La Grande Arche de la Défense
On the edge of the Parc de Saint-Cloud is the Musée National de la Céramique at Sèvres. The museum offers a total overview of the evolution of the ceramic industry from the earliest faience to 19th century porcelain and the collection features many beautiful examples. The Grande Arche de La Défense which is directly in line with the Champs-Elysées, mirrors the Arc de Triomphe, although in a totally different modernistic sense. The vast 100 metre high hollow cube of glass and white marble benefits from an exceptional view over Paris . With around sixty sculptures, it is, in effect, an open-air museum. Unique lifts carry you to the top of the arch, affording panoramic views over the capital and with galleries and a shop, restaurant and brasserie as well as a bar. At Asnieres the incredible ‘pet cemetery’ has, amongst its many occupants, such famous stars of the animal world as Rin Tin Tin, a Saint Bernard which saved 40 people and the pets of Saint-Saens, princes and dukes amongst other famous people.
The Espace Albert Kahn at Boulogne-Billancourt is a museum presenting a kaleidoscope of photo and film journalism that this eminent banker commissioned during his lifetime. An active member of the intelligentsia of his day he entertained many of the big names in politics, the arts and literature and was a friend of Henri Bergson and Auguste Rodin. Here, too, the Renault Museum chronicles the evolution of the vehicle originally designed by Louis and Marcel Renault. At Meudon you can take the Pavé de Meudon, created by the son of Louis XIV, the Grand Dauphin, which connected Versailles to Meudon. The Chateau which once stood at Meudon was built by Louis XIV for his son by Mansart. Along the way you can visit the famous astronomy observatory, the Observatoire de Meudon and the Musée Auguste Rodin Villa des Brillants and see Rodin’s clay and plaster sculptures and in front, his tomb and that of his wife, surmounted by ‘the Thinker’. At Issy Les Moulineaux the Musée francais de la carte à jouer won the 1999 European Prize for Museums and chronicles the history of the development of playing cards from the 15th century to the present day.
At the end of the Vallé-aux-Loups at Châtenay-Malabry you can visit the house where Chateaubriand lived for ten years and where he produced a number of his best known works. The present owner has restored the property and it houses a collection of documents on the great author as well as some lovely period furniture. Once the property of Colbert, finance superintendant of Louis XIV, the Château de Sceaux with its park was created by Claude Perrault, Le Brun and Le Notre. Destroyed and rebuilt in the 19th century, the Château houses the Ile-de-France museum, a mine of information on the region covering property, ceramics, the residences of yesteryear, many of which are no longer to be seen, and the landscape of the region from the 17th century to the present day. Nearby is a vast reservoir, now a fishing lake with water fountains and a childrens’ play area, created on the order of Colbert to meet the needs of the ornamental ponds at the Château.
Château de Malmaison
The Château de Malmaison and the Château de la petite Malmaison by the banks of the Seine, where the impressionists painted, was the love-nest of Napoleon and Josephine. The latter, dating from 1805, is a charming property surrounded by mature trees. Here you can visit the Musée de l’Histoire de Malmaison. The Parc de Saint-Cloud is the site of the Chateau, which Napoleon took over in 1799 and made his official residence but which was subsequently burnt down in 1870. The splendid 460 hectare park designed by Le Notre remains, most of it covered with forest, but the impressive 90 metre high Grande Cascade should be seen. Entrance to the park is free.