Our time in France was coming to an end. We got up early on Saturday, July 16th, rode the train from Rouen to Paris’s Saint Lazare station, and saw our friend Faith to a taxi to take her to the airport. We were not leaving France until the next day, so with Faith safely on her way, we dropped off our bags at the nearby Hotel Astor St Honore, with the day in front of us. I had decided we should spend it exploring the Musee Jacquemart-André, and then get some food to take back to our hotel for a quiet dinner and final evening in France.
Musee Jacquemart-André, on Boulevard Haussmann in the 8th Arrondissement, is a small to medium museum that Therese, even with all the times she had travelled to Paris, had never visited. The museum was the collection of a wealthy banker/art collector, Edouard André (1833-94) and his wife, artist Nélie Jacquemart (1841-1912), and the building that contains it was their home – after her death it became the museum, and everything in the home, to my knowledge, has remained as it was left by Ms. Jacquemart at her death.
The ground floor has a number of formal and informal apartments, with lots of nineteenth century art. My favorite room was probably the tapestry room. I also liked the library, which is filled with Dutch 17th century art, such as the wonderful Supper at Emmaus of Rembrandt.
As you pass through the ground floor, you reach the Winter Garden and Grand Staircase, the latter of which takes the visitor to the museum’s second floor.
The special exhibit that was our main reason for visiting the museum, The Open Air Studio, was contained in several smallish rooms on this floor. No photography was allowed in this exhibit of outdoor Impressionist art, which was part of the summer’s Normandy Impressionist Festival. As much Impressionist art as I have seen – and we saw a lot during our time in France – I continue to be surprised at how much there is yet to be seen and learned. Many of the usual suspects were included here, such as Claude Monet.
We were done with this exhibit, but not with the museum as a whole; however, it was time to take a break and have some lunch. Since we did not wish to retrace our steps and walk down all the steps on the staircase, we had to ask for help from a security guard to get to the museum’s elevator, and then from there to the cafe.
The physical space that the cafe inhabits is extraordinary – it’s another room of the former mansion, and quite grand, decorated in nineteenth century style – Empire, I suppose? I would say that the cafe is best at offering rich desserts, but none of those would be dairy free, I am sure. We on the other hand were there for dessert, and the food we had was not bad, but not great. My cold salad of vermicelli and seafood with Asian vinaigrette on the side could’ve been fresher – the noodles were pasty and dry. The sorbet I ate for dessert, while it had a nice flavor, had the texture of an Italian ice, very crystalline.
After lunch we went back to the Impressionist exhibit and finished up there. Then we spent some time exploring the other major exhibit on the second floor, which is called the Italian Museum. Italian Renaissance art was one of Ms. Jacquemart’s specialties, and the several rooms here were my favorite of the whole museum.
Paris like New York and other major world cities has an extensive public transportation. I had planned out how to get from this museum in the 8th arrondissement to a vegan food store in the 4th arrondissement. But for us that turned out to be a physically grueling experience, so that was the end of public transportation for that day! In any case, when we rose from the Metro, we were just a couple of blocks from Un Monde Vegan, and I was thrilled to find some brands of vegan cheese there that were new to me, and also some packaged vegan chocolate croissants.
From there, we took a taxi south to Rue Rosier in the heart of the Marais, to get some falafel sandwiches for our dinner. It being Saturday (the Jewish sabbath), our favorite shop, L’As du Fallafel, was closed, but a couple doors down was another promising shop, King Falafel.
We didn’t have to wait in line for too long, the food was reasonably priced, and after one more taxi ride, we were comfortably settled in our room for an evening of falafel sandwiches, English language television (whatever we could find), and packing for our travel home the next day.