Paris- Saturday, March 26th 2005
This was out last full day in Paris and we wanted to make the most of it. There were still things we wanted to see and do before we left. First among them was a visit to the Georges Pompedou center (aka the Boubourg museum) which is Paris' large modern art museum. Years back we had come here, late one evening about an hour before it closed, only to discover that was the last night it would be open for 3 years. Somehow, we had arrived right before a long planned renovation. We ran through the museum, vowing to return someday.
Today was the day. When we arrived, the line stretched about a block long into the plaza in front of the musuem. But that was just the line to go through security, and it moved fairly quickly as did the ticket purchase line. The actual museum galleries are located on the 4th,5th and 6th floors of the building, accessable by an exterior escalator encased in a plastic tube.
The views from the top are fantastic and we stood up there for quite a few minutes. I really enjoyed the exibits, especially many of the interesting sculptures and photography. We glanced at the rooftop restaurant, but the prices were very high, and I'd read negative reviews.
After a couple of hours in the museum, we left and walked across the plaza to get a bite to eat at one of the outdoor cafes. I had a mediocre omlette and David had knockwust which he said he enjoyed. As we sat there, watching the rain clowds roll in, we were looking at some artwork by a street artist stationed across they walkway from us.
After our meal, David asked me if I liked the art. I did, and so did he, but we each liked a different piece. While we've never purchased original artwork of any sort before, we decided to go talk to the artist and find out how much he wanted for the paintings. He's from Algeria, and spends most of the year living in Sevilla Spain where he only sells his art in galleries. For three months of the year, he comes to Paris to sell his work on the street. The artwork is mixed-medium; acrylic paint, tempura, pieces of newsprint, on heavy paper, not canvas. We asked how much he wanted for the paintings, and he replied, "Not so much, they are very inexpensive. Forty Five euro each." We talked some more, debated the merits of each piece and he offered to sell us two for 80 euro. Then he said, because the rain was coming, he would give us two for 60, and after some hesitation, two for 50 euro was his final offer.
As David and I were deciding on two very different paintings, a group of three other American tourists came up and, in about 3 minutes, bought two of his paintings for 80 euro, with no bargaining. After they left, he turned to David and said, in French, "so, two for sixty?" David replied, "no, you said 50 euro" and he smiled and agreed. So, we each got our favorite, and while they aren't exactly a "matching pair", we like them and will certainly enjoy them and the memory of the experience.
Since drops were indeed beginning to fall, we took the metro back to the apartement to drop off our new purchase. After that, we walked back up to Montmartre in search of some inexpensive souvineers to bring back to coworkers. I swear, we must have looked in every souvineer shop, and finally settled on some cute tiny Eiffel tower keychains. On the way back down the hill, we walked on the Rue des Martyrs, where we stopped in little shop selling all sorts of Chinese imports, mostly clothing and I bought some adorable fabric purses. We also went into a variety of markets and wine shops, looking at wine, but decided it wasn't worth the cost and hassle to bring any home.
For our last meal in Paris, we chose Bofinger (www.bofingerparis.com), supposedly the oldest brasserie in Paris, first opened in 1864. It's now owned by the Brasserie Flo group, the same company that owns Terminus Nord. While there are some similarities in the menus, Bofinger seems to have retained it's own individual charm. The restaurant is lovely, with stained glass, gilded mirrors, original murals, and leather banquettes.
The Bastille metro stop is quite large, and we exited in the rain, only to discover we had no clue as to which way to go. So, we wandered about a bit, getting wet, trying to find the street. Finally we found it (at 5-7 rue de Bastille, 75004), even though there was no sign.
We arrived without reservations and asked to be seated under the stained glass dome in the center of the restaurant (also the non-smoking section). It was a busy night, so we needed to wait a while at the bar. This time, David got his martini without having to instruct the bartender on how to make it. It was already on their drink list, and as it turns out, Luigi made a perfect dry martini. Instead of taking our name and adding it to a wait list, we were handed a little card with the name of a famous composer on it; we were Chopin. They just ran through the list, alphabetically calling the composers names on the cards. Once again, we noticed a couple of Parisians with their little dogs with them in the restaurant.
After about half an hour, we heard "Chopin!" and were seated under the stained glass cupola. I won't say it was all tourists, but there were quite a few different languages being spoken on all sides. My guess is that "non-smoking" and "tourist" can go hand in hand.
We both selected from the 33.50 euro menu, though they had a nice a la carte menu as well with tons of shellfish platters. Next time, I vow to order one of those mountains of seafood. Our wine was a 2003 Marquis des Tours Bordeaux. D's appetizer was foie gras (last night, last foie) and a glass of Gwerztiminer (7 euro supplement) and mine was bouillabaisse served with croutons and rouille. Both were very good. We both had a roasted duck breast for our main course which was excellent and came with a crispy skin, a demi glace sauce and tasty mashed potatoes with hazelnuts, garlic, and chanterelle mushrooms. My dessert was a wonderful chocolate cake with crème anglaise and D's was vanilla ice cream with a cassis coulis. In total the meal was 80 euro.
The next morning we took the metro back to the airport and flew home. Sigh. We'll always have Paris....