Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 2040: Paris au Ralenti (Paris in Slow Motion)
By Doru from Canada, Fall 2012
Page 15 of 19: Thursday, September 27 - Musée du Quai Branly; Village Saint-Paul&Place du Marché Saint-Catherine
Musée du Quai Branly
Rain. Our prayers were not answered; the sky is dark, with no hope of blue patches in sight.
To go or not to go? We decide to go. To Musée du Quai Branly, the objective we abandoned yesterday.
Métro lines 1 and 9 take us there quickly. When we get off at Alma-Marceau, only a few drops of rain greet us. We walk towards Pont de l’Alma when we find ourselves in front of the Flame of Liberty, a reproduction, a few meters tall, of the flame carried by the New York Statue of Liberty torch. In the tunnel right beneath the bridge perished Princess Diana in 1997. Since then, the base of the Flame of Liberty is occasionally covered with flowers and the monument has become a sort of unofficial memorial for the much-adored Princess. Indeed, bouquets of faded flowers cover the base of the Flame also today.
I stop for a picture and put away the camera just in time, as a torrential rain starts, darkening the air. We open the umbrella and huddle together, trying to stay as much as possible out of the almost horizontally pouring sheets of water. And it is windy on the bridge, and cold...
Finally, we cross the bridge and, once we are out of the air currents, the rain relents somewhat. By the time we are at the entrance to the museum, we have one single purpose: to find a dry spot!
We find it in the elegant Café Branly, where we shake the umbrella, our outer clothes and ourselves. We catch our breath, and order double coffees for restoration.
In the meantime, the rain seems to have eased off a bit and we recover to a drier state. It is time to buy tickets and visit the museum.
The Musée du Quai Branly is only six years old and, to my mind, it is a wonderful example of public funds spent not only to a good purpose, but also spent well. The museum is wonderfully organised and very easy to navigate. The main, permanent collection is dedicated to popular culture artifacts from four continents: Asia, Africa, Oceania and South America. The variety of the items presented and the exceptional presentation itself are stunning.
It is not possible to absorb the entire permanent collection in one visit. Choices must be made, and we choose to concentrate on the African and Asian collections.
The museum also presents temporary exhibitions, and the price of admission to those is included in the general price of admission.
The current special exhibitions are:
“Cheveux Chéris-Frivolités et Trophées” (The Art of Hair-Frivolity and Trophy), a small but fascinating exhibition of paintings, photographs and videos dedicated to the role of hair in human culture and society; at times amusing, at times nostalgic.
“Les Séductions du Palais” (The Seductions of the Palate) dedicated to cooking and eating in China. Tableware; cooking implements; from one to two millennia BC old pottery to bronze, lacquer, silver and gold; through various dynasties, leading to the porcelain tableware and implements we now associate with the Chinese cuisine. Recipes are also available, including bear paw stew ("Take one bear, get one paw, etc., etc.")!
What also impresses in this wonderfully planned museum are the accessibility and its services.
The museum is placed within the environment of a beautiful garden, particularly dazzling this afternoon, when the rain finally stops and the sun suddenly shines. The combination of sunlight and clear air with the freshness of the still wet plants is visually spectacular.
By this time we had walked well past our daily quotas and look for a less demanding way to return home. At the corner of Quai Branly and Avenue Bosquet we find a salutary taxi station and we get back to the apartment in style, at the now familiar cost of €12, tip included.
Towards the evening we decide to take advantage of the clearing skies and walk towards Quai des Célestins, then turn into rue Saint-Paul, a little known, developing jewel of what is, somewhat pretentiously for now, called Village Saint-Paul. This is a group of buildings and galleries developed over what were in the 14th century the gardens of King Charles V. They represent the gamut, from “marché aux puces” to quite elegant, high design boutiques, to jewelers and antiquaries, restaurants and cafés. This is a place with promise, and it may become in a few years a primary shopping and touring objective, helped by its proximity to Île Saint-Louis and to Bastille.
We complete the evening tour with sitting on a bench at Place du Marché Saint-Catherine and note the difference between this quite special place on a warm evening as opposed to tonight’s aspect. Place du Marché Saint-Catherine is basically a city square whose all sides harbor restaurants. I count about nine restaurants and bars, side by side, and on a summer day there is no table free to be found at any of them; there is business for all. Today, with the cooler weather, they all hide under heated tents and awnings and do not seem to be busy. Maybe it is still too early in the evening.
On to rue des Francs-Bourgeois, Place des Vosges (where the access gate to Hôtel de Sully is already locked for the night), back to rue Saint-Antoine through Birague.
A great day in all. As I write, there is an almost full moon outside, and it gives us the hope that we are done with the rain for sometime.
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