A visit to the Musée d’Orsay, St. Germain and St. Sulpice (photo essay)

Because my friend Rod is visiting Paris this week, I’m finally getting out to do the things that people think I do during my time here every August, but I really don’t.

Truth be told, I work the same 10 to 14 hour days, five days a week, here that I do in DC. (Someone’s gotta pay the mortgage.) But with a friend visiting, I have the excuse I need to put the blog on hold (if just for a bit), and traipse around to all the good tourist haunts, like today’s visit to the wonderful Musée d’Orsay, and the churches of St. Germain and St. Sulpice.


I’ve written about the Musée d’Orsay before (a few times in fact). It’s built in an old train station, and is one of the best museums of impressionism in the world.  It’s a wonderful collection of art, and laid out in a gorgeous space.

Having said that…. they no longer permit photography, which strikes me as absurd for art museum.  I’ve noticed more and more museums doing this of late (the new Acropolis museum in Greece has the same ridiculous policy).  While I can appreciate that everyone nowadays has a camera in their phone, and that this could really become a problem if everyone in a museum is taking photos, making a rule that no one can take photos is absolutely ridiculous.  You can charge people a fee to take photos, and most won’t take you up on it.  Or you can permit photos on day a week. Something.

One of the guards told me that they think it’s the museum management trying to force tourists to buy more stuff in the gift shop. (I remember being told some bizarre story in Athens about the guy running the Acropolis museum not believing in photography, whatever that means.) Well, the kind of photography I enjoy doesn’t come from a gift shop, and sorry to disappoint the man in Athens, but I’m a believer.

Whatever the reason, banning photography outright is ludicrous, and offensive, especially in a place of art. Rod tells me that the Smithsonian is now doing the same thing in Washington, DC.  There needs to be a rebellion against this rather un-artistic view of art.

Oh, and obviously it didn’t stop me from taking some photos, but most of the artwork that I wanted to snap, I didn’t because of the rule.


An old clock from the old Orsay rail station, at the top of the museum.


A view of the Louvre across the river, via the clock on top of the Orsay Museum.


Another view of the clock, with a woman who just happened to arrive at the perfect moment.

One more last thing about the Orsay. If you’re coming to Paris, order the tickets online in advance and PRINT THEM OUT AT HOME. Then you can get in the quick line, rather than the hour-long line.  Yes, you have to print out the tickets, which strikes me as a bit last century, as what tourist has access to a printer.  But whatever.  You can also buy advance tix on line for the Eiffel Tower and other places.  TOTALLY worth avoiding the line.

Next up, was giving Rod a walking tour of Paris on the way home from the museum.

We stopped along the way at the St. Germain church, the belltower of which was built around 1000 AD, and it seems the church itself dates back to around 550AD or so, but it remains unclear whether any of that original structure is still there.  I just read that the French philosopher Descartes is buried inside, but we must have missed his tomb. Here are a few shots from St. Germain:

suplie-lone-woman st-sulpice

We then stopped in at St. Sulpice church, which is the church from the Da Vinci Code (and boy it ticks them off being associated with that movie).


When we arrived, the church bells were ringing, announcing the 630pm service (we think). So I grabbed a quick video, intentionally shooting it vertically as the church is rather tell. It’s short, but let’s you hear the pretty bells.

And here, apropos of nothing, are some mannequins in a store window across the street from St. Sulpice.  As it’s August, Paris is empty of Parisians, who are only now returning from their month-long vacations. So, many stores are between their summer and fall collections.


And finally, I took Rod through the Jardin du Luxembourg, that I wrote about last weekend.  I failed last week to get a picture of my favorite fountain in the garden, but I got it this time.  Enjoy. (Other than it not being black and white in real life, it truly looks that heavenly in person.)


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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17 Responses to “A visit to the Musée d’Orsay, St. Germain and St. Sulpice (photo essay)”

  1. François says:

    After some google travels, i found the version of the direction ; too many people want take a pose in front of the famous paint and they block the others.
    For the worked unions the direction want more business in the museum shoops.

    The architect “droit à l’image” are in fact for the commercial movies.
    After many years the architect lost this rights and the building become in free “domaine public”,
    The Eiffel Tower is free but not the alternatives lights who are more recents.

  2. Kate60456 says:

    Thanks for the Musee d’Orsay photos. It is my favorite Paris museum and it feels so personal as if it was built just for me to enjoy.

  3. Oh really? The organ was playing while we were there, I should have gotten some video.

  4. Have you seen it? It’s wonderful. And the way they’ve excavated is really neat. It’s a neat, and creepy, visit.

  5. Your English is good. That’s possible, though they did permit photos before. Having said that, I had read some ridiculous story a while back about it also being illegal to photograph, or at least publish a photo of, the Eiffel Tower for the same bizarre French copyright reason. That’s insane if French law protects a building from being photographed.

  6. François says:

    i read that we can’t make photos in this museum because the interior architect (italian) refuse his “droit à l’image” to be free.

    It is a french law to protect the artist and their work.

    It iis not a museum of impressionism but about all 19th century.

    sorry for my bad english

  7. hauksdottir says:


    I’d like to be able to go down through the levels they unearthed, but then I’d suspect every old building of having a secret past. ;)

    In San Clemente’s case, the purist in me would cringe at buildings being used as parts for other buildings, but the artist in me would be glad that some of that beauty was preserved and approachable.

  8. levermontois says:

    Not to mention that the organ is world famous to organ enthusiasts for being one of 19thC organbuilder Cavaille-Coll’s masterpieces.

  9. But they didn’t ban photography here before. This is new, and at the Greek museum it’s new.

  10. I’ve been to San Clemente, it’s wonderful

  11. hauksdottir says:


    As to an older church being incorporated/under St Germaine? Of course! And almost certainly another couple of layers under that building. Just as the early Christians appropriated the sacred traditions of each culture they swallowed and converted, they also took the infrastructure and built over it. Once a place is considered holy, it is a magnet through the millennia for the guys with trowels and stones.

    This is an excellent exposé (pun intended) of San Clemente in Rome, and a quite enjoyable read:



  12. emjayay says:

    A lot of people don’t know how. Electronic flashes, particularly ones for digital photography, which doesn’t need any more light than a museum would have anyway, don’t put out enough light to hurt much of anything short of the Magna Carta. But people all over a museum all the time taking photos with their camera making that little fake snapshot making sound and little flash or using thwapping DSLRs would be really annoying.

  13. Although some people continue to forget to turn off the flash…

  14. Phil says:

    Theoretically, the ban on photography made sense when cameras required the use of a flash to capture a picture. Nowadays, it just makes no sense. “Pay the admission to see our treasures…..”

  15. Indigo says:

    It’s all so lovely.

  16. Oh I didn’t know.

  17. Steve_in_RI says:

    St. Sulpice was also home to two of the greatest organist/composers in the recent past, Widor and Dupre.

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