Ok. There is the Louvre and Musee d’Orsay – probably the best known and most widely visited of all of Paris’ museums. Once you’ve seen them, you probably want to go shopping for a day or two, because there is a wealth of art there. But after that, perhaps you are wondering what ‘other’ museums of Paris could be of interest.
Truth is, Paris hosts many other beautiful but often overlooked museums that you might like to add to your itinerary. Here is a list of museums that are well-worth seeing:
1. Musee Picasso. (Metro: St. Paul) A chronological collection of more than 3000 works of Pablo Picasso together with the artist’s own collection of Cezanne, Degas, Rousseau, Seurat, Mattisse, and various personal archives.
2. Musee Marmottan-Monet. (Metro: La Muette) While a lesser known and more recent museum, it has one of the world’s largest collection of Monet’s. The works were provided by the physician (Georges de Bellio) of Manet, Monet, Pissarro, and Renoir, in 1957 and by the Monet’s second son, Michel, in 1966.
3. Musee Rodin. (Metro: Varenne) Seven acres in the building, courts, and spectacular gardens of the Hotel Biron contains both bronze and plaster sculptures (e.g. The ‘Thinker’, and ‘Gates of Hell), sketches, paintings and archives of Auguste Rodin. An excellent venue.
4. Musee Delacroix. (Metro: St. Germain des Fres) The works of Eugene Delacroix presented in the artist’s apartment and studio. Exhibits rotate between his drawings, pastels and watercolours.
5. Musee Malliol. (Metro: Rue du Bac) A museum of 20th Century art collected by Dina Vierny, including works of Gauguin, Bonnard, Redon, Kandinsky, and others. There are permanent exhibits dedicated to Jacques Villon, Raymond Duchamp-Villon, and Marcel Duchamp, and to the French Primitivists.
6. Musee Guimet. (Metro: Lena) The museum is the French National Museum of Asian Art. It includes precious art and artefacts from South Asia, Southeast Asia, China, Japan and Indonesia. It also offers the Galleries of the Buddhist Pantheon together with a Japanese Garden and Tea Pavillion of exquisite quality.
7. Mysee Carnavalet. (Metro: St. Paul) New to Paris? Then be sure to visit this small but delightful Paris Museum. The museum is dedicated to the history of Paris itself. In it are both permanent and temporary exhibits highlighting the long history of Paris and its culture. The museum is housed in the Hotel Carnavalet and an adjoining mansion, which explains its name.
These 7 museums are smaller and certainly not as well-known. But each offers a unique view of the real Paris and its many fine artists. Be sure to see at least one or two of these boutique museums on your next visit to Paris.
1. Limoux-Scene The pretty town of Limoux is within a one-hour’s drive of Toulouse. Limoux is a market town, situated on the River Aude.
The town is perhaps most famous for its winter festival (known as Fécos), which takes place between January and Easter each year. At any time of the year, visitors to Limoux will find a wide range of restaurants and eateries to suit every budget and taste. Locals here spend many hours lounging around at cafés in and around the Place de la Republique in the town square. The town’s thriving café culture comes to life during the Fécos, when colourful clowns duck in and out of establishments, followed by bands of cheery musicians. Meanwhile, Place dela Republique hosts a weekly market, where it’s possible to purchase cheap local produce such as cheese and wine.
2. Albi Back Albi is the capital of the Tarn departément and is situated 80 kilometres to the northeast of Toulouse. The medieval town is famous as being the birthplace of artist Toulouse Lautrec and today is known as the home of the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum. The museum houses more than 1000 pieces of the artist’s works, including 31 of his famous commercial posters.
A walk through the city offers the chance to check out the city’s distinctive pinkish- coloured Languedoc style brickwork. Buildings of particular interest include: Sainte Cécile Cathedrale, which pertains to be the world’s largest single brickwork construction.
Golfers will enjoy a round at Golf d’Albi Lasbordes, which is the longest 18-hole golf course in the Tarn departément.
3. Pretty Penne La Penne’s appeal is its simple setting amongst rolling hills and patchwork fields. The village has an interesting history, dating back to medieval times. A walk around the town is one way to while away a few hours. Attractions include Saint-Roch church and its charming chiming bell tower which dates back to the 13th century. The impressive donjon tower which looms above the village is also worth a look.
Lunch at L’Auberge de la Penne is a special treat which offers low cost local organic fare, as well as panoramic views of Gorge d’Aveyron.
4. Heavenly St Antonin The picturesque village of St Antonin is situated on the banks of the Aveyron and is ideally suited to a range of sporting activities including angling, fishing and walking. The peaceful town can be reached by hire car, within a one-hour drive of Toulouse. A colourful market is held on Sunday mornings in the town, where market traders offer the best of local produce like Couer Fidéle de St Antonin gourmet cheese at a discount price.
The 18th arrondisement of northern Paris is located on the Right Bank of the Seine River. Its land area is about 2.3 square miles (a sliver over six square kilometers). The population is on hundred eighty five thousand and the area is home to about seventy thousand jobs.
The distinctive Moulin Rouge (Red Mill or windmill) is a major highlight of this historic district. It is one of the world’s best-known nightclubs or to use the French term, cabaret. The Moulin Rouge was built in 1889 by the owner of the Olympia, Paris’s oldest music hall located in the neighboring ninth district. You can’t miss this building because of the imitation red windmill on the roof. Josephine Baker, Frank Sinatra, Mistinguett, and Edith Piaf and many other famous entertainers regularly played the Moulin Rouge. The story has it that Elvis had a crush on a can-can dancer and never went to Paris without stopping at the Moulin Rouge.
This cabaret’s most unusual star was undoubtedly Joseph Pujol, who performed under the name Le Pétomane. His act consisted of “singing” from an unexpected body opening. His “songs” included the French National Anthem, La Marseillaise, and an imitation of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. I’m told Sigmund Freud used to catch his act. Believe it or not, for many years Pujol was the highest-paid entertainer in France. A present-day British comedian Mr. Methane dressed like a superhero does the same sort of thing, but to my knowledge has not played the Moulin Rouge.
This historic cabaret, arguably the site where striptease was born, has been immortalized in paintings by Toulouse Lautrec and to a lesser extent by two films nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award, the 1952 version starring Jose Ferrer and Zsa-Zsa Gabor and the 2001 version starring Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman.
Butte Montmartre is a hill about four hundred feet (one hundred thirty meters) high not very much more than a hop, skip, and a jump away from the Moulin Rouge. Its height and natural beauty have attracted religious ceremonies since time immemorial. Montmartre was probably used for druid ceremonies way back when and formerly hosted a temple to the Roman god of war Mars. Saint Denis, the Bishop of Paris and the patron saint of France, founded a church there before his martyrdom in the mid-Third Century. His church, the relatively unknown Saint Pierre de Montmartre, claims to be the founding location of the Jesuit order of priests. You are more likely to visit the hill’s other church, the Basilica du Sacre Coeur (Basilica of the Sacred Heart) described below.
The area itself was the site of the first Paris Commune insurrection in 1870-1871 and its former gypsum mines serve as unmarked tombs for many partisans of this French revolution. The whole affair was pretty bloody and the Archbishop of Paris was one of its many martyrs. When Paris was rebuilt in the Eighteenth Century by Napoleon III and his minion Baron Hausmann, the poor people of Paris were driven out of the city center to Montmartre and other parts of the outskirts.
Ballooning Over Paris
From the late Nineteenth Century until the end of World War One Montmartre was home to the artists and their milieu. Among those who hung their hats in Montmartre were Salvador Dalí, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh. The list goes on and on. In later years the artistic center of Paris, and in fact the world, switched from Montmartre to Montparnasse in the south of Paris. In 1965 in his famous song La Bohème the popular French singer-songwriter Charles Aznavour tells the story of a painter reminiscing about his youth in a Montmartre that has ceased to exist: Je ne reconnais plus/Ni les murs, ni les rues/Qui ont vu ma jeunesse/En haut d’un escalier/Je cherche l’atelier/Dont plus rien ne subsiste/Dans son nouveau décor/Montmartre semble triste/Et les lilas sont morts (‘I no longer recognize/Neither the walls nor the streets/That had seen my youth/At the top of a staircase/I look for an atelier/Of which nothing survives/In its new décor/Montmartre seems sad/And the lilacs are dead’).
Montmartre is no longer bohemian. But what is? If you stroll around the Place du Tertre you won’t have any trouble finding artists, some of whom are struggling. Many renowned artists and other cultural figures such as Jacques Offenbach and Francois Truffault are buried in the Cimetière de Montmartre (Montmartre Cemetery).
In 1873 Paris city council expropriated land at the summit of Montmartre for the construction of the Basilica. The foundation stone was laid in 1875 and the church was opened for services in 1891. The Basilica was only completed in 1914, and formally dedicated after the end of World War I. Go to top of the dome for a spectacular panoramic view of Paris, which lies mostly to the south. The church and its surroundings have often starred in films, most recently the 2001 movie Amélie. You may want to take the funicular (cable-car) to get to the top of the hill.
Among Montmartre’s museums is the Musée de Montmartre, the house where the painter Maurice Utrillo lived and worked in a second-floor studio. Several other well-known artists including Pierre-Auguste Renoir lived here. In 1990 his painting Bal au moulin de la Galette, Montmartre featuring local people sold for more than $78 million. You might also want to stop by the Espace Dalí, a museum devoted to the famous Spanish painter Salavdor Dalí. More extensive collections of his work are found in Figueres, Spain and Saint Petersburg, Florida. Another museum is the Musée de l’érotisme in the nearby Pigalle section of the district. Do you need a translation?
When we launched this series we promised you a Paris vineyard. The fifteenth arrondissement in southern Paris also hosts a vineyard. But Montmartre’s vineyard is much more famous. Local intellectuals planted the vineyard in 1934. They chose a northern exposure (is Paris really that hot, temperature wise?) and organized the first grape picking a year after the planting, about three years too early. This ceremony attracted both the President of the French Republic and the Minister of Agriculture. Except during World War II, every October the grapes are picked and wine is made in the cellar of the Mairie (the local City Hall). Local artists paint labels for the bottles, sold in April at a charity auction. Yet one more reason to visit this Paris and Montmartre in the spring.
Of course you don’t want to be in Paris without sampling fine French wine and food. In my article I Love French Wine and Food – A Rhône Valley Crozes-Hermitage I reviewed such a wine and suggested a sample menu: Start with Foie Gras avec Gelée de Viognier (Goose Liver Pâté with Viognier Jelly). For your second course savor Chevreau à l’Ail et Herbes Sauvages (Baby Goat with Garlic and Wild Herbs). And as dessert indulge yourself with Granité aux Pommes et Calvados (Apple and Calvados Ice). Your Parisian sommelier (wine steward) will be happy to suggest appropriate wines to accompany each course.
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine Italian, French, or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. He knows what dieting is, and is glad that for the time being he can eat and drink what he wants, in moderation. His central website is www.wineinyourdiet.com devoted to the health and nutritional aspects of wine and its place in your weight-loss program. His global wine website is www.theworldwidewine.com. Visit his other websites devoted to Italian wine, Italian travel, and Italian food.
To describe the Chamonix Valley as beautiful would be a lot more then an understatement. It is, without doubt, one of the most picturesque areas in the world.
One hour from Geneva by road, this skiing and mountaineering haven has become popular the world over with skiers, mountaineers, climbers and mountain lovers alike.
The valley itself is dominated by Mt Blanc, as well as other ranges meeting in this most dramatic mountain area. Towering pillars of granite dominate the area often bewhildering you with the very scale that they represent. It is difficult not to be impressed once the clouds lift, the peaks towering above you like sentinels.
Chamonix has become very popular with the British, who have now gathered there in significant numbers, though many leave and go somwhere else once the ski season is over.
Scandanavian peoples also appear to favour the area, and, of course, there are the French.
Chamonix has become so multicultural in some areas that it would be easy to say that it is not typically French. Though French is widely spoken, you will never be far from a British accent. Most Brits have picked up the baton, so to speak, and learnt French, but a minority remain who expect to use English wherever they go. This has lead to small amounts of friction between the two communities, but nothing too serious.
If you are going to go to Chamonix, you should expect to speak some French.
As a ski area goes, Chamonix has some of the most extreme skiing available to man. There are many resorts, all reachable via a small bus or cable car ride from Chamonix or the surrounding area. For the more extreme routes like the Vallee Blanche you should look to find yourself a guide, or ski the route with people that know the way, or you may find yourself in a crevasse.
Some skiers complain of the layout that Chamonix offers – of course you can’t please all the people all of the time – if you want extreme skiing, come to Chamonix, and expect to take a few short journeys to the venue of your days skiing, that’s all.
As well as being a mecca for skiers and snowboarders, Chamonix offers excellent climbing and mountaineering options, with climbs up fantastic granite cliffs suitable for all comers, stretching to huge extreme alpine rock routes like the Walker Spur. Pleasant woodland walks can also be easily found!
Not far from Chamonix are the mountain villages of Argentiere and Les Houches. Les Houches is only a 20 minute bus journey from Chamonix and is actually a ski resort in its own right, so you don’t need to be in Chamonix itself to enjoy some of the best skiing the Alps has to offer.
For me, there is no better place to stay for a week at the holidays than on or near Rue Saint Dominque in the 7th Arrondissement. This is the street where Ludwig Bemelman set his enchanting series of Madeline books, so it feels like the Paris of our dreams, and also like coming home.
If you’re a resolute France-lover like me and can’t wait to return, or are dreaming about your first trip, or perhaps planning to surprise someone for a milestone celebration; I can’t imagine a more ultimate setting and value, than Paris Perfect, especially now during off-season.
Paris Perfect is a unique operation owned by a French husband and American wife. For less than a budget hotel for a week, you could rent one of their smaller fully appointed, luxury apartments. The owners, and their staff, are completely dedicated to your comfort and satisfaction. And because all of the apartments are equipped with kitchens, you can enjoying the experience of shopping in the local Farmer’s Market, and eating in your own home.
And what to expect of the neighborhood?
You are within steps of all the wonderful museums, famous monuments, including the Eiffel Tower, which is brightly lit at night outside your window, the lovely Champs de Mar for a stroll, and the not-to-be-missed gourmet street, Rue Cler where you can pick up a roast chicken for dinner. Outside on ‘Madeline’s’ street are the heartwarming cafes, shops, and restaurants that make this an unforgettable Parisian neighborhood.
If sparkling holiday windows are your thing, all of the designer shops of the Triangle d’Or are a short walk over the Pont de Alma: Chanel, Donna Karan, Prada, Zara, Hermes, Calvin Klein, and many more. Or, on Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays the world’s largest flea market, Les Puces, attracts nearly 200,000 sightseers, be sure to bargain! And Paris is now awash in smart, clean bicycles that you can rent very reasonably for a day or a week to ride throughout the city, or maybe even through the Bois de Bolonge. You can drop the bike at any station, no need to return it to the original location. This is part of Mayor Bernard Delano and President Sarkozy’s commitment to the environment, an easier commute, and a livelier urban playground. Just beware Paris’ drivers, they’ve earned their reputations! And you can bring your laptop in your backpack, too. Paris has plenty of free WiFi; watch for the purple signs.
Start your day people watching over a Café Crème, or au double express et un croissant aux amandes at one of the many cafes. Wear a beret, read Le Figaro, brush-up on your French, or learn some basics, and you’ll fit right in. The first sentence I learned to say in French was, “Sorry for butchering your beautiful language.” Delivered with a smile, it earned chuckles, and friends. Be sure to see Musee d’Dorsay, especially nice if it’s raining, and it’s practically obligatory to light a candle at Notre Dame at the holidays. Later, if you feel like dressing for a nightcap stroll over to the nearby elegant Four Seasons George V Hotel for a cognac with ne plus ultra at Le Bar, where it’s romantic charm conjures a bygone era, and will make you forget the world outside.
What to do first? Check out Paris Perfect, then slice some pate on a baguette, add cornichon, mustard, a bottle of rich red wine, and curl up by the fire with a stack of rented DVDs: “Funny Face” with Audrey Hepburn, about how Paris can change your life. Woody Allen’s “Everyone Says I love You,” for the wonderful scenes of Paris at Christmas. “Amilee,” which is so stylish about becoming your life’s own hero. “Something’s Gotta Give,” and witness a couple of a certain age vowing true love in Paris, and at the holidays, too.
Finally, listen to this charming French classic by Charles Trenet about how love, including love for Paris, makes your heart go “boum.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0KWyWwVp0E
Don’t forget to send me an e-postcard. Bon Voyage!
The author’s romantic adventure novel, French Heart, set on wineries in Aix-en-Provence, France, and Santa Barbara will be released in 2008. Please sign up today for the one time book announcement list on her blog at: http://web.mac.com/myfrenchheart