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Context Travel Orsay Museum Tour: Musée d’Orsay Tour: Crash Course

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 are beat from our flight, but in reality, we are wasting precious hours.

On a trip when we had an additional traveling companion, a friend of Mr. Misadventures, we wanted to ensure 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 inside the Musee d'Orsay.

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I picked the Context Travel Orsay Museum Tour: Musée d'Orsay Tour: Crash Course and loved it!

Musee d’Orsay and Paris in the 19th Century – Context Travel Paris Tour
One of the two spots you can take a photo. Photo credit: Mr. Misadventures

When it comes to tours in Paris, I am a big fan of Context Travel. I have been on several of their tours in Paris (as well as London) and have always been impressed. It is a company I believe in.

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, statues, and 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 had been awarded a Ph.D., she is one smart cookie.

Musee d’Orsay and Paris in the 19th Century – Context Travel Paris Tour
Our Context Travel docent, Katherine

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.

Musee d’Orsay and Paris in the 19th Century – Context Travel Paris Tour
Behind the famous clock, the faces out onto the Seine. Mr. Misadventures' image is so clear you can see they need a window washer!

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 couldn't NOT see it!

Musee d’Orsay and Paris in the 19th Century – Context Travel Paris Tour
The hallway behind the clock in the first photo (Photo credit Mr. Misadventures)

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.

Musee d’Orsay and Paris in the 19th Century – Context Travel Paris Tour
Photo credit: Mr. Misadventures

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?

Like it? PIN it!

Musee d’Orsay and Paris in the 19th Century Paris FranceMusee d’Orsay and Paris in the 19th Century Paris FranceMusee d’Orsay and Paris in the 19th Century Paris France
  • Flights
    • Look for fares using sites like Skyscanner or Expedia.com
    • For France (Paris) coming from the West Coast, I typically fly Air France or United. From the East Coast, I typically fly Air France or Delta.
    • If you travel frequently, consider investing in a Priority Pass for airport lounge access. Not only will you have a spot to relax before your flight and charge your devices, but you can eat and drink for free (without paying crazy airport prices!)
  • Accommodation
  • Transportation
    • For rental car agencies, try Rentalcars.com. When traveling in Europe, I use AutoEurope to make reservations. They find the best rates and allow you to compare different car rental agencies. I typically book with Sixt.
    • For transportation from the CDG airport to anywhere within Paris, consider pre-booking with Get Transfer. It is one way to be stress-free and you can request an English-speaking driver.
  • Tours + Atractions
    • I book tours with companies like Viator and GetYourGuide. Both have a wide variety of activities for every travel style. Other companies to look at include Tours by Locals and Withlocals.
    • If you’re visiting a city with multiple attractions, be sure to check out a discount pass, such as CityPASS or Go City.
    • Context Travel is another option and they offer more educational-based activities.
    • If you are looking to buy tickets to attractions, check out Tiquet.
  • Don't Forget Travel Photos
    • One of my favorite things to do is to get photos taken of me while on vacation. Flytographer is a great option with photographers all over the world.
  • Peace of Mind
    • It’s important to have some type of travel insurance to cover any unforeseen accidents, illnesses, threats, or cancellations. I always travel with insurance and would recommend SafetyWingSquareMouth or Travelex Insurance are good options.
    • Should you have any trouble with flight delays to the extent you feel you deserve compensation, I encourage you to check out and use AirHelp. I used them and for 1 claim I got compensated (transparency: a 2nd claim did not, but I was still glad I tried!).
  • Planning

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  1. I remember my first night in Rome. Jetlag hit me hard and despite being hungry I was washed up and in my PJs and ready for bed. My boyfriend was starving and so I with no makeup and a Star Wars white t-shirt on wandered the streets of Rome for something to go. We found a pizza place that was offended at our request to order something to take away so we sat and I ordered a cheap mini bottle of white wine as he mowed down a large thin crust pizza. By the time we went to bed it was midnight.
    I loved the Toulouse character in Moulin Rouge!
    Context travel is on my to do list in Europe ~ do they have tours in Ireland?I just found out I am going to the BlogHouse!


    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Murissa, wow, you broke all the rules! I remember while living in France (we lived in a small village) shocking the baker every weekend with my baseball cap (although after 3 years is it really shocking?). During the week I would buy bread dressed for work, etc. But on Saturday or Sunday, I would get up to go buy fresh bread or pastries for breakfast and I would just throw on a baseball cap to walk one block from my apartment to get bread – I didn’t want to take a shower, do my hair, etc to have a croissant with my coffee – every weekend I would get the evil eye when I came into the boulangerie with my hat on! Context is in many cities in Europe (and Asia, I am going to try out tours in Kyoto this November) but it doesn’t look like they’ve got anything in Ireland. Hopefully you’ll get to a city where they are in the near future. Congrats on the BlogHouse selection!

  2. Looks so phenomenal! You know, I am really starting to enjoy tours more and more, and I think you hit the nail on the head – it’s when you have a guide – or a docent – who really knows his or her stuff, and isn’t just reciting from memory. THAT’S usually when a tour becomes fascinating, and not just a way to kill time. My jetlag fix is trying to acclimate my sleep schedule to the local time as quickly as possible. Sometimes that means forcing my eyelids to stay open an extra five hours, and other times it means popping an Ambien (or more like a half) on a flight so I’m refreshed when I arrive – it all depends on the timing. As usual, lovely shots by Mr. Misadventures!

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Katie, the guide makes or breaks it. The other people on the tour as well (and you know what I am talking about). I haven’t tried Ambien, I usually just try Tylenol PM and that usually works.

  3. Andi, thanks for the great recounting of the walk with Katherine. I did our French masters of the Louvre walking seminar with her last year, and really enjoyed how she shared her passion and enthusiasm for her subject (French art). For me, one of the key things to a tour is passion. If the docent isn’t passionate about the topic I have a hard time learning. It’s one of the things we recruit for, and Katherine has it in spades.

    Can’t wait to hear about your Kyoto adventures.

    Paul (Context)

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Paul, it is one of the things I appreciate most about Context, the passion of the people. I can visit a place that I have seen a dozen times and leave energized with a fresh new perspective. And for this particular tour and its subject matter it was the perfect preparation for my trip to Giverny, which I will be writing about soon!

  4. Daisy de Plume says:

    Yes, it’s funny how once you learn something, especially when it’s visual (Toulouse Lautrec’s cardboard proclivites), you can’t believe you can’t not see it. I have the same frequently, and love those epiphanies. Sounds like a great visit with a great host (Katherine looks like she has spunk!)!

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Daisy, Katherine was incredible!

  5. Andi I loved reading this post and your wonderful photos. During our stay this past summer we visited the Musee and it was certainly a favorite. I don’t think I grasped the visual of having been a train station though until I saw your photo of the open gallery! I could really see a train in the middle of the station! Love knowing about the tours too. Happy to read such a rich tail after all the horrific events in Paris this past week.

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Toni, it is funny how just turning the angle slightly, a whole new world can be opened up. I have many friends living in Paris and I am happy to hear they are all safe, shaken but safe. My hubby is French and has been glued to the French news non-stop.

  6. Andi, I typically do what you do when traveling to Europe … shower, eat, and go to bed at 6pm. But this is a FAB idea. Especially paying for a tour in advance since you will be less likely to skip it. And, I’m embarrassed to admit, I’ve been to Paris three times now and still have not visited this museum! It will be first on my list for my next visit.

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Rachelle, we aren’t ones to rush to museums but my hubby is really fond of this one. We have been together almost 13 years with dozens of trips to Paris and he hasn’t stepped foot in the Louvre! I did during this same trip to do a scavenger hunt tour with friends and had a blast since it is such a different way to see the museum. Orsay is gorg though, you definitely should do it!

  7. I would never have thought of taking a guided tour but that is SUCH a good idea. The last time we went, and its been WAY too long, we ended up just wandering around and saying ‘that’s pretty, wonder what the story is behind it’ and stuff like that. We’ll definitely do that next time!

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Paula, you should! We have been to the Orsay a dozen times but this was the only time I actually learned anything!

  8. Ha, that’s hilarious about booking something you paid for so you can’t talk yourselves out of it! I think we’re kindred spirits – my husband and I are the same way 🙂 We’re also the same in hating the thought of losing precious time and usually pack in as much stuff as possible. Really love the idea of the Concept Tour and can see how it would greatly enhance the travel experience. Great post, Andi, thanks for sharing!

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Kimberly, Context is a really fabulous company! I have done over a dozen tours in 4 countries and have loved them all!

  9. @Travelpanties says:

    Love this idea. And love a good guided tour! And love this museum! One of my faves.

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Travelpanties, you should definitely try out Context, they are fabulous, I have been on more than a dozen tours in 4 countries!

  10. I have traveled all over Europe but will you believe that I have never been to Paris! I love taking tours because it helps me be able to see what I want to see in a nice organized way. Sometimes when I plan my own tours I get sidetracked just a bit too easily…haha.

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @NutmegNanny, I can believe it, I have travled all over as well and still haven’t been to a few spots! That gives you something to look forward to!