Monday, February 7, 2011

Free Admission Sundays, Trocadero Market and a Hidden Passage

Free Admission Sundays

New favorite thing about Paris:  free admission Sundays.  On the first Sunday of every month there is free admission to the museums in Paris.  If you have ever traveled anywhere in Europe you know why this is my new favorite thing.  Unlike the good old USA (namely, our nations capital where most all museums are free), European museum entry fees are not only not free but they usually run anywhere from $10.00 to $20.00.  I will be honest, when the Mr. first suggested taking advantage of free admission Sundays (have I ever mentioned that the Mr. is quite frugal?) I immediately threw up a few road blocks - think of the long lines! Well, forget about seeing the Mona Lisa, that is certainly not going to happen.  Really? you want to get up early on a Sunday just to avoid lines?  Totally not worth it, I persisted.  Cheat on the Marais and St. Louis! How dare you even suggest it. 

Well.... I guess I must admit, sometimes this actually does happen....I am totally wrong.  And boy was I TOTALLY wrong.  I don't know if it's because it is February, which I assume is not the busiest tourist month in France since the average temperature hovers around 2 degrees, but for one reason or another free admission Sunday was a breeze.  Not only a breeze, but I would argue that in terms of long lines, free admission Sundays beat everyday museum lines.  Maybe because they don't have to fool with tickets, but the line at Louvre was only a 10 minute wait.  On top of that, since we saved a fortune on museum entrance fees, I talked the Mr. into going out for a nice lunch.  Free Sunday admission is the ticket! (no pun intended, of course).  Marais and old Louie will never know the difference, what is one little Sunday going to hurt.

We started the day at the Louvre (biggest Museum in the world) and hit the highlights.  I've been a few times and the Mr. went with in the assumption that we would be back. In my opinion, that is the best way to do museums - in a realistic amount of time.  After about an hour, attention starts to fade rather quickly.  So geared with our Rick Steves podcast, we hit the 25 must sees and made our way over to Cafe Marly for lunch.  Here are some of our favorites.

Winged Victory.  Truly amazing.  The size alone of this sculpture is another to leave your speechless.

The Mr. and Mrs. of the old monarch.  The crown jewels are always a favorite of mine. (Also loved all of the old French tableware displayed in the same room).

Large stone sculpture of man slaying dragon, always a favorite of the Mr.'s.   (Mike, you are right, he totally wishes dragons existed).

La Grande Odalisque, Ingres

I don't know why, but for some reason when I think of the Louvre, this is always the painting that I think of, along with the Turkish Bath and the Vaplincon Bather.  (Or, maybe because it is in the Desperate Housewives opening? Who knows.)

The Mr.'s favorite.  (yeah right - you  know good and well what he had to say about the Mona Lisa, "that is probably the most overrated thing I've ever seen in my whole entire life. Not just in terms of art, but in terms of anything ever.") That's ok, totally to be expected.  

After our visit to Louvre, we walked over to Cafe Marly for a quick lunch.  I am in love with several blogs about Paris (including my favorite, David Lebovitz) and one of my bloggers claimed that Cafe Marly made the best croque monsieur in Paris.  Since Cafe Marley is in the Louvre, naturally, I convinced the Mr. that we needed to investigate. 

Looks good so far.

Yep, looking very good.  I will need to continue this investigation of "best croque in Paris" but for now it is safe to say that this sandwich met all of the current criteria (hot all the way through and not too much sauce) I guess it doesn't take much to beat the sandwich cart guys in the Latin quarter.

Onto the Musee de l'Orangerie.  Le petite impressionist museum across the Tuileries (gardens outside of the Louvre).  This quickly became one of my new favorite museums.  I love that it spotlights impressionism and how easy it is to navigate.  The museum houses late art dealer Paul Guillaume's outstanding collection of art and a cycle of Monet's water-lily paintings. 

I loved this small replication of one Guilluame's homes (which was on Avenue Foch nonetheless!)

New French artist discovery, Utrillo.  LOVED everything he's done (a post-impressionist artist in the generation after Renoir and that crowd).  The colors were just exquisite and he also uses lots of great texture.  I must also mention Cezanne, an old acquaintance we still love and enjoyed seeing.  Musee l'Orangerie gets two thumbs up.   

Trocadero Market
We spent Saturday morning exploring our new neighborhood market.  The market takes place every Saturday in Trocadero, a 15 minute walk from our house.  It is full of fresh food, flowers and other great French finds.  I am quite certain this is going to become a Saturday ritual.

Of course the fresh flowers were the first thing to catch my eye.  I know should go with something more wintery, but I the tulips and fresia are just so hard to resist.

 So I gave in to the temptation. Now it just feels like Spring at our house.  Not the worst thing that could happen.

The other thing I love about the market is that many of the vendors sell hot fresh food to be consumed immediately (duh, who doesn't love that?)  I went for a crepe, per usual.  The Mr. out ordered me and got a phenomenal sandwich.  The meat tasted like it had been soaking in wine and mustard and was so juicy and delicious inside the warm French bread. Major order envy.

Handmade ravioli.  Need I say more?  Counting down the hours until dinner on tomorrow night.

E. Dehillerin

Inspired by the gourmet food at the Trocadero market, we trekked over to the famous gourmet cookware store, E. Dehillerin in the 1st arrondisment.  And to be honest, we were actually a little disappointed.  I don't know if it was the boisterous and unfriendly manager or the disproportionate ratio of people to the store square footage, but it was not the Julia Child awe-inspiring experience we were expecting.  Sure, they had amazing cookware, but most things didn't have price tags and no one seemed willing to help (or at least, I wasn't about to ask for help after I heard a British woman ask the manager for a basket who responded, "Does this look like a grocery store to you? No it doesn't. We do not have baskets." Yeah, I was not about to disturb captain cookware).  Would I go back if I was looking for something particular? Sure.  But be warned, if you are looking for a French Williams Sonoma-like captivating experience, this is not the place.

Hidden Passage 

(Hidden to me at least).  After that less than enthralling experience, we decided to make the best of our trek to the 1st and explore a little.  A few blocks later we stumbled onto what I refer to as the "hidden passage."  Galerie Vivienne.  A beautiful old Parisian arcade filled with interesting shops and restaurants. 

How exquisite is that mosaic tile floor?? I can only imagine how beautiful it is in the summer when the light comes in through the glass roof.

This bookstore is a real treasure.  They carry beautiful old books and a few newer, used things as well.  I particularly loved some of the old prints they sell.

We finally ended the day at Legrand Filles et Fis, a fabulous little wine bar gem tucked away in the hidden passage.  As Zagat says, "Don't tell everyone - this is still a reasonably well-kept secret." 

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