The best bet for getting not only the knowledge but the feeling of the Paris lived in my Thomas Jefferson is to spend at least a few hours in the magnificent Musée Carnavelet. It is located right in the center of the Marais quarter in the center of Paris, on the right bank. Sooner or later, every tourist spends time in the Marais to see the Picasso Museum, the Place des Vosges, the home of Victor Hugo, the Pompidou Museum, etc., etc. Don't ignore the Carnavalet. And here's why. First of all, the museum is housed in two grand mansions that have survived from the 17th and 18th centuries. The Wikipedia (open use) has a good introductory description of the museum:
The vast Carnavalet Museum, devoted to the history of Paris, occupies two adjoining mansions (the Hôtel Le Peletier de St-Fargeau and the Hôtel Carnavalet). They include entire decorated rooms with panelling, furniture and many works of art.
The main building, The Hôtel Carnavalet, was built as a town house in 1548 by Nicolas Dupuis. The Hôtel Carnavalet is a Renaissance jewel that in the mid-1600s became the home of writer Madame de Sévigné. The 17th century Hôtel le Peletier was added to the museum in 1989 to contain the larger part of the museum's 20th century interiors.
Some particularly interesting exhibits are:
Madame de Sévigné's Gallery;
The 20th century, Ballroom of the Hôtel de Wendel;
The Charles Le Brun Ceiling;
The Hotel d'Uzès Reception Room;
An ancient recipe for frog-leg soup, and;
Robespierre's final Letter
There are several reasons why the Carnavalet is one of the most appropriate stops on a tour retracing the steps of Jefferson in Paris: 1. There are many, many original oil paintings from the 18th century which authentically show 18th century Paris life in the salons, on the streets, on the Seine and in cafes. Looking at these detailed and lively paintings are to me like looking at the Paris of his time through Jefferson's two eyes. 2. There are several salons and other 18th century rooms, as mentioned above, that are not reproductions but the real thing removed to this museum. Of course, the Carnavalet is not the only museum that offers such experiences (and I shall mention others elswhere in this website), but it is a wonderful place to start because the viewer is surrounded by so many artifacts of the time. 3. There are clothes, clocks, dinnerware, portraits and statues in the museum that allows the viewer to immerse herself into the time period. 4. The two mansions, themselves, which make up the Carnavalet Museum give one a sense of being housed in the manner of the 18th century.
It is important to walk the staircases, halls and corridors of this museum and allow the feeling of the past to permeate one's being. Slowly, the 21st century tourist can, through imagination, began to actually experience what Jefferson must have felt during his stay in this complex and colorful city.