As you may know, we held an essay competition to find a Helser Brothers field blogger to report from the Maison & Objet show in Paris. Rebecca charmed the judges with her witty submission and, well, now she is in Paris…..
Paris – Day One: You might as well forgive me up front – I’m a bit disoriented from a mixture of sleep deprivation, jet lag, and euphoric awe. I arrived at the Hotel D’Aubusson mid- morning Wednesday and scared the daylights out of my roommate, Maria Vila, who was just stepping out of the bathroom after her bath when the bellhop and I came charging through the door with my bags. Surprise!
Our hotel is fabulous, a converted 17th century mansion near the Pont Neuf on the left bank of the Seine, right in the heart of the Latin Quarter. Bundled up against the drizzling rain, we explored on foot the entire day, walking to a brasserie for lunch (soupe a l’oignon, better known as French onion soup in the United States) and then to the Sainte-Chapelle cathedral, a 13th century Gothic church that was originally built to safeguard the supposed Crown of Thorns relic that Louis IX brought back from the Crusades.
The walls and ceilings of Sainte-Chapelle feature elaborate decorative paintings, restored in the 19th century – absolutely magnificent, a juxtaposition of patterns, saturated color and gold fleurs-de-lis, the symbol of the monarchy. The combination of the decorative painting with the luminous stained glass is surreal and definitely medieval, but somehow contemporary at the same time. I was snapping photos of some of the decorative painting, thinking of how I could adapt some of the motifs and incorporate them into a client’s dining room ceiling design, but then the next minute I was squeezing up a narrow, spiral stone staircase with narrow slits for windows (all the better for shooting arrows at people) and feeling very much like Alice in Wonderland. At the top of the stairs, we stepped out into the upper level of Sainte-Chapelle, where royalty once worshipped apart from commoners. The raised altar is currently undergoing restoration and was hidden behind scaffolding, but we enjoyed the statues of the saints, the otherworldliness and intricate detail of the luminous stained glass windows – and oh, yeah – I was fascinated by the iron hinges on the massive church doors. I’d love to have custom swing arm rods made like these hinges, for linen rod pocket panels on French doors or sidelights.
After Sainte-Chapelle, we walked over to the Musée du Louvre, which is open late on Wednesday evenings. We stayed until they started locking doors and cutting off the lights, and we still barely scratched the surface of the vast treasures of the Louvre. We saw the Mona Lisa, of course – surprisingly diminutive and unassuming, behind her bullet-proof glass barrier. She seems even smaller because she’s hanging opposite the massive Paolo Veronese painting of “The Marriage of Cana.” Even more interesting than the Mona Lisa is watching all the people crowded around her, many of them having their picture taken “with” Mona Lisa to prove they were there. Maria and I gaped and drooled over paintings from the Italian Renaissance and French Neoclassicism (especially those by Jean Louis David), and I took hundreds of photos of the ornately detailed ceilings of the Louvre and the carved doors and again, the exquisitely detailed door hardware… I’m developing an obsession with hinges.
Finally, stumbling out into the purple-gray Paris evening around 10 PM, we strolled back along the Seine until we found a café still serving dinner. It was cramped and smoky, and although the girl singing at the bar sounded charming when she was singing in French, she was not so fabulous when she tried to sing Lionel Ritchie’s “Part Time Lover.” I kept expecting Simon to pop around the corner and tell her she had to go home. But my bœuf bourguignon was fabulous, the café was warm, and we were in Paris! Pinch me!!
Well, my body might think it’s only 8 PM EST, but in Paris it’s after 2 AM on Thursday and I haven’t slept since Tuesday. There’s so much I want to see and do tomorrow, and I’ll run out of steam quickly if I don’t get some sleep.