Chapter Five: Playing The PalaceFebruary 17, 2015
Chapter Seven: Journées du Patrimoine (Part Deux)February 28, 2015
DAY SIX: You Can Fight City Hall (Crowds), A Royal Visit, Smoke Free Dining, Monet Monet, The Path Of Kahn, Crazy Spokesman, Cheese Please, Not You Again, Muscat Love and The Best Meal we Had In Paris
Our Saturday would turn out to be the busiest day in Paris and include a place I had long wanted to step inside but never had the opportunity, a royal palace, a museum that makes quite an impression, plus a garden I had just recently read about that’s located on the outskirts of town. Oh yeah…we’d end the day by dining at what turned out to be our favorite restaurant in Paris. So much for that relaxing Anniversary trip.
I had purposely booked this week in Paris to coincide with the Journées du Patrimoine (Heritage Days). In cities throughout Europe, numerous buildings that are not customarily available for locals and tourists to visit open their doors for just two days.
It’s a building I’ve seen from only the outside on every trip I’ve made to Paris. Once there was a giant soccer ball displayed in front during World Cup, while on a Christmas visit in 2006 we watched as amateur ice skaters risked broken limbs as they glided across the ice in front of it.
After a quick stop at (gasp) Starbucks (nothing says Paris quite like a maigre vanille latte), we headed on over.
It opened at 9:30. Tracy and I arrived about 8:45. There were only 20 people ahead of us (including one of Thierry’s apartment dwellers…from Canada, of course… that we had met at the happy hour a couple of nights previously). An intermittent rain did not damper our desire to see go inside.
The Hôtel de Ville is obviously not a hotel at all, but the largest City Hall in Europe. The Mairie de Paris has been the seat of the Paris City Council since the mid 1300s. At a little after 9:30 we were escorted through security and made our way to the interior courtyard.
We passed by a couple of interesting plants that had been made into a large chair and a woman holding a purse . When I saw those weird pieces of “art” I thought Starbucks had spiked my coffee with absinthe, but Tracy assured me I was not seeing things.
Once inside, we started up The Grand Stairway’s 50 marble steps. Wow! In many respects, the Hôtel de Ville actually “Out Versailles” Versailles, and since we were among the first to enter, it did not have the palace masses we had encountered yesterday.
The staircase took us to the Salon des Caryatides (which I hoped had nothing to do with arteries) and then we entered the Salon Puvis de Chavanne, which is named after the artist of the same name (without the Salon). On the walls are his paintings of “Winter” (below) and “Summer.”
We realized quickly that this was not your average City Hall. The gorgeous rooms were so beautiful that my usually reliable transcriber (aka Tracy) forgot to write down notes early, so I’m a little confused (nothing new there) as to which room was which early on in our self guided tour.
What I do remember is…the Baccarat chandeliers inside the Hôtel de Ville are all as big as Peugeot sedans.
The ceilings are nothing less than magnificent.
Each of these reception rooms seemed to try to outdo the others.
The entire interior is a photo-taking mecca.
You might think that you’re at Versailles in The Salle des Fêtes (the Feast Hall). The motto of the Republic “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité” is written in gold letters on the ceiling. The floral arrangements made for even more colorful photos.
Both Tracy and I said this experience far exceeded Versailles….
…but there was more. We walked by a gilded bronze clock that was presented by a major 19th century bronze company during the 1889 World’s Fair.
Next we entered the Bibliothèque de l’ Hôtel de Ville, which in 1890 replaced the previous library that had been destroyed by fire in the early 1870s. If it was arson, I hope they threw the book at him.
The Salle du Conseil (Council Room) was also beautiful. The semi-circular layout has some gorgeous tapestries that were commissioned in the 1860s.
There is a wooden plate located under the central gallery that pays tribute to the Parisian city counselors of the former Seine department who were executed during the German Occupation for taking part in the Resistance movement.
We descended the Escalier de la Maire…
…and were soon back out in the courtyard (the Mayor’s Court).
Louis Philippe II (who became Philippe-Egalitié during the French Revolution) took the reins of the palace in the 1780s and was the person who opened the gardens to the public. He prohibited the police from coming in, so this became a symbol of liberty for the Parisians and was a hangout for intellectuals and artists.
…and an Alhambra Vase.
The Salle d’assembly generale was, to me, the most impressive room.
That room also had some notable paintings.
…as we headed to see some impressionistic paintings from Claude Monet out in the 16th arrondissement.
The Musée Marmottan Monet supposedly has the most Monets in its collection than anywhere else in the world, and due to the fact there was also a Monet exhibition going on, it was going to be Monet Monet time for us today (although Tommy James and the Shondells and Billy Idol were nowhere to be seen).
The walk from the metro station took us through a lovely park, and though the temperatures were hot again today, the leaves were making an attempt to tell everyone that autumn was indeed on its way.
The Musée Marmottan Monet is housed in an old hunting lodge, and the cost to enter was €11 (plus €3 for the audioguide). Unless you are an art aficionado, I would pass on the audioguide. The descriptions of each piece of art seemed to take longer to detail than the artist took to paint it.
There is no doubting the Marmottan has a wonderful collection of art, and is another of those “little gems” that some tourists miss since it is a little off the radar, especially for those on their first visit to Paris. It is well worth your time to come visit.
Monet’s “Impression, Soleil Levant” was our favorite painting (it was stolen from the museum during a heist in 1985, but was recovered and returned six years later). After gazing at it (no photography allowed inside)…
DIGRESSION: One of the stories behind the song, House Of The Rising Sun, is that it’s about a brothel located in New Orleans. The House Of The Rising Sun was named after Madame Marianne LeSoleil Levant.
Speaking of the sun, that red devil’s heat penetrated into the Marmottan, so after about 45 minutes of walking through what was quickly surpassing the Pompidou Escalator Sauna’s heat index, we exited the premises.
As we walked back through the park (oops, it’s a park…we strolled) there was a man who was giving pony rides to some children. “Wow,” I told Tracy, “Monet Monet, ride the pony.” Tracy was too hot to laugh at my pony tale.
We took the metro to what seemed like the end of the earth (or at least Line 10…Boulogne-Pont de St. Cloud). Very near where we exited the metro was the Albert Kahn Musee et Jardins. On a hot day, the jardins at the Kahn were the perfect escape from the heat.
We walked the various paths of Kahn for the better part of an hour exploring Japanese gardens, English gardens and French gardens, while looking at koi carp swimming in little man-made ponds.
Admittance on this day was free thanks to Heritage Days, and there were a number of French families with their children taking advantage of the opportunity.
Fortunately, he was still able to live here…
…and enjoy the gardens until his death in 1940.
Inside, there is a museum that tells more about Kahn and photography, but we decided it was time to call it a day and head back to Paris.
When we arrived back in the busy ‘hood (the Marais), we saw a rather bizarre man riding an even more bizarre bicycle contraption. I took a photo of him as he rode down the street, and he quickly changed direction and came over to me demanding money for taking his picture.
Feigning ignorance (although ignorance is never really a stretch for me), I declined to give him any money, and he rode off into the sunset to torment others. It wasn’t until I was going through my pictures that I saw that on the front of his vehicle was the word “caisse.” I guess he really did except people to fill his coffer. Sorry dude, catch you on the next trip over.
We used the money I didn’t give him to purchase some wine, bread and cheese. After passing by Les Philosophes (no sign of David Spade berating tourists) we walked back to the apartment for own happy hour (which included another load of laundry).
We had a relaxing late afternoon/early evening because we didn’t have dinner reservations until 8:30 at a restaurant that has received a lot of rave reviews recently. While sipping our vin rouge with some incredible blue cheese on a baguette, our little buddy Mickey appeared from under the couch.
Tracy and I breathed a sigh of relief that he wasn’t caught in one of the traps Thierry had laid out. Mickey hung out for a couple of minutes, but when Tracy tried to shoo him outside (coincidentally, with her shoe), Mickey quickly sought refuge back under the couch.
About 8:10, Tracy and I left the apartment, told Mickey he could have the extra cheese and headed for our dinner engagement at L’Ange 20 (8 Rue Geoffroy L’Angevin), which as it turned out was less than a 10-minute walk from our apartment (photo below courtesy infotraveler.net).
At just before 8:30 we walked into this very small restaurant and were welcomed by yet another Thierry, the owner of L’Ange 20. We were seated at a table, ordered some wine and as we perused the menu I felt a tap on my left shoulder. It came from the woman sitting next to me.
As I turned toward her, the woman said, “You again…really? Are you following us?” Sure enough, it was our “friends” who we kept bumping into yesterday after they helped us with the ticket machine on our way to Versailles. She told us that her husband was Canadian (Ontario), but that she was originally from Mississippi. They were dining with his parents and were already eating dessert. She said, “You’re going to love this place.” Once again, she was correct.
I started with foie gras with toasts and fig chutney. This was the first of our “Wow” dishes. Tracy’s starter was also a “Wow.” She had fried shrimp with a salad that included yellow tomatoes and guacamole.
After our ”friends” departed, we engaged in conversation with a couple of Parisians who were sitting on the other side of our table. They were both quite personable and knowledgeable. One was a waiter at a Michelin starred restaurant, who said he loves L’Ange 20 so much he has to keep returning here.
Now it was time for dessert, and they were both terrific. Tracy had a Mousse au chocolat with caramelized peanuts and whipped cream, while I tried the caramelized apples topped with a macaron.
I also had a little shot of Muscat to top off an almost perfect dinner. The total bill came to €113, which included wine and the après dinner Muscat (and looking at Tracy’s upside-down notes above, we also started with a Kir Royale, so this place was really a bargain if you don’t drink as much as we do).
Dinner was so good that we made reservations for the following Friday evening, a night that we believed would be our last in Paris. However, Air France would dictate a change in those dinner (and travel) plans.
We took a circuitous route back to the apartment to lose a few of the calories we had eaten. Back “home,” before we could turn on the air conditioning, Dennis was wailing at maximum volume.
As I lay in bed, I started having just the slightest hint of a cough. “Nothing to worry about,” I thought. I always get a little cough on vacation it seems. This, too, shall pass.
Tomorrow, we would have to be up early again in order to gain entrance to a famed palace and then enjoy its wonderful gardens. It would also turn out to be my last healthy day in Paris.
Next: DAY SEVEN – Senate Seat, Jardins Galore, Protestants in Paris, The Deluge, A Bourse Is A Bourse Of Course Of Course, The Big Cheese, One Dessert Is Just Not Enough and The Beginning Of The End