13 Nov Paris!
It had been such a long time, about 6-7 years in fact, but this October I returned to Paris. I only had 10 days there and my plan was to see and do things I had not done before. This meant no Eiffel Tower or Arc de Triomphe. It meant researching obscure, hidden and little-known treasures and experiences to fill my days. So often I find myself just wanting to walk around Paris. There is so much beauty to behold everywhere you look. I’m surprised I didn’t walk into things or fall over. Below are some of the highlights of the places I visited, and recommend you seek out when you go there. I also challenged myself to travel without a traditional camera and took all my photos on an iPhone 7+. It worked really well, except in low light situations.
Chateau de Malmaison – former home of Napoleon and Josephine
This is a tricky place to get to. I could not find any organised bus trips to get me there, like you can with Versailles or other more high-profile chateaux.
I researched public transport options and in the end found it very easy to reach the chateau. Just catch the metro to the end of the line at La Defense (Grande Arche) then get the bus 258 and disembark at stop ‘Le Chateau’.
It’s easy to find the bus station from the metro platform – just follow the signs to ‘bus’. The bus accepted one of my metro T+ tickets (cost €1.49 in a book of 10), and I was off. From the bus stop it is a 5 minute walk down a long tee-lined road to the chateau.
Here is the view the confronted me when I arrived:
I love the decor of the Chateau. It is in the Consulat style – a short-lived genre of fashion that was popular during Napoleonic times.
It is a mix of Neoclassical grandeur and practical campaign style, no doubt reminding Napoleon of his time on the battlefield.
This is the dining room where Napoleon and Josephine entertained guests.
It is a lot larger than the photo shows, no doubt leaving enough room for serving attendants to look after those at the table.
Napoleon’s library and office is very masculine, but also quite ornate. It runs the whole width of the building and a beautiful light filled the room from both ends.
His love of Egypt shows through in the Egyptian style desk at the rear of this shot.
This sitting room is quite formal and is at one corner of the building on the top floor.
I love the blue walls and the femininity of the décor, especially the paintings of Josephine and her daughter Hortense.
Josephine’s official bed chamber, which apparently she did not like to sleep in, preferring a more cosy room further down the hallway.
I imagine it would be quite cosy in winter…
The rear of the chateau through the trees. Josephine was an avid gardener and collector of exotic flora. and fauna.
I spent as much time in the gardens as I did inside, wandering the paths that Josephine created with her gardeners.
Natural History Museum
This place of ‘bones and stones’ is not just something to visit on a school excursion.
Stepping into the main gallery you are confronted with a herd of skeletons charging at you – large creatures and small.
It’s a fascinating and fastidiously curated and maintained exhibit.
The most intriguing animal for me was the ‘Rhinoceros de Versailles’; a creature that once roamed the gardens of
Versailles before, presumably, dying and being preserved for more viewing.
You can also see a cabinet of oddities, including these baby skeletons…
I can’t tell you anything new about the flea markets of Paris as they are so well known, but I thought I would share some of my favourite things to do there.
At the big Puces, Porte de Clingancourt, I always go to the same restaurant, Le Petit Navaire, for a lunch of moules and frites.
I always accompany my meal with a glass of crisp rose, no matter what time of year it is.
The mix of styles is what draws so many people to Clingancourt – from classical to…
…to Art Deco.
Another puces to look at is Venves, which is easily reached my metro to the station Porte de Vanves.
Each weekend morning this market sets up on the street not far from the metro station.
It is smaller and less commercial than Clingancourt, but still a great source of mixed goods such as…
Antique prints of all kinds…
Pretty fripperies and foibles…
Musee des Art Forains
When you thought you had seen all of the museums of Paris, go visit the Musee des Arts Forains – the museum of circus arts.
This extensive collection housed at the old wine trading pavilions of Bercy is chock full of every kind of amusement park and circus memorabilia you could imagine.
All of it genuine, antique and incredibly rare.
Louvre at Night
For decades I have avoided the Louvre as I was loathe to be carried along in a sea of camera clicking crowds.
Then I got a tip fro ma colleague that I should go at night.
The Louvre is open one night a week, and I chose my entry carefully – around 6pm when most people would be sitting down to dinner.
It was a tactic that paid off – I had most of the place to myself.
Look around the museum by all means, but look out the windows at night an see a view of Paris not usually seen.
To Louis XVI’s aunts’ drawing room.
And late Georgian fashion in a serene and beautiful painting.
I hope you enjoyed some of my Paris highlights. It’s such an amazing city where every time you return, there is always something new to discover, buy, experience, eat or smell.