I didn’t know there were canals in Paris. It makes sense then that I didn’t know there were boats that go up and down them. It meant a very exciting morning for me. And, thankfully, a very different excitement to yesterday.
The day started rather late as we took full advantage of a sleep in, our room being so quiet. I think this would have to be the quietest room we’ve ever stayed in in Paris. It could be because we overlook a courtyard rather than a street.
Mind you, the hotel is also tucked away in a small side street off the Boulevard le Voltaire which means it’s close to things but also quiet. Perfect.
The first mission of the day, of course, was finding coffee. It didn’t take long. We discovered the wonderful Cafe Toucan where we enjoyed not only morning coffee but also delicious three egg omelettes.
Sufficiently filled and re-caffeinated, we headed out to explore the Marais area in which we are almost staying this time. Marais is French for marsh and this area was once just that. A sort of pretty swamp. Then the aristocrats moved in and made it rather special. Then the French Revolution cut them off a bit and the place was left to rot. These days it’s pretty trendy with the remnants of the great days of the past.
First up we headed to the Place de Republique over which a massive statue of a woman holding a branch of some sort stands victorious over the vicissitudes of the monarchy.
Around the statue base is a series of beautifully made plaques depicting the various great moments of the creation of the republic of France. Interestingly there’s no guillotine and Napoleon is left out. I guess omission isn’t really rewriting history though I wonder what people in the future will make of the big gap during the beginning of the 19th century.
It was shortly after visiting the square that we found the Canal Saint Martin. Actually Mirinda found it and kept it quiet because she knew how much I’d love to see it. And, of course, she was right. How brilliant. Wide, deep and adorned with intricately wrought bridges.
We walked along one bank then started back down the other when we spotted a boat coming down the canal, through the top lock. We spotted it primarily because of the sudden gathering of people on the bridges overlooking the locks. This reminded me of Weasels Afloat when the same thing happened almost every time we went through a lock. There is great fun to be had watching boat crews make a mess of going through them.
After the excitement of the boat running through the lock and down the canal, we headed for a cafe and discovered the delightful Art Cafe at La Passerelle where you sit sipping your coffee, surrounded by artworks by local artists and 1950’s furniture. It made for a lovely break. The proprietor was incredibly nice and we thoroughly enjoyed our brief stop. He enjoyed it too given Mirinda decided to buy most of his stock.
There was more wandering, enjoying the area and noting important and attractive buildings along the way. We noticed a synagogue but, being a Saturday, it wasn’t open. We also noticed a couple of Chinese hotpot restaurants.
We later found out that the Marais has been, at different times, the Jewish quarter and the Chinese quarter…which explains a lot.
After a lot of walking we decided it was time for lunch and wound up having the most delicious lunch at a small bistro called Le Carreau including a glass of very decent red wine. Things didn’t start off that well with Mirinda unhappy with her lack of carrots then delighted when they arrived. She made up for her brusqueness by being extremely happy after the meal.
Happily replete, we then headed for our first, real, sight, the Picasso Museum.
The museum opened in 1985 and holds the most valuable collection of Picasso’s work and is housed in the Hotel Sale, in and of itself a remarkable building. The Picasso collection was the result of two donations given to the state by two of the artist’s heirs in 1979 and then in 1990, by Jacqueline Picasso.
The overall collection is massive – the Hotel Sale covers five floors worth of hanging space – and is from all stages of Picasso’s life. From an amazing painting he completed before the age of 14 to his final works, everything is here.
Given the breadth of styles and medium, it’s very difficult (if not impossible) to choose a favourite. Quite a few pieces stood out for me. And, actually if I’m being completely honest, my favourite work was not by Picasso but a Joan Miro that Picasso owned. However, if I had to choose a favourite Picasso, it would be this one:
This represents one of his reinterpretations of a Manet painting called Luncheon on the Grass. Picasso (like other artists) often copied and changed the works of other artists, sometimes changing the style as well. Manet’s original is very much a ‘normal’ figurative work though somewhat odd and surprising in composition. In Picasso’s version above, he’s completely changed it in all manner of ways but it still retains the artistic essence of the original work.
Here is the original (taken from the Wikipedia page devoted to the painting):
It’s not immediately obvious but the paintings are of the same subject just in a different style. It’s very similar to the way many musicians play around with Paganini’s variations…but enough esoteric raving! I know that’s the best way to bore one’s reader(s). On to more interesting things.
Actually, before we leave the Picasso Museum, I have to admit that Mirinda outlasted me. I was pretty much Picasso’d out after the first two hours but she wanted to keep going. Honestly, I had to drag her away from the Cubism.
Back in the real world, we walked back to the hotel for a short rest before venturing out into the Parisian night for a special treat which I’d booked for Mirinda: the Julie Saury Sextet in a gig at Duc des Lombards jazz club. And what a treat it was.
They were fantastic. From the lady clarinettist to the ambidextrous saxophonist who could play two at once. No lie! This guy played a tenor and normal sax, both at the same time. It had to be seen to be believed. And I don’t think it was just a way to cut down on having another band member.
The rest of the band comprised a trumpet player, a pianist, a bass player and, of course, the amazing Julie Saury on drums. Here’s just a bit of her:
It was a splendid way to spend a Saturday night in Paris.
Afterwards we had a long but lovely walk back to the hotel. It was a wonderful day, as it usually is in Paris.
Oh, I should explain the title of this post. It refers to a bit of graffiti I spotted on the wall of a building in a nondescript little back street we walked down. I thought it quite clever…but that could just be me.