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  • Shelley Dark

30. au revoir Paris

We were to fly out of Paris at 8pm on Friday night. How to spend our last day?

Cally wanted to keep shopping for gifts on the left bank. For me, the Petit Palais, Grand Palais and lunch with Helena.

The Petit Palais is a truly beautiful building. It was constructed for the Exposition Universelle of 1900.

This was an art installation in front of the Petit Palais as part of the FIAC art festival. Sweet Wall by Allan Kaprow and Rashid Johnson. Hmmmm.

I really wanted to be there early, because there was a staircase I wanted to see, without people on it. As it turned out, there are two of them. Not people, staircases. Identical but mirrored at the back corners of the building. It represents most features of Modernist design (Art Nouveau) that Santi told us about in Barcelona, lacking only the whiplash line:

*flowing sinuous lines

*based on nature: here acanthus, climbing plants, and flowers

*use of a new material like iron

*the collaboration between disciplines: a combination of fine design and the applied art of wrought iron

*part of a Total Art concept where an architect led a staff of brilliant artisans to the finished product.

Made by Taillandier Boyer & Co, wrought iron specialists, the stairs have a brass plate on the bannister on the first floor.

I did a quick tour and saw some other art nouveau: paintings, household items, and jewellery.

Across the street to the Grand Palais. I coud see from the long queues that I would only be at the entry by the time I had to meet Helena. Beyond the Grand Palais I could see white marquees we had seen earlier in the week. A modern furniture exhibition. Forget the Grand Palais. I paid the entry fee and went in. It's interesting how furniture mirrors fashion. Those furry Chloë boots we saw the other day match these chairs. The metal table has a raised mineral inlay.

Guillaume Piéchaud first created jewellery for the grands couturiers, and now he's applying his skill to furniture. You can see the similarities. I like the way he creates a visual softness with hard materials. There is a coloured blue stone set in to the back of the stools:

And an interesting artwork - ceramic rings suspended on fishing line:

Time for lunch! Helena had booked the restaurant : 1728, 8 Rue d'Anjou. On my way, I passed the Elysée Palace, home to the President of France. It was blockaded for some official occasion, many police on duty with automatic weapons at the ready.

A little early, I was able to go through the archway into the courtyard of the townhouse built in 1728. It was built by Mazin, architect of naval yards for Louis XV. The bottom floor is a suite of drawing rooms joined by a long corridor. It was here that Mme Marquise de Pompadour, offiial mistress to Louis XV, lived while her own house, Hôtel dEvreux (now the Elysée Palace, home of the French president) was being built. It's easy to imagine her holding court here. She was an accomplished woman with a good eye for Rococo interiors and played a decisive role in making Paris the perceived capital of taste and culture in Europe.

The ceilings are very high, and the oak floor is original. General Marquis de la Fayette also entertained here. A French aristocrat, he was famous for fighting for the U.S. in the American War of Independence. He also helped write the Declaration of the Rights of Man after the storming of the Bastille. He was chief of the National Guard briefly after the revolution until radical elements ordered his arrest.

And so to lunch at 12.30pm. The chef at 1728 is Nicolas Roudier, who trained with Alain Ducaisse and spent four years at Bristol with Eric Fréchon. The Pastry Chef is Nicolas Trémolière, also formerly of Le Bristol. Our time was limited so we ordered the prix fixé menu. Everything was delicious, from the amuse bouche, the mushroom terrine, the gratinee of seafood, the poached egg on noodles, to the desserts: tarte tatin and rhum baba with citrus crème..

It was 3.30pm before we knew it, and we hadn't drawn breath except to eat. We spoke very quickly to fit more words in. We had so much more to say, but it was time to go and leave Helena to relax over her coffee. She doesn't like having her photo taken, but consented to this one....

Cally was waiting for me back at the apartment, her bags packed and in the courtyard. A successful shopping trip. Fortunately there were no tenants coming in immediately after us, so we were able to have a late checkout. We sadly took our leave of our apartment. Imprinted on my mind details like the tiny lift which we prayed wouldn't get stuck, the old gas inspection plate, the door handle to the huge heavy front door on the street, the bottom of the staircase bannister, a sign asking that nothing be placed in the way of an internal door....

and a pink sky over the nearby roofs

Finally, adieu to our bijou apartment. The beautiful roses which greeted us on our arrival were, if anything, even more beautiful after a week. A living example of wabi sabi. Don't you agree?

So my dear travellers, it's time to say au revoir to France, and to our trip together. I cannot tell you how enjoyable it has been for me to have you along. I've absolutely loved taking photos for you, editing them and writing at night. I wouldn't have missed it. And thank you again for the giant leap of faith you took in signing up as a traveller when it was a totally unknown quantity.

If you've enjoyed it, perhaps you might consider giving a subscription to the Indian trip as a Christmas gift. If you do, I'll send an e-Christmas card to the recipient, whenever you say so.

This is not the end though. I'm going to put an e-book together for you, and a list of recommendations. Please email me if you have any special requests. I'm not sure when I'll get it done as I still have to plan the beginning and the end of our trip to India in late January. But it will get done.

I hope you'll come to India too.

Don't forget, I wait you.

shelley dark, writer 

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