Last week Marti and I had the enormous pleasure of hanging out with our longtime Washington DC-area pals Lauren and Jay, who were visiting Paris together for the first time.
On the afternoon of their arrival (Monday, April 23) I met Lauren and Jay at their Latin Quarter hotel, then led them on a Paris “starter kit” tour of nearby sights. We had lunch at l'Oie Qui Fume in the Rue de la Harpe, visited Notre Dame, stopped for a café break at the bar of the Brasserie de l'Isle Saint Louis, dropped in at the Relais Hotel du Vieux Paris to see the classic “Beat Hotel” pics of Alan Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, et al. in the lobby, then rendezvoused with Marti at the Café Conti, at the corner of Saint Andre des Arts and Rue Buci. We had drinks, then ordered a light supper. By this point our tourist friends had hit the wall, so we made plans for a dinner date and Midnight In Paris mini-tour the following evening.
On Tuesday evening Marti and I went to meet Lauren and Jay at the fountain at Place Saint Michel.
We embarked on our Midnight In Paris tour, starting with dinner at Polidor. Marti and Lauren (at left) try not to look like tourists from Topeka.
Lauren and Woody Allen. She dislikes him, but loved the film.
"The people from Washington were good people because they were honest people, and that's why they asked the hostess where I sat in the movie. And there's nothing fine and noble about asking dumb tourist questions unless you ask gracefully. And then it's not only noble but brave."
Marti and Jay. "It was a good steak because it was an honest steak, and that's what meat does to men. And there's nothing fine and noble about eating steak frites in a restaurant unless you eat them gracefully. And then it's not only noble but brave."
Lauren and me.
After dinner the four of us strolled over to the steps of the Church of St Etienne du Mont, in the Rue de la Montagne Sainte-Geneviève.
Jay: "Can you picture how drop dead gorgeous this city is in the rain? Imagine this town in the '20s. Paris in the '20s, in the rain. The artists and writers!"
Lauren: "Why does every city have to be in the rain? What's so wonderful about getting wet?"
Phil: "This is unbelievable! Look at this! There's no city like this in the world. There never was."
Marti: "You act like you've never been here before."
Step into the Peugeot.
We declined the offer of a ride in the 1920 Peugeot Landaulet. Instead, we went for nightcaps at the Pomme d'Eve, a 12th-Century cave with gorgeous vaulted ceilings right around the corner from Owen Wilson's church steps. It's a longtime haunt of Marti's and mine. One night Alan "I Love Rock 'N Roll" Merrill and I hung out at the bar until dawn downing Grey Goose vodkas and schmoozing a couple of Swedish flight attendants. I think he went directly from La Pomme to the airport en route to Switzerland to sing on a Ron Wood tribute album. Here The Armagnac Kids knock down digestifs before calling it a night.
The next morning, a typically rainy April Wednesday, Marti and I went with Lauren and Jay to Gare Saint Lazare to catch a train to Vernon, the closest station to Giverny, site of Claude Monet's home and gardens. Pictured: Claude Monet: Gare Saint Lazare, Paris. 1877. Oil on canvas. Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France.
We began our tour at Monet's water garden. Lauren, Jay and Marti on the Japanese bridge.
The lily pond in the rain.
Coming soon to a pond near you: water lilies!
Monet was far from a starving artist when he lived here. He created the gardens to use as subjects for his paintings. And employed as many as five gardeners to maintain them. This guy is cleaning the pond. And the fellows in the video clip below are working on arbors in the main garden.
Our Midnight In Paris homage continued with a vengeance on the little bridge at the far end of the water garden. This is the scene that begins the main body of the film, following the montage opening.
Top this, Owen and Rachel.
Lauren and Jay upstage us.
We always think of our moms when we come here. Both were avid gardeners. Me, not so much.
I’d tease my mom. "Oh, look at the lovely Chlamydia!" Mom always laughed at my jokes. Moms are duty-bound to laugh at your jokes.
Can we go get lunch now?
Cityheads stranded in a bucolic Disneyland.
For some reason Marti kept drifting toward the red flowers. I told her Vladimir Lenin hit me on my cell. He wants his cap back.
She insisted I capture the striking interplay between the streaks in her hair and the Pink Monilia. When did this model become an art director?
Raindrops keep falling on my leaves.
Monet's Sunday dinner.
Claude's pink house. Which apparently inspired John Mellencamp.
My favorite room in his home: the kitchen. (Found photo; you’re not allowed to snap pics in the house.)
Not only was he a highly-respected painter, but Claude loved to entertain and could often be found in la cuisine rattling them pots and pans. One Christmas long ago we gave Lauren a copy of Monet’s Table, a beautifully-illustrated cookbook derived from the old fellow’s recipe journals. For many years I’ve been whipping up dinners from that manual myself.
Monet's huge studio has transmogrified into a gift shop.
Hotel Baudy, just down the street. Claude housed his overflow guests here. It became a hang-out for the community of American Impressionists who flocked to Giverny.
Lunch in the restaurant Baudy. Vegetable soup for a chilly afternoon.
Chicken in cream sauce with mushrooms and potato gratin. Très Normand.
Sole en papillote.
Omelet with duck confit and sauteed potatoes.
Profiteroles with chocolate sauce and whipped cream!
Gazebo lovebirds in the garden at the Hotel Baudy.
After lunch we took in the Denis exhibition at the Impressionists Museum.
The Giverny church.
Monet family tomb.
Remembered with flowers. Of course.
After our Giverny excursion the day before, the four of us went our separate ways on Thursday. Lauren and Jay logged in additional sightseeing and museum-ing during the day, then went to see eccentric French pop group LadyElles at Sunset-Sunside in the evening.
Marti worked from home on Thursday, we ran a couple of errands together, caught Old School Soul man Charles Bradley at La Cigale that evening.
Marti took the day off and the four of us reunited on Friday morning, kicking off with a trip to the Louvre. (Indicated by Lauren's pyramid head above.)
The Louvre was jamming with tourists. I just wanna know, who's left at home running the Toyota factory?
We plunged into the throngs in the Mona Lisa room.
On the opposite wall from Mona: Veronese's Wedding At Cana, with uninvited guests.
A peek backstage at the Louvre. Items have been temporarily housed in this gallery while the basement is being flood-proofed.
After lunch in the Louvre's food court (go ahead and laugh, but this facility was upgraded a while back and actually offers excellent inexpensive international cuisines), we strolled through Lenotre's beautiful Jardin des Tuileries.
Can it be? Is the big yellow disk in the sky attempting to make a cameo appearance? No such luck.
Jay and Lauren with Monet's huge panoramic water lily paintings in the Orangerie, at the far end of the Jardin des Tuileries. This stealth photo was made just before the security nazi threatened to drag me away to the Dick Cheney Memorial Re-education Chamber.
We left Lauren and Jay at the Orangerie, heading for home, then encountered our Paris bud Rick. He was in hilarious running drag, listening to horrific jamband music on his earbuds. Rick's from San Francisco. That's pretty much how those people roll.
Oh get a room.
After my semiannual visit to the cardiologist late Friday afternoon -- another rave review, you'll have me to kick around at least until December -- I hooked up with Marti, Lauren and Jay at the Musée Maillol for the superb Artemisia exhibition. Artemisia Gentileschi was a contemporary of Caravaggio and a remarkable woman painter, pretty unusual for 400 years ago.
Next it was off to dinner. The four of us piled into a taxi and drove to a favorite restaurant.
In terms of ambience, the Art Nouveau-on-acid La Fermette is hard to beat. Champagne, foie gras, heirloom veggie medley, langoustine bisque, duck breast, steak, kidney-sweetbreads thang (me, of course), a 2006 Medoc, dark chocolate mousse (Mme. Lauren) and café gourmands were our selections. Mondo fabuloso!
Requisite cheeseball restaurant photo. Another sensational day and evening with our dear friends. By now Marti and I were suffering tourist fatigue from their vacation.
Last Saturday night was our last hang with Lauren and Jay before they trained down to the Luberon for the second half of vacation. Marti and I prepared a North African dinner here at 85 rue Blomet.
Before getting underway, we gave our guests the 29-centime tour of our neighborhood. Including a stop to peep at Joan Miro's Oiseau Lunaire. (Moon Bird, 1967.) It's in a small square on our street, on the former site of the artist's studio. We window-shopped together, then Jay and I enjoyed a brief café hang at the Chastel while the ladies shopped at Cache-Cache.
Back home, we served a salad of mixed greens tossed with Moroccan Argan oil and topped with pine nuts, chopped clementines, pomegranate seeds and fresh coriander.
The main course was a chicken tagine with sun-dried tomatoes, preserved lemon, dried apricots, almonds, chick peas and fresh coriander.
In between the tagine and dessert, we walked two blocks to rue Petel, to catch the Tour Eiffel's hourly strobe light show.
On the way back to the apartment, we visited Antoine Bourdelle's 1909 sculpture Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux au travail (Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux at work) on the plaza of the Hôtel de Ville, Paris XV. One sculptor's homage to another.
The Three Stooges strike a pose. "I was tryin' to think . . . but nuttin' happened."
We capped off dinner with pastries from La Rose de Tunis, a new North African bakery in our 'hood, followed by sweet mint tea. We sent Lauren and Jay packing, back to their hotel to pack for Sunday morning's high-speed train ride south.
It had been 21 years in the planning, but we finally got to share a fun week in Paris with these two great friends from our Washington DC days.