One place I can't shake from my post-Paris brain is the "Musee de la Vie Romantique", or "The Museum of the Romantic Life", a tiny museum in an old mansion down the street from Pigalle. The museum is the converted home of the accomplished French portrait artist Ary Scheffer, who frequently played host to George Sand and her sickly boyfriend Chopin. Ergot, the heavy and seemingly unbalanced focus on the feisty Ms. George Sand herself (a brilliant watercolor landscape artist in her own right).
Walk into the front parlor and you're greeted by jewelry cases full of historic bibs and bobs. It's like shaking out your glamorous Great Grandmother's junk drawer from the end of the nineteenth century, to find costume jewelry, snippets of hair (how Gothic, no?) and old faces decaying and gazing from lockets. The fading faces always get me. There are these long-gone souls staring out at you from a tarnished locket, whose lives I'm not familiar with, but still it's as if they could leap out and ask for directions. If they were alive, I might buy them a cup of tea at the adjoining Salon de The.
On the last day of my cousin Lori's visit, we meandered down the hill from Monmartre and found our way to the museum an hour before it closed. In the garden, green iron outdoor tables are surrounded by various rose bushes, and tea is served up strong in lovely old China teapots and delicate cups and saucers. Because it's Paris it rained on and off, but overgrown trees protected our buttery crumbles and Earl Grey before the sun opened up again.
I love how the museum is barely visible from the street, and how you have to approach it by walking through a little cobblestone driveway. I also love how the permanent exhibit is free, so I felt able to go and stare at the mold made from Chopin's hand a few times over during different visits (to the left of his hand you can see a curled piece of George Sand's hair in a see-through locket). His hands were small and delicate and quite beautiful, and with his Nocturnes playing on a loop in the background, I could almost imagine holding onto it for a few minutes.