Paris is known for so many wonderful things... love, lights, food, annnnd museums. Most people will tell you that you can't miss the Louvre when going to Paris. And, I can't disagree - the Louvre's collection is unparalleled. However, Mr. H and I didn't go to the Louvre this time. We skipped the Mona Lisa and opted for the Orangerie instead - and I'm so glad we did
The Orangerie is home to Monet's Water Lilies as well as works by Cézanne, Picasso, Matisse, and Renoir, among others. The building itself is beautiful - it was built to shelter the orange trees of the Tuileries Palace.
It's a beautiful walk from the Louvre through the Tuileries Gardens to the Orangerie. And, thankfully the lines aren't the ridiculously long lines you have to sit through at the Louvre. We only waited 10 to 15 minutes here. Plus, the museum is small, which allows you to take all the art in versus feeling overwhelmed and dazed by the time you leave.
The Water Lilies are breathtaking. Unlike the Mona Lisa, whose small scale tends to leave most first-time viewers underwhelmed, the Water Lilies are massive. You are completely encompassed by them when you walk into the long, oval room.
One of my favorite things about the Water Lilies is that Monet painted them with the intention of creating a space where Parisians could escape a the exhausting pace of the city and find the calm and peace that he found at Giverny (his garden).
I was amazed that Monet realized the need for such spaces almost 100 years ago. Now, our insanely busy culture needs places like the Orangerie more than ever. It's incredible to walk into the room and feel the speed and tension of the city melt off of you as an atmosphere of peace takes over. Because of that aspect of the Orangerie, it is my favorite museum in Paris.