There is an incredible world hidden behind a tall fence in a small unassuming passage in East Paris. One second you’re walking along a small, quiet road, surrounded by business offices and chain shops, and then next moment, you feel as if you’ve stepped into another time and place entirely…
This is the Musée des Arts Forains, otherwise known at the Fairground Arts Museum, or as I like to call it, the Paris Carnival Museum. This beautiful treasure is far more than just a collection of old carnival rides and games, it really is like entering into another world, full of magic and surprises. It’s one part Alice in Wonderland, one part Cirque de Soleil, one part Water for Elephants, and one part Moulin Rouge. There’s every color in the rainbow spread across velvet curtains, blinking midway signs, extravagant sets, and fanciful performers.
Although the museum is available year round for group reservations, for two weeks each year the museum turns into a true-life carnival. The rides are turned on, the games are staffed with carnival barkers and prizes, food stalls set up in the courtyard to sell popcorn and cotton candy, and performers such as jugglers, mimes, acrobats, and musicians display their talents throughout the day. They also have a handful of theaters with special light shows. During this special time, the schedule is packed with nonstop fun for people of all ages, kids and adults alike. The entrance fee (12€ for adults, 5€ for children under 12) includes one attraction ticket, although additional tickets can be purchased for only a few dollars more. My favorite attraction was the human-powered carousel, which is fitted with bikes and carriages. The bikes are manned by adults, who power the turning of the carousel (which goes VERY fast!), while children or those less inclined to pedal ride in the attached carriages. There is also a traditional carousel for younger kids, as well as a slow spinning merry go round, swinging boats. And it wouldn’t be a carnival without some midway games, including an old fashioned waiter-race skee-ball game!
The performers were fabulous, fun for both kids and adults, and since most of them don’t speak a word, there’s no language barrier to worry about for tourists. I loved the traditional clown, who came out periodically to mime, juggle, spin plates, and do other fun tricks that involved audience members. The aerial silk and acrobatic performers were also fabulous, and the accordion player in the courtyard really added to the atmosphere of an old-timey circus.
The outdoor courtyard is lined with food stalls which pump mouth-watering aromas into the air. The onion soup and mulled wine roasting over open flames were incredibly fragrant and perfect for a cold winter day. There was also an oversized human marionette dancing along with the band that seemed to have the kids enraptured as they danced, sang, and ran along beside it.
Here’s where it gets really amazing – this super cool place is available for rent! Can you imagine having your wedding reception around a spinning carousel, or under a canopy of chandeliers and colored lights, or in te middle ring of a three ring circus? Just think about treating your closest friends and family to a ceremony in front of the Eiffel Tower, or on a terrace overlooking the Seine, then having a party all night long here? I can’t imagine a more unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience. They have several room options, each with different accompanying attractions, as well as a couple of outdoor spaces.
The special celebration at the Musee des Arts Forains is going on from December 26 through January 5, open every day until 6 PM. I recommend going very early or late to avoid the crowds. I saved my attraction tickets until around 5:30 PM and was able to get on most of the rides without a wait. I suggest skipping the long line for the Expo Virtualia, which is really just a very tiny, overcrowded room with a couple of art pieces, and instead opting for the laser light show in the Salons Vénitiens. If you won’t be in Paris during that time, you can schedule your own reservation and guided tour, though the rides and games and other attractions may not be available. And if you’re planning a trip to Paris for the upcoming year, consider Christmas or New Years – this museum is worth adding to the bucket list!
As some of you know, in addition to my romantic portraits in Paris, I also offer beauty & boudoir sessions through my sister company, Blushd Studio. Taking portraits of women and making them feel beautiful is a huge passion in my life, especially when it involves playing dress up and getting all gussied up. And what could be more gussied up than 200 yards of cotton candy pink tulle wrapped around your waist! Two of my most talked-about options are the handmade oversized tulle skirts that I offer to my clients, and I’m excited to say that these skirts – available in light pink and black – are now available for portrait sessions in Paris!
Ladies, if you’re looking for something to glam up your romantic portrait session with your significant other, or if you just want to do something special on your own and take stunning portraits of yourself dancing through the streets of Paris and twirling beneath the Eiffel Tower, this is a perfect option. These dresses are whimsical, romantic, and just plain fun to wear, and they save you the stress of having to choose an outfit (and lug it across the ocean).
The best part is that both skirts are adjustable and fit women of most sizes, so whether you’re a Skinnie Minnie or of the more voluptuous variety, you can make use of these beautiful pieces. You’ll need to provide your own top (I recommend something fitted that shows a bit of skin, such as a corset or sheer lace shirt) and some pink, black, or flesh colored shorts to wear underneath, as well as any accessories you’d like (high heels, cowboy boots, fascinators, balloons, vintage suitcases, and husbands are all popular choices). I also recommend opting for professional hair and makeup, because if you’re going to run around the streets of the world’s most fashionable city dressed like a glamorous supermodel, you might as well look the part too, right?
For more information or to schedule your very own tulle skirt fantasy session, contact us!
The first few times I visited Versailles, I was so overwhelmed by the chateau itself and the endless gardens that I really only scratched the surface of what Versailles had to offer. You can easily spend a full day on the grounds alone and still not see everything Versailles has to offer. I recently visited with a friend who was a huge fan of Marie Antoinette, and she insisted that we visit the Petit Trianon and the grounds of the late queen’s hamlet, where she and her daughter famously played at being poor dairy farmers.
The grounds are littered with quaint little structures resembling the type you might see in any tiny French town – a chapel, a mill, a dairy, a chicken coop, a water wheel, etc. The grounds themselves are also beautifully maintained, and each structure has its own garden filled with flowers as well as fruit and vegetable plants. The grounds include a large working farm, which initially produced the fruits, vegetables, and dairy that were consumed by Louis and Marie themselves at the royal dinner table. The farm is still in use today, and the resulting produce and dairy is sold at the local markets.
The only sign that this miniature city once belonged to a queen is on the inside (which, unfortunately, is only visible by peeking in the windows), where you can spot Italian marble floors, intricate mouldings, and gold hardware fixtures. A few scenes in Sophia Coppola’s movie Marie Antoinette were filmed on location here, and they do a great job of giving you a glimpse into how peaceful and relaxing this little getaway was for the Queen. The hamlet was a perfect place for her to enjoy a more simple life while still retaining all of her royal luxuries and protections.
I could spend an entire day just strolling through the grounds of the hamlet, smelling all the fresh flowers, sitting in the shade under the trees, feeding bits of baguette to the fish in the pond, sneaking apples and oranges from the trees, and generally relishing in the relaxing atmosphere. Particularly during the summer, it is an idyllic setting for a picnic or long country stroll.
You can access the Hameau de la Reine through the Petit Trianon, which is accessible by bicycle, golf cart, mini-train, or on foot if you really really enjoy long walks (I recommend the golf cart, which you can rent from the green shack just inside the main garden entrance at the chateau). Unfortunately no bikes or carts are allowed inside the hamlet, so be prepared for quite a bit of walking and plan to spend at least a few hours on the grounds. If you’re traveling with small children, the farm has lots of great activities for kids as well. I highly recommend visiting the hamlet if you are spending a day at Versailles – it’s my new favorite spot! For more info, visit the Versailles website.
I recently stumbled upon this blog post on Paris Through My Lens where she shared a funny story about seeing a sign at a cafe that advertised “a coffee” for 2 Euro and “a coffee, please” for 1.80 Euro. That is SO very French, and I would even venture to say that adding a “Bonjour” would probably lower the price even further!
Bonjour, au revoir, merci, and s’il vous plait are four very very important terms for anyone coming to France. The French are very well-mannered people, and they find it quite rude and insulting for someone to initiate a conversation without saying “Bonjour” first, and to ask for something without adding “s’il vous plait” at the end. I have seen otherwise warm, kind, and helpful shop owners turn cold and unaccommodating when unknowing Americans walk into their shop and just start grabbing at things without the requisite “Bonjour” first. And I must admit I have indeed seen shop owners charge different prices for the same item based on the politeness and etiquette of the customer.
For many French people, their restaurant or shop is considered an extension of their home, and it should be treated with the same respect. You wouldn’t walk into someone’s home without saying “Hello” first, so you have to use the same courtesy when entering someone’s business establishment. Here are some good terms to commit to memory:
Bonjour – “bohn-zhure” – Hello (daytime)
Bonsoir – “bohn-swah” – Hello (late afternoon or nighttime)
Au revior – “ah-vwah” – Goodbye
S’il vous plaît – “see voo play” – Please
Merci – “mehr see” – Thank you
If you’re like me and your French mysteriously disappears when confronted with a French stranger, remember that it is better to say “Hello/goodbye/please/thank you” in English than to not say anything at all. Most French do understand at least that much English, and they will appreciate the manners regardless of the language. You may find that this small token of respect will result in better service, better prices, and a better trip!