Tuesday, May 19, 2009
La Nuit Des Musees
This post could also be titled "Free things to do in Paris once a year".
Saturday night was La Nuits Des Musees when most of the museums of Paris, and museums in many other european cities, open their doors for free from 7pm until midnight or 1am.
Unfortunately we also had a friend in town that weekend, so it was a balance between spending some time with them (as you do, there's nothing quite like spending time with friends in foreign cities) and visiting some museums.
We all met up at a bar in Beauborg and walked along the Seine to the Musee D'Orsay, a former train station in Paris.
Musee D'Orsay is a relatively small museum which we hoped wouldn't have too many people queued up to enter, and it also contains a good mix of (mainly french) art created between 1848 and 1914. But unfortunately our friend began tiring quite early, so after an hour or so we wandered off to dinner.
After dinner we left our friend to head home and we wandered off to see something a bit different at Musée du Moyen Âge which houses a collection of important medieval artifacts including sculptures, works of gold, ivory, tapestries (including the The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries), antique furnishings, and illuminated manuscripts.
It was interesting and very welcome to be queueing at 11pm at night, surrounded by a large number of 20-something year olds all seemingly excited about visiting the museum. In Australia I can only imagine such queues for a sporting event, and at 11pm one would expect such people to be queuing for a night club.
The building which houses the collection is the Hôtel de Cluny, constructed around 1334 (on the remains of Gallo-Roman baths dating from the third century) and the former town house (hôtel) of the abbots of Cluny. It is quite possibly the finest example still standing of medieval architecture in Paris.
I was also wanting to visit the Musée des arts et métiers to witness Foucault's Pendulum doing it's thing at midnight in the room made famous in Umberto Eco's novel called Foucault's Pendulum, but sadly we ran out of time.
But what a great idea, keeping museums open until (after) midnight, and for free!