We all know the stereotype about Parisians being rude. In the years I’ve spent living in Paris, I’ve certainly had some unpleasant experiences. Like anywhere else, sometimes I’ll encounter a sassy waiter or a particularly cold shop-keeper. But I’ve also experienced some true kindness from strangers in Paris, from the lady who took me to her home and patched me up after I was injured in the street, to the man who gave me a tissue and a pat on the shoulder when he saw me unceremoniously crying in front of a supermarket.
Perhaps this has something to do with speaking French, or not walking around with a map, but my experiences with museum staff in Paris have almost always been pleasant. (Almost always due to a certain museum which shall remain unnamed… *Louvre*.) Despite this, I was taken aback by how wonderfully nice everybody was when I recently visited the elegant, tucked-away Musée Nissim de Camondo.
Stepping into the pebbled courtyard of the Camondo mansion, I was immediately struck by how peaceful and pleasant the spot was. As I approached the front door, a security guard opened it for me. When I thanked him, he said with a smile “c’est notre plaisir de vous accueillir, mademoiselle” (“it’s our pleasure to welcome you, miss”). At the ticket desk, the staff seemed positively thrilled to be able to let me in for free when they realised I was a student. As I wandered into the museum’s interior, one of the attendants even told me her favourite order in which to enjoy the different rooms.
The Nissim de Camondo is a house museum dedicated to 18th century decorative arts. The collection and residence belonged to the count Moïse de Camondo, who bequeathed both to the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in honour of his late son, Nissim, killed at the age of 25 in the First World War.
The collection itself is an opulent and luxurious array of 18th century French furniture, home wares and artworks. Each room is filled with gilt portraits, intricate clocks and other trinkets, and furniture worthy of Versailles. The mansion is huge and rambling, with a garden backing on to the charming Parc Monceau. It’s a lovely little place, tucked far away from any unlovely stereotypes.