Fezzik In Paris

Two Americans, three cats, and too many places named "de Gaulle"

The name Rubens conjures mental images of soft, curvaceous women in various semi-historical settings; if clothed at all, at least one breast has broken free of its silken restraint, and the remains of the garment threaten to drop to the ground, the act of disrobing to be marked only the faintest of sounds.

Unknown to the Purrito and I, however, was the fact that Rubens had a nearly-decade-long stint as a mix of an artist a diplomat, and a spy. Further negligence on our part was in overlooking the title of the Rubens exhibition at le musée du Luxembourg; had either of us stopped to axctually read the damn title, Rubens, portraits princiers, we would have known that we weren’t about to see a series of gossamered women. Instead, we got exactly what was on the tin, which was a series of court portraits.

This is not to say that Rubens’ court portraits were not interesting; they were worth seeing in their own right, though I will admit to raising an eyebrow at the number of paintings which were only attributable to his atelier, as opposed to Rubens’ own hand.

Most surprising, however, was rounding a corner in what we both thought was the middle of the exhibit only to be greeted with a sortie sign; Luxembourg’s galleries are nowhere near the size of those of the grand palais, so one expects that the exhibits will be smaller. Our discovery of the exact magnitude (or lack thereof, to be more accurate) of the exhibit was met with disbelief. Had it not been included in our 2017 sesame+ pass, we probably would have felt more cheated and less blandly disappointed than we did upon exiting the museum.

The worst experience of the day, however, goes to the Angelina salon de thé that sits on the ground of the museum; the mont blanc may be their signature pastry, but I had no idea that I find chestnut cream as vile as I did. No weight would be gained there.

I had a religious experience on Friday.

Wandering through the Marais, our mission to procure more pants (ah, adulthood) complete, the Purrito stopped in front of the window of a Jewish bakery and pointed at a loaf of halle bread.

Having walked this road many times before, always refusing the offer, I was prepared to dismiss it immediately, but the bread called to me. Golden and shiny, I considered the rumbling of my stomach instead of dismissing it; we thus moved towards the entrance of the bakery.

The challah had served as my initial temptress, but upon crossing the threshold I found myself struck, like Paul of Tarsos, but it was a poppy-seed bagel that blinded to me, whispering only two words: eat me.

We paid for the challah roll, the bagel, and a pastry, and managed to walk a few meters from the shop when I bit into the bagel. Ecstasy overcame my tongue: this is a bagel, with this light texture, this almost layered inside, this more bread-like but still distinct taste? What the hell have I been eating all of these years?

The Purrito giggled as words failed me, as I struggled in vain to sing the praises of this newfound flavor, as the agony of the passing experience soon fell over my face: the bagel was now gone, its martyrdom complete as I finished chewing.

The enlightenment, however, endures.

We found ourselves grounded this weekend due to illness on my part (I maintain that the Purrito passed it to me; she maintains otherwise), so here’s an opportunity to post the pictures from last Saturday’s jaunt to the recently-reopened (uh, April) roof of the grande arche.

There are also pictures of the district in general, because why the hell not.

Le musée d’air france is tucked away in the bottom level of gare des invalides, and was so well hidden that we wound up asking a random security guy who was diligently protecting the interior ministry’s cafeteria where the hell the entry was.

As it turns out, the museum’s well-hidden nature is such that it apparently does not attract that many people and thus does not open when it’s supposed to open. It was indeed (last) Friday, it was indeed between the hours of 1300 and 1700, and the door was firmly bolted.

No matter; it’s been literal years since we’ve been to musée Rodin, and while neither I nor the Purrito like the guy that much, the garden is nice and I figured that I would be able to take a picture of Marco in the garden.

As that turned out, the garden was largely blocked off due to the construction of a temporary building that will apparently host an exhibit on Niki de Saint Phalle, so the sightline on which I intended to photograph our adventuresome lion was entirely blocked by a barrier.

On the positive side, the café in the garden was open, and they make a hell of a vegetable quiche.

We learned very quickly that les journées européennes du patrimoine, while conceptually pretty cool, invariably means that whatever point of interest you’re going to will have one hell of a line, owing to the fact that you can now see the basement, the back room, or even the inside of the école militaire, which I continue to avoid on these annual events due to my intense loathing of guided tours.

All of which is an indirect way of saying that even had we known that the weather would prove to be as nice as it was on Saturday, Fontainebleau was off the table. The Purrito, having been in the vicinity of Châtelet earlier in the week, said that the Lego store there was sizable and worth a visit; our objective decided, we departed.

Exiting the métro at Concorde in favor of an approach on foot, we found an unexpected benefit to it being the weekend of the aforementioned journées du patrimoine; while it was indeed the case that the palais royal allowed access to the actual building as opposed to only the courtyard (and the line for which served as confirmation that we were right to avoid things on this weekend in general), many of the churches that are normally shut were open for the weekend. Our promenade up rue saint-honoré thus saw us duck into a random Polish church, the église saint-Roch, an old but hastily-exited protestant church (while the catholic churches on the list simply stuck patrimoine signs outside and opened the doors, the reformers played to stereotype and tediously insisted on evangelizing). I don’t believe that it was in any way due to the patrimoine activities, but the église saint-Eustache was open as well; simply walking in the door prompted an accidental “holy shit” (I admit, in retrospect it’s sacrilicious) , and provides further evidence that the revolutionaries were right to use Nôtre-dame as a warehouse, because it is possible to walk into more-or-less any pre XIXe century religious building in Paris and find something more impressive (further evidence: église saint-Roch).

Did we make it to the Lego store? Yes, yes we did. Am I going to rememeber anything about it (solely rthetorical question, because I’m an endless font of useless memories)? No.

Posters work.

Header images, which are the spiritual successors to posters, work as well.

I fully admit that our trip to the petit palais was prompted entirely by a header image that I saw while skimming through a blog that I read. I acknowledge that I had been psychologically primed by the title, “Les 5 expositions incontournables de la rentrée,” but their header image for L’art du pastel de Degas à Redon, which was a photo of one of the paintings featured in the exhibit, resulted in said exhibit being placed in the floating section of The Calendar. It was at the floating category that my gaze was cast after the Purrito asked me what I wanted to do on my (unscheduled; the joy of having to burn PTO lest one lose it) day off.

It was thus to the petit palais that we marched on Friday, somewhat surprised by the cool but sunny weather that was supposed to have been torrential rain (our rule of thumb regarding Paris weather is that if there is any chance whatsoever of rain, it’s going to rain). It was in the palace, being configured a bit differently due to an ongoing internal renovation, that I saw the poster for the second exhibit, a retrospective of the Swedish artist Anders Zorn), and asked the Purrito if she had any interest. She glanced at the poster, said yes, and we purchased combination tickets (a new addition to the petit palais).

As it turned out, Zorn was better than pastels, but both were enjoyable; a happy surprise.