Parisians love their Sunday brunch, a long leisurely affair that can last for hours and can keep you fueled until dinner time.
I experienced a number of firsts during the course of a long but lovely day today.
Not that it is unusual when I am in Paris for this to occur, there is always something new to explore, something new to do or try and always many firsts.
It started with Sunday brunch in Paris.
I was lucky enough to meet my friend Julien at one of Jim Hayne’s Sunday night dinners. It was the first and only time that he had attended and by chance, I was there too, we struck up a conversation, stayed in touch and a beautiful friendship blossomed.
Back then he was in the process of becoming a Parisian tour guide, throwing in his job as a teacher. Being multi-lingual, speaking French, of course but also English and Spanish has opened many doors for his newly founded career. Always discovering new things and with a penchant for study and a fascination for art and history, he practically lives in museums.
Last year he was going to take me to the Montmartre Museum but he ended up taking me on a lovely walk through the streets of Montmartre instead.
When Julien suggested Sunday brunch at his apartment followed by a visit to Montmartre Museum, I jumped at the invitation.
Two firsts for me. I have never had Sunday brunch with Julien and especially not at his apartment and I have never managed to visit the Montmartre Museum in all my years of visiting Paris.
A rendezvous was set.
I have been to the market he says, pulling out an endless supply of food. Judging by the amount of food he had bought, my calculation was we would be eating into the night!
The freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice was sweet and refreshing, waking up my tastebuds. Knowing that I am a fan of rillettes for breakfast, he unfolds the waxed paper, would you like to start with some of this and places a fresh baguette on the table next to me.
I have fruit, I have bacon and eggs, it is bacon that you like oui? I could make a fruit salad, do you like mandarines? Too much food, the rillettes and bacon and eggs is plenty, I tell him with a big smile. I don’t remember telling him what I like for breakfast but obviously he had filed it away for our Sunday brunch at some stage.
Sipping on a cup of tea and bursting at the seams, he encourages me to take a croissant or a pain au chocolat, no wonder I have put weight on this trip. I have eaten enough for a small family!
Another thing that may be over weight was my suitcase. Mentioning to Julien my concerns about my case for my upcoming flight home, he swings around and hands me a paper carrier bag. Will you have room for this, he says with a grin, or will it make your suitcase too heavy?
I had a sneaking suspicion I knew what the present was. This guy doesn’t miss a beat.
Last week, in passing, I had mentioned to Julien that I wanted to take a jar of rillettes back home with me.
Sure enough two jars of rillettes were tucked inside the bag.
I think it is nicer for you to have duck rillettes, rather than pork, it is more French he says with a warm smile.
I have said it before, and I will say it again … he is an angel, a thoughtful angel.
Speaking of which he recommended we take the funiculaire up to Montmartre because climbing all those stairs with my broken toe wouldn’t be easy.
Another first. I had never ridden the funiculaire before.
Normally I prefer to climb the multitude of famous stairs to the highest point in Paris, the hill of Montmartre and take in the atmosphere and views, while stopping to catch my breath but today for the first time, I took the funiculaire.
Running parallel to, at the base of the steps, the small, automatic carriage whisked us up to the top for the cost of a metro ticket in under two minutes.
There was a height of activity in Montmartre around the base of the Basilica Sacre Coeur today, not probably as many people as there would be in summer but it was lively and there was a good atmosphere and vibe about the place.
My plan this year was to spend an entire day here from dawn until dusk but I didn’t think I could manage it with the hilly cobbled stoned streets and my broken toe.
Therefore my new list for the end of this year has already begun.
Even although it was a little nippy, the sky was putting on a brilliant show when we arrived to the top of the 130 metre high hill, bright blue with a thin soft layer of white clouds for drama.
Although by the time we had taken the short walk to Musée de Montmartre the clouds had began to mass together.
That is ok, because we were heading in doors for another first …. the museum of Montmartre.
Lucky for me, the museum has recently been renovated and extended, opening to the public in October 2014, to double it’s original exhibition space, which now includes the three century year old Hotel Demarne and the studio of Maurice Utrillo’s mother; Suzanne Valadon.
(You can see the studio in the photo above right, 3rd storey with artelier windows for optimum light)
The pretty gardens of the museum of Montmartre have been re-planted according to Renoir’s paintings, which offers some great views of the surrounding area and the neighbouring vineyard, the only one in Montmartre.
The nice big corner block with views, was once under threat of being developed. You can imagine what could have happened, if it wasn’t for the community of Montmartre, including Poulbot (sculpture below) who instigated a small vineyard in the 1930’s.
Each year an annual harvest and festival takes place in October. Although word on the streets of Montmartre is that the wine isn’t drinkable. They produce 1600 bottles each year, which are auctioned with the proceeds going to charity. The event is to remember and celebrate that back in the middle ages, the hill of Montmartre produced a healthy wine crop from it’s many vineyards.
The museum not only celebrates the famous writers, poets and artists who lived in the two homes that make up the museum, including Renoir for two years from 1875 to 1877 but also celebrates the spirit of Montmartre and it’s rich history of artists who once lived in what was then a country village on the outskirts of Paris.
Musée de Montmartre salutes the many art forms that the village was known for, the can-can, cabarets such as the famous Chat Noir, dance and music halls including Lapin Agile and it’s performers.
Lapin Agile was frequented by the likes of Picasso and Modigliani and painted by a number of artists including Maurice Utrillo, who also lived in what is now the museum with his mother and her boyfriend.
Finally I learned the origin of the naming of the ancient cabaret Lapin Agile.
I had heard so many stories about this, that I didn’t know which version to believe.
So now I know!
Of course there is a big nod to the many artists; Dali, Modigliani, Monet, Picasso and van Gogh to name a few who had studios in and around the area of Montmartre, the art and commercial posters they produced.
The collection also includes a wonderful display of ancient and fragile shadow art that was used for Ombres Chinoises; Chinese Shadow theatre.
The idea brought to France from travellers to the Orient and made popular in Montmartre.
The museum also includes the history of nudity in art and so much more.
Julien had introduced me to the artist and poster designer; Francisque Poulbot (1879-1936) last year by showing me the house where he once lived in Montmartre, which has a frieze across the façade with images of children.
Although he was a talented draughtsman, and illustrated patriot posters and postcards, which had him under house arrest during WWII, it was his depictions of Parisian titis or street children, that he is remembered for and his charity work to help the young children of Montmartre by setting up a dispensary for them.
The bust you see in an image further up is of him and the painting of the young children below right and to the left is some of his work on display at the museum.
Now, thanks to Julien, I have developed a fascination for Francisque Poulbot and this added to my list of firsts, the first time that I recall seeing his artwork in person.
But the highlight for me was the recreation of Suzanne Valadon’s studio and apartment that she shared with her son and artist Maurice Utrillo and her parnter; André Utter.
After viewing the small cramped conditions in which Maurice Utrillo called his private space and standing in the small and humble apartment room gave me a sense of what it could have been like to have lived here.
Shooing Julien out of the room for fear of him crowding my shot, I stood there alone, engrossed in my thoughts until an arm appearing through a crack in a doorway, gave me a start. It was Julien’s arm, beckoning me in and then he left.
Leaving me in the unheated artists studio of Suzanne Valadon.
Peering out through the condensation covered window, across to the rest of the museum, with the evening sky descending upon Montmartre, a gentle calm fell over me.
I was transfixed by the studio. Taking in each and every detail, feeling slightly like an intruder in someone’s private space, tippy toeing around, quiet as a mouse.
I adore these moments when I can be in a space such as this, completely on my own to soak up the ambiance.
It was freezing by the time we left the museum at closing but I persuaded Julien to take me to Rue de l’abreuvoir, where I could get a couple of night time shots. He had taken me there last year for a night time tour but I didn’t have a tripod.
Jumping up and down, trying to keep warm, how many more shots do you need he complains. Just one more I promise but I wasn’t telling the truth, simply humouring him until I could work out the right settings.
Go and stand under that lamp, further back, further forward, I yell out to him across the street. He is cold and wants to leave. We will just take one more, I lie again. I show him how to use the remote cable and stripping my coat off for a better silhouette, Julien snaps a photo of me. Mine is better he cheekily brags and before I know it, he is packing up my tripod, shivering. The big baby. Obviously I have become accustomed to freezing my butt off in the name of a photo.
Leaving one another at the metro to go our separate ways, I headed towards Jim Hayne’s ex-artelier studio for my last dinner at his home for his famous Sunday night dinners.
It was a nice quiet crowd this evening with not too many people which meant I managed to find a spot on the sofa to sit down.
Sitting down next to The Novelist, we struck up a conversation. Chatting away passionately about books, he claims he is bored and would I like to join him to go elsewhere. Although I wasn’t bored, I accepted the invitation, what the heck, why not I said.
The night was still young but it took me almost a half hour to say goodbye to everyone and more importantly to Jim before heading off. I never like my last Sunday at Jim’s, it is always sad to say goodbye to him for another long year before I will return. The question was never asked by any of the regulars as to whether I would be back, it was merely, see you next time.
We arrived by an Uber taxi in a smart black Mercedes to the Avenue du Champs Elysees. Feeling a bit shabby with jeans and the wonder shoe on one foot and a regular boot on the other, in the high end area near the Arc de Triomphe, I was assured not to.
Publicis Drugstore has been on my radar for a long time but I have never managed to visit. I don’t often get that far up the Champs Elysees before wanting to escape the crowds but tonight, being a Sunday night, it was quiet.
Oh look, Publicis, I exclaimed, I have always wanted to visit this store I told The Novelist.
Well let me give you a tour he offers and we slipped through the revolving doors.
Based on the concept of an American drugstore, Publicis Drugstore stays open until 2am and has everything that you could possibly need.
The first thing I spied during my tour of the store with The Novelist was a stack of Charlie Hebdo magazines. I pounced down upon the unusually high pile and excitedly grabbed one. I had searched in vein but too late to get myself a copy. An unprecedented 5 million copies had been printed and sold out within the first day for their Je Suis Charlie edition.
The novelist took it from hand, offering to buy it for me. Grab me one too, he has a second thought and then adds, in fact, get another three, you may have a friend who would like a copy. Good idea and he purchased four copies.
Apart from books, magazines, alcohol and cigarettes, if you have a midnight craving for macaroons, they have a Pierre Hermé Macarons and Chocolate stand and in my opinion the best macarons there are.
Also on offer is various types of food from the delicatessen, music, a pharmacy and even a cigar bar!
The idea was inspired during a visit to America by Marcel Blanchet Bleustein. He returned to Paris and set up shop in 1958.
There is also a swanky Joel Rubuchon restaurant, gift items, cinemas and a bar.
That, is where we were heading, completely unawares to me.
Accustomed to hanging out in the Marais where the cafés and bars stay open until 2am and some even later, apparently the pickings are slim around The Novelist’s stomping ground.
Settling in at the bar with a drink, good conversation and a relaxed atmosphere. I was enjoying my time with The Novelist but then, I hear him ask the waiter; l’addition s’il vous plaît.
Without asking me if I would like to stay, have another drink, the decision had been made for me, he had asked for the bill.
Standing around in the quiet streets of the 16th arrondissement waiting in the cold for an Uber taxi that never appeared, took the edge off the night.
The Novelist’s whistle pierced through the quiet streets and through my eardrums.
It had no effect on the taxi driver, that is not how you flag down a cab in Paris. A little too brash, I would think.
Sensibly, the next time he flagged the approaching taxi with an arm gesture, the taxi came to a screaming holt. Apologising for the Uber taxi that never showed, I wanted to pay for your ride home he says, as he slams the door shut.
As we whisked through the city, void of traffic from the west to the centre of Paris, I pondered, what stopped him from flicking a few euros at the driver, it didn’t matter.
The driver, unsure of what one way route to take, to deliver me to my door, I told him to stop on Rue de Rivoli, I could walk the rest of the way and besides, it had only gone 12 midnight and it would be my last opportunity to say goodbye to my friend before he finished work for the week.
Pulling the Charlie Hebdo magazine out of my bag, his eyes lit up like the giant ferris wheel in Place de la Concorde. It is yours, I told him and happily gave him my extra copy.
A lovely day, filled with plenty of firsts; my first visit to Musée de Montmartre, my first ride in the Funiculaire, my first brunch with Julien, my first visit to Publicis and my first Charlie Hebdo Magazine, all crammed into one day before I turned into a pumpkin at the magic hour.
And it all started with a Sunday Brunch in Paris …
Paris Adèle’s Information Nécessaire:Musee de Montmartre – Official Link
12, Rue Cortot
Monday to Sunday
10am – 6pm
Lamarck-Caulaincourt (Line 12)
Anvers (Line 2)
Pigalle (Line 2)
Full Price 9.50 euros
Students 18-25 years 7.50 euros
Youth 10-17 years 5.50 euros
Children 10 years and younger free
Guided Tours 13.50 euros
Publicis Drugstore – Official Link
133 Avenue Champs Elysees
Monday to Sunday – every day of the year
8am – 2am
Charles de Gaulle-Etoile George V
Jim Haynes Sunday Night Dinners – Link