Paris - Days 1 and 2
Our arrival in to Paris was by bus from Amsterdam, travelling through Antwerp. The bus was our least preferred mode of transport, due to the length of time in transit, but it got us in to Paris in the afternoon, rather than midnight. So the bus it was. The bus trip itself was reasonably pleasant, although the bus driver's choice of music (which he was obviously seriously in to - due to the fact that he cranked up the volume, sang along and drummed in accompaniment with his hands on the steering wheel) was excruciating. The first half was mournful break up songs, which caused me to wonder whether he was actually heart broken. The second half was a small selection of his French favourites, including My Way in French, played in a continuous loop over and over again for hours. Mark was fortunate in that he could listen to his own music with headphones - no such luck for me! With some considerable relief, we arrived in the City of light and got straight on the Metro.
Mark had found us a little studio apartment in the Jewish Quarter - Le Marais, on line. We checked in to the accommodation office first and the young fellow went to great lengths to explain that we must keep the noise down, particularly after 10.00pm. He must have thought we were night owl party animals, although I don't know what could possibly have given him that impression. Perhaps there are people our age with enough energy to keep partying all night after being on the road for weeks. We wouldn't be awake to find out.
After checking in, we strolled around Le Marais, just as beautiful, eclectic and vibrant as we had remembered. We went down to Pitzman's restaurant and shared a felafel platter, which was so fresh and delicious. We stopped in at a patisserie for some poppyseed strudel and semolina cake. Just around the corner was the synagogue, guarded by soldiers with machine guns. I find being in close proximity to machine guns surreal and I don't think I will ever get used to them.
The next morning, we walked a couple of blocks to the Musee Picasso. Twice before, when we had visited Paris, the Musee was closed for renovation and his artworks were on a world tour. Now they were back and preparations were under way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Musee. The building itself is absolutely beautiful - light, airy and classical. We strolled around taking in the many different artworks, paintings, drawings and sculptures, including paintings by Renoir and Matisse in his personal collection. He greatly admired Renoir and despite him trying to arrange it on several occasions, they never met. I can't pretend to understand abstract art, but the rawness, passion and emotion is clearly there, particularly in his portraits of the women in his life. He really was an out there genius type - unique and not afraid to push the boundaries.
We strolled back around Le Marais - stopping for another felafel fix before moving on to Maison David at the base of our apartment building. David is an artisan Boucher, selling fresh and cured meats and a few other treats, including wine. We stocked up for dinner, which we would cook ourselves in our little Paris apartment. Veal kebabs, a tarama dip with salmon roe, fresh asparagus and fresh dill (which was delicious) and a couple of pletzls - flat buns with a glazed, shiny top and dried fried onion sprinkled on top. He was closing for the sabbath, but invited us to come back on the Sunday for a meal. We had seen him the previous night - with tables set up on the footpath outside for his patrons to enjoy a glass of wine and some pistachios, while they try his charcuterie. I'm pretty keen to try the pastrami, it looks really good.
We enjoyed our own dinner and retired early, planning to head to Monet's garden in Giverny the following day.