Tuesday, 14 February 2006

Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder

Oh alright, I didn’t drink any absinthe, although I did encounter a Picasso in all its glorious cubist painted flesh, and consumed copious quantities of good broad red wine. Dear knitters, I have just been to Paris. Would you like to come too?

Rich and I set off on the Eurostar bright and early on Friday, and after traipsing through the red light district as R had misremembered the distance from the Gard du Nord to the hotel,

managed to take in a croque madame as soon as we had settled into the hotel and skipped out to get our bearings. After a general wander we returned to the hotel for a nap and to plot, and then out again to supper at in a sixteenth-century building on the Seine, eating side-by-side velvet-jacketed students from the Sorbonne with their earnest professors on the other side, at long wooden tables in a bright white room hung with bright copper pans, stuffed hunting trophies and old wooden farming tools.

Well-warmed by our formule we crossed the Seine

to Notre Dame,

then back past the ice-skating in front of the Hotel de Ville,

past the Louvre and then home again on the Metro.

Saturday morning we had breakfast at our hotel, provided in the restaurant attached to the hotel, a lovely old-fashioned French bistro filled with jewels of liquorice all-sort-like resin lamps.

Then it was off to L’Opera to buy tickets for the Sunday afternoon matinee,

through the Tuileries gardens

to Saint-Germain-des-Pres. I persuaded R to come with me to Bon Marche (otherwise you would've had no photos!)

I was suitably impressed by the buttons and ribbons of the La Droguerie concession and quite taken by some blue Anny Blatt bamboo yarn,

but bearing in mind the size of my bank balance managed to leave it in the shop. Then it was off to lunch off the Rue Bonaparte and to drool over furnishing fabrics in shop windows before buying some macaroons from Pierre Herme. I’ve never really liked macaroons before, but in the wake of Jane and Axelle I am now a convert. Here are the macaroons looking at L’Eglise St Sulpice.

Clockwise from top right that's huile d'olive-vanille, rose, fruit de la passion-chocolat (Axelle's recommendations), and chocolate (Richard's choice).

Walking back along the Seine, I thought you might be interested to see how even the least elegant of department stores dress their windows in Paris:

Yes, that's yarn used as a colour palette to bring out accents of desks and washing machines.

We had then planned to go to the Willy Ronis exhibition at the Hotel de Ville, but the queue stretched down the block and round the corner so we turned hotel-wards instead, passing Saturday-afternoon games of chess and petanque in the gardens around Les Halles

and found a secluded café in which to take refuge,

where Rich got some very good news

and I started my first cable.

(Rich likes to catch people unawares, and takes nothing if not a candid photo. I imagine this is how I look a lot when knitting).

We hopped back to the hotel to change into colder weather shoes (me) and put on a shirt (R), had dinner in the seventh arrondissement and walked home again past the Eiffel Tower,

via the Champs Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe.

After breakfast on Sunday we headed straight for the Pompidou Centre

to see William Klein, some of the permanent exhibition (including the cubist Picasso), and look out over Paris

then lunch

and quickly quickly to L’Opera to see the William Forsythe production. I loved it, particularly the third piece which was a beautiful meeting of the excellent classical training, line and grace of the Opera dancing in a powerful, angular dance of geometric floor patterns, simple strong-coloured costumes and sinister lighting.

(the view from our six euro seats).
Rich was entranced, both by the dancing and the opera house itself:

In search of a coffee we traipsed back to the café of good news, which like most of the rest of Paris was of course closed on the Sunday, but we passed close enough to La Droguerie proper for me to realise I had just missed it the day before. Peering through the grille I could make out hanks of luscious-looking yarn strung along one wall glowing in the gloom. One looked almost the perfect colour for my Jemima, but I’ll have to save the visit for my next trip. Then back again past the Louvre,

onto the Metro and home again to supper in the restaurant attached to our hotel. While all the evening meals we had in Paris could be placed somewhere in the delicious spectrum, the Parmentier de boudin aux pommes I had was really delicious, and an inspiring example of comforting French cooking.

On Monday after packing we set off to Willy Ronis, where we only had to queue for forty-five minutes. Luckily I had my knitting,

and the exhibition was beautiful: breathtaking images mounted as well as only the French can. Then a short wander around the nearby area before steak-frites for lunch, returning to the hotel to collect our cases and back on the Eurostar.

I had a lovely lovely time in Paris but was glad to be home, not worrying about how much things cost or wearing the wrong thing. Surfacing from the tunnel on this side of the channel the sky was dappled lilac, a sky so haunting and comforting that it made me nostalgic just to be home again, and as we drew towards Ashford the sun set, a truly Constable-esque burst of crimson haloed in pale gold below deep purple clouds.

Hope you all have a lovely Valentine's day.


Ashley said...

Oh, you Londoners. If only I could be whisked away to Paris so easily. Instead, I have Detroit three hours away--devoid of both style and macaroons. Sigh.

Mary said...

Sounds wonderful. Oh to have no childcare and other constraints...

Axelle said...

Gosh Philippa, those are absolutely stunning photos -- thanks for really taking me back to my old haunts! By the way, what did you think of the huile d'olive-vanille?

Jane said...

How good it is to be able to enjoy a whistlestop virtual tour of Paris this morning. I can't believe how much you packed in. I am fascinated by the window displays and very envious of your macaroons (when I went in August the PIerre Herme shop was shut). Glad you had a great time.