Another beautiful day so I went out to Saint Denis this morning. It’s a separate city but still on the RER (though not within the inner zones covered by a normal métro ticket). There was a permanent food market and an intermittent market was also open. They were good but I preferred the Ménilmontant Market I visited on Tuesday. The basilica dates back to the 11th and 12th centuries, and is in many respects the model for the more famous medieval cathedrals that followed it.
The basilica is the burial place for most of France’s kings and queens, but after Père Lachaise my appetite for tombs wasn’t too keen. (Though I was impressed by Louis XVII’s heart in a bottle!)
After a forgettable lunch I met up with Hugo at L’Opéra. We started with a drink on the terrace of the Café de la Paix, which I suggested because it was close to our rendezvous and looked nice enough. I was stunned by the check however — six euros for an expresso! Hugo then said rather cryptically that I should look inside. When I did I understood!
After I recovered from sticker shock we went for a walk. Our destination was the Sorbonne in the Latin Quarter but Hugo detoured us past a couple of Paris institutions. Bouillon Chartier is a restaurant whose stated aim is “to satisfy the belly without hurting the wallet.” It reminded me of Restaurant Flicoteaux described by Balzac in Illusions Perdues. Our other stop was at Drouot, an auction house where we looked in on four simultaneous auctions and perused some upcoming items. Hugo will be working on a master’s in finance next year in Paris, and I will certainly look him up if I return.
After dinner I met Daniel for a short tour of his favorite Italian paintings in the Louvre. He’s a graduate student in the history of art so he had an illuminating perspective. We then killed a bottle of wine talking on the quai of the Ile de la Cité — very pleasant except for the floodlights of the occasional bateaux mouches — and another bottle back at my studio. There was no stress when he headed home around 2 am however because of Paris’ excellent system of night busses. Dan will be studying at “the other Cambridge” next year, which affords another reason to plan a trip to England.