Paris: in pursuit of culture

A few days before we set off on the most recent Gluttons At Large adventure, it occurred to me that with all our reservations made ahead we'd have time between meals to do something other than worry about the next meal. Now theater in Paris is a touchy subject here at Flintstone Towers. A few years back, I had read about a brilliant production of Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme at the Comédie Française which would be on while we'd be in Paris. I'd "done" the play in school, it's a marvelous social satire, and "new money" is always a current topic. As I cross the street to catch the bus, I often observe the changing cast of oil barons, musicians, oligarchs, etc., bearing shopping bags and baccompanied by the underfed and over-garnished. Not so much anymore, of course, but when the French critics raved about how the production updated Molière's jokes while remaining true to the integrity of the drama - plus it was at the Comédie Française! in costume! I couldn't resist. Himself said "Why not?" Um, I may have overstressed the table manners scene. A little. Somehow he got the impression there'd be a food fight. (Actually as I think about it this would be a fine addition. Look what it did for Animal House.) So, ok, we got tickets. You know what updated social satire is? Jokes about minor politicians unknown outside of France, who come from towns the names of which are hysterically funny but only to Parisians, speak in patois, slang and argot as incomprehensible as Villon's, are cheated on left and right, and can't even steal successfully. And that's about all I got out of it. Himself still points out that the tickets cost almost as much as a meal, and we could have been eating.

Gertrude in Paris
Gertrude down the street
Gertrude NY close up

Happily, on this trip,  we were able to get tickets in advance for the Gertrude Stein exhibit at the Grand Palais, which would open while we were in Paris. No, I don't have connections, but I do have a computer! More accurately, the exhibit was entitled "Cézanne Matisse  Picasso… The Steins' Adventures," and it told a story about Gertrude, her brothers who also came to Paris and moved in the same circles, and Gertrude's professional, artistic and personal life. I was interested to learn that the first Stein to arrive was in fact Gertrude's brother Leo, with whom she set up housekeeping. And Gertrude... a magnetic personality. There was a cast of the famous bronze statue of her towards the end of the exhibit, large, content, serene... I knew I'd seen it, but where? I was reminded of the Buddhas in Nepal and Myanmar, oblivious to the beauty and terror of their surroundings. As I thought of all of the Buddhas I've seen, in all of the different places, I realized that I was overlooking the obvious: this very statue lives in the courtyard of our very own New York Public Library at 5th Avenue and 42nd Street!

That night, we had a wonderful dinner at Apicius, which never lets us down. I think if I were going to have only one extravagant splurge this would have to be it. Do lunch if you think dinner is too, too. As you enter the courtyard, you wonder if you've been transported by mistake to the Chateau country. At one time, there were many private houses like this in Paris, and this one has been beautifully redone into a restaurant with a number of spacious dining rooms. The producer Luc Besson has his offices and a film school in the rest of the building. The restaurant staff is warm, welcoming, and thoroughly professional. I'd call the décor "modern eccentric:" attractive, comfortable, and just a bit whimsical. To be continued

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