Many apologies for my extended absence. Blogging hereby commences once more!
My trip to London and Paris was simply glorious. While I did not get to everything on the list I made on the 5th, I had some additional very happy discoveries. Here are some Phantasmaphilic highlights:
Freud Museum: London. This is the house where Freud lived for the last year of his life, having fled from a Nazi-invaded Austria. My favorite part was seeing the amazing room where he received his patients, which was stuffed to the brim with ancient objects and artifacts from Egypt and the Far East. Gods, goddesses, animals, pottery, and hundreds of old books are to be found here. (For those who are curious, a few books about Freud's art collection have been written: The Sphinx on the Table: Sigmund Freud's Art Collection and the Development of Psychoanalysis and Sigmund Freud and Art: His Personal Collection of Antiquities come to mind.)
The Hunterian Museum: London. One of the most spectacular spaces I've ever visited. This is a collection of anatomical specimens which were originally studied to prepare for surgery, and to compare the physiology of various species. Thousands of jars of body parts from hundreds of animals are lined up in two stories worth of beautifully lit glass cases. There are also old medical objects and a revolving art exhibit.
The Tate Modern: London. I've been to this museum several times, but it merits a mention due to its innovation, architecture, and eclectic modern art collection. Sadly, I just missed the Gilbert and George show by a few days.
Catacombes: Paris. The astounding tunnels where there still are skulls and bones piled up for visitors to gaze upon.
Deyrolle: Paris. Stunning bi-level shop with a breathtaking collection of taxidermy and natural wonders.
Galerie Kugel: Paris. We got a private tour of this mansion, which houses priceless antiques and art to be sold to those who can afford it. While they took one look at my velcro shoes and must have known I was far from a potential buyer, they graciously led us through each room and patiently waited as I ogled marvel after marvel.
Claude Nature: Paris. Unfortunately, this shop was closed when we went to visit it, but I wanted to mention it anyway as, from the outside, it looked to be a charming and elegant place to purchase natural specimens. Kind of like a mini Deyrolle.
Lastly, I must mention one of the most surprising and delightful parts of my trip. We were walking one afternoon in the Latin Quarter, when we spied a window on rue Saint Jacques. It had sea shells, taxidermy, and what looked to be a unicorn horn beautifully arranged in a studied clutter, with the words www.cabinetdecuriosites.com painted above it. However, there was no shop to be seen! It was just this mysterious, wonderful lone window. We decided to do some detective work, and entered the building behind it. The first door we came upon was a dentist's office, and we went in to see if they knew anything about the window. It turns out the window is maintained by none other than the dentist himself! Dr. Phillippe Dorr came out shortly thereafter to speak with us about his cabinets of curiosity passion, and asked us to make an appointment to come back and speak further, as he had a patient waiting for him to continue his dental work. We gladly came back two days later, and Dr. Dorr generously shared with us his collection of books, as well as bringing us on a tour of his collection of specimens he had in a separate room, right there in his office. He had cases filled with, among other things, shells, simian skulls, animal teeth, and a stuffed sloth. He explained that this was just a fraction of the collection he has in his house, and that he hopes to make his collection public some day. (He also maintains the above web site, though he says it is a work in progress). The entire experience was extremely surreal, strange, and fabulous. Thank you, Dr. Dorr!