An Accidental Visit to the Musée de Cluny

My first Paris wandering adventure did not happen until the middle of my first week on a Wednesday after class. When I got back to the Cité, the dorm where I’m staying, I had two options: read for tomorrow or wander around the Latin Quarter and do some shopping. Needless to say, I chose the latter.

After a quick consultation with a guide book and our pocket public transit maps, a couple of my classmates and I transferred from the RER B to Metro line 4 to exit at Odeón. The Odéon stop is right smack in the Latin Quarter in the 6th arrondissement, known for a series of tourist locations, shops, and restaurants. It sounded like a cool place to go.

We wandered aimlessly for a little bit, passing one of the buildings of the Sorbonne. There were a few intriguing store windows, but I was more fascinated by the scenery. Every apartment building window seems to have a balcony and a window box of flowers. Thanks to Haussmannization, the boulevards and roads hurtle in straight diagonals.

Barely five minutes into our walk, it started raining. While most of us had umbrellas, it was still uncomfortable to wander with water pouring from the sky. With a second consultation with the guidebook, we took shelter at the Musée de Cluny, which was free for us with our handy-dandy Paris student ID cards.

The museum is housed in an impressive looking building that was once known as the Hôtel des abbés de Cluny. One of its tenants, Alexandre Du Sommerard, had a fascination with the Middle Ages and started collection various objects, which the Parisian government purchased after his death in 1842.

The museum now houses tapestries, carvings, paintings, daggers, ancient Roman relics, and other odds and ends from the medieval world. The museum is best known for the Lady and the Unicorn, a series of six tapestries featuring a lady and the unicorn (surprise!). Each piece references one of the senses. According to the placard at the museum, the entire work itself is supposed to demonstrate a new attention to aesthetics. Personally, I enjoyed the funny depiction of the lion and the random floating animals in the background.

The Middle Ages are not my favorite time period when it comes to art. Tapestries and wood carvings are cool, but they eventually all start to look the same. But in any case, it was a great way to wait out the rain. By the time we exited the building, the rain had reduced into a light, misty drizzle. We walked back towards the metro stop, where I decided to head home. All in all, I saw some streets, visited a famous institution of art, and went into a new neighborhood. I considered it an accomplished afternoon.

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