Monday, October 4, 2010

Lune de Miel - Part VI - Fermé

Day 5 has some issues...

We start with a delicious, although decidedly less relaxed, much more fancy pants hotel breakfast and then head off for the Musée Picasso. I have been looking forward to re-visiting said musee since awaking to an Eiffel Tower on my bedside and discovering our honeymoon destination. I loved this museum, the curation based on his different lovers, the incredible variety of media, styles and themes and the sheer volume of pieces. I couldn't wait to show D.

Musée Picasso =  fermé - Renovations until 2012!! Quel dommage!! After much self-pity and some outright pouting, we picked ourselves up and re-routed a la Pantheon.

A walk around, some time in the crypt with French luminaries ranging from Voltaire & Rousseau to Madame Curie & Braille and then we're off again  to the Jardin de Luxembourg where we lament the lack of American parks while watching children push boats around a fountain with sticks. The French share picnics, read books, nap & chat while D. and I sip our Orangina and Fanta (in reverse order) and wonder why the National Mall doesn't have small boats with sticks to rent.

Honeymoon - Day 5 Batting 500

Next stop: Cafe Voltaire for a fondly remembered lunch of quiche & salad next door to the Musée d'Orsay. Unfortunately, Cafe Voltaire is also fermé.

Much marching ensues... we are hungry. Initial cafes are rejected - too touristy, many more cafes are also fermé. Then the Cafe Solferino - not the best... but good enough for the moment. We eat, we drink coffee that tastes like chocolate and then we continue to a photography exhibit recommended by family friend and expert in all things art, theater and food, Robin. In its final days, the posters for the Willy Ronis exhibit list the Jeu de Paume. I'm sure they list other things too - but I'm already off, marche-ing a la tuileries and to the Jeu de Paume location adjacent to the Musee de l'Orangerie at Place Concorde where I took in an excellent Cindy Sherman retrospective my last time in Paris.

The Jeu de Paume was not, as you may have guessed, fermé, but Ronis is not listed and the exhibit is instead across town (posters cited Jeu de Paume as sponsor, not location) near Ponte Neuf and the day is fleeting.

Some more self-pity ensues, documented by D., and then voila: the exhibit is open until 7p.m. and we are marche-ing again.

The line for Willy wraps through the hallway and into the courtyard. Everyone is French. This is a great sign. We wait. The line moves quickly. We abuse our expired student ID's for the tarif reduit and then, we are in.

Ronis is a post-war photographer, French and a contemporary of Doisneau. His work is documentary; photojournalism (predominantly) covering the working people of France and elsewhere in the way only a well-composed black & white photo can. The world is rough, lush, earnest and hopeful. Workers recline on boats, a woman shouts at a union meeting and a couple whispers in a baquette in a noisy brasserie reflected back at the photographer by the mirror behind them. A child runs with a baguette, a woman clutches a package on the back of a scooter and more and more and more- all wonderfully evocative and wonderfully French. Even Ronis' images of New York in the 80's are flavored with the same joie de vivre as his 1950's Paris.

An exceptional exhibit that I'm so glad we saw. I only wish they had a catalog or an exhibit poster for us to keep as a memory.

Feeling refreshed, and maybe a little extra French, we continued down the Seine to stop into Notre Dame - always worth a visit. The light at 6 p.m. was that perfect golden slanting warmth that I always identify with Paris. The intensity and the color transform the city, coating walls and peeking around rows of rooftops.

Our timing also resulted in catching Saturday evening's mass, something I had never seen. With organ and incense and maybe a few overzealous senior volunteers, it was a cool treat, even if it meant we couldn't get the money shot of the aforementioned magic hour sunlight streaming in the rose window.

Honeymoon - Day 5 Batting 500

Honeymoon - Day 5 Batting 500

Escaping out the side door, we continued on to Isle Saint Louis for an afternoon (evening) treat a la Berthillon. Supposedly one of the small shops or windows opening onto a crowded street is the original divine ice cream purveyor, but it seems increasingly confusing as to which one is which. They all carry and sell Berthillon, so the resulting scoops of icey goodness are more or less the same, but the availability of flavors differ greatly.

Confronted with no noisette on our window's list of flavors, I had to be creative, choosing instead framboise et chocolat (a huge success) D. had favorite, pamplemousse with citron vert.

Honeymoon - Day 5 Batting 500

We sat along the Seine eating our glace as young French etudiants picnicked around us. While we sat, we debated which major U.S. cities had settled around a river historically and maintained a contemporary, thriving civic life on its banks like Paris, or London, or Salzburg or really any European cities we have visited.

Back at the hotel, we selected from a list of restaurants in the area and set out to enjoy one of "Paris's 100 Best" (according to the book). Albeit we set out a little late (after 9), but after all this was France.

Honeymoon Day 5 - Batting 500

The first selection, Cafe de las Musees, not far from where our day began at Musee Picasso was like the Musee, also fermé.

Next up, Cafe Breizh, a few blocks up and over. Fermé.

Next Le Pamphlet. No, not fermé, but decidedly fancy, too fancy. The lack of outdoor wicker seating intimidated us as we tried to calculate how much the two dollar signs in the book really meant. Backing away, we decided to return to an earlier cafe we had passed that looked promising. After standing outside like vultures for a terrace seat and finding the menu much to our liking, a waitress from Cafe Sevigne popped out and spoke with D. in French. Not getting a response she asked: "Do you speak French?" to which we responded "Yes!" She then said that the kitchen was closing in ten minutes and it was impossible to get us in. She said this all in English proving that, no, we didn't really speak French, and yes this was another restaurant fail.

Feeling forlorn, increasingly hungry and desperate to find a cafe, we stumbled upon Camille. Everything we needed in a French meal. Escargot, Magret de Canard, Pave de Rumsteak (with a bernaise so luscious, I could have drank it from the sauce boat) all paired with a fruity beaujolaise made for very happy campers. D.'s magret de canard was swirled in a sauce that was sweet but still savory, all wrapped around a dense mound of pomme de terre. My pomme frites were crispy with a vinegar edge, the steak flavorful and leathery. A perfect bistro meal.