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Surprising Stories: Empress Eugénie & Rosa Bonheur

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Rosa Bonheur’s Studio & Home

Today’s visitors to Paris associate the name Rosa Bonheur with the trendy guinguettes (causal bars) located at picturesque venues in the city. Less well known is the fact that Rosa Bonheur (1822-1889) was one of the most successful animal painters of the nineteenth century, whose career is currently being commemorated at a bicentenary exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay from October  2022 until January 2023. One of the most important moments of Rosa Bonheur’s lifetime occurred in June 1864, when Empress Eugénie made a surprise visit to the artist’s studio, and one year later awarded the painter with the Legion of Honneur. Rosa Bonheur became first female artist to receive such recognition: why did the Empress take such an interest in this non-urbane, eccentric, animal painter?  

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Best Small Museums with Cafés and Gardens

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One of the best ways to enjoy the Parisian art scene is to visit the more intimate collections housed in smaller museums in the city. Often located in historic buildings, until recently, the gardens surrounding these museums were neglected. In our post covid-world, museums have now recognized that their gardens are assets to them and to the public. Some more famous venues, like the Musée Carnavalet, the Palais Galleria and the Petit Palais, have added either ephemeral or permanent cafés where visitors can enjoy the gardens over an alfresco lunch, yet the real benefit of the renaissance for museum gardens is enjoying the flowers. Paris’s gardeners dedicate considerable time and significant expense to maintain the cities’ gardens, often cultivating plants that enchant the eye and scintillate the nose. Enliven all your senses by stopping in at our favorite café-gardens in the city.

Musée Delacroix, DRAC Ile-de-France

Musée Delacroix

Bordering the church at Saint-Germain-des-Prés and set on the historic Square Furstemberg, the apartment and studio where Eugène Delacroix lived between 1857 until 1863 is an ideal place to enjoy the calm on the Left Bank. Nestled within the buildings and facing the the Romantic artist’s studio, this secret address in Paris is where the most dedicated art lovers take the time to enjoy this sublime hidden garden dotted with blooming fruit trees, tulips and benches.

6, rue de Furstemberg, 75006 Paris

Musée de la Vie Romantique

Musée de la Vie Romantique / Facebook

Musée de la Vie Romantique

Down a shady path leading to the former Scheffer-Renan home, now housing the Musée de la Vie Romantique, a lush garden awaits the visitor. Rosebushes, lilacs, and a sea of violet bellflowers both enchant and hint at the importance of flowers in 19th century life. The former garden grotto, designed by Émilie Bonaventure, is home to a café run by the renowned Rose Bakery, and excellent example of reconverting a historic space into a temple of healthy treats.

 16, rue Chaptal, 75009 Paris 

Musée de Montmartre

Perched on the crest of the hill, just a stone’s throw from Place du Tertre, the Musée de Montmartre and its three gardens charm visitors to this historic site. The gardens are dedicated to the memory of Auguste Renoir, who had a studio in the complex in the 1870s. Boasting heritage roses and fruit trees, the gardens feature an abundance of other flowers, notably iris and peonies, inspired by Renoir’s paintings. One the three gardens includes a soaring view over the Clos Montmartre, the largest vineyard in Paris with over 1,700 vines. Since 1934, these have been celebrated every October during la Fête des Vendanges de Montmartre. Overlooking the main garden is the Café Renoir, where you can savor sweet and savory dishes before visiting the studio of the other artists who lived on this site: Suzanne Valadon and her son Maurice Utrillo. The Museum is included in our Montmartre tour, learn more about it at this link.

12-14, rue Cortot, 75018 Paris

Maison de Balzac

Maison de Balzac

Maison de Balzac

Hidden from view on the Passy hill in western Paris, Honoré de Balzac’s former home and gardens are an emerald anomaly. The writer lived there between 1840 and 1847 to escape the debt collectors and write part of the Comédie Humaine. His personal belongings are on display beside works annotated by the author.  Peppered with linden and fruit trees, the graceful garden spans almost 7,000 square-feet. It also hosts a Rose Bakery café, where you can pick up a teatime treat to be enjoyed in the garden along with splendid views of the Eiffel Tower.

47, rue Raynouard, 75016 Paris 

Musée Zadkine

Musée Zadkine / Facebook

Musée Zadkine

A quiet street off of rue d’Assas hides a little-known Zadkine Museum, the former house and studio where one of the masters of cubism lived between 1928 and 1967. Bathed in light, the gallery spaces and glass front overlooks a pastoral garden. The small garden, where several of the artist’s work are nestled amidst the greenery, is an oasis of calm and little visited gem.

100, bis Rue d’Assas, 75006 Paris,

Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac / Facebook

The Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac

Wondering where to go after a visit to the Eiffel Tower? Located on the banks of the Seine, the Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac exhibits 3,500 works of art from Africa, the Americas, Asia and Oceania. Its original and imposing architecture was designed by famed French architect Jean Nouvel and includes a green wall by botanist Patrick Blanc. The garden, created by the ecologist-landscape architect Gilles Clement, who also designed the nearby Parc André Citroên, promotes an ecological naturalism. Clément uses no chemicals, no supplemental watering and no noisy, energy-wasting machinery. To complement the museum’s collections, his design is dominated by grasses. Extend your visit with a snack at Café Jacques, found within the garden, or a more sophisticated meal at Les Ombres, the museum’s rooftop restaurant which has panoramic views of la Tour Eiffel.

Interested in combining art and gardens on your next trip to Paris? We have a range of tours designed to achieve this. Read more about them here or contact us to plan the perfect tour to suit your interests.

Seasons Greetings & Special Paris Tours for the Holidays

Rue Montorgueil at Christmas

Rue Montorgueil at Christmas

The holiday season is fast approaching and it’s one of the best times in Paris. The festive spirit abounds, particularly on the city’s market streets, bustling with Parisians preparing for their holiday feasts. If you will be traveling to Paris during the holidays, we have some excellent new culinary, perfume and shopping tours, ideal for this time of year. There are also some superb exhibits up through January, however, we recommend booking ahead to not miss out! Not returning to Paris yet and looking for the perfect holiday gift ? Offer them the gift of Paris through our holiday gift certificates. 

Rue Mouffetard in Paris, Gerd Eichmann / CC

Special Culinary Tours

We have launched a new food tour around Les Halles, the former location of Paris’s central fresh food market. Although the market buildings have since been demolished, the area is still one of the city’s food hubs. Our tour includes the history of the district and an exclusive experience at a ‘bean to bar’ chocolate store. For groups of less than ten, we also offer a private tasting with famed French chocolatier, Jacques Genin, combined with a culinary walk of the open air market at the Rue Montorgueil.

Marie-Antoinette Cake by Molly Wilkinson

Marie-Antoinette piece montée by Molly Wilkinson

Culinary Tour + Special Marie-Antoinette Cake

In partnership with Molly Wilkinson, cordon-bleu trained pastry chef, a visit to Versailles can finish with a tasting of the cakes that Marie-Antoinette would have loved, like the above piece montée. Ask us for further details when booking!

L’Officine Universelle Buly, historic parfumerie visited on our perfume tours

Perfume Tour and Workshop

Our 4-hour perfume tour focus on how flower gardens have supplied the perfume industry for centuries. We visit two historic perfumeries in the Marais and then clients attend a perfume workshop where they can make their own perfumes.

Holiday Shopping Tour

For the Christmas season, we have developed a special tour dedicated shopping in Paris. Our tour begins at the Palais Royal visiting boutiques in this chic neighborhood.  We continue to the Passages, the covered streets of the nineteenth century. We then stop for tea in recently re opened Samaritaine, an art nouveau temple of luxury on the Seine.

Botticelli Exhibit at Musée Jacquemart-André

Noteworthy Exhibition Tours: Winter 2021-2022

Botticelli, Artist and Designer – Musée Jacquemart André: This exhibition showcases 40 works by the celebrated Renaissance artist and is combined with a tour of the Jacquemart André house museum’s impressive collection of works by Italian and French masters. Exhibit on through January 24, 2022.

Edmund de Waal interventions at the Musée Nissim de Camondo

Letters to Camondo – Musée Nissim de Camondo: Author of The Hare with Amber Eyes, Edmund de Waal has curated special interventions at the Musée Nissim de Camondo linked to his new book, Letters to Camondo, a collection of imaginary letters from de Waal to Moise de Camondo. Camondo, a wealthy Jewish banker designed his house museum in memory of his son, Nissim, but de Waal’s exhibition evokes another commemoration, one to the entire family who perished at Nazi war camps during World War II. Our tour of the exhibit and museum is followed by a visit to the Parc Monceau, one of Paris’s oldest parks which borders the museum. Exhibit on through May 15, 2022.

Picturesque Voyages Christmas Gift Certificate

Holiday Gift Certificates

Do you have a friend or family member planning a trip to Paris and are looking for the perfect holiday gift? Consider gifting them a certificate for one of our tours. These can be purchased for a specific tour or for a credit towards the tour of your giftee’s choice, valid for any bookings made until December 31, 2022. Contact us here for further details.

We are wishing you and your loved ones a safe and joyful time over the holidays!

Best wishes,

Susan Taylor-Leduc & the Picturesque Voyages Team

Nature into Art: Same Sky/Même Ciel

Same Sky/ Même Ciel Installation

The third article in our series dedicated to reappraisals of the picturesque—how nature becomes art—investigates how artists adapted their creative thinking during the Covid-19 pandemic.  In early 2020, Leslie Greene and Duwenavue Sante Johnson scheduled an exhibition of their collaborative works at The Jones Institute in San Francisco. The confinement significantly delayed their exhibition but offered unexpected opportunities.

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Where to Buy Art in Paris

Photo: Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac

Owing to its world-class museums and artistic heritage, Paris is one of the world’s top destinations for art lovers. It is also a prime destination for art buying, an endeavor which might seem daunting, particularly with the perceived language barrier. Fortunately, there are options for all budgets and English skills are now more widespread, which makes it much easier to buy art in Paris than one would assume. To facilitate your task even more, we’ve brought together this helpful collection of best auction houses and art galleries in Paris to suit various art buying parameters.

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Nature into Art: Reversing the Picturesque

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For every tourist, one of the many pleasures of traveling today is capturing a memorable picture: finding, framing, and composing the perfect view is so much a part of our travel experiences that we have forgotten how “making a picture” is  an art form. It is not surprising then, that today’s artists are re-investigating the picturesque by reversing the process and turning nature into art. We recently explored this on a visit to the studio of Dominique LaCloche, a Franco-British artist who not only embraces the picturesque tradition, but has turned it inside-out. 

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