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But there’s more to see than ancient currency. In its hallowed halls, particularly the gorgeous Salon Guillaume Dupré, have been held a number of modern art exhibitions, where plastic trees and metal skull sculptures sit incongruously against painted cupolas and carved balustrades. Some of the exhibits are: American artist Kiki Smith, Thomas Schütte, controversial Paul McCarthy (you really have to see the photograph of his ‘trees’), and a collection of works from the Centre Pompidou in Paris. I didn’t think that a museum about money would be terribly interesting (unless they were giving some away), but I was wrong! Visit: Monnaie de Paris Mobilier National, Manufacture des Gobelins, de Beauvais, de la Savonnerie As you sit on your couch and click through the Google Arts and Culture website, do you find yourself looking around your living room and dreaming of a makeover? Does it need a Louis XIV chaise longue, a dining table for 20, a few medieval tapestries for the floor? If so, the Mobilier National is the place to go. They have been creating and conserving the treasures of France for five centuries. However, unless you live in the Élysée Palace, these valuable pieces aren’t for you. But the website itself is a treasure chest: open the lid and delve into the wonders of silken fabrics, golden tapestries and exquisite lace. Formerly based in the Grande Gallery of the Louvre under Louis XIV and now housed in the historic Gobelins tapestry factory, the Mobilier National is responsible for furnishing palaces, presidential residences and embassies. They also for maintain, create and distribute a unique worldwide collection of over 130,000 pieces of furniture and textiles.
And how are these pieces designed and made? Through three important and influential factories: Les Gobelins, Beauvais and La Savonnerie. Walking through the exhibits is akin to being in Versailles, in the Louvre, in the bedroom of a queen. Marvel at the intricacies of Renaissance tapestries and fabrics and learn how they were fabricated. It’s easy to lose yourself for a few hours learning all about dyeing fabrics, lace-making and wood carving. And if you don’t know what a nuancier is, this is your chance to find out. Visit: Mobilier National Opéra National de Paris Imagine this. You’re standing on the stage of the Palais Garnier. Before you an adoring crowd is on their feet, clapping wildly at your moving and tragic performance of Swan Lake. Bravo! Bravo! They cry. Now if it was a nightmare you’d look down and see that you’re naked, but on this virtual tour you are free to dream of yourself in a tutu. This opulent building was finished in the late nineteenth century and was the official home of Paris Opera and Paris Ballet until 1989. Now it's mostly used for ballet performances. Once you have finished with your standing ovation on the stage, there is much to see. If ever there was a room filled with gold, it is the Grand Foyer. Cast your eyes upwards and follow the history of music and of Paris ornamented with colourful frescoes awash with gold leaf. Apollo receives a lyre from Mercury. Calliope, Clio and their sisters, the nine Greek muses, cast a loving eye from lofty heights. The siege of Paris is enacted in historical glory. Access to this glorious golden chamber is via the Grand Staircase, on whose marble pedestals sit entwined Greek goddesses holding candles to light the way.
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Above: Jean-Francois and Aurelie, t