A visit to the Musée Picasso in Paris

On our most recent trip to Paris we once again stayed in the Marais (3rd and 4th arrondissements) and used this as our base for visiting pastures old and new. One of my favourite buildings in the area is the one which houses many of Picasso’s works which were donated to the state in lieu of payment of death duties (Dation Picasso). The property, like many in the area, has an interesting story to tell.

History of Hôtel Salé

This is just one of many museums dedicated to the works of Picasso described as being, “the grandest, most extraordinary, if not the most extravagant, of the grand Parisian houses of the 17th century”. Hôtel Salé was built by Pierre Aubert, an important Parisian financier, advisor and secretary to the King. Aubert collected tax on salt on behalf of the king hence the house’s name, Hôtel Salé (meaning “salty” in French). He was a “middle-class gentleman” seeking to assert his recent social advancement.

He chose a site in an undeveloped area where Henry IV of France wished to encourage construction with the building of the Place Royale and chose a young unknown architect called Jean Boullier de Bourges, who belonged to a local family of stonemasons, to design his edifice. It took three years to complete and in the final days of 1659, Aubert moved in.

The Hôtel Salé comprises two corps de logis, two lines of rooms which extend the building’s surface area.  Its footprint is asymmetrical: the façade giving onto the courtyard is divided in two by a perpendicular wing that separates the main courtyard from the rear courtyard. The courtyard, following a wide curve that flatters the façade, is punctuated by seven open bays to emphasise the central avant-corps on three levels.

The front of the building is typically Baroque in style with an immense pediment emblazoned with acanthus, fruit and flower motifs while the façade overlooking the garden is much less ornate. My favourite bit is probably the central staircase which has been entirely restored to its original condition. It is based on the stair plan designed by Michelangelo for the Laurentian Library in Florence. Instead of a closed staircase, two Imperial flights of stairs are overlooked by a projecting balcony and then a gallery.

The staircase’s sculpted stucco is divine. It’s allegedly a physical translation of Hannibal Carache’s paintings in the Farnese Gallery”  with eagles holding a lightning bolt, cupids adorned in garlands, Corinthian pilasters and various divinities vying for attention.

Sadly, Monsieur Aubert was unable to enjoy his sumptuous surroundings for very long. In 1663 he was brought down by the same scandal that ruined Fouquet. The house then passed through numerous hands including the Embassy of the Republic of Venice. In 1790, the house was used during the French Revolution as an ecclesiastical bookstore. It changed hands again in 1797 and stayed in the same family until 1962.

The City acquired the house in 1964 and the property was granted Historical Monument status on 29 October 1968. From 1974 to 1979, the hotel was restored and returned to its former spaciousness, After extensive renovations, the Musée National Picasso was inaugurated in October 1985. Its most recent renovation was completed in 2014.

Acquisition of  Picasso’s Works

Picasso once said “I am the greatest collector of Picassos in the world.” By the time of his death in 1973, he had amassed an enormous collection of his own work, ranging from sketchbooks to finished masterpieces. The “Dation Picasso”  contained work by the artist in all techniques and from all periods, and it’s especially rare in terms of its excellent collection of sculptures.

These works have been supplemented by donations from his heirs and acquisition of a number of other works through purchases and gifts.  Today the Musée Picasso has over 5,000 of his works of art including 3,700 works on paper, ceramics, sculptures in wood and metal, and paintings. This is complemented by Picasso’s own personal art collection of works by other artists, including Renoir, Cézanne, Degas, Rousseau, Seurat and Matisse.

Guernica Exhibition

On the occasion of the 80th anniversary of its creation, the Musée Picasso, in partnership with the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (owner of the painting), has dedicated an entire exhibition to the story of this exceptional painting,  one of Picasso’s most famous works.

Picasso painted Guernica in 1937  in reaction to Nazi Germany’s devastating casual bombing of the Basque town Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. The painting shows the tragedy of war and the suffering it inflicts upon individuals, particularly innocent civilians. Its lack of colour only intensifies the drama. Guernica is a mural sized canvas (3.5m x 7.8m) painted in blue, black and white oils.

Interpretations of Guernica vary widely and many contradict one another. Picasso was particularly provocative in his explanation of the painting. Many have read much into the mural’s two dominant elements: the bull and the horse, important characters in Spanish culture. However, ignore the theorists and just enjoy the painting. The loan from the museum in Madrid includes numerous sketches, thoughts, newspapers excerpts and after-thoughts of Guernica which gives it a contextual setting.

Aside from Guernica, there are plenty of other works by Picasso to enjoy, including some which he collected from his contemporaries all displayed in the wonderful Hôtel Salé. Don’t forget to explore the gardens afterwards.

 

Postcard from Paris

My beloved’s birthday was during a recent, exhausting 10 day trip to China. Consequently, I suggested a 4-day trip to Paris to unwind and celebrate. Thanks to the train strike this was necessarily extended to a 5-day trip – no complaints from me. Once again we stayed in a rental apartment in Le Marais. It’s pretty central for all our activities, just up the road from our friends, and we find comfort in the familiar now that we know our way around the area.

Day one: our adventure starts

Bizarrely the weather during our trip was glorious, way better than that in Nice. After a pleasant trip by train – with the weather visibly improving as we sped north – we greeted our landlady and dropped off our luggage before heading to a nearby brasserie for lunch. We’ve eaten there before and it’s pretty much my idea of the perfect neighbourhood restaurant. It’s family owned and run, which I firmly believe always guarantees better food, service and ambience. This place is pretty popular with locals – another good sign –  many of whom just pop in for a drink at the bar and a chat with one of the owners.

Hunger sated, we raided the nearby traiteur and Marché les Enfants Rouges for supplies for dinner. We prefer to lunch out and dine in, particularly as we were keen to watch all that week’s sporting action: Champion’s and Europa League football, Giro d’Italia, MotoGP from Seville.

Inevitably, when we’re away, we still have to keep on top of work. My beloved went back to the flat to work while I indulged in a spot of shopping. I popped into a shop where I’ve bought quite a few things in the past (British understatement) and enjoyed a coffee and a chat with the owner while browsing the latest collection. Nothing screamed “Buy Me!” so it was an inexpensive visit, just a couple of t-shirts.

I returned to pick up my beloved who had made some headway with his work. We continued our opus magnus to find the bar serving the best Aperol Spritz, a tricky task given the large number of bars just in our neighbourhood. However, we’re up for the challenge, particularly as it’s Happy Hour – well, it would be rude not to!

Our closest bar served an okay Aperol Spritz but the staff were rather inattentive – not owner run! We crossed that one off the list. It’s back to the flat where I plated up dinner and we settled down in front of the television. I missed the second half of the match when I fell asleep on the sofa. Well we did have a very early start!

Day two: we hang out with Picasso

My beloved went to his favourite bread shop to collect supplies for breakfast. We have noted that Parisian croissants are much flakier, have greater lamination and are far superior to those down south. All my French friends concur, so that must be the case. My beloved heads back to the grindstone while I pop out for a wander round. I love poking my head round those massive oak doors on the street to see what lies beyond. Sometimes it’s quite surprising, other times not.

We eat lunch in another of our preferred brasseries before we (finally) visit the Musée Picasso, showcasing his painting Guernica, probably one of his best-known works, which normally hangs in a Museum in Madrid. We’ve visited Guernica and read about the attack represented in the painting. However, we were keen to learn more about it.

When we lived in London I loved going to lectures by living artists who explained about the inspiration behind their works. Sadly, we could no longer ask Pablo but was sure we’d find the answer in the exhibition. While I was interested in seeing the various exhibits, I was equally keen to see the inside of the quite splendid Hôtel Salé, where it’s housed. It surpassed my expectations so I’ll do a separate post on it.

We closed with a leisurely walk in the sunshine, admiring the lavish property porn, before trying another bar. Not bad but no real improvement on the first one. That too gets crossed off the list. Again, we spend the evening in watching another exciting football match. This time I managed to stay awake until the end of the match.

Day three: a spot of business

Friday kicked off with an early business meeting over in the 10th arrondissement. We decided to walk there via Châtelet – Les Halles. There’s loads of interesting shops and restaurants en route but they’re closed at this early hour. As we walked along, we mingled with parents taking kids to school. I love the way French kids all have those rucksacks bigger than themselves.

A successful meeting and we retraced our steps. This time I enjoyed looking at all the now-open food shops and cafes which no doubt sprang up when Les Halles was the central food wholesale market. It moved out of central Paris in the early 70s and the building was demolished. Ten years later the huge former market has been replaced by green space (the Garden of Les Halles), an underground shopping mall (Forum des Halles), leisure facilities (a popular swimming pool, cinema) and the RER station Châtelet – Les Halles, the largest underground station in the world.

Opposite Les Halles, works continue apace as François Pinault, a French billionaire and majority shareholder in retail conglomerate Kering, is preparing The Bourse de Commerce to house his extensive collection of contemporary art. Some billionaires buy sports teams, others collect art. Each to their own. Due to open next year, this exhibition space will house works from the Pinault Collection as well as works from other major artists. It looks as if it’ll be yet another wonderful addition to the already rich Parisian cultural scene.

Lunchtime we tried out a new joint in the neighbourhood selling US style lobster rolls, reinvented for French tastes. They were delicious, full of lobster and low on mayonnaise. Mine even came with avocado. We both think it’s a hit but only time will tell.

In the afternoon, we visited the recently opened Lafayette Anticipations, a group of 19th century industrial buildings in Le Marais renovated by Rem Koolhaas, surely one of the best names ever for an architect. As the name suggests, its patrons are the owners of the French retail group Galleries Lafayette. This is quite an edgy exhibition space with a restaurant in the foyer and an experimental production workshop in the basement for guest artists to work on new projects. Again, this is another place worth visiting just for its architectural merit.

On our way back, we stopped off at (yet) another bar to sample their offering. It was a marked improvement on the previous ones and makes our short-list. We also strolled around a large photographic exhibition put on in the nearby Hall des Blancs Manteaux. There was some eye-catching and truly magnificent artwork on show as there was at the nearby Carreau de Temple.

Despite eating lunch out, we opted for typical Jewish fare that evening for dinner, albeit pretty much all vegetarian, at one of the many neighbourhood restaurants. We’ve eaten there before and rather prefer it to the conveyor belt atmosphere of L’As des Felafal – closed, as it was a Friday. Afterwards a smorgasbord of sport awaited us back at the flat.

Week-end: we cruise the 16th and 7th arrondissements

Saturday, after a decidedly gentle start, we headed by metro and bus to the Fondation Louis Vuitton in the Bois de Bologne. We had timed our arrival to perfection and secured one of the last available tables in Le Frank, its foyer restaurant, for a lovely light set vegetarian/vegan luncheon. Fortified we strolled around the exhibits and gardens much admiring the form of the building and its contents. Again, this visit merits a post all of its own.

Once back at base, we tried another bar and this too made the short-list. Things were definitely looking up on the Aperol front. We raided the Italian traiteur for dinner – a roaring success. More sport and a relatively early night after all that walking. We’ve been averaging around 12km a day. Actually, I’d probably done more than that but, unlike my beloved, I don’t have an Apple watch.

Sunday my beloved decided he’d like to visit the Napoleon exhibition at Les Invalides. We elected to walk along the Seine which was buzzing with runners, cyclists and dog walkers. I’d visited the museum many years ago, though only a couple of the exhibits stuck in my memory. It would be easy to spend several days here so instead we concentrated on the period leading up to 1870. This too was worthy of a separate post.

We wandered back once again along the Seine where everyone was out enjoying the sunshine as if they were beside the sea, rather than the river. On the way we slaked our thirst with an iced tea before continuing our Aperol project. This time we were meeting our friends who live in the neighbourhood and their choice of bar was spot on, easily the best so far.

Lunch had been an enjoyable baguette at Angelina’s in the garden of Les Invalides. The fridge was empty save for a few lonely olives, so we decided to brave one of the newly opened hotel restaurants which had loads of vegetable options on its menu. We were its first customers but after we’d sat down more were drawn to its inviting surroundings. Dinner was delicious and we’re hoping it’ll go from strength to strength.

Adieu: until next time………..

All too soon our little break was over. A leisurely breakfast, a potter round Places des Vosges and then it was time to head for home. Our landlady offered us the flat free of charge until the week-end, because she’d been expecting workmen who’d let her down at the last moment. I was tempted but my beloved had a business trip to Romania scheduled.

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Obviously, we concluded our little break with lunch at Le Train Bleu before an enjoyable train trip home. I’m definitely going to try and schedule another trip to Paris before year end.

More Postcards from Paris III

The temperature dropped on Saturday so we broke out the cashmere and thermals! The previous days, we’d seen signs all around Le Marais for “Brocante” which is one up from a “Vide-Grenier” (aka Car Boot Sale). On Saturday morning, when we headed to our favourite traiteur, we discovered that there were stalls the length of Rue de Bretagne and around its gardens. We had a look at a few of the stalls to see if they had some interesting glassware or silver but most stalls had what might politely be called an eclectic mix of goods that wasn’t to our taste. We stopped off for a coffee at one of the many neighbourhood brasseries and reminisced about the car boot sale I’d gone to before we moved to France.

My two sisters, from time to time, use car boot sales to off load stuff they no longer want. Meanwhile I had no intention of paying to ship to France stuff I hadn’t used for ages. One of my sisters suggested we went to a popular car boot sale, not far from my parent’s place. But on the Sunday, after we’d dragged everything up from London to my parents, there was no car boot sale being held nearby. This forced us to head to a much larger one in central Birmingham. I’m not sure why but my father decided to come with us and lend a helping hand.

On the advice of my sisters, I’d parcelled up matching sets of stuff which sold quickly along with all the electricals, irrespective of whether or not they worked. I’d also decided to get rid of all my unwanted gifts. Admit it, we all have them. These were the ones I’d be too embarrassed to recycle but they proved surprisingly popular.

My Dad turned out to be a natural salesman charming everyone, particularly all the mature ladies, to part with their dosh. Though he did say afterwards it would be his one and only appearance at a car boot sale. It was a huge success with people literally buying stuff as we unpacked it. We dropped the last few remnants off at a charity shop but our rubbish had netted us over £400!

After a spot of food shopping, we lunched on moules and frites in another nearby brasserie. The moules were delicious. I rarely order them as all too often I find them overcooked and rubbery, but not here. Batteries re-charged, we continued our walk around the area, surprised to find a few roads which we’d previously overlooked around the village of St Paul and Ile Saint-Louis. Both are havens of tranquillity that lie between the rue de Rivoli and the Seine.

St Paul appears to be popular with antique dealers and features some of the old walls of Paris from 11th and 12th centuries and a few very old properties. In addition there are further Hôtels which have been repurposed as museums, libraries and other civic buildings.

We crossed over the bridge to the Ile Saint Louis, famous for its pricey real-estate and Berthillon ice-cream, though it was far too cold to try any of the latter. We continued to the Ile de la Cité and the Notre-Dame Cathedral, a 12th century Gothic masterpiece. It has not long been cleaned, helping to highlight its architectural richness and the colour of its stone. Heading back towards the Seine, we find even more Hôtels sandwiched between 1950s stone buildings inspired by their surrounding classical references.

Chilled, we decide to warm ourselves up with some tea at Mariage Frères on the way back to the flat. We love their tea, particularly the lovely floral Marco Polo range. My beloved was tempted by the delicious array of pastries but didn’t succumb. Again, we opted for a night in with an array of nibbles and an excellent bottle of wine.

We headed back to Nice the following day, dining in Le Train Bleu before boarding the train. We’d had another lovely break and vowed to have more next year. After all, you can never see too much of Paris, can you?

Postcard from Paris: Part II

Strictly speaking this is a postcard from Le Marais though, on one of our many walks, we did stray into the 1st arrondissement. On our return, plenty of people asked us where we’d stayed in Paris. When we said “Le Marais” no one, not even the French, including ones who are frequent visitors to Paris, had heard of it – incroyable!

Le Marais is a historical district located to the east of the centre of Paris, on the right bank of the river Seine. It occupies the 3rd and 4th arrondissements which extend from the Centre Georges Pompidou in the west, Republique to the north, Bastille to the east and the Seine to the south.

The area was largely grazing land until 1361 when Charles V, King of France, started building the royal residences of Hotel Saint-Pol in the eastern part of the Marais which encouraged other noble families to populate the area until the Royal Court moved to Versailles. Subsequently, the area became a working-class neighbourhood attracting waves of immigrants which now account for its eclectic and vibrant atmosphere.

Fortunately, those long-abandoned buildings have largely been restored to their former glory – if not their former use – including the oldest square in Paris, Place des Vosges (pictured above). But that’s not all.

Because of the area’s rich history, there are many architectural highlights in Le Marais, such as the Saint-Paul Saint-Louis Church built in 1641. Another iconic building is Paris’ City Hall, alongside the Seine, which is a wonderful example of Neo-Renaissance architecture and where we saw the Design &  Artisanat d’Art exhibition which showed just how many artisans are still working in ateliers in Paris, many in Le Marais.

It’s an area popular with Parisian families so at the week-end the place buzzes with the children enjoying the area’s many green spaces, and benefitting from the last rays of summer to enjoy a drink or meal at one of the area’s many restaurants and cafes. There’s also a wealth of food shops including many by famous names such as Pierre Hermé and Christophe Michalak which just had to be visited along with the Marché des Enfants Rouges, the oldest market in Paris which has some fabulous food stalls.

The weather was much better than anticipated and consequently we walked all over Le Marais finding something to wonder at on almost every corner. Because we’d had the opportunity to go around so many buildings not generally open to the public over the European Week-end of Patrimoine, we only visited one museum on Tuesday morning. the Musée Cognacq Jay which housed the largely 18th century art and objets d’art collections of  Théodore-Ernest Cognacq and his wife Marie-Louise Jay, founders of La Samaritaine department store, now owned by LVMH and shortly to be redeveloped.

However, there’s still plenty for us still to visit on our next trip to Paris.

Postcard from Paris: Part I

My beloved and I decided to celebrate 40 years’ of married bliss with a long week-end in Paris, the most romantic city in the world. While I’ve been fortunate to traverse much of the city on foot and visit all its major monuments and museums, my beloved has not. Consequently, I left the choice of what we were going to visit to him. Though, naturally, I intended to do of all the bookings.

He’d expressed an interest in visiting Versailles but as our trip drew closer so the forecast worsened. Part of the charm of Versailles is its splendid gardens, so we decided not to book but to wait and see. Additionally, and quite by chance, the week-end was the one where you can visit lots of buildings not normally open to the general public, so our choice of places to visit expanded exponentially and we decided to play it by ear – often the best way.

We rented a studio apartment in Le Marais, largely because it’s an area I love and, having recently scratched its surface on my two most recent trips to Paris, was keen to discover more about it. Additionally, one of my girlfriends, whom I haven’t seen for a while, lives there and I really wanted to catch up with her. My beloved has never visited Le Marais but, as it had featured prominently in a book he’d recently read about the history of Paris, he was keen to visit.

We much prefer travelling to Paris by train. Sure it takes longer but it’s so much more relaxing and, providing you book well in advance, it’s considerably cheaper than flying. When you book a train ticket, you’re allocated a seat. When all the seats are sold, that’s it, the train’s full. There’s no standing on French TGV trains. I like to sit in the top section in either two seats side by side or facing one another. I hate sitting as part of a foursome. If I’m on my own, I’ll book one of the single seats. Sometimes I’ll work or maybe read but I often just enjoy watching the sea and countryside speed by. I say speed by but, in all honesty, the train doesn’t pick up any real speed until after Avignon.

The weather on route was sunny while we traversed the rolling hills of the glorious French countryside which was dotted with herds of creamy coloured cows grazing on lush green pasture and a patchwork of ploughed fields, golden stubble, shrivelled sunflowers and vines ready for picking.

We arrived in Paris at lunchtime, no accident, so we could dine at the magnificent Le Train Bleu restaurant. My late father would have loved it and it’s one of my few regrets that I never got to take him there. Sated, we wheeled our cases the short distance from the Gare de Lyon to our home for the next five days.

After checking out the neighbourhood, we bought a great bottle of wine and some goodies from one of the many traiteurs for a light supper before an early night. We needed to recharge our batteries for some serious traipsing around the neighbourhood over the week-end.

Two-day trip to Paris

Yes, it’s finally time for my beloved to get back to work full-time. He has mastered the crutches and can even walk without them for about 20 metres, so it was time to venture forth and meet one of our long-term clients, based in Paris. We opted to travel by train, less stressful, and I agreed to accompany him. He’s not yet ready to fly solo.

The train journey passes along the coast before heading inland. It’s delightful scenery even though it rained for most of the trip. The countryside at this time of year is verdant and lush. New bright green leaves contrast with bursts of bright yellow, pale pink, dark pink and purple blossoms against a backdrop of dark green evergreens, and lush soil every shade of ombre and ochre. April’s mix of sunshine and showers has made everything grow in abundance, from foliage to crops to vines.

There still isn’t a fast route from the Niçois coast to Paris, Marseilles has already bagged it. We’ll get one eventually, most probably via Grenoble. The train slowly winds its way along the coast until it turns inland after Marseilles and heads to Avignon – a place I keep meaning to visit – where it really picks up velocity. In no time at all we’re in Paris, a place that is irredeemably romantic. Just saying the name conjours up the Seine winding its way past Haussmanian buildings under stone bridges with majestic wrought iron lighting catching glimpses of famous sights and monuments.

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There’s something very restful about train journeys in Europe. The trains are invariably on time, you know exactly where to wait on the platform for your carriage. Trains are not overbooked, all tickets get a reserved seat. That’s right, there’s NO standing. The cost is very reasonable, particularly if you book in advance. We generally travel first-class and enjoy a late lunch in le Train Bleu restaurant at the Gare de Lyon. I just love all than fin de siecle splendour and the food’s pretty good too.

This time we were arriving late afternoon, far too late for even a late lunch. We had decided to stay in a hotel close to the station, within walking distance of Le Marais, and a short taxi ride to my beloved’s client. It was a charming bijou hotel, ideal for an overnight stop after feasting on oysters, lobster and champagne, always our favourite Parisian treat. And fitting, given it was the evening before my beloved’s birthday.

The following morning, after breakfast in a nearby brasserie, my beloved set off for his appointment, which was bound to include lunch, leaving me with a few precious hours to wander around Paris on my own – sheer bliss.

It was cold and damp to start with and I needed to walk briskly just to keep warm. I was wearing a layer too few. At one point I thought it was going to start raining but the moment passed and, thankfully, the sun came out. I just love wandering around Paris, so many independent specialist shops, many dating back hundreds of years. Of course, I particularly love all the food shops.

As I wander the streets, there’s always something to look at be it a wrought iron balcony, a beautiful street lamp, colourful  window boxes crammed with flowering plants, secret alleyways leading who knows where and wrought iron gates protecting someone’s heritage.

I also spotted some recent graffiti!

I didn’t indulge in as much window shopping as I usually do, probably because I had a destination in mind. I wanted to check out the summer collection of a German brand that I generally have to buy over the internet because it has limited availability in France and no outlets closer to me than Lyon. While its website is excellent it’s sometimes difficult to exactly discern the colour. Is is grey, beige or greige? Of course, I love all three but there were a couple of trouser styles, jackets and tops I wanted to check out.

On my early stroll I had spotted that rare beast in France, a vegan restaurant, which I wanted to try for lunch. It was excellent and I’ve made a note of its location, along with a couple of other restaurants, for us to try on our September anniversary trip. Of course, we’ll also be revisiting the site of our oyster fest.

After my enjoyable few hours, I met up with my be loved in Le Train Bleu bar where we took full advantage of the free WiFi, facilities and excellent tea. In no time at all, it was all abord for the return trip and a gentle snooze as the train purred all the way to Antibes. I have that fortunate knack of being able to power-nap anywhere at anytime.

The sun shone brighter as the train reached the south, stopping in Marseille after three or so hours before resuming its snail’s pace progression along the Med. Christophe, our uberfriendly and uberreliable local taxi driver, picked us up and whisked us back home. It had been a lovely trip, now I had to get everything ready for our maiden trip to Sardinia and 100th

Postcard from 36 hours in Paris

I’m back from a flying visit to Paris, a city I really should visit more often. I found a great deal on a delightful hotel in the 6th arrondissement, a stone’s throw from Notre Dame and Quai d’Orsay, one of my husband’s favourite museums in Paris. We arrived in time for lunch at a neighbourhood restaurant, part of Guy Savoy’s stable. My beloved had the set lunch menu while I went a la carte with carpaccio of octopus followed by salmon. It was delicious and we walked off the calories walking briskly along the Seine.
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My beloved was taking a few precious hours away from work to do a spot of sightseeing. While I’ve visited all Paris’s major attractions at least once, my beloved has not. He wanted to see inside Notre Dame but swiftly changed his mind when he saw the 300 metre long queue – maybe next time. Instead we admired its intricate exterior Gothic carvings before continuing our walk.
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Instead, we visited his favourite museum and enjoyed a fabulous exhibit of treasures from the Second French Empire, a time of tremendous wealth in France where it was de rigeur to flaunt said riches. The other was of the works of Frederic Bazille, an impressionist who hob nobbed with the likes of Monet, Renoir and Sisley but tragically died too young, leaving a small but beautiful body of work.
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After our dose of culture we strolled back to the hotel to enjoy a reviving cuppa. The hotel had already endeared itself to me by giving us a room upgrade. It then exceeded my expectations with a complimentary bottle of my favourite beverage. It will be deservedly receiving a glowing report. We spent the evening in the hotel bar enjoying a jazz concert before retiring for a great night’s sleep.
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The following morning my beloved had a packed itinerary starting with an early business meeting over breakfast leaving me to enjoy a lie in followed by a busy day pounding the Parisian pavements. I started by walking around the St Germain area which is full of interesting shops and galleries before straying across the river into an old favourite, the Marais.
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I walked the streets of Paris for over six hours before meeting my beloved back at the hotel for an early dinner in a typical French brasserie where we both tucked enthusiastically into a plate of oysters before heading home. Next stop New York!

Parisian diary

I took the train from Antibes to Paris: just over 5 hours door-to-door and a bargain at Euros 80 for a first-class return. I passed the journey lost in the pages of Sir Chris Hoy’s biography a very readable adjunct to “Heroes, Villains and Velodromes.

On my arrival in Paris, the skies cleared and the rain stopped so I decided to walk to our hotel on the Left Bank, near the Sorbonne. Each time we go to Paris we endeavour to stay in a different quarter as I enjoy traversing the streets looking at the magnificent architecture and window shopping – by far the safest type of shopping! In addition, I love browsing the art galleries, antiques and book shops.

I also adore finding us great restaurants for lunch and/or dinner. Now, of course, I could just fish out a guide book and book one of their many suggestions, but where would be the fun in that? No, I like to walk around, sizing up the restaurants and their menus before making my choice.

Over the years I’ve had many pleasurable trips to Paris. My first came courtesy of my French pen-friend who, while she lived in Grenoble, had a large family living in Paris. I spent a week with her aunt in an impressive apartment just off Boulevard Haussmann and traipsed to my heart’s content around all the sights of Paris and Versailles. Since then, I’ve been fortunate to visit it on a regular basis.

When I told my Dad we were off to Paris, he reminded me of the trip we had taken with them some years ago, at about the same time of year, where we had eaten “our most expensive meal”. He still has a copy of the bill from the now-defunct “Lucas Carton” near Place de la Madeleine.

I have to say it was a truly memorable meal but, at the time, I had no idea how much it had cost as neither my Mum nor I had menus with prices. I started with polenta and truffles, while everyone else had scallop tartar. Dad and my beloved followed that with lamb while Mum and I had lobster, at my Dad’s urging, as it’s my Mum’s favourite. We elected to have the wines chosen by the chef to accompany the meal, but didn’t have room for a dessert or coffee, although we did manage to demolish all of the mouth-watering, petit fours.

My Dad picked up the bill, which was not what I had intended. It was some months later that he asked me what I thought it had cost. The tilt of his eyebrows indicated that my initial bid was way off the mark. But he did concede it had been well worth the money.

My first job in Paris was to interview 20 French dentists about their periodontology regimes. After speaking to a couple, it was clear that a 4-page questionnaire was several pages too many despite the inducement of a free gift. I decided an alternative strategy was required and based myself outside of the exhibition, close to one of the many lunch-time venues. Sure enough, by 11:30am, there was a long queue of people waiting to be served and what better way to while away the time answering my questionnaire. By the time lunch was over, I had filled my quota.

After a delicious meal in a small family-run restaurant on Wednesday evening, we invited a business colleague to share some champagne and oysters with us on Thursday evening at a restaurant close to the Palais des Congrès where we have previously enjoyed many similar evenings. Like me, he’s a recent convert to cycling and we are considering organising a cycling trip next year for his readership, to coincide with the club’s “ Brevet Kivilev”.

I used to view oysters with great suspicion. After all, they look like large blobs of snot. Well, they do don’t they? However, I decided that millions of French people can’t be wrong and took the plunge. Now, they’re one of my favourite foods and I regret all those wasted oyster eating opportunities. So, if you’ve never tried them, go-ahead, just do it. I promise you won’t regret it.

I bought my beloved an oyster opening kit for last Xmas (among other things) so we can enjoy them at home. I like them best with a squeeze of lemon juice and a glass (or two) of champagne. As I’m fond of saying “I’m a woman of simple tastes, all of them expensive”.

Friday morning I rose early for a run along the Seine. I can’t totally abandon my new regime. Although my husband had promised to keep Friday clear, I truly did not anticipate seeing him at all. However, we shared lunch at a delightful Corsican restaurant I found in the Marais before he returned to the exhibition for a further round of business meetings.

Bike friendly Paris!

We rose on Saturday to find leaden skies. It rained from time to time but fortunately, not heavily. My beloved decided he wanted to look around the Louvre. I knew once he saw the queue, he would decide otherwise, and was proved correct. He hates to wait for even 5 minutes: strange behaviour from a guy who generally keeps everyone else waiting!

However, we happily whiled away the morning wandering around the area and I found a fabulous restaurant for lunch a few doors down from Le Grand Verfour, which, sadly, was not open for Saturday lunch – maybe, next time.

While from time to time, I enjoy a few days away, equally I enjoy getting back home. I’m already looking forward to tomorrow morning’s ride, weather permitting, to Roquebrune Cap Martin. It’s a 90km round trip for us and I still recall how equally exhausted and elated I was the first time I did it, two years ago. How time has flown!