Paris Museum Tips and Minestrone of Fresh Fruit {recipe}

Eiffel Tower from top of Arc de Triomphe - BoulderLocavore.com

A view of Paris and the Eiffel Tower from atop the Arc de Triomphe on a rainy day.

Paris is a city with unending opportunities for dining, culture and art.  As fun as it is to amble through a vacation popping spontaneously into museums on a whim travelers really must have a plan, especially if there are highlights they simply don’t want to miss.  We hit it hard on the Boulder Locavore Paris vacation, leaving it to feel more like a Tourist Boot Camp than a lazy vacation.  With everything we wanted to see we found some key strategies critical, and I’m sharing those with you today.

Apply the Disneyland Tactics.  For any having visited Disneyland or Disney World, the first piece of wisdom is ‘arrive an hour before the park opens’.  It might not seem like standing outside for an hour makes any sense but what it affords when you get into the larger museums in Paris (especially in heavily touristed August), is the opportunity to see what you really want to without a billion other viewers crowding your path.

Get the Paris Museum Pass.   The Paris Museum Pass allows free entry into 60 museums and monuments around Paris AND allows pass holders to avoid standing in line; the last bit is critical especially in the busy summer months.  Passes may be purchased all around Paris or online before your travel.  The passes and can be purchased for 2, 4 or 6 consecutive days.  ‘Consecutive’ is important to note; regardless of when you buy your pass the clock starts with the first day you use it at a museum.  If possible purchase the pass at a less popular location before you plan to begin touring is best (vs. waiting in line to buy it at the Louvre, for instance, the first day you want to use it).  Children under 18 (and European citizens under 26) are not required to have a pass to have access to most of the museums.  Some require a free ticket for entry which I’ll note below when highlighting some of our favorite visits.

Have a Plan.  Each museum has different qualities which affect planning.  The Louvre for instance has world-renown art such as the Mona Lisa that draw a crowd.  Queuing up those well-known exhibits toward the early part of a day’s visit may be critical to ensure you’ll see the most possible during your visit.  A big attraction of the Palace of Versailles is touring the extensive gardens and smaller dwellings on the grounds.  Planning a visit on a non-rainy day if possible will optimize what you will be able to enjoy.  We found a great ‘art sampler’ to be a visit to the Louvre, Musée D’Orsay and the Pompidou Center to cover ancient to contemporary art.  Comparing which days they were open and most crowded during the week allowed optimizing touring them three days in a row at the best times.  Planning the time within your museum pass duration is important.  A bit of research before touring can optimize what ground you can cover.

Pickpocketing.  This might seem an odd thing to throw in however at every major attraction and museum there are warnings about pickpocketing.  The crowds can be large and especially in the high tourist month, travelers can be crowded in together.  Before traveling my husband and I each purchased a bag from PacSafe which have built-in features disallowing unwelcome hands to slip in and lift a wallet or do a slash-and-run of a bag or camera strap (we purchased a camera bag, camera strap for our dSLR and a ‘man bag’).  We felt protected and free to pay attention to the sights instead of worry about theft.  It is a real issue to be aware of but does not need to burden your travel with some pre-planning.

This short video about the Paris Museum Pass allows a peek of several attractions covered by the pass (some armchair travel!):

 

Tips and Highlights from some of the venues we visited using our 6 day Museum Pass:

the Louvre pyramid - BoulderLocavore.com

The Louvre

When our taxi driver was dropping us at the Louvre, he jokingly remarked one needs at week at the Louvre to see everything.  It really is not a joke.  Perhaps at this museum more than any other a plan is needed.  Using Rick Steeves’ Paris guide we refined his suggested sights to experience a ¾ day visit leaving us feeling we’d seen paintings of the famed master painters, sculptures such as Venus, and tracked historically based works which complimented other visits we made to places such as Invalides showcasing everything Napoleon.  Mona Lisa draws a crowd so a suggestion is to beeline to see her before the room fills (we found with tourists taking non-flash selfies with her, clogging the viewing significantly).  There are several cafes and restaurants on site so it’s easy to linger the full day.  TIP:  If you have the museum pass rather than waiting in line at the pyramid in the center courtyard, proceed to a lesser known, lesser used entry in the passage walkway between the pyramid courtyard and the Rue de Rivoli, the Passage Richelieu entrance.  Once inside the passage (north of the Pyramid, or to the left as you are looking at the pyramid courtyard), the entrance is on the left when proceeding from the courtyard toward rue de Rivoli.

Louvre pyramids Paris - BoulderLocavore.com

Musée D’Orsay

Inside a converted train station this spacious museum along the Seine is home to classics and impressionist paintings from the well-known Masters. Admittedly my favorite of the art museums, the layout of the museum is spacious and photos of any sort shifting the visiting crowds to be focused on the art itself, not taking photos of it which greatly helps the flow.  TIP:  Head upstairs to the Impressionists works first as those galleries become more crowded making viewing more challenging later in the day.

Musee d'Orsay Minestrone de Fruits Frais - BoulderLocavore

A stop at Musee d’Orsay’s ‘Campana Coffee’ cafe brought a simple, yet intriguing ‘Minestrone de Fruits Frais’ (Minestrone of Fresh Fruits). More a soup than the menu translation of a ‘salad’, the precise, small dice of the fruit had me fixated. Adored the bowls too!

Mid-morning we found ourselves needing a nosh while at Musée d’Orsay and sought the Campana Coffee café near the impressionist galleries, which features modern décor and a view to the Seine through the back of a huge clock face.  An intriguing dish caught my eye, Minestrone de Fruits Frais (Minestrone of Fresh Fruit); listed under Desserts and translated on the menu as ‘fresh fruit salad’.  When it arrived I realized it was a cross between a fresh fruit salad and a fruit soup.  The most impressive feature was all the fruits had been cut precisely into ¼ inch cubes reminding me of the diminutive, perfectly squared vegetables in canned soup of my youth.  There was a very light juice with the fruit giving a subtle soup feel.  It was one I knew I’d need to recreate at home.

Minestrone of Fresh Fruit - BoulderLocavore.com.

{continue reading}

Peach-Thyme Sorbet with Bourbon

Peach-Thyme Sorbet scoop - BoulderLocavore.com

I think there is no more quintessentially ‘summer’ fruit than a peach.  At least in our area, the arrival of peaches signal summer’s heyday.  We are fortunate to have superb peaches from the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains, grown in the same area responsible for the vineyards feeding Colorado’s wine industry.  The ‘Palisade Peaches’ are large and firm delivering an irresistible nectar.  They remind us the end of summer is near but frankly everyone is gobbling up so many delicious peaches, the blow is lessened! I love ice cream but have found myself craving more sorbet this summer.  A quick primer on ice cream and sorbet: ice cream is made with dairy cream where sorbet is a water or juice based frozen treat with fruit being at the center of the flavor.  I find ice cream often makes … {continue reading}

Overnight Quinoa-Chia Chocolate Breakfast Pudding

Overnight Quinoa Chia Chocolate Breakfast Pudding with fruit - BoulderLocavore.com

This post is shared as part of Boulder Locavore’s ongoing partnership with Silk, exploring healthy lifestyles choices and exciting plant-based dietary options. I will confess, the meal I struggle with most for inspiration is breakfast.  ‘The most important meal of the day’.  No pressure.  I’ve personally never been one that finds carbohydrate-based options particularly supportive to rev up my get-up-and-go energy.  On school days I really want my kids to eat something nutritious, and filling but that has a decent amount of protein which will stabilize their energy until a mid-morning snack or lunch. When I was in college at the University of California in Santa Cruz I had a part time job at the local beachside amusement park.  I worked in the ticket booths and on the arcade floor … {continue reading}

Where to Stay in Paris: Cobblestone Apartments {a true gem!}

Paris apartment view Rue de Temple - BoulderLocavore.com

I’ve recently been sharing snippets from our summer family trip to Paris.  After much dialog about visiting different countries we settled on ten days in Paris proper, allowing plenty of time for exploring, embedding and experiencing the city on a more local level.  We’d done something similar in Barcelona Spain a decade prior and emerged feeling to have experienced a wonderful balance of living there and enjoying all the sites a tourist can for a longer visit. Over the past years our diligent pre-travel planning has given way to life demands, leaving us cobbling together a trip structure and often piling onto a plane, guidebooks in hand, to piece together the rest.  This trip was not all that dissimilar having made flight reservations in June and turning to the internet for lodging.  … {continue reading}

Traditional French Chocolate Mousse {Mousse au Chocolat}

Le Parfait jars of Mousse au Chocolat - BoulderLocavore

Don’t you hate that after effect of vacation?  You know what I mean; as you return to your normal routine, you become swept up and soon feel that you are dreaming you actually had a vacation at all even though it only ended a week prior?  Fortunately for me though we are rolling into the school year, it seems to not be gobbling up all of the experience mentally and Paris lingers on in the Boulder Locavore household. Despite beginning to turn attentions toward school year meal preparation, there were definite food moments from our few week stay in the City of Lights that clicked for a remake when back on home soil.   When researching restaurants before going we neglected to factor in the timing of when we'd dine.  We often found ourselves at an odd hour having done a few hours of … {continue reading}

French Ham and Cheese Omelet {Omelette au Jambon et au Fromage}

French Ham and Cheese Omelet with farm eggs - BoulderLocavore

While in Paris I fell in love again with a simple omelet.  So did my son.  Our dining schedule became very haphazard, especially at first, based on our excursions and jet lag.  We found if we were willing to eat at slightly alternative times we could slip into a café with a wonderful street-side table rather than wander for blocks during prime dining hours. Our less planful approach landed us wherever we could dine with a few gluten-free options, identified from a quick scan of a menu rather than laborious negotiations in broken French and English about our gluten-limitation (though we did carry Dining Cards which are a must). Our desire to eat safely (in gluten terms) but with spontaneity and enjoying more indigenous cuisine quickly pointed toward simple omelets and salads always being … {continue reading}