The best of Paris: Art

The smaller gems - like Musee Cognacq-Jay - can be the most powerful

It is often said that you can't mention Paris without the word "art" somewhere in the same breath. It is, perhaps, the most influential in the Western world - all of the greats like Cézanne, Monet, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec (and so, so many more) explored what it means to live, feel and be in Paris on canvas. It is the reason why I, as an Art History aficionado, chose the city for my time abroad. To be surrounded by the most magnificent work every day is a feeling I cannot put into words, even now.

Everyone comes to Paris with usually one end goal in mind: the Louvre. The former Palais Royal hosts more than 9 million visitors a year - and they all want to see Da Vinci's Mona Lisa up close. While understandable, as the Louvre hosts some of the world's most important work in all of human history (and a selection of Delacroix that never fails to astound me at the sheer magnitude and power), there is also a lot of art in Paris that might fall lower on the priority list.

I guide you through some of Paris's smaller, less world-renowned museums that are worth the time and investment. You never know - you might just run into something that will definitely take your breath away.

Musée Picasso

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WHERE: 5 Rue de Thorigny, 75003 (3ème arrondissement)

WHEN: 10:30AM - 6PM, except openings at 9:30AM on weekends

HOW MUCH: 12.50€ - free for exceptions

HOW TO: Line 8, Saint-Sébastien - Froissart

CONTACT: instagram

Located in the heart of Le Marais, Musée Picasso opened its doors in 1985 to much fanfare by the city of Paris. It hosts one of the greatest collections of Picasso's work in the world - over 5,000 that include 3,700 works on papers, sculptures, and paintings - from all of his periods. The museum does a spectacular job of curating his lifetime, focusing on his many lovers, muses, and contemporaries. Not only does it display some of his most important work (like 1904's La Celestine of his blue period as well as the 1937 portrait of Dora Maar), but the Hôtel Salé it inhabits is a particularly beautiful landmark of Paris. If you're not crazy about Picasso - check it out just for the high-beam painted ceilings and sculpture garden.

Musée National Gustave Moreau

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WHERE: 14 Rue de la Rochefoucauld, 75009 (9ème arrondissement)

WHEN: 10:00AM - 5:00PM

HOW MUCH: 6€ - free for exceptions

HOW TO: Line 12, Trinité d'Estienne d'Orves

CONTACT: Official website

The most special thing about Musée National Gustave Moreau is that the artist once inhabited it. The space was originally Moreau's studio, before he decided to turn it into a gallery displaying his own work and living in an apartment on the first floor. The collection consists of more than 1,200 paintings and 5,000 drawings, unfinished or not, in the very space Moreau created them. It is a breathtaking display - one that breathes life into the room with every piece you examine. As a lover of art history as well as a lover of those who lived it, I can't think of a more magical place to be.

For more former-studios-turned-museums in Paris: try Dali's Espace in Montmartre, Musée Rodin, and Museée Delacroix.

Musée Cluny

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WHERE: 6 Place Paul Painlevé, 75005 (5ème arrondissement)

WHEN: 9:15AM - 5:45PM, closed on Tuesdays

HOW MUCH: 8€ - free for exceptions

HOW TO: Line 10, Cluny - La Sorbonne

CONTACT: Official website

One of the last remaining medieval structures in Paris, the Musée Cluny (also known as Musée national du Moyen Âge – Thermes et hôtel de Cluny) hosts a variety of artifacts from the medieval past. It is home to six of the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries, which are a sight to behold in themselves. It can be compared to stepping inside a time machine, one that instantly teleports you to a Paris long gone but with fragments still remaining. Admiring the stained glass, tapestries and gardens are a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Musée Cognacq-Jay

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WHERE: 8 Rue Elzevir, 75003 (3ème arrondissement)

WHEN: 10:00AM - 6:00PM

HOW MUCH: Free

HOW TO: Line 1, Saint-Paul

CONTACT: Official website

Hidden inside a courtyard of Le Marais, Musée Cognacq-Jay is a bit on the smaller side when it comes to museums - but what awaits inside is plenty. The museum's collection was formed between the years of 1920 and 1925 by Theodore-Ernest Cognacq and his wife Marie-Louise Jay, focusing on exquisite fine art and decor that consists of up to 1200 pieces in total. It ranges from fine furniture to ceramics to paintings by Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Sir Thomas Lawrence and Hubert Robert. Best part: it's free - you get to immerse yourself in the ultimate of Parisian decor at no cost whatsoever.

If you like our Paris series, stay tuned for the next installment: daytrips. This time, we take you out of the city for just a minute (up to an hour away) and show you some of the most beautiful towns France has to offer.

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Related Posts

When our summer vacations went out the window, my friends and I were devastated.

We had big things planned—a group of us had spent months looking forward to backpacking around Europe! Thankfully, our flights were refunded, but our hearts were still broken. Paris, London, and Amsterdam will have to wait.

When thinking about alternatives, we realized there are so many amazing places to visit in the U.S. My friend Sophie suggested a camping road trip. I mean, backpacking was never going to be glamorous to begin with, but some of us didn't like the sound of sleeping outdoors for such a long period of time.

That's when my friend Amy mentioned Getaway. They offer outposts with beautiful, secluded cabins tucked away between the trees. We read their Journal posts, plus I emailed their team for reassurance it was safe, and they couldn't have been nicer or more helpful.

They reassured us that they've upped their cleaning procedures to make the cabins as safe as possible and that the cabins are at least 50-150 ft away from each other. We also wouldn't have to go to a check-in desk, so we could go straight to our cabin without interacting with anyone else during our stay. Plus, it's super affordable, too.

Getaway offered a compromise: we would still do camping, but with comfort. We organized everything we needed and set out on our road trip in Sophie's Jeep.

Our first stop was at McKinney Falls State Park. The creek was stunning. The park had two waterfalls which filled the swimming holes, and we didn't hesitate for a second to jump into the refreshing water. After our morning there, our next stop was the Old Baldy Trail for a hike. This trail was steep and took some effort, but boy, was it worth it for the beautiful views from the top.

The next stop was Blue Hole Regional Park. We hiked the whole trail, which is 1.6 miles, and then swam in the swimming area. The trail was mostly flat, and it was a pleasant, leisurely hike with gorgeous scenes. We really packed the day full of activities.

By the time we were ready to head to Getaway, we were exhausted. When we arrived, I was happy to see that the Getaway cabins are nicely spread out—you can still glimpse the other cabins in the distance through the trees, but they feel far enough away to maintain privacy.

Our cabin had everything we needed: AC and heat, a private bathroom with a toilet and a hot shower, a kitchenette with a two-burner stove, mini-fridge, a fire pit, and all the kitchen essentials. We also found a deck of cards and some books. It was nice to see a cozy bed after such a long day.



The first night we settled in and took advantage of the shower. Then we stashed our phones in the cellphone "lockbox" for the night. The cabins have a giant window with views of nature, which meant we could appreciate it without having to rough it. We toasted three rounds of s'mores as we chilled in the Adirondack chairs around the flickering fire.

When it started to get cool, we headed back into the cozy cabin, made some tea, and went to bed.

The next morning, we felt super refreshed after a good sleep, so we decided we'd go on a hike along the Cypress Creek Nature Trail. It was so scenic, with amazing views of the stunning vistas. After that, we were drained and happy to be going back to our comfortable cabin! That night, we whipped up chicken pesto pasta on the stove and had s'mores over the campfire for dessert. After another long day, we were asleep only a few minutes after climbing into the soft bed.

For our last day at our Getaway cabin, we made scrambled eggs for breakfast before driving to Cooper Creek for a stroll and great views of nature. That evening, we grilled veggies and chicken skewers and ate them at the picnic table while drinking wine. When it got chilly, we went into the cabin and laughed the evening away.

If you're looking for somewhere safe and peaceful to go with your friends or a partner, I'd highly recommend Getaway.

Plan Your Escape With Getaway! Book One Month In Advance And Take $20 Off Your Fall Adventure With The Code FALL20!



Travel

What I Learned as an American Living in London During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Even subtle cultural differences change how a country handles crisis.

On March 3rd, 2020, I left New York City to go spend three months in London with my longtime partner.

You likely recognize that date as shockingly close to when all hell broke loose around the world thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. As I was leaving NYC, there were already stirrings of unease surrounding a mysterious new virus that was making its way from China to the States, but very few people thought it would be anything but a passing inconvenience.

As it turned out, I likely already had the virus when I departed New York. I began running a fever the day I arrived in London. Still, I figured I had probably just caught a cold on the plane (this was before we knew what we know now, that the coronavirus was already extremely prevalent in NYC by March 3rd), and there was no way of knowing for sure, because tests were only available to people in the hospital with COVID symptoms. Soon, my partner also came down with symptoms.

As we recovered (we were both lucky to have relatively mild cases that lasted only a couple of days), we watched London slowly close down around us. First, theaters and public venues began to close, then office workers were told to stay home. Throughout it all, there was a reigning sense of calm and acceptance among the British people, even as the rest of the world began to panic.

BBC.com

The complaints I heard from British friends and acquaintances were never about the lockdown measures, but rather about the conservative government's hesitance to take more drastic steps and the lack of clarity surrounding what they expected the population to do to prevent the spread of the virus.

Still, I was struck by the difference in tone that I saw on my social media from American friends discussing the pandemic and the calm acceptance of the British people around me. Every post by an American discussing the pandemic used the word "I" over and over again and had a generally panicky tone. Meanwhile, the British were speaking with "we" and jokingly mourning their inability to grab a pint and watch football.

Sure, this composure was not true of every single citizen in the UK, just as panic was not every American's reaction, but there was a distinct difference in the responses I personally saw. In general, people who lived in London seemed quick to ask how they could help each other and their country, while many Americans seemed ready to batten down the hatches and take on an "every man for himself" attitude.

I was struck by this sign I saw outside a local corner shop in London:

Image of sign asking if anyone needs anything during COVID-19

Everywhere in London I saw examples of collectivism. While images were coming out of America of totally bare supermarket shelves thanks to people hoarding food and supplies to ensure their own comfort and safety, in London I watched two older women argue over who should take the last packet of chicken thighs. Both women insisted the other should have it.

Now that I'm back in the US, I haven't seen a thing like that in my local grocery stores, and while I know mutual aid networks are flourishing and neighbors are assisting each other in cities around the US, I've still been struck by our general lack of visible camaraderie.

It's no secret that the British government handled the COVID-19 crisis relatively poorly, but I was still struck by a sense of hard-fought unity I felt I shared with every average Londoner.

The British aren't an overly expressive people, but they're extraordinarily cordial. We Americans usually think of this kind of British decorum as a stuffy relic of the past that's only relevant in the event of an afternoon tea at Harrods, and perhaps that's partly true, but COVID-19 showed me just how deep this cordiality goes.

British decorum is not a form of politeness that's just about saying "Please" and "Thank you" or moving out of someone's way on the sidewalk; it's the kind of regard for your fellow man that makes it second nature to wait patiently in line if that makes a supermarket safer. It's an innate sense of obligation to each other that makes wearing a mask on public transportation an obvious and inarguably appropriate step to take during a deadly pandemic.

Sure, Brexit proves that nationalism is just as alive and well in England as it is in America, and in many ways Boris Johnson is a slightly less terrifying version of Donald Trump. But my time in Britain showed me that nothing can rid the British people of their ability to weather a storm as a united people, while I can't say the same of America.

On March 20th, Boris made the historic decision to close the pubs in the UK. For context, even during WWII, when London was being regularly bombed by the Germans, the pubs mostly remained open. This was the only time during my stay in London that I saw a collective outpouring of emotion.

I walked to my local pub out of curiosity that night (I had been two weeks without symptoms and told I was fine to leave the house), knowing that it would be closed indefinitely first thing the next morning. What I found was a sensibly socially distanced crowd of people laughing and singing and drinking together to mark the unthinkable day when the pubs would shut. Everyone was fast friends with their neighbor, and even the drunkest among us kept their distance and used hand sanitizer often. But there was a feeling of unity in the pub that night that I have never experienced in America. A sense that, as a people, Londoners would get through this by looking after one another in ways their government had nothing to do with.

Londoners survive; that's what they do. But the part of "keeping calm and carrying on" that doesn't fit as neatly on a poster is the additional impetus to help one's neighbors in big and small ways.

As we're forced to reckon with the failings of the American government during this time of political, social, and economic turmoil, I wonder if we should not also be looking at the pervasive sense of individualism that's so innate to our culture. I'm not even sure I fully recognized it until it became starkly obvious to me in contrast to a different culture.

Yes, the American government failed us in the way it handled the COVID-19 outbreak, but shouldn't we also interrogate our personal inability to care for each other without strict mandate from the government? Shouldn't we consider that true change can't come to America until we start taking personal responsibility for each other? Yes, we need to deconstruct the systems of oppression inherent in the American government that allow for widespread injustice. But we also need to ask ourselves everyday if we're asking the government to do the work that we aren't doing ourselves.

In the wise words of people who have been doing mutual aid work for generations: We keep us safe. It's time we take a page from Londoners' book and consider that politeness isn't just nice; it can also be an act of radical resistance.

Travel

The Ugly Side of Glamping in New York City

Is it really possible to blend camping with luxury?

When the world is looking bleak—e.g. Every morning, after you check the news—it can feel great to "get away from it all."

An ordinary vacation to a hotel, a resort, or a rental house is fine, but it's not exactly an escape from society. Apart from the proximity of strangers, cramping your style and potentially infecting you with a deadly virus, it makes it slightly harder to pretend that the world has disappeared when you're surrounded by buildings and have a TV constantly threatening to remind you of current events.

It's no wonder, then, that camping has seen a huge resurgence in recent months. People want to be out in nature, in the open air, away from everything. You can bring all your own equipment, never have to worry about social distancing, and can ignore the state of the world for a weekend. That is, if you're up for roughing it.

Not everyone is built to set up tents, sleep on the ground, go days without showering, and eat nothing but s'mores and hotdogs. Some of us are a little too pampered to really enjoy the full camping experience. That's where glamping comes in.

There are some different approaches to the glamping scene. You could rent a deluxe, modern cabin from a company like Getaway, or you could stay in a luxury tent at a glamping resort. In either where you don't really have to worry about what you're going to eat, how you're going to stay clean, or how to assemble the overly-complicated camping gear. All you have to do is enjoy some fresh air in the great outdoors. Everything else is taken care of.

Glamping view

It sounds like the best of both worlds, and that's what my wife and I were hoping to find on a recent glamping trip in New York City. With rates starting around $400 a night, we had access to a spacious, climate-controlled canvas tent with electrical outlets and a plush bed; nearby bathrooms with rainfall showers; free wifi; a gourmet, open-air restaurant; and evening campfires with provided s'mores kit.

There was nothing to set up and nothing to worry about, and it was all in a beautiful natural setting with sunset views of the New York Harbor, the Manhattan skyline, Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty. It was halfway between a resort and a campground, and it seemed at first like the best of both worlds—a civilized escape from civilization. But that's not the full picture.

Anyone who cares to find the glamping retreat in question should have no problem tracking it down—there aren't a lot of glamping spots in NYC—but this is not a review of a single company. This is about the whole luxury-tent experience.

I should note that my wife and I have done similar vacations twice before. Once we rented a large yurt for a family getaway, and another time we stayed at a friend's property where he had a permanent canvas tent set up.

Neither of those trips were nearly as heavy on the "glam" half of glamping, but they provided nice, large spaces with wood floors and real beds, and indoor plumbing was not far away.

They also suffered from some of the same flaws.

This latest trip—with wifi, gourmet dining, and so-on—was definitely fancier, and before getting into the negatives, it's worth noting what a pleasant stay we had over all. Everything we ate was delicious, and the public areas of the restaurant and around three large fire pits provided plenty of social distancing.

glamping sunset

The price of our stay included a breakfast basket—smoked salmon, pastries, cheese, and orange juice—delivered to our tent. We ate our fill while admiring the stunning view from the front of our tent—arranged to be uninterrupted by any neighbors. It was easy to imagine we were looking at Manhattan from some private haven that civilization could never reach.

It was admittedly lovely. But while it did bring together some of the best aspects of luxury resorts and rustic camping, it also combined some of the worst.

Let's start with the noise. If you're expecting to get a good night's sleep because you're in a warm, comfy bed, you'd better have a high tolerance for noise. Not only do the walls of a canvas tent flap loudly in the wind, they provide little barrier from the sounds of people passing on nearby gravel paths and of night birds swooping and sounding shrill calls overhead.

Speaking of wildlife, it is very hard to fully seal off a large tent on a wooden platform in the middle of a field. In all three of the glamping shelters we have stayed in, a stray bug or two have managed to find their way inside. In two out of three—including this trip—we've also encountered rodents.

Fortunately—given New York City's reputation—the rodent that broke into our tent over the weekend was an ordinary field mouse, rather than a giant subway rat. My wife heard it scrambling after we had turned off our bedside lamps, and she caught it in the flashlight from her phone as it was sneaking toward a container of dinner leftovers. It darted back through the gap where it had broken in.

After that, we moved our food into a provided Yeti cooler and managed to get some sleep with the help of the tent's bluetooth speaker—hopefully without irritating any neighbors. While we didn't sleep as well as we would have at home, we don't mind camping, so none of this was bad enough to really bother us. But it did seem like the kind of thing that someone expecting a resort experience might not be ready for.

Glamping tent

The larger issue, from my perspective, was the so-called climate control. The night we spent in our tent was chilly, and we were grateful for the electric heating pads keeping our bed warm beneath the comforter, but that wasn't the only provision against the cold. The tent had a dual-function space heater/AC that we didn't even realize was on and running until late that night.

It may have made the air inside marginally warmer, but the tent had a high roof with a sizable gap at the peak where most of that heat probably escaped. Even if the canvas had been perfectly sealed to the outside air, it would have taken a ton of energy to warm up such a large, uninsulated space. The same goes for running it as an AC on a hot night.

We were really just pumping heat into the surrounding area. Any sense that we were communing with nature was undermined by the realization that we were basically assaulting the environment with this massive, virtually pointless waste of energy.

Really, the whole idea of a climate-controlled tent—especially with such a large space—is somewhat ridiculous. It promotes the idea that you can have every modern comfort while being out in nature. But that's just a sales pitch—it's not the reality.

As nice as it sounds to combine the best of a resort vacation with the best of a camping trip, the two just don't mix that easily. Comfort and luxury that are easy to provide in a hotel room become extravagant and silly in a canvas tent, while the kind of noise and wildlife that are expected on a camping trip suddenly seem intrusive in a resort setting.

While there is a pleasant niche for this style of glamping—particularly when it includes spectacular city views—for people who love the pampered luxury of a resort or the natural simplicity of camping, glamping in a luxury tents lands in an awkward middle ground that doesn't quite scratch either itch.

Tiny home glamping view

The good news is, if you want that view, but can't handle the downsides of sleeping in a tent, the same retreat offers tiny homes that provide the same luxury without the compromise of canvas walls. Because if you're not prepared for at least some of the discomfort of camping, you're better off just renting a cabin.