The sun was shining as we ambled around Paris in the spring, exploring the capital with an extremely relaxed itinerary and comfortable walking shoes. Interesting iconic buildings, cool people, great brasseries and shops seem to appear around almost every corner infused with that intangible joie de vivre the French do so well. The ideal way to do Paris is simply to let yourself meander along the cobbled streets and grand architecture, discovering as you go. Despite the national rail strike, which forced us to have to stay another day (quelle horreur) and the marathon, we had a glorious time.
Pierre Touitou, the chef behind Parisien bistro “Vivant” says “the best advice I can give to someone who’s visiting Paris for the first time is to say “PUTAIN” all day long, to anyone”. This well known and spiky swear word, he suggests, will allow you to get what you want, when you want it by capturing the spirit of the capital in one, strong, determined insult.
Given that we were there to attend a renowned pastels exhibition at The Petit Palais and having dinner in one of the best known brasseries in Paris, I decided that I might get arrested if I became so abusive, so I only said it quietly under my breath a few times. To be honest, there was absolutely no need for this level of effect – I was rather hoping to come across at least a few rude waiters, but sadly, that was not to be. They were all charming and even allowed me to practice my appalling French whilst ordering instead of immediately reverting to my language. Oh, how the times have changed.
Instead I chose to use the “C” word as many times as possible, fluctuating between shouting “Croissants, Coffees, Cheese and Cointreau’s” as many times as possible in my loudest voice and all was well.
We managed to see both the newest and the oldest buildings in Paris during the two days we were there.
THE NEWEST: LAFAYETTE ANTICIPATIONS
The Lafayette Anticipations, at 9 rue du Plâtre has literally only just opened to the public and still has a few tweaks to sort. The space is in a 19th century industrial building with an elegant facade, in the heart of Marais and renovated by renowned architect Rem Koolhaas. It has a central courtyard and an “exhibition tower” of steel and glass composed of four movable platforms, which will allow the space to be rearranged in forty different configurations and it offers a general interest foundation which aims to provide flexibility for numerous future projects across multidisciplinary areas. Impressive.
Lutz Bacher has an exhibition on called “The Silence of the Sea” which consisted of a film and lots of glitter on the floor. It’s the first monographic exhibition in France for this New York transplant, whose works (photos, sculptures, videos, and installations) are inspired by subjects such as the human body, sexuality, power, and violence.
THE OLDEST: ÉGLISE-SAINT-GERMAIN-DES-PRÉS
The tower and nave of Église-Saint-Germain-Des-Prés constitutes one of the oldest Parisian vestiges of Romanesque architecture (11th and 12th century) and despite having some work done to it at the moment, is a joy to behold.
It is also happens to be right opposite one of my favourite restaurants Les Deux Magots, so you can go there afterwards for great food, ambience and people watching.
EVERYTHING ELSE IN BETWEEN:-
We stayed again in the Hotel Des Arts in Montmatre – a small but perfectly formed hotel in a great location, which is opposite a busy little arts cinema, deeply embedded in the lively streets around artiste central, full of shops and cafes.
The central square in Montmartre was the first stop for lunch. Much busier than when we were there in January and the restaurants have now taken over the central area with outside awnings to manage the throngs of tourists looking for Soupe l’oignon et moules frites.
A taxi ride and stroll around the Petit Palais area where the expensive shops are:-
Followed by dinner at Les Deux Magots. The perfect viewing spot pour moi (as the nosiest person in the world) – you sit side by side and stare out at the world with gay abandon:-
Back to our favourite jazz club in Paris – the Caveau de la Huchette for late night pints of Cointreau and increasingly inappropriate dancing for our age. The usual crowd of expert dancers sharing partners were there, although the older men tend to look a little predatory when inviting the nubile 18 year olds to dance. One US father, responsible for at least six of his daughters friends had to constantly remind them that “c’est ma filles, monsieur”, glaringly warning them to stay away.
The next day a hearty French breakfast set us on our way:-
Quintessential Parisian entertainment on the opposite side of the street:-
More meandering towards the Marais area (via the red light district!):-
This lion looks like it’s had a heavy Saturday night!
With lunch and coffee breaks en route:-
Typical French lunch on the table next to us! Great for the arteries – cheese, wine and cigarettes:-
Notre Dame is always a must – surprisingly easy to get into during an actual service:-
Couldn’t have had a better weekend. Now going to try doing the same thing in London!