During my final days in Paris I visited The Panthéon, Musée Carnavalet–also known as the Paris history museum–and Musée Quai Branley.
Firstly, The Panthéon… WOW!
Remaining true to it’s name The Panthéon is the final resting place of some of France’s most illustrious names including Marie and Phillipe Curie, Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, Alexandre Dumas and Voltaire to name just a few.
This incredibly beautiful building is a wonderful example of architecture in the neo-classic style. The first basilica on this site was built by King Clovis in 507AD after his conversion to Christianity and was destined to house his tomb and that of his queen, Clothilde.
Later in 1744 King Louis XV attributed his recovery from illness to St Genevieve and vowed to replace the abbey with an edifice worthy of the patron saint of Paris. Goodness did he succeed!
Sadly the pendulum was down for routine maintenance. If you don’t know, the Panthéon was home to Foucault’s pendulum which demonstrated the rotation of the earth and was one of the first non-celestial means of showing this.
The original pendulum was housed in the Musée des Arts et Metiers however in 2010 the cable snapped and caused extensive and irreparable damage to the pendulum and indeed the floor of the museum.
The replica has been swinging in the Panthéon since 1995.
Musée Carnavalet bears the historical legacy of Paris within it’s walls. It is one of the oldest of the municipal museums in the city and holds within it’s walls a veritable treasure trove of discoveries, paintings, porcelain, carvings, furniture, war memorabilia and writings dating back to the French Revolution.
The collections in the museum are so vast one could spend days writing hundreds of thousands of words on them so I will just give you my highlights.
I was very surprised to happen upon a Picasso in the Musée Carnavalet, called Le Square du Vert-Galant, a beautiful cubist rendering of a small green park on the Île de la Cîte.
Another highlight for me was the dress breastplate of Napoleon Bonaparte, made from engraved brass, the central motif of which, was designed by Vivant Denon.
Finally, I visited the Musée Quai Branley also known as The Primitive Arts Museum. I got to see art from Oceania, Africa and the Americas. There is a veritable wealth of historical treasures there, some of which are bizarre. I say that because there are human skulls that have been decorated with paint and jewels to honour the dead or they are disfigured if the skull belonged to an adversary.
There are also some truly beautiful wooden carvings, early Ethiopian Christian paintings and artefacts and some beautiful painted fabrics. If you have an interest in the Americas, there is a particularly large and beautiful totem pole depicting the story of a bear who fell in love with a woman and their half bear, half human children.
The architecture of the museum is also really beautiful and modern and though in contrast to the rest of the area (the museum is near the Eiffel Tower) that’s really part of it’s appeal. One cannot speak of Quai Branley and not speak of The River, which is really unique and something I’d not seen before.
Commissioned by the museum, it is an installation by scotsman, Charles Sandison. The River is a digital river along the ramp to the entrance of the collections of 16,597 names of all the peoples and geographic locations displayed in the museum’s collections.
A friend of mine also took me to a wine bar near Rue St Honoré which is where the famous Paris Ritz Hotel is. Beautiful Bordeaux and a scrumptious cheese platter was a great day to finish off my day before I headed back to La Tour Eiffel, primarily because I wanted some photo’s of the tower all lit up. It also happened to be a full moon so I got some absolutely beautiful photos.
I also succumbed and bought a Nutella crepe from a stand near the Trocadèro metro station. I’m happy I did, it was delicious!