After class on Tuesday, I decided to go to a department store with a couple of friends for lunch. As much as I love arms-length baguettes, I needed some more variety in my diet.
So, we headed to Le Bon Marche, a department store in Paris. Its name (which translates to “good market”) is an incredible understatement, because never had I seen a “market” so grand and luxurious. Whether you wanted a $67,000 handbag or a $50 exotic plant, I’m sure you could find one here.
Even the escalators were pieces of art.
What’s truly amazing is that within all of these high-end clothing and furniture stores lies a grocery store that’s not only fairly cheap, but also high in quality.
The aesthetics in this grocery store is also incredible. Everything is organized beautifully by category and color, so that each unique food item is a part of a whole creation: ombré walls of color.
I felt like such a tourist taking pictures of everything, but I couldn’t help myself. The displays were too pretty for me not to snap at least one (okay I was pretty embarrassing I took at least ten) photographs.
I mean, can you believe how pretty the salt looks in this store? Who knew salt could be so appealing? (Also, I saw a salt called “Diamond Salt” retailing for about 10 euros. They say “diamonds are a girl’s best friend,” but since I can’t afford diamonds, I may just get this salt instead.)
I ended up getting a chicken wrap, four mini coffee crème desserts, and a pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant). The total cost? 7.60 euros.
Man, I love this place.
Since it was raining, I decided to spend my day indoors and go to the Musée d’Orsay, which houses the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings in the world. Well, the entire tourist population must have had the same thought because the line into the museum was extremely long, probably exacerbated by the fact that the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays.
I didn’t mind waiting in the rain though. There’s something even more beautiful about Paris when it rains.
After about 35 minutes in line, I finally made it inside. I was immediately struck by how beautiful the Musée d’Orsay is in itself.
But, of course, I couldn’t stand there like a fish gaping for too long, because time was ticking (a big theme in the Musée d’Orsay, which you will soon see). It was time to see some masterpieces, and my-oh-my did I see a lot.
Of course, I started with van Gogh’s self-portrait.
Soon, I made my way to this well-known sculpture depicting scenes from Dante’s “The Inferno.” The amount of detail is just absolutely stunning.
I couldn’t leave without seeing some Monet (I actually made it to every single exhibit. My feet were about to collapse by the time I left).
My grandparents actually have a copy of this next Monet piece in their house, so it was amazing to get to see it in person.
Now, a different side of Monet…
This next one was actually the cover of one of my piano books! I had absolutely no idea it was at the Musée d’Orsay.
Now, back to the Musée d’Orsay itself. Remember the “theme” I mentioned earlier? Clocks.
In total, I saw three clocks, and all equally magnificent.
One, gleaming in gold above the museum’s entirety.
This is probably what Beauty and the Beast‘s Cogsworth would have looked like if he stayed a clock and became a grandfather.
The second, framed by gold lights and burgundy furniture, is in the center of a restaurant in the museum. Telling your family “it’s time to eat” has never been more fitting.
The third is alone. There is nothing that adds to it, or distracts from it. Its panes lend a peek into Paris.
Its simplicity is stunning. I had my Hugo Cabret moment.
As I exited the museum after pacing its rooms for two and a half hours, I could not shake a certain, rather discouraging thought in my head. All I could think about was just how little I knew about art. I felt frustrated at how little I knew about painting techniques, about why this painting is a masterpiece, about the symbolism and story behind an artist’s strokes. I felt almost guilty for not being able to truly understand these masterpieces and give the artists the respect they deserve.
But perhaps what makes these masterpieces, and art in general, wonderful is that they don’t require anyone to fully understand them. Their ability to simply evoke is significant enough, whether it be an emotion, a thought, or a childhood memory. You don’t have to understand what the artist had intended in order to truly appreciate it.
As the pitter-patter of the rain continued, I grew calmer, knowing that although I most definitely won’t remember all the names, dates, and artists of the thousands of paintings and sculptures in the Musée d’Orsay, I will remember exactly how they made me feel.
That’s more than I can ask for from a museum.