I love Paris in the springtime, I love Paris in the fall. I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles, I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles. Hmmm, I’m less sure, of loving Paris, when it sizzles in a heatwave…..
I had to go to Paris recently for administrative reasons (what a reason to go to Paris!). Of course, I took advantage of my time there to have some fun too. This little blog is for all my friends in lockdown in Auckland and elsewhere and all my friends anywhere else who are unable to travel, because of Covid.
The weather was great on my first day, it was a beautiful, sunny September day. My friend Catherine and I had lunch in her garden, then we went off to see the Arc de Triompe, all wrapped up by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, as a tribute to the artist, Christo, who passed away last year.
Day two was Paris when it drizzles, still beautiful in the drizzle, nonetheless. The gardens of the Palais-Royal, not a soul in sight. I find gardens very peaceful under the shelter of an umbrella.
Near the Palais-Royal are the Rue Sainte-Anne and the Rue Richelieu, bustling streets full of small Japanese restaurants, like a little Tokyo implanted in Paris. Also on the rue Sainte-Anne is one of my favourite shops, l’Epices Roellinger, at 51bis Rue Sainte-Anne. It’s a wonderful shop for anyone who likes to cook and smells heavenly: www.roellinger-bricourt.com/fr/
The rain cleared and I stood in the queue for the newly renovated Musée Carnavalet, which covers the history of Paris from ancient to modern times. Since Covid, all museums require visitors to book their slot for visiting online, in order to manage crowds better. The Carnavalet is very popular due to its recent renovation. There was a queue to check the Pass Sanitaire (only vaccinated people are allowed to enter museums (as well as restaurants, bars, TGVs etc), then a second queue for the different time slots. However, this wonderful new museum is worth the hassle. Some people don’t bother with the basement section or sous-sol, but this section has interesting bits of history about Roman and medieval Paris.
A bit of history about the building – part of the museum used to be the home of Madame de Sévigné, the famous writer of letters in the 17th century. Madame was renowned for her wit and her sage advice to her daughter, collected in a volume entitled “Letters of Madame de Sévigné”.
There is now a new wing with a large section on the Revolution, including mementos of the French Royal family from the time of their imprisonment eg Queen Marie-Antoinette’s personal effects. There is also an interesting section on the modernising of Paris, from Baron Haussmann’s demolition of medieval Paris and the creation of the Grandes Boulevardes to the 21st century.
It was also Paris Design Week, and there were temporary sculpture exhibitions in a number of grand Hotels Particuliers, or town houses which are normally closed to the public. These were a fine surprise to stumble on, when walking around the old streets of le Marais.
In the evening, I was invited by some friends to dinner in SOPI – south of Pigalle. This trendy area runs from Metro Notre Dame de Lorette up to Pigalle (hence south) and is full of lively restaurants, bars, gourmet food shops, tea shops – think chai latte, and all kinds of bakeries, as opposed to the traditional French boulangerie. Though it was a rainy Tuesday night, most venues were busy, Parisians seemed determined to enjoy life and to put behind them the memory of months of lockdown.
On my last morning, it was raining, but I was determined not to be put off and headed out after breakfast with my trusty umbrella.
First stop: the Museum of Nissim de Caimondo, which is a fine Hotel Particulier which once belonged to the Caimondo family. The Caimondos were serious collectors of 18th century art and antiques, the entire collection was gifted to the state by Baron Moise de Caimondo in the 1930s. This is wonderful museum for anyone who loves antique furniture and paintings – there are some paintings by Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun and signed furniture from master cabinet makers of the 18th century. And don’t forget to visit the kitchen, with its enormous, early 20th century cooking range, and rows of copper pots.
Then it was off to la Coupole for lunch with another old friend. La Coupole was my father’s favourite restaurant in Paris, and I had never been there, he always went there whenever he visited Paris. A lovely light restaurant, with a refined extensive menu and friendly service. https://www.lacoupole-paris.com/en/
I just had enough time to visit the Fondation Cartier before my train to see a wonderful exhibition of paintings by Damien Hirst – of cherry blossoms. On a rainy grey day, the huge canvases were bursting with colour, hope and life. They are a reminder that spring will always come. www.fondationcartier.com