Tuesday, April 10, 2012


It has been raining for much of the time we've been here – a lazy, benign rain that we can't seem to take too seriously, in spite of the spectacularly crappy umbrellas we bought yesterday near the Hotel de Ville. Somehow Paris just seems right this way in April, and somehow the drizzle hasn't stopped us from walking everywhere, with perpetually soggy cuffs. Today after the 6-year-old and I made our morning pastry run we all headed east, with the intention of spending some time at the Musée D'Orsay. But on the way there we made a stop at Deyrolle on Rue du Bac and fell into a rabbit hole that spirited us away for much of the day and derailed our museum plans (OK, I admit the lost time also had something to do with shopping).

I'd wager that there's no shop quite like this "cabinet de curiosités" anywhere on earth, and it may rank up there with my kids' top Paris memories so far. Part natural history museum, part nature lovers' boutique, part gardening shop, much of Deyrolle's charm is in its whimsical styling. There's always a fetching arrangement in the front window, and inside, beasts of all sorts (preserved ones, of course) lounge together in the rooms of the old building. In display cases insects of impossible colors are arranged like precious jewelry. The store has been around since 1831 but nearly burned down in 2008; the photos from the fire's aftermath are almost too heartbreaking to look at, but the boutique has been restored to its current glory.

The children – and adults, I might add – pored over all these treasures for the better part of an hour. There's also a good little book section with prints and natural guides. I couldn't resist picking up a copy of Lecons de Choses, pictured at left. At first it just seems to be a bound set of gorgeous French botanical plates, but then there's an odd little section near the back entitled "La vie domestique" (the domestic life). In it you'll find illustrations of the perils that await you under your own roof (for example: "curiosity is always punished" shows a child overturning scalding liquid from a stove onto himself). Look further and you'll find a good-sized section on the horrors of alcoholism. 

Deyrolle enchanted us on this rainy day and the book kept the kids entertained later, as we waited for lunch at Café Varenne.
Apparently there was once a temperance movement in France…

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