Tuesday, May 29, 2012
A SPECTACULAR last day in Paris and more...
No photos today but it was extraordinary. We took Mark's advice (please thank him for us, Linda!) and went to the Musee D'Orsay on our last day.
It wasn't terribly crowded and was utterly MIND-BLOWING. We saw SO MUCH today that we're still spinning. They had at least 20 or so Van Gogh's including Starry Night Over the Rhone and his Portrait of an Artist. We saw Gauguin's Self Portrait and perhaps 200 other impressionist masterpieces of Cezanne, Monet, Manet, Renoir and so many others. Each was beautifully displayed in large, open areas with only a few people examining each piece. There were 100's of incredible sculptures including dozens by Rhodin. BEAUTIFUL!
Musee D'Orsay was a dream come true for us both. We saw perhaps 100 pieces we've only seen in books before and 100's more that we had never seen. INCREDIBLE! (I can't stop using caps and exclamation points for this museum!)
The building itself was magical- a former railway station converted into a world-class gallery/museum.
Among the many treasures there is a restaurant with open balconies overlooking Paris with a painted ceiling dating from 1900 that seemed as if it might rival the works of Michelangelo! We got a seat just in a few feet from the window and had a magnificent lunch of sole and risotto, white wine and two amazing desserts. And it was even affordable! Loved the food. Loved our waiter. Loved the cool breeze blowing in on us. WONDERFUL!
We made our way back to the hotel via Taxi to grab our luggage (left with the concierge after checkout) and then another cab to Gare du Nord railway station to catch the EuroStar back to London; fast, comfortable, efficient and affordable!
Then another quick cab ride from St. Pancras to Paddington station and then get this...
Somehow in booking the Oxford to London tickets several weeks ago I managed to book today's return tickets for 8:50 AM instead of 8:50 (20:50) PM- even though I know perfectly well the trains operate on military time. I discovered it a few days before we left and stopped by the local Kingham station to inquire about changing the ticket but was told it was non-exchangeable but to ask the train 'guard' before boarding and he might look kindly on us if I explained my error.
So we caught a Taxi in London rush-hour from St Pancras to Paddington, hopped off and grabbed a baguette sandwich, not knowing when the next London to Oxford train might run. As we rounded the corner moving quickly the sign said the next train left in.... ONE MINUTE! YIKES!!
We zoomed toward the platform and realized the train was still there even though it was now 3 or 4 minutes behind schedule. The 'guard' was going down the coaches locking all the doors for departure as we rolled up and I showed him our tickets and quickly explained our mistake. He gave me a huge WINK and nodded toward FIRST CLASS coach beside him- the last remaining coach to be locked for departure. I said, "First Class???" and he just nodded and winked again.
We had wondered for a month what First Class was like because it's far more expensive than coach. Now we know! 3 seats per row (2 + 1) instead of five (3 + 2) and all in huge, wide, soft leather with each seat having it's own table for work. LOVELY! LOL!!
The guy came back through the car after we were seated, eating our sandwich (brie, ham and cranberries on toasted baguette) and reading our complimentary London Times and again gave us a HUGE wink!
The perfect ending to an unforgettable trip. We grabbed our car in Oxford and made the 45 minute drive back to Kingham and discovered I hadn't forgotten how to drive on the left yet!
Tomorrow is packing day, but we're going to go back to the predatory bird center and watch a few more demonstrations in the afternoon after catching one last breakfast at our favore tea room in the morning at Stow-on-the-Wold. Then we'll finish up packing and load the car in preparation for an EARLY drive into London on Thursday morning to catch a flight home after returning the rental car.
Again- THANK YOU MARK for encouraging us to go back to Musee D'Orsay; it really was the highlight of the trip!!