paris france hotel

We made it! As far as Paris, anyway. After ten hours en route, one of them racing through the Amsterdam airport, we found ourselves checking in at the Hotel Paris-France, which looks really good from the outside, and has an easy name to remember to tell the taxi driver should there be too much absinthe.

The Musee de Carnavalet in Paris

The Musee de Carnavalet in Paris

But we’re too busy for that. Today we took a long ramble through a warm drizzle to the Musee de Carnavalet, which illustrates the history of Paris. It was originally built in 1548, when the Marais neighborhood was a hotspot for the French royal court and its entourage.

Its most celebrated resident, from 1677 to 1696, was Madame de Sevigne, whom all we French majors know as a relentless court gossip who wrote 25 years worth of letters to her daughter about what was going on. She also frequented several salons, or regular events in private houses where the French nobility and intellectuals mulled over art, politics, and philosophy.

Detail from letters by Madame de Sevigne

Frontispiece from letters by Madame de Sevigne

And all that chit chat went into her letters. Though her daughter destroyed 85% of them, there are still enough left to create a body of work that has enriched French history.

Mme de Sevigny’s lacquered writing desk is in the museum, as well as model rooms from several centuries of Parisian interior design. One of those is the bedroom of Marcel Proust, and that of Anna de Noilles, a 19th century poetess who held salons while perched in her twin bed covered in ivory satin.

Marcel Proust bedroom

Marcel Proust bedroom

Both she and Proust wrote in bed. I almost always write in bed, but just now, like Proust, I am writing in my Parisian bed.

The rest of the museum tells the story of Paris in objects and pictures, from a prehistoric dugout canoe to some very modern photographs. We see, for example, the stuff that Napoleon could not live without on the battle trail: an entire collection of sterling silver flatware and shaving tools.

There is much, much more: some 600,000 exhibits altogether, but extensive museum-gazing holds little allure for the jet-lagged. We wended our way back to the hotel through streets paved with luxury boutiques and stopped only for a Coke at a cafe. Here we indulged in a favorite sport, namely people-watching.

Parisians, like Oregonians, are now sometimes wearing jeans and fleece, but I am pleased to say that there are still legions of dressed-up women here, in tall boots and shaped wool coats and chic hats, all with necks swathed in woolly scarves. I just started a shopping list, and wooly scarf is item one.

Tomorrow: We meet the goats! And their people.

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