The world I’d like to live in

After a very long sleep in, we decided to eventually rise and leave the hotel. The weather was threatening rain but went no further than threats until quite late. Actually it rained while we were eating dinner but that was after 7pm.

Our first stop was the third of the row of cafes. Today it was an establishment called Le Ju’ and let me warn anyone who is thinking of taking breakfast here that if you stray from the set menu it’s going to cost you. Seriously. The addition of milk to your coffee doubles the cost of everything.

I’m not kidding. If you stick to the fixed menu of an espresso and croissant it costs €3.50 but if you add milk and have a cafe creme, it costs you €7.00. I think this is excessive. Fortunately we won’t be returning.

It was also a bit hectic for first thing of a Sunday morning with people dashing to and fro. I’m rather looking forward to Vito’s tomorrow morning.

Having complained to each other about the ridiculous cost, we then headed off for the markets at Bastille.

I read a lot of stuff about climate change and what we can do to improve things and I have come to the conclusion that we need to stop trying to expand – growth is finite – and going back to when life was smaller and better. Something that would help reach this nirvana is weekly markets.

Places where local farmers come into the town and sell their produce. Places where people can come and chat and buy of a morning. Food that is organic and lacking in pharmaceuticals and genetic manipulation. Places like the weekly market at Bastille.

These markets can spell the end of multi-millionaire bullies who think the world is only there to make them wealthier. Markets are brilliant and a big part of the world I want to live in.

I can imagine living in the Marais and, every Sunday, popping along to the Bastille to do my weekly shop. Fresh veg, meat, fish and poultry (and the occasional galette) and a chat with the cheese monger along the way. Keep your supermarkets, this is what I want.

Sadly I’m never likely to live in the Marais, let alone shop in the market at the Bastille. Except for today when we wandered up and down the myriad of stalls, stopping to admire rounds of fromage and super fresh fish. We also had a sneaky galette each, instantly conjuring up images of breakfast at the Unicorn in St Malo.

Not only is the market huge but it is also incredibly popular. The number of shopping trolleys almost outnumbered the people as fresh veg was bought and sold. I loved it.

Of course, it all had to come to an end and we wandered across the road to a cafe for a coffee (and beer) before catching a bus.

Our destination was the Musee Nissim-de-Camondo over in the 17th. This meant a couple of buses. The first one was simple and dropped us at the Louvre (though a stop early) the second one we walked a mile to find and then drove us back the mile we’d come. Still, it eventually dropped us just beyond Gare Saint Lazare and we walked the final 37 miles.

This is one of those little museums, off the tourist trail that is worth every penny it costs for the entrance.

Nissim was the grandson of a very successful banker from Istanbul (or Constantinople). He had little interest in the banking of his father and decided to devote his life to amassing a massive collection of artworks. He filled his house with some of the most beautiful objects and paintings and furniture he could find.

He had two children – his wife ran off with an Italian count – and doted on them. His daughter became a great horse woman, his son held the promise of being a collector equal to his father. The First World War saw his son’s untimely death and Nissim fell into a deep grief from which he would never surface.

Nissim, alone in his big house, would sit in the crockery cupboard and take his solitary meals. This, I think, is the saddest thing about the house. He had such a beautiful home and the pick of any number of rooms to inhabit and yet he sat in the smallest and least attractive. I wonder what the point was of all his wealth and possessions if he couldn’t enjoy them? It’s incredibly sad.

His vast fortune and art collection was destined to be left to his son. His son’s premature death made Nissim change his will to give his mansion and everything in it to Paris, for the people to enjoy.

His daughter, Beatrice, in a move made famous by Marie Antoinette, figured she was impervious to the common people of Paris and, when the Nazis were handed Paris in the Second World War, figured being Jewish didn’t mean her. She and her husband and children were all taken to Auschwitz.

The mansion is a wonderful collection of art and furniture which can now be enjoyed for what it is rather than being locked away from the world just for the gaze of a privileged few.

The house is wonderful. Each room is a little artwork of its own. Everything blends in beautifully. The documentary we watched at the end concludes that its the symmetry that makes each room work but I disagree.

Nissim had an odd sense of matching the ill matching, of blending styles and periods to reflect the beauty of each. He managed to mix and match without any clashing. It works splendidly.

While a lot of the styles are not very appealing to me, the mix is perfect and I loved it.

We managed to spend quite a long time at the house of the Camondo.

We then retired to a handy cafe – Valois – for a much needed boost of caffeine. Actually, we think we’d been to Valois before. A few Paris trips ago we visited the park at Monceau and possibly popped into Valois for a coffee. Regardless, it was perfect today and ideally suited for the bus to take us back to central Paris.

The number 84 bus picks up just around the corner from Valois and terminates at the Pantheon. We hopped aboard one and it obediently took us halfway across Paris to our next destination.

I have to say the Paris bus system is superb. Well, once you get a handle on the routes, it is brilliant and easily the best way to get around the city. For our next visit I’m going to get a couple of electronic cards for us to use. There’s no better way.

Anyway, from the Pantheon we set off, looking for a possible Greek restaurant for dinner. At least that was what I suggested. Naturally we had French tapas. I’m not complaining because the food at Sourire was fantastic and amazingly inventive. Still, I had rather fancied Greek…

After a splendid dinner we headed back to the hotel. Mirinda did manage to get us walking in the complete opposite direction for a bit but eventually we were across the Seine and almost back in the Marais when I had a sudden attack of needing the loo.

Gaz thinks: Maybe I can pee in the river…

Mirinda suggested using the wall of a Paris building, given that’s what the locals seemed to use but I couldn’t bring myself to that. I guess I’m not sunk quite that low. Instead we stopped in a soon-to-close bistrot where we ordered dessert while I availed myself of the underground lavatory.

Mirinda ordered me a coupe colonel and I accompanied it with an espresso. I emptied the espresso into the vodka filled sorbet, inventing an entirely new dessert I call the Captain Gaz. It was quite something.

Finally, we crawled back into the hotel and to bed though not before witnessing a rather strange punch up outside the pub we’ve started to think of as a gay bar. It’s not far from the hotel and seems to be full (to overflowing) with men. Clearly it also attracts an unwelcome element of bishy bashy types.

Fortunately we managed to avoid any unpleasantness and went to bed.

Mirinda is not entirely certain about her choice of cocktail
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