I was lucky enough to spend last weekend in Paris for a wedding, with perfect weather, fantastic company and a radiant couple who we cruised down the Seine with.
So why is there a picture of an anatomical man complete with a fig leaf? He wasn’t part of the wedding party, but part of the wedding party visited the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle (Natural History Museum).
The museum is a strange and impressive place. First of all, it’s split between several buildings, and you can buy a reduced ticket for a single building. The grounds are large, with the outdoor botanical section spanning a good ten minute walk from one end of the park to the other.
Another corner of the gardens hosts the second oldest zoo in the world, so families could easily spend a weekend both indoors and outdoors here.
So, back to strange and impressive museum. In one building, there are stuffed animals galore. Back when the museum was established, this must have been a taxidermist’s delight. My vegetarian stomach was feeling a bit off by the time I made it to the first floor, with more elephants than I thought possible.
The building itself is impressive, albeit a little on the dark side for taking photos. No problems: I felt a little guilty for taking a photo of the panda that looked like it was dancing anyway.
Meanwhile, the other building holds dinosaur bones and other skeletons. Pictured is a molar of one of the many giant pre-historic animals with a finger showing just how massive that tooth is. Our own molars are about 1cm wide. Imagine how many would fit into this pre-historic tooth.
The great thing about this museum is how close to everything you can get.
This building is also spectacular, and worth a visit for the ornate details such as the staircase banister flowers and glass ceiling alone.
For those brave enough to enter the rooms of skeletons, several surprises await. First up is the anatomical man with his fig leaf. I guess at the time he was made, modesty was still popular in France. In a country where naked breasts now bounce on TV ads at 10am, this is quite a turnaround.
Australians will enjoy seeing the skeletons of a giant wombat (more like a horse) and a giant crocodile, and everyone seemed struck by the size of the mammoth.
Most kids would no doubt love seeing dinosaur skeletons, but beware that the lower floor is a little more sinister, with skeletons of current-day animals populating the room and some majorly gory objects in the back of the room.
Never-born Siamese twins, hearts and brains are just some of the objects on display in jars of all sizes. I guess along with the taxidermists, some other gory professions were kept in good business during the museum’s hey day. Thankfully, the gardens are calm, pretty and vast enough to shake off the images of the morbid corner of the museum. After a few hours of hanging out with dead animals, you’ll appreciate the living world outside so much more!