Chasing Matisse: The Book
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Introduction to the Journey
Beth's Travel Diary
Travel Notes and
Recommendations for France, Corsica and Morocco
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December 24, 2002
Up in Flames
I missed the flaming napkin. I didn't feel well and crawled into bed, while Jim, the girls, and our friend Holly walked down the block to our Picasso pizzeria for dinner. Holly had gotten up to find the ladies room and set her paper serviette too close to the candle. As she strode away, it caught on fire. Blair grabbed the flaming paper and tried to blow it out, which didn't work, and then threw it on the floor and stomped it as the proprietor came running. Meanwhile, Holly, who is tall and statuesque with long red hair, had no idea of the havoc she was leaving in her wake. They said it was hilarious.
The girls had arrived the day before, tired of course, but peckish. I laid out their first French feast-pate, fromage, baguette, clouds of the most luscious chocolate meringues, and cookies. We drank a welcoming toast of champagne, and they all went to sleep. Jim came home with the labors of his art class, a wonderful painting of our apartment, Perche, in tones of gray and lavender, the window curtain blowing in a breeze. It was the third in a progression from a sketch to watercolor to oil. Then he unrolled another painting, an acrylic that was raw and vibrant with life and color. He'd painted this café scene from a photograph by Iris Wolfe, who is another client of French Home Rentals and a very good amateur photographer. She'd left a book here of her work, which he'd taken with him to class. We all loved it, and he has added acrylics to his repertoire of paints.
We went out for dinner in the neighborhood, and the next day the girls slept very late, while we worked. After lunch, we showed off our neighborhood to Blair and Holly. Bret had taken to the bed again. She'd finished her first semester at Hollins University (which she loves), driven back to Arkansas and then gotten on a jet. She had a lot of catching up to do in terms of rest.
Jim also split off from our group. Blair, Holly, and I walked back up the rue des Archives and stopped at a hip bar and restaurant called Maison Rouge. As soon as we sat down, I spotted someone I knew, a handsome, smart, and charming man about town (you can tell), Olivier Boileau-Descamps. He is a friend of Ruben's whom we'd met at the Christmas fair. This must be a sign of our actually living here and not passing through. I quite enjoyed that, couldn't believe I was already bumping into a Parisian someone I knew. Of course, Olivier would be at a cool place like Maison Rouge. I made introductions, and we chatted for a moment. I want to have him over for the kind of festive dinner I love to give, and keep thinking I have time to entertain our new friends when I really don't-at least not yet.
That night the napkin flamed, and the next day we slept late. Jim had to deal with the car that we're going to lease, and the tension of that created a spat between us. The girls escaped by going to lunch, and by the time they got back, we weren't unpleasant anymore. We all strolled to the Pompidou. I'd never been. It was closed for renovation several times I was here, or there were time constraints, always a reason. We'd seen the outside on many of our treks around the neighborhood, and I thought it ugly-until we walked in, until we rode the escalator up to the top with Paris unfolding in front of us just at twilight, my favorite time of day. Paris was magnificent from every step along the way, shimmering with lights, spreading its feathers. The next thing that took our breath away was the art-a wonderful exhibition of Max Beckmann and a stunning permanent collection. The Pompidou instantly became one of my favorite museums, a treasure to the world.
Before we left, we had to have a drink at the Georges Bar up top. We sat in a pale yellow pod sipping our drinks and watching the new video exhibition, which was very Yellow Submarine-ish. There can't be a more romantic restaurant in Paris for dinner. The staff is hip and accommodating, tables are sleek and moderne, glass surrounds you as do the twinkling lights of the city. Surely, the food is good, but who cares!
We walked down a street of sex shops in Les Halles and had dinner at a forgettable café. I noticed a couple that first seemed romantic but then changed my mind. The woman seemed tired and worn (though young), not really having a good time. To me, they didn't quite fit. I imagined she was a prostitute, and he was her trick. It wasn't a happy situation at all. I looked around the room and thought a table of two men were probably the same. Occasionally, police cars raced by with sirens blaring.
From the top of Paris to its underbelly, the flames were burning around us all.
Heard on the Rue: "It's like eating ice cream for the first time."
----Thomas Baudeau, designer and our waiter at the Georges Bar, speaking of the neon, trippy film that was playing for the first day. (We felt like we were in The Yellow Submarine.)"
posted by Beth on December 24, 2002 | View All Diary Entries
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