The large trains sitting out in front of Institut du Monde Arabe caught my attention weeks ago so one rainy afternoon I invited the ladies to join me and explore this interesting exhibit. Michelle, Michelle and I traveled back in time to the era of long coat tails, strings of pearls, lacy gloves and train transport to the new world.
“Il était une fois l’Orient Express” reveals the history, the splendor and the myth of the Orient Express, a long distance passenger train operated by Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits from 1881.
The exhibit started in a series of three original passenger trains decorated as it would have been back then. On display are some fantastic artifacts and short stories about the people who rode the train as well as how it was immortalized through books and film. I jumped a little when I peered into one of the cabins with a dummy under a blood-spattered white sheet… think Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express.” The exhibit does a great job of creating realistic and intriguing scenes.
My only complaint is that the tour through the trains was guided. Bonus points for trying to understand everything in French but unfortunately the guide moved so quickly it didn’t leave enough time to really read all the facts and explore it all thoroughly.
I would have loved to ridden the train back then with all the luxurious Lalique decorative class, varnished wooden tables, plush seats and fine china. A far cry from how we travel today. It amazes me that over 100 years ago they were able to build a railway that crossed from Western Europe to as far as Istanbul and beyond, through mountains and rough terrain. I loved getting lost in another world of luxury and travel.
The last car was a dining car which people can reserve for set menu dinner by Michelin star chef – can’t seem to find the information for it but it came with a hefty price tag. All we could do was peak in while balked at the price and salivating at the exotic menu.
Inside the Institut the exhibit continued with more information about the history, furnishings and my favourite, the old-time advertisements and some of the first travel guides.
Since we were already there, we decided to check out the permanent exhibit at the Institut du Monde Arabe. It was interesting but sparse, not a lot of artifacts. After 3 hours of meandering around we were pretty museum-ed out. Amy join us and we took the elevator to the top floor to take in a magnificent view over Paris. It’s worth the trip and free to go up. The building itself is beautiful to see, modern and enveloped in intricately cut metal to be made to look like fine lace. We would have loved to enjoy some coffee or tea in their restaurant but at over 6 euros for a cup of tea, we decided to just go down the street to the Sugar Plum Cake Shop which was also super fantastic.
The Exhibit is on until August 31 so there is still some time to come on board.
Times: Tuesdays to Thursdays 9h30 to 19h, Sundays and holidays 9h30 to 20h
Cost: 8.50 € to 10.50 €
Reservations can be made online