Tuesday, July 5, 2011

3. Marais and Race Cars at the Louvre

Today we set out to explore the Marais district at the recommendation of Michelle Azar. Great call! We wandered all over, no schedule to meet and no expectations. What a beautiful section of Paris, lots of beautiful buildings and tiny winding streets with shops and all kinds of tiny businesses and FOOD everywhere!

We found Hotel de Sens a couple blocks up from the Seine River, then followed a map deeper into the Marais, eventually to the Rue des Rosiers, an ultra narrow winding street/shops with several other teeny streets snaking off it with lots to explore. Stopped at a patissierie for refreshment, then kept walking. Our goal was the Picasso museum, full of artwork France took from the Picasso estate in lieu of estate taxes that were unpaid! Eventually found it, in a fantastic old building...CLOSED until 2013 for renovations and bringing the ancient structure up to code. Durn it! Onward til we accidentally found Hotel Sully, beautiful building with lavish small courtyard and sculpture, including a MOLE emerging from a pile of dirt...go figure!

Sully was an unexpected shortcut to Place des Voges, a fantastic square of residential and business buildings over covered arcade walkways, all surrounding a beautiful park with fountains and a really lame sculpture of Louis XIII (there's a sculptured tree trunk holding up the horse's stomach, like a huge 5th leg?). We kept exploring and happily popped out at the NEW Opera House so Lynn recognized our location...we immediately celebrated with something cool to drink in a shady cafe, and then metro'd off to the OLD Opera House. Our mission: to find the Fragonard Parfumerie, so Lynn could get their body lotion that she loves. It's in a side street on one side of the Opera, we found it and made the purchase.

Then came some unplanned fun. We'd seen bus posters with an achingly beautiful Jaguar XKD race car from the 1950's, touting an Automobile Art display of Ralph Lauren's amazing collection of ultra-restored exotic cars,  somewhere in town. All I could remember was "107 Rue des Rivoli". SO, we pulled out Lynn's trusty map and set out walking...turns out that address is part of the museum and exhibition complex attached to the Louvre art museum! We found it after quite a bit of asking around...no one else in Paris is interested in a race car exhibition apparently.

When we finally found the place, it was as fantastic as either of us could have imagined. No photos were allowed, so I just bought a couple of postcards and photo'd them...no comparison. These were "touchstone" cars to me, ones that were the most beautiful and purposeful cars ever seen during the era when aerodynamics started to be understood and included in the designs. The 1930's Blower Bentley looked like a huge powerful British barn door next to the Bugatti aero coupe of similar vintage. Several of my favorite Ferraris of all time were included: 250 SWB, 250 GTO, 250 LMand a 1950's 375 Plus. YOW! More stuff than I can relate here, and interesting only to a few of us, so ask me later. It was the most fantastic surprise of our visit so far, for me!

Suppertime we headed out to stroll the Champs Elysses, like all good visitors do. What a drag, WAY too many people to be happy. We should've been alerted when we rode the Metro to the Champs and had to cram in with a million other riders like sardines for a couple of stops! So we veered off to explore some side streets and hunted down a nice restaurant. The waitress was learning English and traded French and English tips with us while we ordered and ate. Wonderful night, just following our noses. We've loved all our years of travelling with students, but being here with no schedule, and no one to be responsible for except ourselves, is just a delight. Time to sleep, something new tomorrow I bet.

PIC captions:  Lynn at Hotel de Sens courtyard.
                       Louis XIII Park, Place des Voges, Marais District.
                       Postcard of the exhibition ad that hooked me on the side of a bus!
CLICK here for all photos and vids:
2011 Dinan and Paris French Adventure

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