Headed out to an arts and crafts street market I looked up online, and used yellow marker to transfer the directions to my paper map. Feeling pretty cocky, I trotted along to music, courtesy of my kids – Kangeroo Court, Tech Romance and Katy Perry’s Dark Horse. After a twenty minutes I started to wonder if I had the day wrong, but the walk was so pretty – trees just hazed with pale green in the Place de Voges, a series of parks, each with a different garden design, down the middle of Boulevard Richard-Lenoir, grave old men strolling with their insouciant little dogs. The sky was blue, sun was out, life was good. Decided after a couple of miles to check Google maps and zut alors, I had gone in the wrong direction. Chastened and humbled I turned around headed back. This time I kept my phone out and map app open. Got to the market (next to the Bastille – duh) and cruised up and down looking at every vendor. I hate to say this, but it was lame, and I suspect half of it came from China. It made Atlanta’s Dogwood Festival artists market look ready for the Museé D’Orsay. Here is the lesson: the time I spent lost was better than the plan I made.
By then it’s 12:30, and my next stop is a church, Sainte Elisabeth de Hongrie, (195 Rue du Temple), to light a candle for a friend who lost his son in tragic circumstances six months ago. Afterwards, I start to crash. I haven’t eaten, I’ve walked four miles, two of them lost, and I am suddenly whipped. A couple of streets away, on an uncrowded corner, I find my sanctuary. It’ a little bistro that reminds me of the photographs of Brassai, all worn dark wood, red walls and mirrors. I greet the proprietress and order a café crème and a slice of cherry apple tart. So, so good.
Revived, indeed I think Lazarus would’ve sat up for that tart, I start out towards The Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature (62 Rue des Archives). En route I spy a tiny Yorkshire terrier outside of a flower shop, wearing a little harness with perfectly proportionate, iridescent butterfly wings. I cannot express how adorable and French this is. Everywhere I look, even the children are chic, especially the little girls. Barrettes match tiny sunglasses, socks pick up the pattern in the coat. Simple yet accessorized. Nothing is careless, yet the effect is effortless. What might seem prim or pretentious at home looks charming and correct here.
Onward and upward. I find the museum using both paper map and Google map on my phone. It was amazing. Ideal! Everything I had hoped and more. Not only does it have amazing paintings by masters of the genre like Chardin, but they have a collection of ornate guns from the 1700s, back when they were called blunderbusses. Every firearm is inlaid from sight to stock with intricate embellishments of silver, mother of pearl, bone and gold. The facility itself is grand, with chandeliers, antique tapestried chairs, damask drapes with tasseled tiebacks. This is juxtaposed with modern bronze door pulls and bannisters which appear covered in leaves and feathers.
Wonderful paintings of hunting dogs, rabbits, boar, deer and foxes. Lots of excellent studies of birds. There’s even a unicorn room, with carved horns reputed to be from the mythical beasts. No virgins, but there’s a video of a white unicorn standing in a deluge of rain that slowly washes away the white paint, revealing a black horse wearing a harness with a horn attached.
The narrow, high-ceilinged trophy room had an odd smell and a plethora of stuffed and mounted beasts that to my modern eye just looked pitiful, especially the wolf, badger, tiger, bears and lioness. Boar and deer, not so much. I guess if I’ve seen it on a plate, I have a different response. The best strange moment was realizing the red cat curled up on a tapestry chair was a stuffed fox.
The worst was on the top floor that had an installation piece created around photos of monkeys eating at a table. The awful part was two dead stuffed gorillas. It was like seeing grandma and grandpa stuffed and mounted. Creepy.
The very oddest thing was a large bear in the center of one of the traditional rooms of paintings. A big beast to be sure, but not bigger than the grizzly and polar posed in other rooms. Two rooms later there are drawings, sculpture, and a video feed of the artist who was living inside the bear for three weeks. I am not making this up. It’s performance art, they explained. You could watch the guy who was reading a book when I was there. (the author’s name on the spine was Haruki Murakami.) There was a diagram showing exactly how he fit inside and where his a water supply and air and food were located, along with, ew, a way to eliminate waste. Crazy. But especially in this museum, in this context. I want to return and do some drawings.
I started back to the apartment by way of a little shop recommended to me, Pasta Linea, run by the Italian grandmother you wished you had. Only a few tables, the veritable hole in the wall, but perfect for take out. I opted for the vegetable lasagna and she added fresh parmesan and a half a baguette. (10E). At Miss Manon, I picked up a Greek salad and almond raspberry tart (7E). That’s my dinner. It was superb.
This morning I set the walking distance counter in my iPod, just to see how far I am walking daily. Seven miles today.