After grabbing a couple croissants from a nearby boulangerie (god, I love how there are quality boulangeries everywhere), I hopped on the Metro to Tuileries and crossed the gardens and the Seine to reach the former railway station. The museum didn’t open until 10 am, but by 9:30 the line had already snaked back and forth and spilled out onto the streets.
While the queue was long, it actually moved pretty quickly once the museum opened its doors. By 10:30 I was inside.
As I mentioned before, the Musée d’Orsay was originally a train station that was to be demolished in the 1970s. Thankfully some politicians had the bright idea of turning it into a museum that bridges the period between the collections housed at the Louvre and the Centre Pompidou.
There were a lot of interesting pieces of art by van Gogh, Monet, Seurat, Renoir, and others, but one exhibit I really liked featured furniture designed by Hector Guimard. He designed the iconic entrances to the Paris Metro stations of which only two originals remain. Such a pity that much of his work was actually destroyed and we’re left with just a shadow of his accomplishments.
As I didn’t want to deal with trying to find a restaurant that was open for lunch on a Sunday, I just ended up at the Café Campana in the museum and enjoyed a nice smoked salmon platter.
Afterwards, it was off to the Musée de l’Orangerie just across the river. It’s not a terribly big museum – it’s main purpose after all is to display eight of Monet’s Water Lilies – but they still had some good pieces in their basement exhibits. Seeing Monet’s lilies under diffused light as he had intended was actually quite relaxing, especially after the hustle and bustle of the Musée d’Orsay.
With the two museums out of the way, I was faced with two possibilities: either go pick up my bag and check-in at the Park Hyatt before continuing exploring the city; or pay a visit to the hallowed ground of la terre battue, Roland Garros. It was still early in the afternoon, so Roland Garros it was.
After a couple Metro transfers, I finally got off at the Porte d’Auteuil stop and started walking through the leafy neighborhood. Without the streams of spectators normally seen when the French Open is held, it was hard to tell if I was going in the right direction. But not to worry! I finally came upon the unassuming entrance to the Stade Roland Garros.
It was sort of odd being at a Grand Slam when the tournament is done. The throngs of people you normally see on the TV screen are not present. The entire site is eerily quiet and peaceful. Perfect for me to explore the grounds.
Court Suzanne-Lenglen was actually open, and I soon discovered that some people were playing doubles on the court! How cool is that – you just bring a couple rackets and voila – you too can play on a Grand Slam stage. After watching for a couple minutes, I noticed that the hallways beneath the stands were open, so I started wandering through them until I stumbled upon a little lounge that I imagine serves as the players lounge when play is in session. I would have expected for it to be empty…except it was packed today with people! As I entered the lounge and turned towards the TV screens, I suddenly realized that today was the Wimbledon men’s singles final, so it seemed particularly apropos for tennis fans to gather here (with their Perrier waters in hand) to watch Andy Murray become the first British winner of Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936.
I of course made a stop by the gift shop and got a nice clay-colored shirt – on sale too! I really wanted to get a towel as well, but alas, I had absolutely no more room in my suitcase to stuff one more item. Besides, I feel that I should get towels only when I’ve actually seen match play on the courts, effectively validating that I’ve been there during the tournament.
And so with Roland Garros goodies in hand, I headed back to the hotel to grab my stuff and prepare for my most opulent and luxurious digs for the next two nights – the Park Hyatt Place Vendome.