Last but not least--September top four

Nov 10th, 2018, 11:57 AM
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Last but not least--September top four

The Museum of Mechanical Musical Instruments is way off the beaten path, in Dollon in the Sarthe, but I loved it so much in the spring that we returned for a second visit. Itís only open Sunday afternoons from 2:30-6, March through November.

We arrived at the Musee des Musique Mecanique as it opened. You enter through the bar, where you can buy something to drink at the zinc counter. We were greeted by the new proprietor, an energetic young woman who apparently is an acrobat if I understood correctly (saltimbanque). She told us it was a coup de coeur when she first saw the museum. She had to learn how each machine worked and how to maintain and repair them all.

At first we were the only visitors and she spoke to us in English as best she could. She wrote dates on a small slate, easier for both sides than trying to say dates in English. Even when other visitors arrived and she switched to French, she kept using the slate so we could understand the dates.

Our hostess demonstrated player pianos, one with metal pins and one with punches. When you hear a pianola belting out "Yessir, thatís my baby!" you can't help dancing.

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Nov 10th, 2018, 12:13 PM
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She advised us to stand back before she turned on the big fairground music machine. It really did blast out its familiar tune. This machine is a work of art. The three large figures move.

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Nov 10th, 2018, 12:17 PM
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The museum is full of about 200 wonderful things, all in playable condition, from the late 1700s to the 1960s. There are Victrolas, music boxes, a pianola or two, a Barbary organ, some cuckoo clocks. There’s an imposing Belgian dance organ from the 1960s that looks like a bandstand. It probably livened up some bar at night with its animated instruments.

Something that at first glance looks like a baby buggy is actually I believe called a crank organ. It operates like a player piano, except with folded cardboard instead of paper rolls, and plays well-known (to the French) songs.

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Nov 10th, 2018, 03:12 PM
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This is a Scopitone machine that plays 16mm films with various French pop stars singing their hits, like an early music video before video was invented. When it played "Aux Champs Elysees" we all sang along with Joe Dassin.

We heard a self-playing accordion. A Swiss music box made a very sweet delicate sound. There’s a painted wooden chair that makes music when a child sits on it. Some of these pieces are works of visual art. There are glass-fronted cabinets full of smaller music boxes or musical surprises, including a musical toothbrush to encourage kids to brush.
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Nov 10th, 2018, 03:14 PM
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We saw a short Laurel and Hardy film where they deliver a piano. What could go wrong? I laughed harder than anybody else. Either the French don’t find it funny or I am a sucker for slapstick.

I don’t think I’ve conveyed how much charm this museum has. I truly love it and if I lived within 75 miles of the place I’d go there once a month. I think it cost 5 euros each.
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Nov 10th, 2018, 08:36 PM
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Well, you've certainly succeeded in making me want to visit some day.
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Nov 11th, 2018, 02:23 AM
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kerouac, when you do a trip report I generally add the place to our list, so I'm glad I could return the favor in a small way. In September we went to Guedelon and Briare because of your visits there. I know we'll never get to most of the places you've written about in France, let alone other parts of the world you've been to.

I appreciate your take on things, and not just on travel.
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