Wednesday was Sherard’s last day in Paris so we were thrilled the night before to see that the Louvre would reopen! We got up early — for us — and arrived shortly after it opened. Unfortunately, there was already a huge, raucous line. I searched online for a way to jump the queue, and was pleased to discover that the same strategy I had used other years for the Musée D’Orsay also works for the Louvre. In both cases the bottleneck is the security line, but both museums have a much shorter security line for people who already have tickets. You can buy tickets ahead of time on line or at FNAC or many tabacs, but if you wait until the last minute there’s a tabac that sells Louvre tickets right in the underground Carrousel du Louvre where we were waiting. The express security line for people with tickets is up at the glass pyramid so once you have your tickets you go there and sail past the normal security line. I was proud of having worked this dodge but I could see that Sherard was still repelled by the mob scene. I asked which galleries interested him most and when he left it to me I led him to the Mona Lisa, which I assumed he would want to see, even though it attracts the worst sort of paparazzi crowd. After that I spied a few paintings I liked but I could see that Sherard was still not into the experience.
Portrait of a Man Holding a Statuette by Bronzino, Florence, 1503 – id. 1572
Over morning coffee Sherard and I had a heart to heart talk. The upshot was that all he really wanted that day was to buy two items he had seen on earlier walks: (1) a rug he had admired during our walk through the Belleville and Couronnes neighborhoods and (2) a small painting he had liked at a gallery in the Marais. I was proud of Sherard for asserting what he really wanted in the face of the conventional expectation that one has to see the Louvre!
We got the hell out of there and headed east. The problem was that neither of us remembered exactly where he had seen the rug, so we retraced our steps: up rue de Belleville, then over to the Parc de Belleville and back down from there. Along the way we saw several pieces of street art that Sherard liked way more than anything he had seen at the musty old Louvre.
Street art in Belleville
Street art in Belleville
[Click here to download an enormous pano of the piece above.]
Just as we were about to give up on the rug, back at the Boulevard de Belleville, I noticed some Muslim stores on rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, and sure enough, there was the rug! Sherard bought it for a song, and the first of our missions was accomplished.
After lunch at the Café de l’Industrie — a sentimental favorite from my first year — we headed over to the Marais.
Sherard’s lunch at Café de l’Industrie
There was a moment of anxiety at the gallery when the painting Sherard liked was no longer on display! But after he asked at the counter the clerk brought out many similar pieces and Sherard left as the happy owner of a colorful semi-abstract portrait. Both missions accomplished, we happily strolled home through the Marais.
Uniqlo store in the Marais, in a former foundry
Sherard suggested that we eat dinner in a completely non-touristy neighborhood we had not yet visited. I took a deep breath and proposed Alésia, a typical if unexciting neighborhood in the 14ème arrondissement. I had no specific place in mind so we simply explored. Needless to say, this warmed the cockles of my flâneur heart!
Lovely Haussmann building in the 14ème arrondissement, near métro Alésia
Boulangerie in the 14ème arrondissement, near métro Alésia
The restaurant we settled on, Le Verre Siffleur, turned out to be friendly and rather stylish as well as offering a good meal at a reasonable price.
Bob’s dinner at Le Verre Siffleur, in the 14ème arrondissement
Among our pleasant conversations there was one with a young man from Dijon who gave me his number and invited me to visit his city for a few days. Sherard noted that something similar had happened with an artist earlier in his visit, and asked me whether this sort of thing occurs to me often. I responded, “Only in Paris!”
We ended the evening, comme d’habitude, with cocktails at Experimental Cocktail Club. The bartender was charmed when we mentioned our afternoon in Belleville, which she “adores.” But when we mentioned our excursion to Alésia she said, with a visible shudder, that she “never crosses the river.” Just like crossing the Charles River between Boston and Cambridge!
Mot du jour: « comme d’habitude », “as usual”.