Death, Life Goes On, and Musée D’Orsay

You may be wondering where this blogger was…

Earlier this month I left Boston for an unexpected trip to France. Or, rather, I should say this was an expected trip with no pre-determined date…My father in-law, ailing with cancer, passed away. I adored him. The circumstances of his death were such (a year after his wife)  that the whole family left for Paris on Passover/Easter weekend. The boys, my husband and I simply had to say goodbye. Goodbye to an era,  to a wonderful and joyous man-the family rock-, goodbye to a beloved home, a source of happy memories for our boys and family. How many BD or “bandes dessinées” (Graphic Novels are an institution in France) were read in the attic, nibbling on crunchy “cornets à la pistache” (pistachio ice cream cones), sprawled out on the floor? How many times did we sit out on the bench in the yard to enjoy the magnolias, the collection of roses, the lilacs, the lovingly cared for garden of this retired couple?

The house was like an empty seashell. No one to greet us, no more smells of delicious meals being prepared in the French kitchen, no laughter, no naps with les “mots croisés” (crossword puzzles) seated next to grandpa and grandma. We went through the motions, buried our beloved, met with family, and tried to drink in the home one last time. My teenage son took detailed photographs of every possible angle of the house, from the views from the windows, to the cherished furniture to moss growing on the stone steps.

Outside the family home. Photo Julien Herpers.
View from inside the family home, upstairs window. Paris Suburbs. Photo Julien Herpers.

We had one uplifting goal: After the funeral, we would all go to Paris spend the day.      We had a fabulous day! Nothing like Paris to uplift the spirits. Such beauty!

Entrance hall of the Musée d’Orsay. Check out the light fixture! Photo Julien Herpers.
Another view of Entrance hall of the Musée d’Orsay. Photo Julien Herpers.
Stunning view inside the Musée d’Orsay. 2012. Photo Julien Herpers.

As I take you along this tour of the museum, note the gorgeous and gigantic “horloges” (clocks). Of course trains needed to be on time, and horloges such as these gigantic ones helped travelers but also Parisians check the time.

On the Musée d’Orsay website, one can find this bit of history: In the centre of Paris on the banks of the Seine, opposite the Tuileries Gardens, the museum was installed in the former Orsay railway station, built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900. So the building itself could be seen as the first “work of art” in the Musee d’Orsay, which displays collections of art from the period 1848 to 1914.

© Musée D’Orsay Gare D’Orsay as it was in the early 20th century.


Stunning architectural details inside the Musée d’Orsay. Photo Julien Herpers.

We were not allowed to take photographs of the art, but it is well worth a detour next time you visit Paris.

Upstairs, there is a gallery with a gigantic clock offering breathtaking views of Paris:

Inside and through l’horloge géante at the Musée d’Orsay. The musée has views of the Seine River. Photo Julien Herpers.
Another view from the clock of Musée D’Orsay. Photo Julien Herpers. Note the tourists at bottom of photo, allows you to see the proportions of this “clock-window”.
View from a large glass pane at left of “clock-window”, from the 5th floor of the Musée d’Orsay. Photo Julien Herpers.

And now, for the grand finale! We were able to go eat at the Café Campana, a superb contemporary space created by the Campana Brothers, a Brazilian Designing duo, to replace the Café de l’Horloge, which was originally in the space.

Imagine an esoteric, whimsical design, with gigantic bell shaped golden light fixtures hanging from the ceiling, strange, curly red metal partitions, another massive “clock-window”, upright sea blue metallic sheets acting as walls here and there, unusually shaped chairs and simply delicious patisseries:

Café Campana designed by the Campana brothers, 5th level, Musée d’Orsay. Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch.
Café Campana at the Musée d’Orsay. Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch.
Café Campana at the Musée d’Orsay. Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch.

I could not stop raving about the designs! Such whimsy brought smiles to our faces and were the perfect antidote to our mournful spirits.

The author enjoying an amazing Café Liégeois at Café Campana at the Musée d’Orsay.
Is this even possible????Giant Pistachio éclairs on curly gold trays in the Café Campana. Muséed’Orsay. Photo Julien Herpers. (a bit blurry but hard to focus as the line of tourists behind us was pressing for their turn to sit and indulge in these fantasy-turned- reality éclairs!)
Chair design at Café Campana at the Musée d’Orsay. Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch.
Another view of bell shaped pendants. Musée d’Orsay. photo Barbara Elza Hirsch.


Detail of light pendant at the Café Campana, Musée d’Orsay. Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch.

Au Revoir, Paris!


Station de métro Solférino. Paris. Photo Julien Herpers.


5 thoughts on “Death, Life Goes On, and Musée D’Orsay

  1. Hi Barbara! What a great and detailed report! Loved reading it! I was in the Musée d’Orsay during my previous Paris trip and loved it so much. And thanks for the hint with the tile framing in the metro – actually, I haven’t noticed that before!!

  2. Hi, I know it’s been over a year since you posed this, but I’m curious about something, as I’ll be going to Paris soon. You mentioned at Musée d’Orsay you “were not allowed to take photographs of the art”, and in other websites I’ve read photography is not permitted in the building (so not only the art, but everything in general). So did you have to hide your camera every time you tried to take a photo? or were other people taking photos too? (not of the art, but the clock-window and other parts of the building…) Thanks!

    • Hi, thanks for visiting! I followed the rules and did not take art photographs. However, it was totally fine to take general photos of the architecture, building, clock, my family etc :-) So I did not hide my camera for those photos but made sure I did not appear to take art photographs. Hope this answers your question! Enjoy a wonderful time there!

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