The Musée d’Orsay is much more my vibe than the nearby larger and far busier Musée du Louvre. On a recent trip to Paris, we spent a chilled morning amongst its paintings and sculptures, slowing the pace of our day to match the amble of the museum.
In the room filled with Vincent van Goghs, we stopped completely to take in the small collection of his breathtaking work. I laughed to myself as I watched a small group of tourists crowd around his famous self-portrait, clamoring to take photos on their phones. And yet, I couldn’t resist its pull, and so I, too, lifted my camera, with a click saving that feeling of joy and excitement for myself as well.
After we’d had our fill of culture we took a stroll down the banks of the Seine, before crossing at the Île de la Cité, passing the famous Notre-Dame cathedral as we did so. Eventually we arrived at our next destination, a touristy Belgian-themed café called Au Trappiste. It’d seen a few refurbishments since my last visit, 22 years ago as an impatient 12-year-old who, at the time, was more interested in his impending Disneyland visit than devouring a bowl of moules frites.
Times change, though. I order a bowl à la Provençale, before browsing the tap list and picking out the first beer I fancy—Chimay Tripel. Our server, who had enough air and authority to assert that he was running the joint, was pretty insistent that I try the house ale instead. But my sights were set and I politely declined.
We spent the next half hour cracking open mussel shells, the rich tomato and garlic sauce splashing over our fingers and onto our mouths as we repeatedly dunked handfuls of salty frites into deep bowls. Each sip of spicy, peppery, brightly effervescent Tripel parted salt and fat like Moses might the Red Sea itself, making way for another slurp of salty, savory sauce as it did so. [Editor's note: I suppose it could be that good.] We repeated this process until we had nothing left but an empty glass and an impressive stack of now-vacant shells.
All the while we ate, we couldn’t help but notice the stream of vibrantly dressed characters heading down the street toward an increasingly large crowd and riotous music. The drag queens and folks draped in glitter and rainbow flags were a dead giveaway—Paris’ annual pride march was in full swing. We followed the energy and joined the crowd—a complete counterpoint to the calm of the museum experienced earlier in the day.
But first, one more beer.
“Would you like to try the house beer now, sir?”
“Nah, I think I’ll just have another large glass of Chimay Tripel, s'il vous plait.”