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If like me, you are fortunate enough to live in the UK, you can visit most countries in Europe in a day or a weekend, itinerary depending, and have a good time of it. Paris you can visit for a good few hours, quick and dirty: a coffee on arrival, an exhibition, lunch, a cocktail and then taxi to the airport or train to Gare du Nord, happily buzzed and heading home.
Ergo, you know what I love? A short trip to Paris, there is something absolutely magical about hopping on a plane and being in the city of amour in less than three hours, less than hour if you fly, but the journey from Charles de Gaulle to the city is not something I enjoy, so I train it from St Pancras as much as possible.
Bienvenue á Paris. First, café. Café Verlet on Rue Saint-Honoré is actually my favourite café in Paris, not so much for the coffee because I am not a huge coffee drinker per se, though I make it a point of buying their house coffee to take home with me, because I’m a hostess, but the pastries here… incredible. It also happens to be a 15 minute walk to the Musee d’Orsay.
Fed and watered just right we’re off to see Munch and we’ll need the cushioning for the misery.
Currently, there are two exhibitions in Paris that are worth your time.
Edvard Munch at the Musee D’Orsay extends further than The Scream his seminal work. The actual first scream is exhibited here but there is so much more. If you are familiar with Munch, you’ll know it’s his ability to evoke the solemn, a real sense of emotion and depth of field in a painting. Edvard Munch. A Poem of Life, Love and Death’ in collaboration with the Munch Museum in Oslo, the Musée d’Orsay presents one hundred works by Munch: paintings, drawings, texts. It is a retrospective that spans 60 years of his artistic mastery.
His was a singular vision of the world, the ability to draw on human emotion from somewhere deep within, the stages of life right through to death, to the deep sadness and the middle ground. He had a unique way of capturing and narrating the key moments of life, especially the ties that bind; life, death, birth, rebirth. The paintings set in Asgårdstrand are some of my favourite, the artist maintained a summer residence in the town and he had a way of capturing the moon dance on the waterbed setting it into something out of a dream. The paintings of his sister Inger, cold and pale, sat poised on the rocks in contemplation, but she glows, there is a trickery of light he does with the characteristic late sun, the sea appears to drift with the expert application of colour. This would be the setting of several of his paintings, one where a man sits a lone head in hand brooding, whilst life goes on in his periphery.
The periphery, that is Munch’s expertise, he has a way of drawing us not only to the object up close but also to bring our attention to what is happening in the fore. The exhibition is well spaced out, which gives one room to take each work in. Munch does intensity extraordinarily well. His power for melancholy does not escape our thoughts, it is omnipresent, subject close enough as if standing right before him for the entirety of his time painting, anguish, despair, isolation, misery…
No artist envelopes the currently melancholy of the world as Munch does in his paintings. Are we not in a constant state of a scream?
The second exhibition is at the Musee de la Mode at the Palais Galleria Frida Kahlo Au dela Des Appearances- Beyond appearances. This is one I have not seen in Paris but have seen both in London and in Bologna; I’m a huge Kahlo fan, the way she lived her life on her terms is something I am big on. This explores a more personal side to her story; how she represented herself to the world. I am often in two minds of the personal when it comes to artist simply because they give so much of themselves in their works that often always eschews the personal and the boundaries within it but there is also a side of me that appreciates the humanisation of the artist beyond their work. In London even her preferred lipstick, Helena Rubenstein was on display. In Bologna it was her the objects that aided her everyday especially after her accident… where do we draw the line? I suppose that is up to the viewer and how they perceive the artist posthumous. Any Kahlo exhibition is always, ALWAYS, worth your time as she is one artist that keeps resonating no matter the generation.
CAFÉ AUX LYONNAIS
What’s for lunch? Listen it’s not complicated we are going to be in Paris for a finite amount of time so let’s get to it. We have soaked ourselves in the despair of Munch it is now time to shake it off and head to lunch possibly with flute or two of champagne. You may choose to go back to the Verlet for lunch they do serve lunch here and its a good’un but let’s switch things up a bit. Aux Lyonnais is one of my favourite places to eat in Paris. Authentic cuisines from Lyon made and served without pretence. The atmosphere is relaxed and during lunch time you can find work people there, solo diners there, and couples too, there is literally nothing snobbish about this place and have I mentioned the food is really good, because it is; been around since 1890 and its still here, still serving some of the most divine dishes with a friendly atmosphere. You’ll love it here.
“For all its no frills its also a really good hot dog to go with a really good cocktail.”
Did you come to Paris if you didn’t stop by for a drink at Harry’s Bar? You didn’t, therefore you simply must stop by here. And the perfect time to stop by? A random Tuesday afternoon because the crowd is non-existent, the patrons friendlier, I mean everyone is friendly after a few and the atmosphere is mellower. I love coming to Harry’s for a classic cocktail but also a hot dog which is the antithesis of French cooking because it is void of all the finery, just a good old hot dog to have in Paris without flounces or flair and you’ll love it.
One more cocktail for the road and then head home.
That’s your lot. Á bien tôt