The Lou Messugo Blog - life in the south of France from a British/Australian TCK's perspective, bringing you French culture, travel on the Côte d'Azur and beyond, expat issues and a little bit of je ne sais quoi all mixed up with a hefty dose of photography.

Seashells on the French Riviera

Today I'm taking you to a funny little museum all about shells, le Musée des Coquillages, in St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, near Nice.  Last week's Museum Monday post toured the Picasso Museum in Antibes: the subject a world-famous artist, the setting a striking castle.  This time it's a personal collection of shells in a tiny little space on the port in St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat: from the sublime to the ridiculous you might say!  I did warn you I'd be visiting all sorts of museums on the Côte d'Azur, not just the well-known ones.Musée des Coquillages Shell Museum St Jean Cap Ferrat

I've also come to the conclusion that visiting and writing about a museum a week is too much for me and this blog.  Looking back on this month's posts, it's too dominated by museums; they are not the main focus of this blog but if you were visiting for the first time you might think otherwise.  I wasn't really thinking when I rashly announced this would be a weekly thing.  So from now on Museum Monday will be an occasional series, if and when I have a museum to write about.  I will aim for 2 a month and we'll see how it goes.

crab in St Jean Cap Ferrat port

So back to the subject in hand: shells!  This little museum is the personal collection of marine conservationist and shell enthusiast extraordinaire Jean-Pierre Sidois, who travels the world looking for specimens, and among his collection of 7000 he has many world records (400 or so). Particularly impressive is the record for the world's smallest shell - smaller than a grain of sand (1/10th of a mm) that can only be seen under a microscope.  smallest shell in world

The museum is unique in Europe for the size and importance of its collection, particularly of shells from the Mediterranean.  The only other collection of significance is in the British Museum but it is not open to the public.  It is also a reference for shells from Mauritius, where Jean-Pierre began collecting over 45 years ago and among the collection are some specimens that are now extinct.

Mauritian shells in museum

The visit to the museum begins with a 6 minute introductory film (available in English) and then you are free to peruse the collection, organised into exotic shells on one side and Mediterranean shells on the other. There are also land shells and fossils all attractively and prettily laid out.  Some shells are so brightly coloured they don't look real, while others are huge, minute or just downright bizarre; I really had no idea there was such a variety of shells in the world!  Monsieur Sidois is available to answer questions (in French). 

musée des coquillages intérieur

I must admit, we went to this museum almost as a joke as we love seeking out museums with what we consider funny or unusual collections, even if we don't actually go in.  When cajoling the kids into enthusiastic sightseeing we often challenge each other to come up with ideas for names of silly museums such as "le musée du slip troué" (holey underpants), the shoelace museum or museum of ashtrays.  It was in this frame of mind that we decided to pop into the musée des coquillages when visiting the lovely port of St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat recently.  But we (JF, the little kid and I) were pleasantly surprised and found ourselves being sucked into a magical undersea world of unbelievable colours and delicate shapes.  

colourful exotic shells

Despite our original scepticism we enjoyed the museum and at the symbolic price of 2€ for adults and 1€ for under 15s I reckon it was money well spent.  It turned out to be of particular interest to our 10 year old who loved using the microscopes to examine the miniscule shells and got very enthusiastic about shells in general.  There is a reasonable selection of souvenirs and apparently you can take shells in to be identified and valued.interactive exhibits at shell museum

I think this museum would be suitable for children from about the age of 4 or 5, it's colourful and small enough to capture their attention without boring them, and being so cheap it doesn't really matter if you only stay a few minutes.  We spent about half an hour (maybe a little less) though of course real shell enthusiasts may well want to take longer reading all the labels in detail. It was enough for us just to admire the multitude of colours and shapes.

world record shell

While this museum probably isn't worth going massively out of your way for (unless you adore shells!) it's fun enough to visit after another activity in the neighbourhood such as a hike around the Cap or spending some time on one of the lovely beaches on Cap Ferrat.  There are numerous cafés and restaurants in the port area to make a day of it.

port of St Jean Cap Ferrat

The museum is located on the quay in the old port in St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, easy enough to find if you go down the steps on to the actual seafront but hidden from view if you stay up on the road level.  If (during opening hours) it appears to be closed you just need to ask at SOS Grand Bleu next door (an association for the protection of Mediterranean whales also run by Jean-Pierre Sidois).  It is open Monday-Friday 10-12 and 2-5.45pm, weekends and public holidays 2-5.45pm.  (It doesn't have a website).

shells at shell museum St Jean Cap Ferrat

What do you think?  Do you like visiting quirky little museums like this?

 

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Seashell Museum St Jean Cap Ferrat near Nice France

 
 
the Pigeon Pair and Me
 
 
 
 
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Comments

  • Guest
    Pamela Reitman Monday, 27 March 2017

    Hi Lou,

    Love this page! Do you happen to know when this little gem of a museum first opened? I'm writing a book in which I'd like to use it for a setting in 1942.

    Thank you!
    Pam

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 28 March 2017

    Hi Pam, I don't know exactly when it opened but as it's a private collection run by a man who's definitely not old enough to have been born in 1942 I can say for sure that it wouldn't have been around then I'm afraid. I think (but not totally sure) it opened around 2002-3.

  • Guest
    Nell (Pigeon Pair and Me) Wednesday, 11 January 2017

    Please write about the museum of holey underpants!!! This little gem you've found is a place of beauty, though. We never leave a beach without a collection of shells - our family would love a rummage round here, to see what we could winkle out (sorry.......) Thanks for linking up with #CulturedKids

  • Guest
    Corey with fifi + hop Sunday, 08 January 2017

    I think this sounds great - always enjoy discovering the more unusual museums around. And we love shells! Went shell collecting last spring in Sanibel, FL which is known for its shells. There is a shell museum there too but we didn't have time to visit as it was a day trip so we'll have to go back. #culturedkids

  • Guest
    Catherine's Cultural Wednesdays Saturday, 07 January 2017

    Shells and museums both big favourites of mine, so a shell museum sounds excellent. Mind you we have picked up so many over the years that we might have enough to open our own!

  • Guest
    Jonny (Daisy the bus) Saturday, 07 January 2017

    This looks wonderful! I much prefer finding obscure curiosities like this than the big heavily-marketed tourist attractions. I don't care how small it is, my kids would probably spend all day in here. A great find - thanks! #CulturedKids

  • Guest
    http://Clare aka Emmy's Mummy Wednesday, 15 June 2016

    What a lovely day out, mine love finding shells so would love it here

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 16 June 2016

    It definitely appeals to young kids Clare.

  • Guest
    oana79 Wednesday, 15 June 2016

    Some stunning shells there, will have to remember this little quirky museum next time we visit Nice!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 16 June 2016

    It's a fun little visit if you're n the area Oana.

  • Guest
    Richard Wednesday, 01 June 2016

    What a fun discovery! On a quirkiness par with the volcano place in Reykjavik that I seem to remember you describing in an earlier blog. I hope you do keep up a supply of museum episodes, even if only now and again.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 16 June 2016

    Indeed Richard, similar in that both are private places to indulge a passion and both are rather odd. Good memory! I will try to keep up the museum visits....

  • Guest
    Fritha Strickland Thursday, 26 May 2016

    oh I love that shell display! The colourful ones are so beautiful x

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 31 May 2016

    :)

  • Guest
    Shell Louise Thursday, 26 May 2016

    The girls would probably enjoy it but I don't think it's really my thing!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 31 May 2016

    Even with your name "Shell" Louise???!!! Lol!

  • Guest
    Maria Belfort Thursday, 26 May 2016

    I think it looks brilliant! My son would definitely enjoy learning more about shells, he's got a huge collection he's very proud of :)

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 31 May 2016

    He'd really love it then as it's amazing just how many different shapes and sizes there are!

  • Guest
    Sara-Jayne Thursday, 26 May 2016

    I absolutely would visit somewhere like this - world record seashells - my boys would love this! I never knew they were in so many colours!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 31 May 2016

    Nor did I Sara-Jayne

  • Guest
    Trish Thursday, 26 May 2016

    Love this and love the fact that your family is as silly as mine, coming up with daft museum names. We used to visit art galleries and create alternative names for paintings, according to what we saw. Doesn't take much to amuse us!
    #citytripping

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 31 May 2016

    I love to hear that Trish! Great minds....

  • Guest
    Cass Thursday, 26 May 2016

    My daughter would love this as she loves shells and unusual rocks - she has a box full of her 'special' ones ;-)

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 31 May 2016

    So does my son, though most don't seem to actually be in the box but next to the front door step!

  • Guest
    Cathy (Mummytravels) Wednesday, 25 May 2016

    I actually rather love the sound of this - is it terrible that I'd rather go there than to the Picasso museum? I think my daughter would love it too, she's fascinated by shells and these look gorgeous. The idea of looking through the microscope is great for older ones. I had no idea there was such a variety! Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 31 May 2016

    It's not terrible Cathy! Each to his own as they say. It's such a surprising place.

  • Guest
    Cathy (Mummytravels) Saturday, 07 January 2017

    Lovely to re-read this for #culturedkids

  • Guest
    Hiham Wednesday, 25 May 2016

    What is a collector of shells called Lou? Is it a shellologist? Sweet little museum. What will you find next?

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 31 May 2016

    You are so funny Hiham! You'll just have to wait and see what "Lou" gets up to next!

  • Guest
    Kara Tuesday, 24 May 2016

    Now that is a lot of shells. We used to have a house here nicknamed the shell house and it was covered from head to toe in shells. Sadly it has gone now but I loved visiting

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 31 May 2016

    That sounds amazing Kara, what a pity it doesn't exist anymore.

  • Guest
    Mandy Tuesday, 24 May 2016

    I've heard so much about the French Riviera. I'd love to go. The shell museum there looks pretty fantastic! One question – If the museum is hard to find from street level, how did you discover it? Did you read about it before you traveled?

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 24 May 2016

    Hey Mandy, I've lived in the area for 9 years and have been running a gite for 6 of those, so I'm forever on the lookout for original or different things for my guests (and my family) to do. I think I first came across a brochure in a tourist office a while ago, but if you were just strolling along the water's edge at the port in St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat you'd notice it too.

  • Guest
    Sonia Tuesday, 24 May 2016

    Oh wow what an amazing collection of seashells. I would love to visit this x

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 24 May 2016

    Aren't they pretty?

  • Guest
    Elizabeth Tuesday, 24 May 2016

    It's funny how sometimes the most random museums can turn out to be pleasant surprises! At first glance, the shell museum doesn't seem overly fascinating but I find that once I learn more about almost anything, I can get interested into it... at least interested enough to enjoy a museum on the topic!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 24 May 2016

    I agree Elizabeth, I never thought I'd seek out shells other than on the beach but it really was an interesting little place.

  • Guest
    Karen Langridge Tuesday, 24 May 2016

    Such a different thing to do and I love how the shells are all different and so very pretty, some of the colours and patterns are incredible :) x

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 24 May 2016

    Yes they sure are.

  • Guest
    Emma | TheMiniMesAndMe Tuesday, 24 May 2016

    The entry is really low so it sounds like a good value trip. The crab on the rock is fabulous too!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 24 May 2016

    I liked the crab too! :)

  • Guest
    Katy Tuesday, 24 May 2016

    Oh yes I love a quirky museum and I really love shells. Bite size museums like this are my favourite because as much as I love a bit of culture, I get culture fatigue quite quickly. I love how you share so many unique things to do in the South of France

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 24 May 2016

    Thanks Katy, glad to hear you like this sort of museum.

  • Coombe Mill - Fiona
    Coombe Mill - Fiona Monday, 23 May 2016

    I've never heard of a shell museum before. the different shapes and sizes are amazing and I love the colour variations in some of them. A real gem of a place you found there and no hardship stopping for lunch on the water front after.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 24 May 2016

    Nor had I and I really was pleasantly surprised Fiona.

  • Guest
    Jen Monday, 23 May 2016

    Oh that looks like a fun museum. Sometimes the ones you have no expectations of are the best,

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 24 May 2016

    Absolutely Jen!

  • Guest
    Johanna Monday, 23 May 2016

    Always nice to find something a bit different, and I do love shells as it happens.;)
    Thanks for sharing and for your visit to mine.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 24 May 2016

    I agree, it's fun to seek out the unusual.

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