I have a thing about forests. Whenever I’m told to imagine my happy place, a place I can retreat to in my mind, to relax and be peaceful, I imagine a forest. Not a dusky Australian bush scene of eucalyptus and brown rivers like the one I grew up near (though I do love those, too). A lush, deep green forest. A European forest.
If I had to choose between nature and civilisation, I would still choose civilisation. I’m a city person and, as my job and my blog show, I live for culture; films, books, history, museums. But I also live for forests.
So any Paris museum that combines the things I live for has a special place in my heart. Such is the case for the Musée Albert-Kahn, in the inner-West suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt. Just beyond the city borders, at the end of the line 10 metro, the Kahn features a wide range of historic photos and film gathered by its eponymous founder. An Alsatian banker and philanthropist, Kahn was fascinated by the variety of the natural world and in the early 20th century, travelled the globe collecting what he called his Archives de la planète.
The museum holds these archives, which are worth the visit in themselves. But the Albert-Kahn’s true treasures are its ten acres of wildly diverse gardens. There are pristine contemporary Japanese gardens (replete with a tea house), prim English lawns, a lofty glasshouse and pretty French flowerbeds.
But better than all that, there’s a mini forest. Just outside of Paris, in the grounds of a museum. My happy place.