Touring the Museum of Montmartre and Renoir Gardens in Paris
A few weeks ago we decided to take a stroll through Montmartre and stumbled upon the Museum of Montmartre and the Renoir Gardens (Musée de Montmartre et Jardins Renoir). Persuaded by the wine tasting on offer after touring the museum, we decided to check it out.
It turns out that as its website advertises, it truly is one of the most charming museums in Paris. It was built in the seventeenth century as the Bel Air House and is currently the oldest standing building in Montmartre. During its heyday, it served as a residence and meeting place for many artists including Auguste Renoir, Suzanne Valadon and Émile Bernard, who held their studios here among others.
The museum's permanent collection is composed of paintings, posters and drawings signed by the likes of Toulouse-Lautrec, Modigliani, Kupka, Steinlen, Valadon, and Utrillo. Together, the artworks recount the history of Montmartre, including the artists' studios and the infamous animated cabarets of the Lapin Agile and the Moulin Rouge. My favourite was an entire room dedicated to the French Cancan. Another features rare zinc plates of dreamlike scenes from the famous shadow theatre Le Chat Noir, the first modern cabaret founded in 1881.
Three gorgeous gardens dedicated to Auguste Renoir surround the Museum. They are named in memory of the impressionist painter who lived on-site between 1875 and 1877, where he painted several masterpieces including the famous le Bal du Moulin de la Galette (“The Moulin de la Galette Ball”), La Balancoire (“The Swing”), and Jardin de la rue Cortot (“Rue Cortot Garden”). The Renoir Gardens offer breathtaking views of the Montmartre vineyard, the Clos Montmartre, and northern cityscape of Paris.
The wine tasting in the gardens made for an awesome finish. We learned a little about some French wine regions, as well as got the opportunity to do a little people watching. It also provided some unexpected entertainment. At one point during the tasting, when the sommelier was explaining the technical differences between Sauternes and other sweet wines, a non-French speaking lady elbowed her way into the front of the group, took the bottle from him and proceed to pour herself a large glass of Sauternes. The sommelier had to literally fight her off the bottle and attempt to explain to her that this was not a self-serve buffet. After the situation was clarified the lady continued to shadow him for the entire duration of the tasting as if expecting him to change his mind on the manner. Needless to say she left disappointed perhaps in search of another bottle.
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