Paris…. A few days left (This will be a long post as I’m finishing up today after starting this post and including several days of going about)
Paris is coming alive with spring in the air and flowers blooming. The dreary days of winter that were dragging on here, too, are beginning to give way to more sun and blue skies. We expected clouds and rain today, but to our delight the air was slightly warmer than yesterday and the sun came out such that we even took our jackets off in the afternoon while walking.
On almost every street in Paris there are pastry shops (pâtisseries), bread shops (boulangeries) and cheese shops filled with delicious offerings, all freshly made. It is easy to become spoiled and very picky preferring this one over that and arguing about which is the best, when the truth is they are all very good. In a 2 block radius of our apartment there are 4 boulangeries. Though I must admit the only cheese shop – and probably one of the best in Paris – Les Quatres Hommes (the Four Men) – is a 15 minute walk from us.
A rather large shop with ready to eat sandwiches and take out, as well as fresh bread baked on the premises. The smell was tantalizing as we walked by.
All kinds of Japanese goodies
Just so you don’t think we only look at food… this window was so cute filled with what looked like handmade clothes for toddlers.
Parisians do buy and eat all of the goodies I’ve described but there are a life-style habits which keep them trim and which we Americans would do well to adopt. First, walking is part of everyday life here. I can’t say, everyone walks… but everyone we know walks and walks a lot. Next, eating in between means, snacking, grabbing junk food on the go – just isn’t done. People (including kids) eat at meal time and usually not in between. Portions are a smaller – but there are usually 3 or 4 courses which I find makes up for the smaller portions. Dinner which is usually no earlier than 8 p.m., is eaten leisurely. In a restaurant, the table is yours for the evening (except in some of the more trendy places). And, when a meal is over (and everything on one’s plate is eaten), eating is over – finished. Thus, over a lifetime, people eat bread and desserts, and drink wine – and still stay slim. (There are those who smoke – but less and less – and no one we know smokes.) One other thing…. butter is never served at the table with bread (so don’t ask for it—unless you are in a touristy restaurant)..
(You can see why for us, getting from point A to point B in Paris takes a long time. George and I window shop, not just for clothes, but for pastries, bread, cheese, and any variety of food that is put in the window to entice. It works! We “ooou” and “aaah” – and wish we could taste it all. )
A few days ago we visited the Musee de Quai Branly – an ethnographic museum which houses a huge collection of art from the Americas, Africa, Oceania, and Asia. We walked there on the best day possible with cool breezes and a warm sun. The museum itself is a must see if you haven’t already. The name comes from the fact that it is on the Seine, the wharf (quai) called Branly. Jacques Chirac had the museum built when he was president.
The front, which I couldn’t get a photo of because it is too big for my small iphone lens, is layered – first a glass wall, then gardens leading to the interior entrance. There is a wall too – vertical – covered with plants going straight up. The interior is circular (something like the Guggenheim in NY). For viewing the permanent exhibits you go to the top and just walk down without ever knowing that you are coming down (unlike the Guggenheim). We went right into the Picasso Primitiv exhibit which is why we were there. And were we happy to have seen it. The curators wanted to show the parallels between Picasso’s development as an artist and his interest in primitive art – mostly (but not all) from Africa. He collected a lot as did his contemporaries.
Above — the grass gardens fo the museum which extend under part of the structure. And below, some of how the exhibit was organized. Shown were both the original primitive piece and then Picasso with it or the influence it had on him. The piece below was a gift to Picasso from Matisse.
I’ve lost track of time a bit — when we did what or where we went. We did take a very long walk to the Musée D’Orsay for an impressionist exhibit which turned out to be disappointing. It felt as though the curators had an idea and then tried to fit the works to prove their idea. It had to do with impressionism and mysticism and religion. A few of the works were new to us and we enjoyed.. But most were either of well-known artists with whom we were familiar or the vast majority of lesser known artists who did not excite us.
The D”Orsay is an old railstation that was converted into a museum. Most people love it — but not me. I find it confusing inside — I never know where to go and the trappings of the old station, though magnificent, don’t lend the peace and quiet I like for viewing art.
The Legion of Honor Museum (which is quite interesting and should be on your list) is across the street while both are on the banks of the Seine.
lPainted by Marc Chagall, the above work was one new to us. The figure seen floating across the town is that of Chagall– flying over his own village which appears scerene, while the world is in chaos. Below, is a work by Georgia O’Keeffe — a work which was also new to us. We thought it was quite beautiful.
There is so much to do and see in this town that we hardly scratch the surface. This trip, most of our walking has been limited to the Left Bank and to the 7th arrondissment (the one we live in). But yesterday we did get to the Right Bank to a restaurant that we go to almost every time we are here for one dish — marinated herring, country French style. It is served in a huge pottery bowl, the herring with the marinade and vegetables. You are expected to eat as much as you want, but no one is expected to finish it — and no one does. But — to our great disappointment it wasn’t on the menu. The waiter informed us that it was taken off two months ago and would come back on in the fall. Well — OK — we hope so, but we are worried that we’ve eaten the last of that herring. The restaurant — Le Grand Colbert in the 2nd, on rue Vivienne which is a favorite because it has one of Paris’ few remaining closed shopping areas and another wonderful bistro — the Café Vivienne. Those will be for the next trip.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a very good photo of the inside –it is done in an art nouveau style and is quite festive. Go online and google it — the photo is wonderful and you’ll see why we keep going back — it isn’t just for the herring. George’s raspberry tart was sumptuous.
On the way home I couldn’t resist taking this photo of a bus coming down a street, though narrow not nearly as narrow as some, passing a parked delivery truck.
And to close I’m including a photo of our favorite façade — an apartment house not too far from us which is probably the most photographic apartment in the city. Built in 1901 by Lavirotte at 29, avenue Rapp. (Google it too and you’ll see a great photo of the whole structure)