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Sunday, July 08, 2012

The good, the bad and the downright thieving!


The day dawned in rain.  So what else is new in Paris?  In July.

By the time we had had our second breakfast without egg the skies had turned to a sullen grey which was a great improvement on the previous liquid offering that we had had to cope with in the morning yesterday.

Even though the egg is reconstituted and arrives in the hotel in sealed microwavable containers, I feel that I have a right to spurn the yellowed offerings that we should be given in the mornings.  Not to be allowed to do so is an infringement of my basic breakfast rights.  For it to happen a second time is little short of direct insult.  


I decided to complain.

The desk was staffed with the charming gentleman who, when we first arrived regaled us with stories of his having been trapped in Manchester in the rain and so we had a fellow feeling for him.  


He listened to my hesitant complaint (it was hardly against him) with total sympathy and offered to disregard the parking fees that we have run up by presuming to park our car in the hotel car park.  40€ in exchange for almost inedible egg seemed like a good compromise!

We therefore set off for our first Cultural Expedition of the day in a happy state of mind and in lack of rain –let us not go so far as to state that we were bathed in that rarest of Parisian commodities: July sun!

Our destination was the Centre Pompidou the High Temple of Modern Art and anathema to Irene.  


We got there reasonably directly and ascended the external escalator with increasing interest.  There is something about the gradually revealed landscape of Paris which never fails to delight, and as soon as you are above roof level the city is laid out (in all its morning gloom) for one to take unsuccessful photographs!

The contents of the museum failed to stimulate Irene and, in spite of my impassioned history of art lecture to accompany the paintings I do not think that I managed to make her think any more positively of what she saw.  Even the eventually found single example of a Rothko failed to move her.  A lost case I fear.

Our lunch was in some sort of pseudo pub where my meal was snails and cheese: a true delight.  Though the beer was crap.

Our second cultural visit was to the Marmottan Monet museum which was more difficult to get to than any of the others we had graced with our presence.  It took multiple train changes, wrong ways and much walking before we finally gained the doors of the imposing edifice which housed the museum.

The ostensible reason for our visit was for Irene to get to see the Berthe Morrisot exhibition housed in the gallery.

I am not sure that I have changed my view of the artist after seeing more of her works in one day than I have seen in the rest of my life – and that includes looking at her work in books!

Her sketches I admire and her work on light tending towards abstraction I found fascinating – who knows what she might have produced if she had lived thirty years longer and gone into her old age with a wildly wielded brush in the same way that Monet expressed himself.

And talking of Monet, I suppose that I might have managed to get a partial view of what the museum might have contained if I had paid more attention to the last part of the museum’s title.

The number and quality of works by Monet in the museum is breath taking.  Here is the painting, “Impression, sunrise” which though a critic’s dismissal gave the name to the whole movement of Impressionism.  


The number and quality of water lily painting reduced me to incoherent delight.  And, much though I remember Herbert Reed’s dismissal of “ardent young snobs working themselves up in front of paintings” I was reduced to tears by the canvases I saw.  I was transported back to my adolescence where I would visit the National Museum of Wales and go straight to the Monets, look at the three canvases of water lilies that the Museum possesses and leave refreshed and happy.

I saw my sixth façade of Rouen Cathedral in two days; and anyone who can wander through that magical room in the Marmottan with canvas after canvas of water lilies and views of the garden in Giverney without emotion simply has no soul.

In some ways the best visit to a gallery was this last one.  It is certainly the one which moved me most and I have bought a catalogue so that I can rail against the poor colour reproduction and protest that I need to return to get a “real” view of the paintings.

Although we are both exhausted and frankly relieved that we return to Barcelona tomorrow we both feel that we have been most fully rewarded in our cultural pilgrimage by our last museum.

Our last meal in the obscure area of Paris where we reside was not in the restaurant that has served us well for the last three days but rather in an Italian restaurant where the chef has confronted us each time we have gone to a rival.

In a spirit of adventure we decided to go to the almost empty restaurant and sample his wares.  We were greeted effusively and treated to a “hands on” approach throughout the meal: Irene being a blond especially so!  We were beguiled into accepting all his recommendations under the woefully inadequate impression that we were having a fixed price €17.50 meal with a few extra drinks.

As the final price was €89 you can imagine how much like shorn lambs we felt when we finally manage to escape from the rapacious clutches of the Coptic Christian Egyptian masquerading as an Italian restaurateur.  We have realised that the money that we have gained by the egg not being readily available at breakfast we have now spend on an evening meal.

Tomorrow will, I swear be relaxed – or at least as relaxed as packing to a deadline of midday; getting the hire car back to the airport; buying Toni a present and catching a plane can be.

Will there be egg tomorrow is what the uneasy sleepers in this hotel are asking themselves.

And who cares about the answer.
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