Posted by: thedirtybaker | July 20, 2011

Parisian History Day – FUN!

Since part of the “dirt” that makes this baker “dirty” is from archaeology, it should be no surprise that I LOVE history!  So I really enjoyed my day of Parisian history tourism.  I could happily have done more, except that this was my last day in Paris.  I left on an early evening train back to Holland.

In the morning, I overslept, repacked, checked out of my hotel, and went to Celina’s to drop off my stuff.  She showed me where her favorite boulangerie was so I could get breakfast before going to the nearby Musee du Carnavalet.  I sat down to people-watch the Parisians and tried not to laugh when I realized that I was perfectly positioned to watch Israelis on vacation. Unlike French, I could actually understand the Hebrew.  For a few minutes I knew some juicy gossip about total strangers, shared with the confidence that no one understands their language.

Isn't he cute?!

Carnavalet is a museum showing the  last several centuries of Parisian history (minimal on the 20th century), housed in adjoining houses (mansions?) in Le Marais. The  paintings and sculptures, including gargoyles, from the early centuries were very interesting, with context provided by the little signs.  From the 17th and 18th centuries, there were sample rooms as well, full of furniture and decorations – I found this less interesting for the most part, perhaps because there was more visual context, but less clear historical significance for the objects.  For the French Revolution, there were a LOT of artifacts, though more in cases than in decorated rooms.  This included locks of hair from Marie Antoinette and two of

A bed for people who can't decide which side their heads should go on.

her kids – gory (was it clipped before or after they were killed?), but really cool!

There was also a great 19th-20th century painting exhibit about Paris, including art deco paintings, and a disappointingly small exhibit of signs from Paris.  The gift shop here was very tempting – by which I mean that they had interesting looking books in English.

16th century painting of the Flemish school, depicting the Enfant and courtesans having a musical gathering, with Paris in the background. The woman on the left does not appear to be enjoying the attention she's receiving!

Locks of hair from Marie Antoinette and two of her children.

I don't remember if this was advertising a tavern or warning of the dangers of drinking.(18th century)

My next stop was Notre Dame.  I walked over (with only a short detour this time), and walked through the cathedral. From the outside, it’s gorgeous!  (I like gargoyles, though).

Notre Dame from the front

Tower on the side of Notre Dame


"So that's what the world looks like to short people!"

"You know, it's easier to have a meeting in a circle if our chairs face in, not out."

Notre Dame from the back - probably the most stunning view of the church

From the inside, while many pieces of the cathedral decoration are interesting, the combined effect is excessive and garish.  I know, it’s a very different aesthetic, or rather – wow, that’s a different aesthetic!  I had a similar response to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.

OK, I did like this memorial plaque.

After a trip to the north bank for a lunchtime crepe, I went back to visit the crypt, and

Part of the Roman Bathhouse hypocaust system

see what kinds of tales it would provide.  This is a great little museum that I’d recommend to anyone going to Paris, especially if they’re interested in history and archaeology (and after all, isn’t everyone?).  It includes more of the early history and archaeology than the Carnavalet did, and shows the archaeology of a long-occupied, stratigraphically complex city, with explanations of its interpretation.  They have a particularly nice display of the Roman bathhouse’s heating elements.  (The Romans had fantastic bathhouses, with hot, warm, and cold pools!)

After the Crypt, I didn’t have enough time for any other sites, though I did find time for  ice cream and a little shopping (scarf and pictures) before going back to Celina’s to get my stuff. We went to the Gare du Nord, and I headed back to Rotterdam, then to Utrecht, and finally to Tricht, where I arrived before dark thanks to its high latitude. Paris was a lot of fun, and thanks go to Celina and to the city for both being fantastic!



  1. […] that just teased on the details. So, after some hunting I got even more excited when I found someone's blog, who took a photo of the painting, that is just huge! You can click this link to view her image. […]

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