Orsay. That way once the tour was complete, we would not be too far from the hotel for dinner.
We met our docent Katherine for a 3-hour Musee d’Orsay and Paris in the 19th Century tour.
Mr. Misadventures and I have been to the Orsay many times. The building’s architecture calls to us. We have wandered through the rooms looking at paintings, the statues, and the furniture, but I very quickly become overwhelmed by everything there is to see.
That’s why this tour was such a delight. There was a focus to the tour, a story we followed and it was so refreshing. As with every Context Travel docent, Katherine masters the intricate knowledge needed to make the tour interesting. She had just completed her dissertation on Parisian art and has been awarded a Ph.D., she is one smart cookie.
And that is what you need. Not someone who has memorized a bunch of cards and God help you if someone wants to veer off-course or off-topic. Katherine’s deep knowledge allows her to customize the tour to fit our curiosities. She took us on a 3-hour journey about one particular part of Parisian art history and 3 months later I remember a lot of it.
Not something I can say about any of my other visits to the museum. It was amazing. I saw the paintings with a new eye, I got a lot of background on the museum itself and had some interesting light bulb moments.
One of those was while viewing paintings from Toulouse Lautrec. I was always familiar with his name but found a keener interest in him after the movie Moulin Rouge (sorry, it’s true!). We usually go look at his work, but I never, ever knew that they were on cardboard boxes. Lautrec had no money so he painted on what he could find. I don’t know how I ever missed it, but after Katherine pointed it out, I can’t not see it!
I learned about the Académie des Beaux-Arts, how it was started and why, the movements that came from it including the Salon, Barbizon school, and much more.
The art is interesting, but I really just love the building. It is light and airy, beautiful. The restaurant on the first floor is gorgeous it feels like nothing has changed since it opened in 1900.
It was the perfect way to sink into our trip to Paris. We started at 4:30 and finished at 7:30. By the time we went to dinner and returned back to the hotel, it was 10:00 p.m. Mr. Misadventures and I had never stayed up that late on our first night, but I can tell you from now on, we will definitely be booking a tour of our first night to maximize every hour of every day we have in the city we love.
Once again Context Travel came through. They are a company that practices and deeply believes in sustainability, they have even created the Context Travel Foundation for Sustainable Travel and operate as a certified B Corporation a relatively new kind of company that uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.
These are extremely important initiatives to me and I am happy to promote and support Context Travel by spreading the word!
If you are not doing a tour and are visiting the museum on your own, I always recommend that you buy your ticket ahead of time.
How about you? Do you have a first-night ritual to beat jetlag?
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