Beyond Paris,  Paris

Virtual Paris for Your Quarantine Pleasure

Raise your hand if you are going a little stir crazy in self-isolation.

We all need some lucky cats right now!

Even an introvert such as myself is feeling the strain of limited movement. I live in a small apartment in a big building and the natives are definitely getting restless. Which is not helping (hint, hint, dear neighbors).

But when the going gets tough, the tough get going…virtually! The 21st century offers an array of ways to experience places from afar. While they will never replace the real thing, at least we have options to “see” a place and enjoy it the best we can!

Since Paris is of course off limits at this time, let’s take a look at some virtual ways to experience historic Paris from the comfort of your own home.

Eiffel Tower in Virtual Reality

Frédéric Gourdet has put together several VR videos of Paris for us, no special equipment needed. There are many similar choices, but I like Frédéric’s because we get a French guide along with us!

Check out this video of the Tour Eiffel and the surrounding area. For those new to VR via YouTube, you can “look” around by using your mouse/track pad on your laptop/pc or by moving your device in the phone/tablet app (VR only works in the YouTube app on mobile devices). While HD videos are suffering a bit as we all share the internet, it is still very cool.

Look up and look down, too, for the full experience:

More Eiffel Tower

Seeing her from the ground isn’t enough, right? Google has kindly provided us with a “street view” from the second platform of the tower. You can walk around the entire platform, enjoying the view on a typically cloudy Parisian day.

Don’t forget to look around (and up!) at the tower itself. This may be your only chance to enjoy the details without being jostled by crowds. As you do, imagine what it must have been like when it was built: How difficult to do in the 19th century. What it was like to see a building on that scale. How incredible to view Paris from that height!

Check out those rivets!

Side note: I couldn’t figure out how to go up or down between the platforms, though I’m not sure we are supposed to? If you find a way, let me know!

For the very curious, there is also a behind-the-scenes video for a peak at the process used to create such a cool opportunity,

Museums Without the Sore Feet

Musée de Louvre

Ah, the Louvre. History. Art. More art. All of the art. I have discovered that the world’s largest and most famous art museum has weirdly (appropriately?) antiquated features on its website.

Caveat: Most areas will force you to activate Flash to experience the features (beware Safari users!). Some are happily more modern. Regardless, they offer interesting views of the art and the museum:

  • Take Online Tours of several spaces and a current-as-of-this-writing exhibit (most with Flash)

  • Examine some of the art up close and personal with the Closer Look series (requires Flash)

  • For a more traditional examination of the collection, check out the Selected Works section (no Flash needed)

Thankfully there are many enterprising YouTubers with videos exploring the Louvre.  This one is long (almost an hour), but I love that it feels like you are really there.  There are crowds, the lighting isn’t glamorous, and it gives you a good feel for how huge and labyrinthine the Louvre is! 

Kick back and tour the Louvre comfortably:

If you are curious about the art shown in the video, some of it is outlined in the video description and a person in the comments has meticulously detailed it.  Note that art in the Louvre moves around frequently, so if you go in the future, don’t rely on the listed room (salle) numbers!

Musée d’Orsay

The Louvre is incredible.  The Orsay is sublime.  A supreme collection of art from 1848 to WWI, it is a much more manageable and enjoyable museum to explore.  And conveniently just across the river from the Louvre, should you want to go for full museum burnout. 

A map for future exploration. I promise this post is not brought to you by Google.  😀

The MO’s (as it is branded) website is about as clunky as the Louvre’s.  You will experience similar Flash issues with their Discovery section, but something is better than nothing! 

They also have over 900 works available to view individually in the Works In Focus section

Our friends over at Google provide an interactive view of the main hall, filled with sculpture and large canvases.  You can also catch glimpses into the side galleries.  As always, don’t forget to look up!  The Orsay was a fin-de-siecle train station before being converted into an art museum in the 1980s. It is a gorgeous piece of architecture in its own right. 

Here is a fun 12-minute video overview of the MO, complete with a latin take on Beethoven for the soundtrack.  It is a little statue heavy but they are everywhere in the museum.  Check out the RER scene at the end for a view of the transit system!

Musée des Arts Décoratifs

For something a little off the beaten path, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (Museum of Decorative Arts or MAD) focuses on the decorative arts instead of painting and sculpture. It is housed in the Louvre, but has a separate entrance. Thankfully, no pyramid chaos!

We may as well get this out of the way:  I love historic costume.  And MAD has a collection dedicated to it, the Mode et Textiles (Fashion & Textiles) collection.  I sadly could not find any video.  But if you would like to get lost in some historic European costume, here is a presentation of 18th century dress for costume geeks:

©MAD, Paris / Jean Tholance

You can find other MAD image collections here.  

They have also created a very extensive tour of the museum, with audio commentary to explore further.

Interactive Hotel de Ville

Us mere mortals rarely have access inside the Hotel de Ville, aka the City Hall of Paris (Mairie de Paris), except to pick up info and passes at the Tourist Office.

Yet again, our friends at Google have provided an inside look!  Stroll around the building, bask in the glorious interior, and ponder what goes on in the city hall of a metropolis like Paris.  Some windows also give us pre-fire views of Notre Dame. 

Remember, as Renaissance as she looks outside, this is a reconstruction.  She was built in the 1870s-1880s to replace the historic building that burned down during The Commune in 1871.  “New” or old, she is beautiful.  

Notre Dame pre-fire, from the Hotel de Ville

Getting Outside

Need some fresh air after all that museum exploring?  There are some options for that as well!  

On Top of the Grand Palais

Yes, Google again brings us an awesome 360 degree view from the top of the Grand Palais.  As you wonder around, the blurred out section to the north is the Palais de l’Élysée, the official home of the French President.  Alas, for security reasons we cannot sneak a peek into the gorgeous monument via Google.  You can check out some photos on the official website.

This view from the Grand Palais is a unique view for the tourist, unless you are Tom Cruise or Henry Cavill in Mission: Impossible Fallout.  😉  

You too can be Ethan Hunt, should you choose to accept it

The Grand Palais is also helping us out, by providing a page of resources including kid’s activities, art history, and social media sharing.  They introduced me to the L’Histoire par L’Image (History of the Image) site, which is an excellent quarantine rabbit hole if you need a break from Netflix!

Mont Blanc

Not enough, you say?  If you really want to get away, let’s head outside of Paris to Mont Blanc!  Yep.  Our buddy Google again, this time with a thrilling Google Earth video of the highest mountain in Europe:

That makes even this bookworm think about adventure travel!  🙂  

We all need a bit of an escape. I hope this modest look at virtual Paris provided a break from the ennui and anxiety of self-isolation and quarantine. 

Please keep washing those hands and self-distancing to do your part.

Be strong, mes amis, we are all in this together!

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