24 hours in Paris: Part 2
The bustle of Paul patisserie opening on the street below, Parisians arriving early to collect their daily share of baguettes placed in a cosy group of 5 or 6 in a brown paper bag, tourists catching a quick petit dejeuner in the first rays of morning sun and the local green grocer accepting deliveries of vibrant ripe fruits et légumes – these were the sounds that greeted us as the daylight of my birthday Parisian morning flooded into our little bijoux boudoir in the heart of the Rive Gauche. As is birthday tradition, I sat up in bed, stretched out a yawn and gathered together the modest stack of birthday cards I had brought with me on the trip – not that there was anywhere to display them here, but it was good to have the birthday wishes of loved ones and colleagues to kickstart my 29th birthday. Bon Anniversaire a Moi.
After a leisurely shower, the receipt of a few more birthday messages on my phone (birthday cards for the modern generation) and having packed up our bags, we checked out, all too soon, of the Hotel de Buci, leaving our bags and heading for the often over-looked wonders of Saint Sulpice church nearby. Finding none of the bustling cafes promised in my Paris guidebook, we headed back to the Rue de Buci where it turns into the Rue St Andre des Arts. I feel at home there. In the Rue des Grands Augustins round the corner, Picasso painted his masterpiece Guernica which has been such an important influence in my own work. There, for only 10 euros each, we had a gloriously French petit dejeuner – freshly squeezed jus d’orange, a buttery crispy croissant, a super crunchy French baguette and a large cappuccino. Yum.
So used are we to visiting Paris in the winter that I was intent on doing some jardins. Where best to start off then than to mix art with gardens at the Musée Rodin. There, the works of Auguste Rodin are showed off to spectacular effect, including the most famous of them all – The Gates of Hell, The Thinker and The Kiss - set amongst countless perfectly trimmed conical shaped hedges which remind of Alice in Wonderland in the perfectly pruned court of the Queen of Hearts. The sculptures are displayed in and outside the gorgeous Hôtel Biron where the artist, along with several others, rented a flat towards the end of his life. He was obviously doing well. The museum does not captivate me in the same way that the d’Orsay does for example. Once I’ve seen a few figure sculptures, I stare blankly and the rest, seeking something more, looking for something to grab hold of my attention. This is unlike the challenging shapes of Henry Moore for example, which activate my imagination in the same way that an abstracted portrait by Picasso ignites my mind compared to a formal state portrait. For me Rodin was on the brink of doing something stunningly modern, but probably because of the time he worked in, he didn’t quite push the boundaries enough. Still, for morning tranquility despite the tourist throngs, the Musée Rodin was spot on.
Heading over towards the spectacular gold-fringed Pont Alexandre III, we stopped off briefly to awe at Les Invalides with its similarly extravagant gilded domed roof, and the amazing view of the Tour Eiffel beyond it. Was a city ever so perfectly pretty as Paris?
Despite the continuous temptation to stop and take photos of this beautiful city (although the I must have around 10,000 at home) we arrived on time for our reservation at the Café Marly under large portico terrace along the side of the Louvre courtyard. With views right over the spectacular Louvre pyramid, this café can’t be beaten for its incredible vista and its elegant surroundings. The prices aren’t cheap, but they are reflected in the quality of the food. We opted for two light dishes – a crab and avocado salad (the avocado was so creamy it was divine) dressed in a refreshing lime and chilli, and a melon with san daniele ham (the melon was incredibly sweet, juicy and unctuous, and the ham perfectly soft and salty). This was washed down with two glasses of chablis, followed by two more of pink Moët & Chandon (well it was my birthday after all). For dessert we had two combinations of raspberry deliciousness – a lemon tart with raspberries atop it, and a raspberry mille feuille. Café Marly comes well recommended – but ensure you make a reservation in advance.
We stumbled down the Rue de Rivoli next, towards our regular haunt of the Marais, cute boutique-lined district, favourite of the chic-set. Here we were on a search for some French vintage posters, but all of our leads came to nothing. If shops weren’t closed “pour les vacances” they failed to exist. We had better luck however when we passed over the river, traversing the cute little Ile St Louis (where we found another print shop – closed for the holidays) and Ile de la Cité and finding on the left bank opposite the Notre Dame a huge selection of old book and print sellers. Usually I pass these stalls, assuming they contain tourist tack – not so. True, the prints are all reproductions, but who cares. The quality looks great and you could buy 3 for 20 euros. I think we ended up with 9!
Back on that garden trail now, and we headed, almost full circle, back to the 6th and into the magnificent Jardins du Luxembourg. Never before have I seen these gardens look so good – the flower beds were beautiful coordinated in every conceivable shade of yellow, those few Parisians remaining in the city lounged in the shade provided by large leafed chestnut trees, creating as they did a beautiful impressionistic dapple of sunlight over the cafes and little loose benches placed haphazardly all over the park. There too, families were at play – little children ran enthusiastically around the large central pond, pushing miniature sailing boats from one side to the other while parents, basking in the August sunshine, looked on contentedly. Once we sat down in one of those little reclining metal chairs, there was almost no moving us until the clock struct 6 and our return journey began to claw us back to the train tracks.
Resiting the pull of the train in our final hour of freedom, we headed back to the Rue de Buci and indulged in a massive plate of charcuterie and fromage, with two little glasses of overly warm Bordeaux on the side and a basket full of holey French bread. There we reflected upon our 24 hours in Paris – how is it that in a time so short, we felt like we had been in the city for so many days? Is it because we know it so well, that we are easily re-embraced back into the fold? Or is it because our senses had been overloaded with the beauty all around? Whatever the reason, it all went to show how easy a little trip to this quasi-London suburb can be – 2.20 hrs on the train and another world awaits. Who could resist? I won’t be.
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- 24 hours in Paris: Part 1 (normsonline.wordpress.com)