I’ve finally been making progress in my protracted skirmish with long Covid, allowing G and I to take a holiday which wouldn’t have been possible a few months ago. G had never been to Paris, so we decided to include well-trodden highlights and new favourites.
A trainzoom from London to Gare du Nord, a bus to our hotel, and we were off on a stroll to the Luxembourg gardens.
We found refuge from the sizzling sunshine in the shade of old lindens, and fresh-made juice accompanied G surprising me with the book of poetry we’ve been reading at home.
We made our way to Montparnasse, stopping at the historic Rotonde for an early dinner. It’s one of those institutions that’s managed to thrive for over a century, one I love for its steak tartare and crimson chinoiserie interior. We managed to snag the perfect outdoor table and G finally (although temporarily) quenched his desire for cheese with perhaps the best onion soup I’ve tasted.
We got to the tower in time for last entry, just after ten.
I can’t remember the previous time I was up there, but I don’t think it’s ever been at night, and the view surpassed my expectations.
The wind reminded me of the time we jumped out of a plane and my instructor let me float up there for a long while before descending.
In the morning, we stopped by Notre Dame de Paris, which is being rebuilt after a blaze tore through it in 2019. I was quite upset by that fire, and seeing the reconstruction of something that’s existed in some form since the 1100s was somehow life-affirming, in that moment embodying endurance and optimism.
It was an exceedingly hot week, which made this a day good for the Louvre.
Every one of my prior visits had been spent ingesting too much art too fast, marathoning far past the point of appreciation.
This time, we indulged in taking hours in the Mesopotamia and Egypt sections. The collection is incredible, and many of the works require focus.
After the past few years of frolicking in Kew Gardens’ conservatories, I was curious about what a French one looks like.Jardin des Plantes is a compound of several gardens, with a large tropical greenhouse and a hedge maze leading up to an overlook with a gazebo, among other things.
Alas, the Natural History Museum and the Gallery of Palaeontology were closed due to the heatwave and lack of air conditioning, so I have another reason to visit again.
Our final evening was spent in the grand tradition, atop Montmartre, taking in the city from above again amidst hundreds of travellers, teenagers, and tepid beer peddlers.
This time, we were lucky enough to catch the evening candlelight mass. The Sacre Coeur cathedral is a place of pilgrimage, which imbued the ceremony with something special as the warm evening breeze carried hymns across the hilltop in a confetti of accents.
The morning of departure offered enough time to eat delicious lemon cakes in Luxembourg Gardens…
… and catch the Ron Mueck exhibition at Fondation Cartier.
I’m still thinking about Mass (2017), which, besides being a cool pile of one hundred giant skulls, manages to evoke a tangible sense of history, among other things.
Man in a Boat (2002) and A Girl (2006) and are also part of the exhibit, each effective in their own way.
Mueck’s latest piece while looking nothing like Mueck’s hyperrealism, is somehow more Mueck than Mueck, managing to capture the essence of DOG with scale and posture rather than the minutia of hyperrealism.
Conversations about late style ensued as we caught our train to a pilgrimage of our own: Cronenberg’s “La Specola” in Milan.
It feels a bit strange to share these moments when riots are tearing through France again, but in the year 2023, waiting for tranquillity before doing things doesn’t seem particularly worthwhile. I’m glad to have had the chance to experience this version of Paris in summertime; parks well-picnicked, cafes breaded to the brim, and boutiques excelling at separating money from people.