Monday, April 5, 2010

Between the Raindrops

Easter couldn't make up its mind.  Within the same hour we had brilliant sun, drenching rain and, as a special treat, hail.  At least no frogs or boils, for those of you who just celebrated a seder. 

During a sunny period we walked up to rue Montorgeuil to meet a friend for brunch and passed through the sad park that sits above the Forum des Halles.  A blooming magnolia relieved the depressing feeling that one gets here, hopefully to be relieved even more soon by the rehabilitation of the Forum, a 40 year old failure that took the place of the old market halls that were moved out to the suburbs to relieve congestion in the center of Paris. 

It's an old area and still holds some great surprises.  Just outside the park entrance, near a fast food restaurant, is the house Molière built for himself in the middle of the 17th century, on the site of his birth.

Behind St-Eustache church was a busy outdoor Sunday market I had never before known about, just a few blocks from the bustling permanent market street of rue Montorgeuil.  After a bounteous brunch at DEPUR, hidden in a courtyard on rue St-Sauveur, we wandered again, ducking under awnings and overhangs when the rain reappeared.

The area holds some architectural treasures, including this hôtel particulier which you're likely to miss unless you're looking up from the opposite side of the narrow street.  A bit farther along the same street is one of the last remaining 17th century shop signs in Paris, A L'Arbre a Liege.  Left over from days when much of the population was illiterate, these signs allowed people to identify merchants visually.  The Musée Carnavalet has hundreds of these fascinating signs, but finding one still in place was a thrill.

Off rue Turbigo we came across Passage Bourg l'Abbé, a covered passage like the ones in the 9th arrondissement.  There are several in the 2nd arr. between rue Montorgeuil and the Marais.  This one has a couple of stunning caryatids holding up the entrance.

When it begain to rain in earnest we ducked into the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, a lovely mansion that houses a collection of artifacts, art, and animal trophies, along with information about the history of hunting.  I don't know where they get the money to do what they've done, but the building and all its elements, from lighting to metalwork, is extraordinary.  It's one of the best, most gorgeously creative displays I've ever seen.  

The rooms are furnished and hung with hunting-related art, much of it by François Desportes, a painter to Louis XIV and Louis XV (whom I had never heard of but whose drawings I loved), as if they were still lived in by a noble family of the 18th century while at the same time dotted with contemporary art pieces treated the same way, that is to say, perfectly naturally.  

Stunning as it is, and it absolutely is, seeing all the taxidermied animals is very saddening.  I overheard someone saying in one of the trophy rooms, "I'll bet half of these are extinct".  Probably an exaggeration, but...

The dozens of children oohing and aahing over the tigers and cougars and polar bear didn't seem disturbed.  They don't know they may never get to see any of them alive.

1 comment:

patrick said...

love the Jeff Koons puppy in that context!!