The Power of the Pass: Paris Edition

I’ve been to Paris four times before. Each time, they were quick trips–less than a week. It was all about seeing as much of the major sights as possible. The days were long, we pounded the cobblestones like crazy, and we stayed in budget hotels (with the exception of our 30 year anniversary–we stayed in a nicer place that time). Twice when I’ve been to Paris it’s been with 30-40 college students. It was awesome to be with them, but when you’re touring with students you are on the clock 24/7 and it is exhausting. Exciting, but exhausting. And Paris was always the last stop of a three week tour, and by then we were pretty much toast.

Living here over four months is very different. I’ve had to make some mental adjustments, though. I’m so used to cramming everything I can into these impossibly long days that I don’t know what “living” in such an exciting place looks like. That’s where it’s been good to have my daughter with me. We will be out and about, and I’ll say, “what next?” Her answer is often, “I think I’m done.” So we head home. Initially I had guilt about this–like I wasn’t taking advantage of ALL. THE. THINGS. But part of why I am here and one of my goals is to recover from burnout. I’ve been going so hard for so long that it is difficult getting off the toxic merry-go-round. But I NEED to, and I’m getting into a rhythm. So we often will have slow mornings, Bryce heads to the archives, and then Ellie and I choose an outing. We are usually out and about 4-6 hours, and then we come home. When home I’ve been reading, cataloguing pictures, planning other days, and keeping up with chores, and other mundane but comforting activities. Almost every day I’ve been able to just rest for a while and it really has been very restorative.

One of the things that really eases the pressure of “cramming” is to get passes to the best museums. The Louvre is *impossibly* huge. No human can even see a meaningful fraction of what is there in a day. And I don’t know about you, but as much as I love museums and art, my brain and eyes suffer from what I call “beauty fatigue.” The first 1-2 hours at a museum, for me, are always better than the last 1-2 hours. I just get tired. There’s tons of standing, which is much harder than walking, there aren’t usually a ton of places to sit and rest, I get hungry, I need a bathroom, and I get tired being around so many people. Many museums simply have more than you can meaningfully see in just a visit or two, especially here in Paris. But we can’t afford to pay admission over and over again, and when you pay for a single use ticket, there’s just so much pressure to get it all done!

The answer to this, if you’re here for a while, is to get a pass! We all are “friends of the Louvre” now, and we plan on going once a week for 2-3 hours at a time. So far, it’s great! The advantages of the annual Louvre pass:

  • You can go as often as you like–for even just an hour!
  • You get to go through a special entrance and security that is NOT the main line. So far, we walk right in. No lines. NONE. Just flash your pass. What a power trip!
  • As a student, Ellie was able to get a year pass for 15 euro. 15!!!!!!! What an amazing bargain!
  • Other museums are also included on the pass, including the Eugene Delacroix museum, for instance.

Many museums offer year passes–you just have to decide which museums you would frequent the most. The Louvre was a slam dunk, because it’s so huge you really need a pass if you want to go beyond the Mona Lisa and the French Romantic gallery (where everyone wants to go).

Our Louvre passes! Best mail I ever got. 🙂

The other pass we got was a combo pass for the Musée d’Orsay (French Romantic/Academic, Symbolism, Impressionism, Art Nouveau, through the Post Impressionists) and Musée de l’Orangerie (lots of things but most famous for the Monet Water Lily galleries). The advantages for this pass include:

  • Early admission. YES, you heard that right. You get to SKIP THE LINES and enter the museum 30 minutes before the masses. As this is a very busy museum, this ALONE is worth it! We went this morning and there was no one but us and the museum staff. They were still cleaning! Entire galleries with no one there. It makes it extra special to feel like you get all that art to yourself for a bit.
  • Bring a friend! Every time Ellie and I go, we can bring someone with us! One person each! For free! They can come early too!
  • Special entrance other times of the day with few to no lines.

So far, we’ve been to both museums twice and have just enjoyed taking our sweet time. No rush, no worries about missing anything. That said, Ellie came to the realization this week that even if we went every week to the Louvre for four months, we are STILL not going to see it all! It’s so huge!

The last pass we got is called the Monuments Pass, “Passages.” This pass is available to people with a French address over the age of 26. So this would not be available to tourists who are just staying a week or two–but more for a longer stay visit. You fill out the paperwork online, and voila! It comes in the mail a few days later. This pass lets you get into monuments all over France for one flat price. It is 45 euros, but even just going to the monuments in Paris proper ONCE pays for itself. The beauty is that you can go as often as you like! In Paris it includes the Arc de Triomph, St. Chapelle, and many more locations. And with a metro pass (oh man, get one of THESE passes, then you can bop around as much as you please–no rationing your transport tickets!), you can get to many more monuments outside of Paris without having to pay additional metro fees, to locations like St. Denis and a variety of incredible Chateaus.

Ellie was not eligible for the Monument Pass because she is under 26 and because in the EU, students under 26 get free admission pretty much everywhere. We were bummed because there is no such accommodation for American students, so we were just planning on needing to pay for Ellie’s admission separately whenever we visited somewhere. But so far, we have only had to pay once. Nearly every ticket agent has just shrugged, smiled, and printed her a free ticket. !!!!!! It’s been really great!

One of the places on the Monument Pass is called Chateau et Parc de Champs-Sur-Marne. We had to take the RER train to get that–in fact, it was just a few stops before Paris Disneyland. What a beautiful visit! There was hardly anyone there, and this chateau has beautiful gardens, a rich history, and exquisite interiors. It was a “pleasure palace” of Louis XIV’s financier. In recent times, it has boarded important heads of state from around the world.

Walking up to the front.
The back view from the gardens.

There were fountains, small enclaves, little monuments, and statuary in the garden in addition to hiking trails in forested area.

It started to rain quite heavily while we were out in the gardens, so we made our way to the chateau for the inside portion of the tour.

Original chinoiserie paneling in blue and white.
This room has original painted paneling as well, with little vignettes of Asian peoples that would definitely be considered less that flattering stereotypes today (and appropriately so).
This was my favorite room because I like cozy chairs around a fireplace and lots of books. That said, this room was the “smoking room” and for men only. Jerks. 😉
Upstairs Music Room
View of the gardens from the second floor balcony window.

I am sure this chateau would have not been on our radar had we not had the monuments pass. We plan on visiting many more, as often as we like! The employees at this location were particularly friendly and accommodating, and there was a cute gift shop as well.

It really is worth it to invest in passes if you can! We are definitely enjoying them, and they are helping us enjoy our stay her in France.

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