Bounded out the door – I could hear the clock ticking, counting down the hours until I leave on Sunday. Discovered I could order a noisette double, heck yeah. Onward to the Louvre via the Metro. Trotted towards the entrance via the Carousel, the gateway to the Louvre that’s like a high-end fancy mall, and skidded to a halt.
It’s 9:30am, and there’s a line stretching all the way back through the Carousel. What happened? Was there a sale? It looked like Filene’s Basement’s Running of the Brides, or Wal-mart before the doors open on Black Friday. No joke.
Armored with my Des Amis De Louvre card confidence, I forged past the twisting, shuffling line to the clogged security area and… yes! Open Sesame! The guards unhook the barrier and I waltzed right through and hand off my bag to security. I breezed by the giant anaconda line for tickets, zipped up the escalator, flashed my card at the actual entry point to the Richelieu wing, and moments later entered the sanctuary of the Cour de Marly. For the next thirty minutes, it was all mine.
Here’s the good thing about the giant lines, as long as you are not in one – it holds back the tsunami waves of people, dribbling them inside at a measured pace, which means you get more quality time with the art. The good thing about the Louvre’s holy trinity, those three works of art that are on every tourist’s hit list (Mona Lisa, Winged Victory of Samothrace, and Venus de Milo) is that they siphon off the casual tourist. Again, this means you get more time with the other 34,997 amazing works of art. You can even sit on the floor and sketch to your heart’s content. Like this:
My Des Ami Des Louvre membership has been worth every penny. Spent a quiet happy morning communing with statuary (Cour de Marly, Middle Ages, 19th-century sculpture) that made the Pygmalion’s plight completely understandable – special mention to the gallery of French Royal academy entry works). Look at this Cupid’s gesture, introducing a butterfly to a rose.
My nominees for most fun couple:
I knocked off early to visit a restaurant suggested by my friend and fellow painter, Nancy Franke. Took a taxi driven by a man from Cameroon, who sang ‘Georgia on My Mind’ when he found out I was from Atlanta. Arrived at Les Papilles, (30 rue Gay Lussac, 75005,) took a seat and waited for them to serve me what they were fixing that day. It’s a tiny place, near Luxembourg Gardens. I knew it would be good, I didn’t expect it to be one of the best meals of my life.
It began with a tureen of carrot soup. The soup plate had a stack of ingredients – slivers of carrot, something porky, dab of creme fraiche, a tiny bouquet of thyme on the top, a spice dusted on the side, dots of something on the bottom and croutons. Oh, and something with tiny green leaves and long thin stems – watercress maybe? I ladled the soup over that, stirred it up and tasted Nirvana. I ate two bowls, knowing so much more was coming but it was so good! And there was another serving left. You wouldn’t leave hungry.
This was followed by a copper pan of roasted vegetables and pork loin, and dish of polenta. The pork loin and vegetables came in a smoking hot oval copper pan. I know there were carrots and think in more than one color. Something red, probably a pepper? Snow peas, onions in thin rings, and bits of apricot. Another bouquet of thyme and several whole cloves of garlic. I ate until you could have cracked a flea on my belly. I left one piece of pork because I could not possibly fit it in.
Dessert came in a glass that widened at the top. Bottom layer of banana (and maybe some chocolate?), a layer of creme englaise type pudding, a layer of chocolate cream, a layer of cream and a layer of caramel foam. Hail Mary.
Espresso in a tiny cup, almost turkish, with a side dish of chocolate-covered coffee beans. I added two cubes of sugar to it (cubed sugar comes in cellophane packets on the table here and at the Cafèoteque place). I knocked it back, knowing full well it was all that stood between me and a coma. This took about two hours. I had to put my fork down for breaks. I didn’t read because my attention was fully commanded by the food. That almost never happens to me.
The restaurant is in a narrow room with a bar down the side and a little elevated area in the back. Warm wood and colorful tile on the floor and the stairs.
Kind of a masculine vibe. Not fancy, but clearly thought went into it, and the overall effect is cheerful, goodnatured and welcoming. Two people for service; a black woman who was a beauty with a dimple and kind look about her, and the guy who ran the bar and read the menu and talked with one of the patrons. Nothing snooty about it. They seemed to be serious about the food, not themselves. How refreshing is that? Oh, and it cost the same as the Café Marly burger.
Believe me, my words just don’t do it justice. It’s like saying Fred Astaire moved his feet.
When I finally surrendered and retired from the field, it took ten minutes before I could move. I decided a walk was called for. Google maps told me where to go and that it would take about half an hour. And that’s what I did. I have never walked by patisseries and felt not the slightest twinge of interest but today, not a flicker. Not just full, but truly satisfied.
I’ve been writing this ever since. Peppermint tea for dinner. If I can find the room.