Monday, April 07, 2008

Paree Is for You and Me--Day Three

We opt for a day off from museums to go neighborhood walking and Metro to Montmarte (after great stuff at Patisserie Secco). I know it's the neighborhood most recently made famous by Amelie, but despite Ms. Tautou's charms, the film just seems too damn precious to me and I haven't seen it. But that doesn't mean I don't want to stare at the doors of the famous--we pointed at Georges Suerat's place and composed ourselves outside Erik Satie's. Turns out van Gogh lived everywhere in Montmarte for a few months--probably rent problems. Mostly it's a place of village-y charm and hints at numeorus great artists, including the atelier where Picasso painted Les Demoiselles d'Avignon and thereby created the 20th century. This photo isn't it (the atelier or the painting, which is at MOMA), but I like it anyway....

We continue on our walk offered in the DK book (they do make the best guidebooks, let's face it), and get to one of our favorite churches of Paris St.-Jean l'Evangeliste. This place of worship is almost human in scale--none of that tremble at the sight of the lord Notre Dame vibe--and it's Art Nouveau, and how can you not like Art Nouveau?

And we continue, skirting the village center that is both too touristy and too filled with tourists (let them eat crepe!), seeing the tiny vineyard, about all that's left of Paris's once great wine production, and spots like this, which also is much smaller than I imagined it, but that's a wascally rabbit for you, even if it's one that inspires Steve Martin to write a play.

Montmarte, with all its monts, also was a big spot for windmills, although most are gone now. Still, there's something odd about suddenly seeing one peering down a street at you. Luckily Peter Boyle is nowhere in site, unless he's in the business at right getting his hair done.

And then there's this windmill. Nicole Kidman was nowhere in sight here. But in the breezeway to the enrance, they have cool you see one image one way, another image another photos that feature the famous nude boobs of Paris. We decided not to check out any of the revues, figuring while they might be enjoyable kitsch (and, for me, boobs) for the first 15 minutes or so, after that we'd wonder why we blew 100 Euros each for a mediocre dinner and enough rhinestones to make Liberace jealous.

Such thoughts of boobs drove us to church. Sacre Coeur and its boob-like domes dominate the landscape. It's also unusual inside, as the mosaics and stained glass all look like comic book representations, maybe not so surprising given the church got finished in the first half of the 20th century.

We did climb the vicious, Escher-like spiral staircase to the top, where even my iPhone couldn't take a bad picture.
Oh, I skipped a lunch bought at a boulangerie, simple, simply delicious sandwiches that pretty much are all about the baguette and therefore all good. But after our strenuous ascent to Sacre Coeur's heavens, we needed more sustenance back at the hotel, and had scrumptious sweets bought at Patisserie Secco. From there we went to see the world's largest too expensive department store, Le Bon Marche. You can buy everything from yarn to $9,000 dresses there. I emphasize you can do that. We bought nothing, too stunned by sticker shock even to consider the shelves of Alessi products, and we love Alessi. In the meantime, the moon put on a show over the nearby Lutetia Hotel for free.

That encouraged us to join Paris in its happy hour, as most of the town seems to hit cafes and have something between 5 and 7. (How civilized.) At Au Sauvignon we ignored the place's name and had au beer--Leffe on tap is a thing one could get used to. for dinner a few doors away we went to La Cigale Recamier, famous as a place where you can have a souffle for every course. That seemed too much for us, so we had flan to start, but no flaccid flan this. It featured white asparagus like the cigar-sized ones we'd been spying at markets, and they were they best asparagus we'd ever had. As for mains, I had a haddock souffle--even the fish flavor seemed whipped to lightness--and Amy had a mushroom souffle fresh from the forest floor. You wash that down with a bottle of 2002 Volnay Premier Cru Clos de Angles from Nicholas Rossignol (hey, I had skis from him once!) and you will be happy, too. Do watch finishing the meal with a dessert souffle each, though, as they are the same size as the main course entrees and despite loving both chocolate and caramel with sea salt, you will feel over-egged.

To try to walk off a dessert each, we head back in a loop through St. Germain, only to decide that's a long walk even when you know you need to burn some calories. Window shopping is fine when stores are closed, and Amy particularly got a kick out of this one at Sonia Rykiel, but maybe it's just the way she'd like to see the world.



Blogger Smitty said...

I love architecture. There is so much art in the structure of a building, and moreso in these old "classic" cities like Paris, London, Rome, etc.

I have often wondered if the U.S. is too transitory to have that type of longevity in our architecture and in our infrastructure. Do we have any famous wineries or breweries that some day people will come to the U.S. just to see? Do people come to New York or Boston to see our churches?

I get that we're only like 300 years old to Paris's thousand years old...but I wonder if our very nature prevents us from having that kind of nostalgic view of and pride in our institutions and cities.

I could be talking out of my ass...we do have the MOMA, Chicago art institute and the like. But cities like Paris are the whole institution in and of themselves, whereas we just seem to have them sprinkled about.

Am I making sense??

I'm picking up your beer this evening after work. Will email you later for the details.

6:48 AM  
Blogger George said...

You do make sense. Sure, Europe has that whole millennial head start to its advantage, but part of the problem is America ever thinks forward so the past tends to get short-shrift. Plus we tend not to be as good about grand public spaces--our most famous architectural landmark is probably Falling Water, and that was a private home off in the woods a difficult hour outside Pittsburgh.

Sure, we've got some stunners like the Chrysler Building and I'd argue for the Golden Gate Bridge as "architecture," but now all our places of worship could double as basketball arenas. Meh.

9:38 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

Hey! that's my line!

10:16 AM  
Blogger Rickey Henderson said...

It's good to see countries with an actual sense of history, isn't it? Oh. and that rabbit is pure dynamite.

1:13 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

I love Montmartre, for the same reasons I love the 5th/6th and Le Maret (sp?): older parts of the city that kept their village-y feel after the Hausmann boulevards were laid down in the mid-19th century.

I like the grand boulevards too. My god, that's part of what Paris so freakin' gorgeous. But the fact that you can peel off of a "world-class" thoroughfare and wander a moment later into windy, old-world looking side street is part of Paris' charm.

After all, it's not only one of the two great world cities of the 19th century, it's also a 1000 year-old city.

4:17 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Oh! And I nearly forgot: I'm required by contract to say, "Audrey. Mmmmm" every time I see a photo of the lovely Mademoiselle Tatou.

Audrey. Mmmmm.

4:19 AM  
Blogger George said...

I linked to Ms. Tautou just for you, Mike.

9:19 AM  

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