Monday, September 17, 2012
PARIS IN A NUTSHELL
Spent a week in Paris (second week of September) This is the outline for now (this is really just an outline of sorts, please forgive lack of accents and poor spelling for now). Please note: I have a strong interest in the decorative arts ("stuff"), art, and architecture. Good food is also important but I didn't eat my way through Paris. Museums: GET YOUR MUSEUM PASS (online if you have time, or at FNAC) Check hours carefully. When they say they close at 6, it's really like 5:30. Louvre: closed on Tuesday, open late (9:30) on Wednesday and Friday. - Plot your course of action. Napoleon III's rooms are the most vulgar expression of the high "French Victorian" I've ever seen. It's like High Bordello style. Avoid if your time is short. -Mona Lisa: due to the barriers in place resulting from an attack on her years ago, you can't get any closer than 30ft (I'm guessing, but it's far) from her. There's no chance to see any detail. -The Jewelry is ok, would have preferred to spend more time looking at paintings. -See Winged Victory and Michelangelo's Dying Slave. Worth the hike. -Paintings, paintings, paintings. The special exhibition of Isabey's watercolors is lovely. Musee des Arts Decoratif: Same campus as the Louvre. Avoid the Louis Vuitton/Marc Jacobs exhibition. But there are a few 19th century dresses on desplay (nothing exceptional) and a little on the history of Vuitton and the travel trunks. HOWEVER... Lots and lots and lots of wonderful European decorative arts through the ages. The jewelry rooms are very dimly lit making it difficult to see. Musee D'Orsay: A must. LUNCH at the D'Orsay. A MUST! The restaurant opens at 11:45. Get in line by 11:35. They don't take reservations. The food is excellent. It's a very special spot, painted ceilings, crystal chandeliers, gilt details on the walls. So elegant (but they used to use white tablecloths but now they use green placemats with I think detracts from the setting just a little bit). Musee Nissim de Camondo: Just go. Get the audio guide (it's complementary). Totally worth the visit. Get your breakfast or lunch and eat in the park around the corner. Musee Cognacq-Jay: (free - or maybe it was free last weekend) Charming small collection of 18th century dec arts and paintings. Some lovely, lovely gems. They didn't have children, so in lieu, there are lots of paintings and small sculptures of children. (It made my mom sad for the Mrs.) NOTE: The collection of 18th century objets de vertu are not on display. Musee Carnavalet: (free- or maybe it was free last weekend) Right near Congacq-Jay. When I went, only the ground floor was open. As rather annoyed. But still worth going. Besides, it's in the Marais. (Did not go to Pompidou Center nor the Orangerie, nor the Grand and Petit Palais. There just wasn't the time.) Garnier Opera House: Fantastic, amazing, I loved it. But it smells like stale pee. Notre Dame Cathedral: Go. The Tower... Long lines, passed it up because my mother likes neither heights nor small spaces. Ste. Chapelle: A stunning Medieval Gem. Awe-inspiring. Versailles: GO GO GO GO GO. If you have time and decent weather. The RER/Metro ride is only like a half hour from Invalides metro on the Rive Gauche. You can buy your ticket at the ticket counter from a real live person. Our person spoke English (far better than my not so good French) and she told us which platform (quai) our train would be on. Our train was a short train so be aware where you're standing waiting for the train. -You need ALL DAY. They shuttle you through from room to room. No wonder there was a revolution. Very crowded and lots of people taking photos which slowed things down. -Make sure you see the Grand Trianon, Petit Trianon as well as Marie-Antoinette's little village. The gardens are gorgeous throughout. We ate lunch on the fly at one of the little food huts between the Chateau and the Grand Trianon. The food wasn't good but it kept us from starving. If you have time... in the Town of Versailles, there are lots of places to eat and shop. I needed a gift to bring to a local friend who invited us to her house for dinner. I found a great shop that sells really special condiments, on the Rue de la Paroisse just off of the Rue des Reservoirs (hello Google Maps) The shop lady is lovely (we managed to understand each other between our lack of command of each other's language). I'll get the name of the shop later... by the way, it's in a shop that says "FLORISTE." They're new in the 'hood and haven't changed the signage yet. The Madeleine (the huge neo-classical church). Eh. Better from the outside. The doors are very impressive. FOOD: Check out www.parisbymouth.com. That said, the one place I actually went to that I got from the site was Fines Gueules (43 rue Croix des Petits Champs). I chose it because you don't necessarily need a reservation. It was good. Would I go again? Probably not unless I was in the neighborhood. On the Rive Gauche, we ate at Creperie Saint Andre des Arts at 56 rue St Andre des Arts. I had onion soup that came with the cheese and crouton on the side. It was delicious. Mom had the Salade Paysanne, with slices of thick baked goat's cheese on French bread toast rounds. So good. Quiet little spot. The girls at the next table had gorgeous crepes and shared a bottle of French cider. We had the BEST cheese from La Ferme St Aubin at 76 rue St Louis en L'Ile (on the Ile St. Louis). We had one each of the little balls of goat's cheese rolled in either black pepper, curry, paprika, ash (plain) or herbs de Provence. We also had the morbier. The young man at the counter also gave us a lovely hunk of brie to try. It was devine and I usually think that brie doesn't have that much flavor. Next door to the cremerie is a bread shop. So good, so fresh. And a market across the street for some fruit and water. We walked in and the strawberries were incredibly fragrant. We don't get that here. We sat on a bench overlooking the Seine. Being Tea Drinkers, we had to have tea (and sweets) at Marriage Frere. They have 3 locations in Paris but we went to the one at 30 rue du Bourg-Tiborg. I bought to bring home the The des Tzars-Russie and The Alexandra David-Neel. Mom bought The Rose D'Himalaya. It's totally overwhelming. And Fabulous. There is a brasserie on a corner across from the Pompidou Center called La Station Rambuteau at the corner of Rue Rambuteau and Rue Beaubourg. They have really good "Crocs." We had the Croc Provencial. The waiter we had was... I don't have time to describe him now but what a winker, a flirter. Then again, a lot of men in Paris flirt, but let me put it this way, if my self esteem ever needed a boost, or if I ever doubt my attractability quotient, I'll just revisit Paris for a little attention. Where was I... Almost done for now... Shopping: Bamyan for Indian scarves, textiles and pashmina. The store owner whose name I did not learn (we just call him Mr. Bamyan), has sparkling eyes and is very charming. I got a beautiful scarf. 51 and 72 rue St Louis en l'Ile (next to the cheese guy!). ARCHE! A few locations, google them. Can't say enough about their shoes, or socks, or stockings... I've been wearing them for 20+ years and their are slightly less money in Paris (socks and stocking MUCH less money). Fashion: The general Parisan look for women: narrow, snug trousers, blazer, scarf, ballerina flats, red lipstick. For men, the same, more or less, without the ballerina flats and lipstick but rather a serious shoe. Sneakers tend to be flat rather than pumped up plastic things American tend to wear. Everyone wears a scarf. Everyone. Missed Galleries Lafayette Haussmann. Go. Serious art nouveau domed glass ceiling. Go. Beautiful buildings. Go. Take care of the Tax (VAT) Return here rather than waste your time in line at the zoo, um, I mean, airport.