December 6, 2016, Tuesday: Paris
Today was all About Impressionism…Macarons and Crepes
I awoke at 6.00 am (yes, to the sound of the tram bell). I showered and fixed myself a smoked salmon baguette with salad which I would carry for lunch and ate pain de chocolat for brekkie. By the time I left my place it was 9.45. I arrived at my destination, the Musee d’Orsay, at 10.30 am. Having been here several times, I did not expect to stay beyond noon.
Exploring the Musee D’Orsay:
I could not have been more delusional. The Musee d’Orsay is so huge and so crammed with artistic wonders that it deserves a whole day devoted to its exploration. As it turned out, I began my examination of its masterpieces quite systematically, on the ground floor, as I took in its sculptural treasures—Rodin, Carpeaux, mixed media African busts by Cordier (which I adore) before I made my way to the end of the hall only to find a special section devoted to the Opera Garnier and the artistic genius of Charles Garnier! Now what are the odds that I would have visited it only the previous day? Had I not taken the tour, I would have just skirted through this exhibition. As it turned out, I gave the section a great deal of time and attention and was completely taken by the model of Paris featuring the Opera building built on scale beneath our feet and protected by a glass floor. There was also a brilliant cross-section of the entire building that gave glimpses of the kind of décor that had fascinated me yesterday. You could see a miniature version in this model of the original ceiling rondel as it had existed before Chagall presented his Modernist one.
I made my way by elevator then to the top-most floor and decided to head downwards via the stairs. At the top, I came upon the huge clock that acted as the clock of the Gare d’Orsay (when it used to a major railway station). The manner in which this building has been repurposed to house the national Impressionist collection is simply stunning and no matter how often I come here, I still remain awed. Through the clock’s hands, one can see the city of Paris spread out with the church of Sacre-Coeur at Montmartre clearly visible in the distance. As I moved inside, I found the balcony (which is open only in the summer) which offers incredible views of the Seine and the buildings on its banks including the Louvre. Of course, once my viewing of the paintings began, there was no stopping my camera. I clicked incessantly—from Whistler’s Mother to Manet’s Flautist and Odalisque, from landscapes and snowscapes by Sisley and Pisarro to Monet’s Poppies, Ladies with a Parasol and his Waterlilies, from Renoir’s portrait of a very young Monet to his portrait of Berthe Morrisot and his twin paintings of City and Country Dancing, from Cezanne’s mountain views and Card Players to a few by Rousseau—all the Masters were there, vying for attention. I went past the Café Campagna and made my way to the lower floor where the grandeur of the Impressionists continued. I took some more pictures of works by Van Gogh, Seurat and Cezanne and then eventually, with my tummy rumbling and my feet begging for a rest, I went into a small café and ordered a sandwich. I did have my own in my bag but I simply could not find the space to sit down and eat my own lunch. The sandwich I bought was eaten at a stand-up counter but it gave me the rest I needed.
During the second half of my tour of the museum, I focused on the lowest level and as I wound my way in and out of the galleries, I saw works by Bonnard, Courbet and even Modernists like Picasso. The lower level presents a mixed bag—there are gigantic works and there are very small canvasses. I was fairly drooping with fatigue by the time I finished looking at every painting, but as I was keen to see Manet’s Dejeuner Sur L’Herbe and could not find it in its regular position, I asked a guard where it could be. He told me that it had been moved temporarily into the special exhibition on the ‘Second Empire’. So off I went to the opposite side of the lowest level and there I gave myself up to the thrill of seeing all sorts of 19th century items--from letters and sculpture to paintings and decorative objects: some of which were so stunning that they took my breathe clean away. Finally, in the last gallery, I did see the Manet masterpiece I had been seeking and when I had taken a good close look at it (for the nth time), I decided to get a move on—as I was really really tired. So, in the end, by the time I left the Musee d’Orsay, it was 4.00 pm!
Off to Pierre Herme for Macarons:
When I had last lived in Paris, four years ago, I had indulged in a great deal of gastronomic treats from artisanal bread from Eric Kayser and cheese from Barthelemy…but one thing I hadn’t quite managed to taste were the incredible macarons made by the inventor of them himself—Pierre Herme. This time I was determined not to leave Paris without sourcing, finding and feasting on them. I had used the internet to find out that one of his extraordinary patisseries is near St. Suplice Chruch and that was where I took the metro in search of it. I found it soon enough and when I went inside, I saw that he had a special Christmas range based on foie gras. It was not long before I bought a box of macarons—7 come in a long box—plus a special one made with truffles (that comes in its own special packet). I was pleased to take them home and enjoy each one separately. I also bought two of his croissants—one being his signature IsfahanL a combination of rose, raspberry and lychee (flavors that had resulted in the creation of his famous pastry called the Ispahan)—well, this was the croissant equivalent. I also bought his Croissant Poire William, filled with a pear puree and studded with candied pears. Breakfast for the next couple of days was sorted! And would be special!
Crepes for Dinner in Little Brittany:
Also on my list of Must-Do Items before leaving Paris was eating crepes—and since Lonely Planet had extolled the virtues of a place called Chez Josephine in Little Brittany, off I went to find it. It was practically in the shadow of Tour Montparnasse. It had turned dark by the time I reached there…and guess what??? It was closed on Tuesdays!!! Duh Me! Well, I had no choice but to look for an alternative place and I found it at Creperie Bretonne. There, I settled down in an empty creperie, after I inquired and found out that it was not too early for me to be served dinner at 5.00 pm. I chose to each a Crepe Rennes which was filled with ham, Swiss cheese and mushrooms—and it was scrumptious! I savored it with a large decaff café au lait and feeling very pleased with my very early dinner, I made my way out about an hour later.
Home to Relax:
Fairly falling with fatigue, I made my way back home on the metro and reached at 6. 30 pm. I sat propped up in bed and caught up with email and the world’s news and facetimed with Llew. Then, at about 9.00 pm, I ate a smoked salmon salad that I made with my greens, smoked salmon, blue cheese and nuts—douzed with salad dressing. When I felt ready for bed, I brushed and flossed my teeth and turned out the light.