Monday, April 21, 2008

Paree Is for You and Me--Day Eight

It's Easter Sunday, so we're a bit worried things might be closed as there are hints, Notre Dame-sized hints, the country might be a tad Catholic. Oddly enough, though, all the things usually opened on Sunday seem open. We even get a glorious morning, before things turn gray as the day wears on, enough to capture photos like this one as we walk from the hotel, where we have breakfast for the first time (very nice, there are no Costco croissants in France, but no Secco), to the relatively nearby Rodin Museum.

Seems it was a big thing in France to pay off your debt to the state as an artist by leaving them your estate (Picasso did the same). Rodin lived in one fine house, and now it houses his terrific stuff. His statues have those deep, deep eyes, and they completely draw you in. And pretty much all of his greatest work is here--inside the chateau are the studies, and outside in the gardens the actual Gates of Hell, to pick one example. There are also mirrors everywhere in the house, giving you wonderful odd views and nifty camera opportunities.

I also get to see more of those "emerging from the stone" sculpture I find so mesmerizing (see Michelangelo's The Slaves) here, in particular this impossibly balanced, and what better metaphor for its subject, statue of Icarus.

The gardens of the museum are marvelous; what a refuge they must be when the city is sticky with summer, but even on a late winter day they enchant, full of wonder and art that redeems itself from being overly famous like this guy....

Afterward we head back to the hotel to make our decision about going to Rich's funeral or not. After a night's sleep and some more chatting/emailing with my family I opt not to, as even my poor now-widowed sister says don't come. Mostly it seems as if going would be a grand gesture that was mostly gesture--and indeed we hear so many people come that there's a line out the funeral home door. I would be just one more person, but one much poorer, to be there. So I decide it's best to see her later, when she might not have as much support but no doubt still need it, if not more.

I also hope that this Metro poster is meant not for me.

We decided to hit the Pompidou Center that afternoon, especially as it's quite close to St. Eustache, where there's a free organ concert at 5:30. At the Pompidou we hit our third (one and two are coming up later in the trip) longest line, but finally get in and soak up the 20th Century in art. The elevators do make you feel like gerbils with some technology, yes. Oh, but before you go in, there's the a bit rundown fountain/sculpture by Niki de Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely. We're suckers for Phalle, as she did the perfectly playful Queen Califia's Magic Circle down by Amy's folks in Escondido.

Oh, so I posted out of order, but modern art does that to you, especially when you can look out the full glass doors and see through the stormy looking clouds to Sacre Coeur.

Or you can get lost in a room hung with Calder.

But every artist in the hit parade is here, often with a room for him or herself. And the wall informational plaques are very helpful, too, not just historical/biographical but interpretative. We do begin to tire when we get to the second half of the 20th century. I mean, Phillippe Starcke is fine, but when I see a whole room of his stuff I start wondering if I'm at Target (pronounce that tar-zhey, s'il vous plaît). We then have to hustle to get from the museum to the church, especially as we want to check emails as the decision I said was decided earlier we sort of kicked around the whole day. (Such a decision I don't make quickly, as it kicks back.) Luckily, Paris is a city that offers free wi-fi in some of its parks, so we find the hot spot, log in, and our iPhones do the rest.

The concert, Liszt, is transporting, if not as much to me as for one guy who clearly attends all such concerts and listens, head down, near-to-tears, often conducting key shifts with a wave of his hand. But to be in a Gothic church and have a magnificent old organ let notes fly towards its butresses--very impressive, even for a rock and roll loving fool like me (and actually, you can't tell me massive bass notes on a pipe organ aren't rock 'n' roll).

From there we Metro to the Bastille to say let us eat dinner. We find Bofinger, often called the first brasserie, which is grand but without reservation you get whisked upstairs and barely have time to snap a photo of its lovely dome.

We have a solid meal of oysters for Amy, foie gras pate for me, salmon and haddock choucrote for Amy, civet de biche (yes, doe stew) for me, a 2004 Guigal Tavel rose, an incredible apple clafoutis with hazelnuts for Amy, and something chocolate but I can't read my handwriting so I don't remember what for me. Amy probably got the best all through the meal, but I forgive her. Alas, on the way out two kinds of misfortunes--I forget my umbrella (I hope it's still enjoying Paris) and as we head down the stairs a waitress loses an entire tray of meals, food and plates flying everywhere. Very dramatic, but we escape unstained.



Blogger Smitty said...

I'm totally hooked. Your superior prose has convinced me that Mrs. Smitty and I must go to Paris.

I don't speak a lick of French...I do Spanish/Spanglish at about an elementary level...I hope I will still have a good time nonetheless.

Calder. Right up until recently, I never really appreciated Calder. And here we have the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, with a massive 3-story Calder right downtown in front of City Hall, and the "symbol" for Grand Rapids is an abstract of the Calder (and abstract of an abstract...), but I never really "got it." That whole "twist some iron and paint it orange" thing was lost on me. But now...I want to see more.

Thanks for sharing your trip with us, George. I am humbled you took so much time to share something relatively intimate and private.

7:06 AM  
Blogger Generik said...

I'm embarrassed to admit that I haven't read all of your Paris posts yet, but I just had to comment on this one simply because you ate at Bofinger. When I read, that I let out an involuntary sigh. Out of a week of wonderful meals, that might have been the wonderfulest.

Forgive me if you've addressed this issue already in your travel diaries, but is the restaurant in Samaritaine open again, or is it still closed?

6:46 PM  
Blogger George said...

Smitty, you're more appreciative than my stuff desrves. Thanks!

Generik, Samaritaine is still completely closed. And while we liked Bofinger, our best meals were of the non-brasserie variety.

8:26 PM  
Blogger Generik said...

Generik, Samaritaine is still completely closed.

That's a shame, it was such a lovely place. Through some sort of serendipity, we were lucky enough to have dinner there on what turned out to be the last night they were open (June, 2005). The maitre d', a charming young Belgian man, sat with us for a few minutes and gave us a brief history of the place. About twenty minutes later, I saw that he was completely drenched in his tuxedo. Apparently there was some kind of pool there, and the wait staff and kitchen staff were all throwing each other into it as the night went on. By the end of the evening, the entire staff was dressed in shorts and T-shirts, all soaking wet, laughing, crying and singing. It was sad, sweet chaos -- and yet, through it all, the food was outstanding. It was a night we'll never forget.

6:26 AM  

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