Getting Some Culture in Paris

I hope my last post didn’t give the impression that I dis Paris – I do like Paris!  It is one of the most beautiful and fun cities on Earth.  I just mourn the loss of Parisian fashion forwardness and uniqueness, that’s all.  That, and the changing face of Parisians.

This morning, we went to the antique market in Clignancourt, on the outskirts of Paris.  Emerging above ground from the filthy metro station, we found ourselves in some other city, in a third-world country.  We were in the midst of an African and Middle Eastern crowd, many women were veiled, the trash on the ground was aplenty, and the buildings were covered in graffiti.  Standing outside the station, not sure which way to turn, we spotted other people, clearly also not belonging, who were moving forward and we followed them.  Our little caravan approached a Middle Eastern suk hawking cheap clothes and shoes, passed it, made a left on Rue des Rosiers, and finally reached the antique market.  

Now there are actually several markets here.  The ones in the beginning are easy to spot, and that’s where most foreigners seem to end up.  They probably have no clue that in addition to Marche Vernaison and the covered market across the street, there are better markets further up, off Rue des Rosiers: Marche Serpette and Marche Paul Bert.  There might be even more markets too, but those were all we stumbled upon. We came across them almost accidentally, and we were just about the only foreign tourists there. In these two markets, we found the most objects to admire.

But the prices were steep. I know, you are supposed to bargain in flea and antique markets, but when the prices are this high, how low can you bring them down?  Still, it was like a museum, fun to look at, even when you can’t afford to buy anything.

Also, this morning, I went to Eric Kayser to see how my favorite white chocolate brioche in Paris compares to its New York City cousin.  So here is my report: for starters, the boulangerie here is much less upscale than the one on the Upper East Side and not very clean.  Next, the Parisian brioche is shaped like a loaf, not like a round New York roll, which is a big deal, because there is less of the wonderfully sweet soft dough inside in a loaf than in a round roll, and lastly, it was a bit burned.  I am sure, it was just this batch and they are not usually burned, but the burned crust added insult to injury!  So the New York version won over its Parisian relative hands down.

In the afternoon, I went to Musee d’Orsay all by myself.  This museum seems to have the longest lines in Paris, and I have been avoiding it the last several visits, but today, decided to brave the line.  It actually moved fast, and in 40 min I was in, somehow, being admitted for free – maybe, because this was the first Sunday of the month?

In addition to the impressionists, the museum houses a wonderful collection of Art Nouveau objects, especially one amazing wood-panelled room complete with an Art Nouveau fireplace! Also, I loved some splendid Van Goghs and several interesting pre-Tahitian Gauguins, but I kind of expected a larger collection.  At least, my memory from the previous visit tricked me into thinking the collection was vaster.

After D’Orsay we grabbed a quick dinner at the Latin Quarter – not a very good one but fast and cheap – you can get a three-course dinner here for 10 euro!  And apres, we went to a chamber concert at the nearby La Sainte Chapelle – a pleasant concert, and the light pouring through the stained-glass windows enhanced the pleasure.

With the concert over before 10 PM, we walked through evening Paris back to the hotel, getting lost and ending up at the lovely Place des Victoires.  I love getting lost in Paris! When you do, more often than not, you are going to discover another beautiful place!

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