THREE MU­SEUM GEMS FOR A RAINY PARIS DAY

Los Angeles Times - - TRAVEL - By Donna Kato buys. Edouard died in1894, and Nélie, as planned, do­nated the mansion and col­lec­tion to the In­sti­tute de France.

PARIS — De­spite what the song says, win­ter isn’t the only time it driz­zles in Paris. On av­er­age, you can ex­pect rain at least one of ev­ery three days in the City of Light— and not so light rain, at that.

The savvy traveler needs a con­tin­gency plan when it’s too wet to wan­der. One so­lu­tion: duck­ing into one of the more than 150 mu­se­ums here.

Bril­liant idea, ex­cept that thou­sands of oth­ers will think of it too. But while they swarm the Lou­vre, the Pom­pi­dou Cen­tre and the Musée d’Or­say, you will head to the city’s lesser-known mu­se­ums, where you’ll find equally spec­tac­u­lar trea­sures but with­out the long lines.

Here are three of my picks froma re­cent trip.

Musée Jac­que­mart-An­dré

Jac­que­mart-An­dré was once a grand pri­vate home that still feels like a stately 19th cen­tury mansion, although when it’s wet, it ap­pears a bit fore­bod­ing. Rain will do that.

Step in­side, though, an­dit’s sur­pris­ingly bright, with large win­dows, a glass rooftop and cheery staffers dis­pens­ing au­dio tour head­phones.

You’ll want those head­phones to nav­i­gate the rooms, which are a star­tling com­bi­na­tion of art­gallery and lav­ishly dec­o­rated home.

The mu­seum takes its name from the cou­ple who lived in the one­time mansion and col­lected a va­ri­ety of ob­jects, from ce­ram­ics and jew­elry to Rem­brandts and Bot­ti­cel­lis.

Banker aris­to­crat Edouard An­dré and his artist wife, Nélie Jac­que­mart, mar­ried in 1881 and ac­quired vast num­bers of paint­ings, fur­nish­ings, ta­pes­tries, sculp­tures and an­tiques on their Euro­pean trav­els. To­day, they might be de­scribed as hoard­ers with ex­quis­ite taste and seem­ingly un­lim­ited bank ac­counts; they mod­i­fied their house to ac­com­mo­date the new Don’t miss:

The au­dio tour. It’s con­ducted as if the vis­i­tor were a guest dur­ing the era when the cou­ple en­ter­tained. You be­gin in the Pic­ture Gallery, where guests were in­vited to gaze upon the 18th cen­tury paint­ings dot­ting the walls be­fore be­ing ush­ered into the ad­join­ing Grand Sa­lon, a re­cep­tion room of white and gold with mar­ble busts and rich dé­cor.

The Ital­ian Mu­seum. The sec­ond floor of the home­was re­served for spe­cial guests of the own­ers, who turned about half the space into three gal­leries of Ital­ian art spe­cial­ties.

The Win­ter Gar­den. This strangely mod­ern space doesn’t seem as though it fits with the rest of the house. The Win­ter Gar­den is light and airy, thanks to a glass roof that bright­ens the area and nur­tures the many large plants.

The Tea Room, now the Café

Jac­que­mart-An­dré, is the mansion’s former for­mal din­ing room, a lit­tle fussy but divine. The ta­bles on the cov­ered out­door ve­randa over­look a man­i­cured gar­den. The lunch menu fea­tures sal­ads, quiche and light fare; pas­tries are served in the af­ter­noon. We had a slice of Napoleon with “JA” mono­grammed in co­coapow­der on top.

Info: 158 Boule­vard Hauss­mann, 8th ar­rondisse­ment, www.musee-jac­que­mart-an­dre.com/en/home. Ad­mis­sion is 15 euros ($16.32); the au­dio tour costs 3 euros ($3.28) more.

Musée Guimet

The Guimet is known for its out­stand­ing col­lec­tion of Kh­mer art, though this wasn’t one of my top choices. But Mau­reen Fan, one of my trav­el­ing com­pan­ions, had re­cently re­turned from Cam­bo­dia and wanted to see more of the magnificent Kh­mer stone carv­ings, sculp­tures and Wat mu­rals housed here.

I was in­trigued mostly that Mata Hari de­buted her risqué dance act in the li­brary of the Guimet. (She was pur­port­edly the mis­tress of founder Émile Éti­enne Guimet, a wealthy in­dus­tri­al­ist who col­lected trea­sures and ar­ti­facts from Asia and the Mid­dle East and brought them back to France in the late 1800s.)

The French govern­ment ac­quired the mu­seum in 1928 and has since trans­ferred many Asian trea­sures from the Lou­vre and other na­tional mu­se­ums to the Guimet, mak­ing its hold­ings even richer. Don’t miss:

The Floor of Gi­ants, where vis­i­tors are dwarfed by the mas­sive sculp­tures and mu­rals from the 12th cen­tury Preah Khan tem­ple, northeast of Cam­bo­dia’s Angkor Thom. Some of the pieces, de­signed to be out­doors, are more than four sto­ries tall.

The scale 1/100 replica of the Bayon tem­ple of Angkor Thom as it might ap­pear from a plane. Stare at it awhile to un­der­stand the size of that Cam­bo­dian tem­ple.

The Afghanistan-Pak­istan Col­lec­tion: Given the con­tin­u­ing de­struc­tion of ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites in this re­gion, it’s a poignant dis­play of ob­jects dat­ing as far back as the 1st cen­tury and in­cludes art of em­pires long gone, ex­ca­vated from places such as Hadda, Afghanistan.

Info: 6 Place d’Iéna, 16th ar­rondisse­ment; www.guimet.fr. Ad­mis­sion: 7.50eu­ros, ($8.15), for per­ma­nent col­lec­tions; 9.50 euros ($10.34), which in­cludes en­try to the spe­cial ex­hibits.

Car­navalet Mu­seum

The Car­navalet is de­voted to the his­tory of Paris from its early set­tle­ment, through the French Revo­lu­tion and to the present day. Noth­ing quite cap­tures the Paris of our imag­i­na­tion as the streets of the Marais district, where aris­to­crats and dis­placed peas­ants walked along many of the same paths tourists wan­der to­day.

The mu­seum is housed in two gra­cious build­ings: The orig­i­nal is in a mansion built in 1548 that later be­came the home of revered French writer Madame de Sévi­gné. A gallery in the mu­seum is de­voted to her and the let­ters she wrote that bring to life the Marais of the 1600s.

In 1989, the Hô­tel le Peletier next door was added, and its sec­ond floor is fo­cused on the French Revo­lu­tion.

Don’t miss:

A col­lec­tion of ar­chae­o­log­i­cal finds from the pre-Paris Ne­olithic era, in­clud­ing fish­ing boats used on the Seine from as early as 4400 BC.

A tiny dio­rama that de­picts the scene of Marie An­toinette’s be­head­ing at what is now Place de la Con­corde.

The rooms and halls de­voted to the king, queen, politi­cians and events sur­round­ing the revo­lu­tion. The mu­seum brings the era to life in paint­ings, re-cre­ated pe­riod rooms and per­sonal be­long­ings fromthe play­ers.

The gift shop. The Car­navalet has one of the best mu­seum sou­venir shops in Paris, stocked with art and his­tory books, along with knick knacks such asn ail files dec­o­rated with im­ages of Marie An­toinette in var­i­ous dresses.

Info: 16 Rue des Francs-Bour­geois, 3rd ar­rondisse­ment, www.lat.ms/1LNYN4T. Ad­mis­sion is free; au­dio guides in English, French or Span­ish are 5 euros, about $5.45.

Donna Kato

THE BED­ROOM of Nélie Jac­que­mart is dec­o­rated in Louis XV style at her Paris mansion, now the Musée Jac­que­mart-An­dré.

Donna Kato

A BUST of Napoleon is dis­played at the Car­navalet, amu­seum de­voted to the his­tory of Paris from early days to to­day.

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