A slice of Paris life: listening to a leaf falling down.

Forget the crowds in the Musée Orsay and get your impressions elsewhere, hassle-free.

Imagine Paris on a brilliant autumn day …… and picture yourself sitting in a quiet garden, sipping your tea while a whiff of Chopin drifts by. This is possible, also for the communs des mortels, in the Musée de la Vie romantique (“Museum of Romantic Life”).

To go there, I advise you (by way of contrast & to augment your subsequent pleasure) to get out at the Pigalle metro-stop. Take in the traffic-noise, savor the shabby looks of all the sex-shops & cabarets congregated there (& gaudy neon lights do look particularly pathetic in crisp autumn light). Cast a pitiful look at the bleary-eyed tourists having their petit déjeuner amidst the exhaust-fumes, and head then down the Rue de Pigalle.

Following the signs to the museum, you’ll soon end up in the Rue Chaplet, where you will see a big old tree sheltering an alley. Going through the cobble-stoned passageway you’ll then find yourself in the quiet of a courtyard, looking at a charming little house with green blinds and awnings. It’s the house of a French romantic painter (Ary Scheffer) who received fellow romantic artists there such as the composer Chopin, the painter Delacroix, the writer (and his neighbor) George Sand.

Ah, George Sand – such an icon of artistry, romanticism and feminism alike. George_Sand. ....A woman strolling about Paris in men’s clothes, writing a host of novels, having affairs with Chopin, Liszt .... So it’s only fitting that this house, now turned into a museum of the Romantic Life, dedicates most of its rooms to souvenirs, portraits and furniture having belonged to her.

And don’t anybody now dare to imagine a stuffy boring old-fashioned museum! Even those who’ve never heard of George Sand will not fail to fall under the spell of this lovely little house. It is a spell of romantic make-believe – light softly filtering through the blinds, creaking wooden floors, pastiche époque decorations on the wall …. . The eye is seduced by flickering candle light (the candles are electric, but they do flicker! and I swear there’s a true candle smell hanging about …) and mysterious reflections in gilded mirrors. The heart is stirred by cascading piano-notes – Chopin nocturnes & berceuses playing on the background.….

This enchanted place also offers a garden – a “Salon de The” with iron tables & wooden chairs, where you can sit and meditate & imagine George Sand opening the blinds while Chopin plays the piano ….

Now maybe you think that one enchanted garden is not enough to redeem stressed out & noisy Paris city life. Well, there’s yet another isle of calm to discover - this one situated in the busiest district on the left bank.

The Rue de Furstenberg is right off the devilishly hectic Boulevard Saint Germain. Behind a little church you’ll find a street and a little square dominated by a tree – and with an almost magical atmosphere of quiet . At nr 6 is a small Delacroix-museum, housed in his former atelier. The house is renovated, the collection competently curated (though not that many noteworthy pieces are on display) – in all its neatness it somewhat lacks the playful charm of the Vie Romantique Museum. But it has a garden,...…. with big trees, and walled in by other houses – all blocking out urban noises. A delicious place to go and sit on a bench, look at the clear blue sky and listen to a leaf falling down….

Tips on other isles of calm in Paris are of course very welcome – we could then compile “un guide parisien du calme (et du luxe et de la volupté) ”

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