Tonight I had the best entree I can ever remember having. As I explained to the waiter, I have had a lot of entrees so it’s a rather crowded field. It was a boiled egg in the middle of bacon cream with gingerbread croutons. Every spoonful was pure delight. I think I shall not see the like of it again. Genius.
Mind you, that was at dinner. First up was a shocking revelation for breakfast.
Today was all about a visit to the Centre Pompidou. More incredible than all the art we saw there, more unbelievable than some of the bizarre creations by Picasso, more terrible than the visions of Otto Dix was to happen at breakfast.
We turned up at the next cafe on the block (Cafe Vito) and happily ordered coffee and croissant but were told they had no croissants.
That has to be a first for us. “How on earth could there be no croissants?” I wanted to cry. This is Paris, France, the home of the croissant. There should be a surfeit not a lack.
I was, not to put too fine a point on it, shocked.
Fortunately we found a boulangerie which sold some delicious croissants and, in a glistening display of sugary devotion, a whole convent full of la religieuse. There was no doubt in any minds that we would be returning here later on.
But first, we joined the queue for the Pompidou.
WARNING: THERE IS A LOT OF ART IN THE REST OF THIS POST
Okay, I know I always go on about not joining queues but, in my defence, the queue for the Pompidou (which is a pretty little rhyme) was fairly short and there were 15 minutes until opening so it was only ever going to get worse. We joined it and waited.
Then, having moved around the front, following the non-pre-paid lane, we entered and were amazed at how empty the place felt.
The Centre Pompidou is vast and there can be a lot of people inside before it feels anything close to crowded. It reminded me, in a somewhat abstract way, of the Forbidden City. The day we visited, there were what felt like thousands of other tourists going through the entrance gates and yet, once we were inside, the sheer size of the Forbidden City seemed to make the crowds just vanish. And the Pompidou feels the same. Though smaller.
After leaving Mirinda’s coat downstairs and managing to work out the ticket situation, we headed up to Level 5 to submerge ourselves in a world of strange concepts, squiggles and swirls. At least that was what we hoped.
What actually happened was that I was directed to a lift while Mirinda headed for what she thought was going to be a lot of stairs. I stepped out of the lift on the 5th floor to be confronted with an endless fall of escalators leading down to the ground floor.
Something made me look at my phone. There was a message from Mirinda saying I’d have to return to the ground floor and give her her ticket because she had been refused entry without it. This was a bit confusing given I’d been let through.
Still, I took the escalators down, down, down and headed for the bookshop where Mirinda was waiting. I then led her to the escalators and we headed back up up up to the 5th floor. Mirinda was a bit annoyed that the 4th floor seemed to be not open which was odd given her usual lack of interest in modern art. Still, we managed to fill our day enough with just the one floor.
And what a floor.
I never realised how many artists and artworks I was aware of until today. The Pompidou has an extraordinary collection. From Duchamp’s Fountain to an extraordinary amount of Picasso works; from Kandinsky to Dufy; Fauvism to Neo-Primitivism. All gathered here from one end of level 5 to the other: a world of Strange Imaginings.
They are not always pleasant but they are nearly always inventive. Well, apart from the Rothko. I really can’t understand Rothko.
With so many to choose from, it’s hard to have a favourite. I’m tempted to suggest this Otto Dix as the one I most enjoyed, but that would be wrong.
Though I really love the use of reflections on each surface, as if the couple were sitting in some sort of mirror walled box. It gives the work a sort of claustrophobic quality. Perhaps Dix was saying that excess is short lived because it exists in an echo chamber.
Maybe that’s just me. And, after all, what do I know?
Possibly the work that stirred the strongest emotional response within me was Le Temps de la mort no 1, 1962 by Pierre Molinier. It’s the sheer force of the image, the fierce ravishing, the possession. It’s a very strong painting which draws the viewer into its depths. It makes you feel depraved, dirty, an embarrassed voyeur.
It also looks a bit squishy. I rather like squishy.
Actually, when all is said and done, I think my favourite was possibly one of the earliest paintings we saw. It’s a simple street scene with people moving through it. Its beauty is mainly seen through its normality and simplicity. It felt somehow real.
Dufy is showing the contrast between the gaudiness of the ads on the wall and the plain blacks and greys of the clothes of the passersby. As we all know, that’s what advertising does: it shows us the world we need to exist in rather than the one we actually inhabit.
It felt like we were wandering around, room to room, artist to artist, style to style for hours. This wasn’t far from the truth though we did stop long enough to go up to Level 6 for a delicious lunch at George’s Panoramic Restaurant with wonderful views over Paris.
My scallops were amazing (cold with a crisp lemon drizzle sprinkled over the top) and Mirinda was full of praise for her Caesar salad, mainly because they had remembered the anchovies.
The beer was pretty good as well, not to mention our waitress who wasn’t just beautiful (Mirinda said she looked like an Ethiopian princess) but also smelled like sherbet. I told her so and she smiled. Her smile was as beautiful as she was. It made for an excellent lunch all round.
After our second half of level 5, we headed downstairs for a coffee then a short journey around the gift shop, bookshop then toilets. We then left the Centre Pompidou, passing as we did the people arriving quite late and not having to queue at all. Clearly around 4pm is the time to visit.
Of course we went straight across the road in order for Mirinda to have her traditional ProfitaNun (I had a French vanilla slice without the top) before heading back to the hotel for a much needed rest before dinner.
After a prolonged amount of typing, we set off looking for somewhere to eat. Mirinda had chosen three likely contenders.
The first one was full and wasn’t keen on having us eat there. The second one just didn’t exist. The third one was the amazing Corsican restaurant L’alivi.
What an amazing find. And so lucky we managed to get a table. They are very popular and rightfully so.
I had the boiled egg in bacon cream entree (as mentioned above) followed by the butteriest sea bream on the planet for a main and then finished with a light as air tiramisu. All washed down with a delightful Corsican white wine.
Meanwhile, Mirinda had Corsican sausage brushetta for entree, veal stew for main and a traditional Corsican dessert called fiadone. This is a light cheesecake type slice of heaven…or so Mirinda says. I don’t like cheesecake so I can’t really comment.
All up the restaurant was the best. I could not recommend it highly enough. If anyone wants a fantastic meal and they happen to be in the Marais, head for L’alivi (27 rue du Roi de Sicile, Paris 01 48 87 90 20) you will not be sorry. Make sure you book though. It’s popular.
Okay so there were a few carbs consumed but, by the gods and pixies, it was worth it!
PS: A book concluding with as a wife has a cow, is a poem written by Getrude Stein and illustrated by Juan Gris in 1926.