Cluny Museum

Field Trip Friday: Two Paris Museums That Aren’t the Louvre

November 16, 2018

Today I’d like to share information and photos from two Paris museums which are not the Louvre, but held a special attraction for me. Both are much smaller and less overwhelming than the Louvre, and are worth a visit if you have the time and inclination.

First up, the Cluny Museum, also known as the Musee National du Moyen Age. When I was researching Paris, I came upon the description of some tapestries, known as the “The Lady and the Unicorn,” housed in the Cluny Museum. I’m not generally interested in tapestries, but for some reason these intrigued me and though I didn’t know if I’d have time to visit the Cluny, I tucked away the information for future reference. 

As luck would have it, our workshop hotel (Hotel Mercure—no affiliation), was just a couple of blocks from the Cluny. Since we had a free afternoon on check-in day that just happened to be the first Sunday of the month, when museum admissions all over Paris are free, we joined the crowds moving through the exhibits. 

In addition to the tapestries, the Cluny houses a collection of French medieval art, as well as the ruins of a second-century Roman bath. There is also a “medieval” garden you can visit without museum admission, laid out with plants pictured in the famous tapestries.

The sixth tapestry

The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries are considered some of the greatest surviving artifacts from the Middle Ages—the “Mona Lisa of tapestry art.” According to the Jean-Patrice Boudet’s “The Lady and the Unicorn” brochure, they are generally thought to have been created in the last two decades of the 15th century, somewhere in Northern France, Brabant, Flanders, or the Netherlands. Intricately and beautifully woven with gorgeous patterns, the series of six tapestries depicts a lady introducing a unicorn to the five senses, plus a possible sixth sense, according to the information card in the museum. The meaning behind the tapestries is somewhat of a mystery—is the sixth sense courtly love, Christian charity, or the intellect? Or something else altogether? No matter—the tapestries are charming and I loved them. (To learn more, there’s a short Rick Steves’ video about the tapestries here.) 

Musee National Eugene Delacroix
Before we left for Paris, I had been reading the Journal of Eugene Delacroix. In addition to being one of the greatest French painters of the Romantic era, Delacroix was an interesting man, and quite thoughtful about life and his painting. Some of his most famous works, including Liberty Leading the People, hang in the Louvre, and he is also known for his murals in the Chapelle des Anges in Saint-Suplice church.

I’m incurably nosy about seeing where artists and writers do their work, so I hoped that I’d be able to visit this museum, which consists of the apartment he lived in from 1857 until his death in 1863, his studio, and a small, private garden. Once more, luck was on my side, and we were also within walking distance of this museum.

The entrance was tucked away in the corner of a quiet square, the Place de Furstenberg, and we almost missed it. His apartment was an example typical Parisian architecture of the late 18th century, and his large, bright studio was built to his specifications. The dimensions of the studio surprised me, but shouldn’t have because of the size and scale of some of his work.

The entrance

Stairs leading to his apartment


Monsieur Delacroix
The best part was the garden, which is hidden from the street, hidden behind the apartment and studio. Laure and I sat and sketched there until we had to return to the hotel to meet the rest of the group. The time we spent in this oasis of peace and quiet in the middle of bustling Paris was one of my favorite experiences of the whole trip.

Stairs down to the garden


The garden, facing Delacroix's studio

No matter what your interests, there is something in Paris for you. Have you been to Paris? What were your favorite experiences? 

My sketch from the Delacroix museum garden

Everyday adventures

Let's Go to Paris!

November 12, 2018


Paris was, in a word, fantastique!

I’ve been to Paris before, but it was always a brief stop on my way someplace else. This time, I spent 12 full days exploring what the city has to offer.

It wasn’t nearly long enough.

Paris is huge, noisy, busy, a city layered with history and culture—and while I was there, a city of brilliant blue skies and mellow light that glowingly illuminated the stone buildings. We had nearly perfect weather, and I can’t help wondering if my impressions would have been different if it had been cold and gray. I feel lucky to have seen Paris at her fall best—lit up by the sun, the trees just beginning to change, with blooming flowers everywhere. Oh, I miss it.

Today I’ll share just a few photos and impressions, because I’m still sorting through my journal and photos (and thoughts). I feel like someone picked me up, shook me vigorously, and returned me to earth, everything still whirling around inside my head. Paris feels like a million years ago, even though it’s only been a little more than a month (already?) since we touched down at Charles de Gaulle airport.

The adventure begins


Laure Ferlita, of The Imaginary Realm and Painted Thoughts blog, and I flew to Paris a few days before her watercolor workshop started. A third friend (hi, Claire!) joined us, and we rented an apartment through Airbnb for the days before we met the rest of the group. That worked beautifully for us, and our apartment host was outstanding (hi, Helen!). If you will be spending more than a few days in Paris, renting an apartment is a fun option. It’s generally cheaper than a Paris hotel, and you get more of a flavor of what it’s like to live in Paris.

Some highlights from our first days included:

The most delicious savory crepe I’ve ever tasted from a little restaurant we randomly chose on our way to the metro station our first morning. It was good, but is there anything as delicious as your first hot meal and cup of coffee when you’ve traveled to a new place and you’re really hungry?


Exploring Rue Cler, a popular market street.  We enjoyed people watching as much as we enjoyed the shops and restaurants. I spent a bundle on tea at Mariage Freres. I’m drinking a cup of Paris Earl Grey as I type this. A highlight for me was a cup of coffee, a buffalo mozzarella flatbread pizza, and sketching at Café Central.




Everywhere we walked, we came upon architecture and details that caught our eyes:




In addition to the larger and more famous parks like the Luxembourg Gardens or the Tuileries, pretty little parks are everywhere—pockets of quiet green-ness in a noisy world:



And, of course, many boulangeries and patisseries where we snapped photos and sampled the baked goods. Heaven!


The adventure will continue...

Stay tuned for more photos and posts about my favorite places in Paris, as well as in our second location, Le Vieux Couvent in Frayssinet. 


The Highest Highs, the Lowest Lows

November 05, 2018

I know you’re waiting to hear about France, and I’m eager to share—my three weeks there were some of the most interesting and exciting of my life. But first I have to share some sad news from my family in California. Shortly after I returned home, my father was hospitalized, and he passed away last week. His health has been declining for some time, but it still took us by surprise. The memorial service is set for later in the month, partly to allow me to have a little time at home before I have to fly out again.

Last week was tough in other ways. I got sick two days after getting home, and I moved Tank to his new barn where he’s still adjusting to his surroundings. I’m finally feeling better, and I hope to get back to working on my trip journal, photos, and sketchbook this week. Thank you for your patience understanding while I put myself back together.


Happiness

Find the Road to Happiness

October 26, 2018


Photo by Ugne Vasyliute on Unsplash

“People can hate on you for doing what it is that makes you happy, but ultimately, it has to belong to you. It shouldn't matter what anyone else thinks. Life is not easy. The road to happiness is not a path well trotted. You have to find your own path to enlightenment.
—Jamie Campbell Bower

Quotes

Vigor

October 19, 2018

Photo by Jeff Frenette on Unsplash

“Voyage, travel, and change of place impart vigor.
—Seneca the Younger


Look for my travel writing here