Weather you like museums or not, I believe you will enjoy this one.
Musée des Arts Forains (fairground art museum) is a private museum located in an old wine warehouse, Les Pavillons de Bercy. It all started when Jean Paul Favand, an actor and antique dealer, began collecting objects from fairgrounds and the entertainment world. For 40 years now, Jean Paul has been gathering and restoring his curiosities. All those objects boast undeniable aesthetic and cultural qualities, with the luxurious carvings and woodwork. The museum is only open upon reservation at some specific time of the week, beside being a museum, the venue can also be rent for special events.
Have you seen the Woody Allen movie Midnight in Paris? You might remember there was a special scene with the bike carousel. The scene was shot in this museum. I will take you for a ride in the bike carousel too. Let's go.
There're three parts in the huge pavilion: The Theater of Marvels, The Venetian Rooms and The fairground art museum, all of which filled with a huge private collection of carnival attractions from yesteryear - rides, midway games, animatronics... Each room is cleverly lighted and theatrically displayed. The buildings are connected by a cobbled street planted with century old chestnut trees. They were meant to keep the wine cold as these building were parts of a former wine market which covered the entire neighborhood of Bercy. Many interesting decorations can be found here between the trees.
That rabbit from Alice in wonderland. I can already feel it's a curious place just by wandering in the garden, before getting into any of the salons.
The first part I visit was The Theater of Marvels. Here natural and man-made curiosities take us on a journey into imagination. When getting into the pavilion, everyone was "WOW!". I felt as entering a dreamland full of wonders, the atmosphere was really special. It contains a cabinet of curiosities and a huge ballroom.
This flying elephant is an object created by Jean Paul Favand himself. It reminds me of the movie Around the World in 80 Days. It's composed of a 19th century carousel top carrying a merry-go-round elephant with on its back a 1800's boîte à rêver.
In this cabinet of curiosities, there's Esmeralda patroness dancing in the middle of the room, a tree capable of growing legs, a pig-shaped carousel and lots of curios.
The ballroom of The Theater of Marvels is surrounded by a unicorn and waxwork silhouette. It has an Art Deco box with a Mortier Organ from 1932 that can mimic 12 musicians. Are you ready to dance?
I enjoyed playing The Palio di Sienna game based on a folkloric horse race taking place twice per year in Sienna, Italy. The rule is of course trying to get to the first place, but never the second place. Because in Sienna's tradition, if you got the second place, it's your turn to buy drinks for the whole village. I was lucky because I got the fifth place, instead of second place. LOL.
The Venetian rooms are homage to Venice and its carnival, through a historic decor. One part of the room is a super cool imaginary merry-go-round highlighting the traditional Venetian Gondolas and a bridge over the symbolic Venetian Grand Canal. The other room is a Venetian Opera. This was also my favorite part of the whole visit. I got a chance to hear part of the opera, surrounded by Colombine, Arlequin and even Casanova. It was a fun way for me to learn and discover this old Venetian tradition.
The last part of the visit was The Fairground museum. During the 19th century, the fair became popular in France, England, Germany and Belgium. It was a place to discover new inventions and to dream. The museum is inspired by the amazing decorations and objects from La Belle Epoque (between 1880's and 1920's). For someone growing up in Asia such as me, it was a wonderful way to feel European culture from its best ages.
This barrel organ was made in Belgium. It was like a Mp3 player from the Belle-Epoque. The music it plays is super loud and can be heard from miles away. It was used to attract and delight fun fair visitors.
I spotted many magical objects here and tried a few rides on the merry-go-round.
Have you ever seen a bicycle carousel? Maybe in Midnight in Paris? Woody Allen came here to film a party scene. Actually when pedal system was invented in 1860s, there were more bicycles on carousels than in the streets. This bicycle can go up to 40mph, much faster than a normal horse carousel. I had great fun riding the bicycle carousel.
I spent more than 2.5 hours in this super magical place and only wished it could be even longer. I highly recommend for an off the beaten path experience, especially if you are into old school carnival contraptions!
Thanks for reading!