The politest little Paris museum: Nissim de Camondo
Merited or not, Parisians have a rather lingering reputation for rudeness. In the years I’ve spent living in Paris, I’ve certainly had some unpleasant experiences. Like anywhere else, sometimes I’ll encounter an arrogant waiter or an abusive catcaller.
But I’ve also experienced some true kindness from strangers in Paris – from the lady who took me to her home and patched me up after I was injured in the street, to the man who gave me a tissue and offered some kind words when he saw me shedding a tear in the supermarket.
The loveliest of French staff
Perhaps it has something to do with speaking French, or not walking around with a map, but my experiences with museum staff in Paris have been consistently pleasant. Despite this, I was taken aback by how wonderfully ‘nice’ everybody was when I recently visited the elegant, well-hidden Musée Nissim de Camondo.
Stepping into the pebbled courtyard of the Camondo mansion, I was immediately struck by how peaceful and charming the French museum was. As I approached the front door, a security guard opened it for me. When I thanked him, he nodded with a smile; “C’est notre plaisir de vous accueillir, mademoiselle” (“It’s our pleasure to welcome you, Miss”).
At the ticket desk, the staff seemed positively thrilled that they were able to let me in for free when they realised I was a student. And as I wandered into the museum’s parlour, one of the attendants even explained her personal favourite order in which to enjoy the different rooms.
French splendour meets family home
Tucked away in the sleepy eighth arrondissement, the Musée Nissim de Camondo is a house museum dedicated to the decorative arts. The collection and mansion belonged to Count Moïse de Camondo. He bequeathed both to the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in honour of his son, Nissim, killed at the age of 25 in the First World War. The museum strikes a lovely balance between showcasing stately artefacts and evoking the atmosphere of the Camondo family home.
A slice of Versailles in Paris
The collection itself includes an opulent array of 18th century French furniture, homeware and artwork. Each room is filled with gilded portraits, intricate clocks and other trinkets, and furniture worthy of Versailles. The mansion is huge and rambling, with a garden backing on to the charming Parc Monceau.
It’s a lovely little place, and far from any unlovely stereotypes.
Have you been to the Paris museum, Nissim de Camondo? Have you found this stereotype to be more myth or reality? Share your comments with us below, or join the debate on Twitter with @MaVieFrancaiseImages © Gemma King.