For today I only had about half a plan at most. There were a couple of stores I wanted to go to (and/or go back to from yesterday) and then I thought I might go to the Treasury at Notre Dame or sit in a café and read or go to a park if the weather would ever clear up . . . or just flâner. My first stop was Muji near St. Sulpice, which I’d heard had a good selection of papeterie. I have decided to go back to using a paper calendar instead of my phone calendar so I thought I’d look there for a nice-looking agenda. No luck, but I did get to see St. Sulpice itself and that was new for me. It struck me as imposing and gloomy, both inside and out, but it was interesting to visit. This is the fountain in the Place St-Sulpice facing the church:
Of course since I wasn’t thinking of going anywhere photo-worthy I did not take the Good Camera; today’s photos are all iPhone pics!
From Muji I went to Gibert Jeune which is a huge bookstore in the Latin Quarter. I found a really nice agenda there at a decent price and bought a roman policier called Alex by Pierre Lemaitre. I’m not big on crime novels in English but I figured it would be at about my reading level in French. It came recommended by one of the employees and the author is a Prix Goncourt winner, so hopefully it’ll be good. I’m already almost to the end of Pierre Bergé’s letters to Yves St. Laurent, which are very sad and full of love. Dr. Kirk is reading The Hunchback of Notre Dame but I wanted something popular rather than canonical.
En route to Gibert Jeune I came out of the metro right at the St. Michel fountain. I stayed in the Latin Quarter on my second trip to Paris in 2006 and I remember being amazed that the fountain is just THERE in the middle of the street:
After lunch (sandwich, drink, dessert, coffee: 8,20€ at Brioche Dorée, which we have in the Atlanta airport for crying out loud. I’ve got to raise my standards) I was just wandering around figuring out my next move and I landed in the garden of the Musée Cluny a.k.a. the Musée du Moyen-Age (Museum of the Middle Ages). The Cluny is a 15th-century hôtel particulier (sort of a . . . city mansion?) built next to/on top of a Roman thermal bath. It houses an important collection of medieval artifacts: pieces in ivory, enamel, stained glass, sculptures, armor, household items like combs and pitchers, and tapestries, most significantly the Lady and the Unicorn set. This last was not on display last summer but it is back now:
All the tapestries are fascinating to look at. The longer you look, the more details you see.
The Cluny (Wikipedia says it is officially called the Musée du Moyen-Age now but I like to say “Cluny”) also has some illuminated manuscripts on display. One minor disappointment was that in several places, works had been removed for “reorganization”) and it seemed like most of the things that were missing were manuscripts! Nevertheless, I did see a few neat things:
It’s a letter B, see?
Italic hand . . . I think. Need my History of Print notes.
A calendar from a Book of Hours. The placard explained that
“The page presented corresponds to the current month.”
I did not take a lot of pictures because the connection between the objects and the space seems especially important in this case. That is, you have to see it for yourself. Half of the experience is being in this hôtel particulier that is sort of big and small at the same time, with painted wood beams on all the ceilings and depressions worn into the steps of all the staircases. A couple of the rooms are in parts of the former baths, so you can see the medieval walls and the even older Roman walls. Those rooms are full of pieces from cathedrals: you have no idea how big the kings’ heads are around the front doors to Notre Dame until you see one up close! One of the last rooms on the tour is the chapel–the building was originally constructed for the abbots of the Order of Cluny–it’s no bigger than a classroom but with an elaborate “stone lace” ceiling and painted altarpiece like in a chapel of a large cathedral. I think I will go back and try to take more photos although I don’t know how successful they’ll be. In any case I’m very glad I went. The joke is that Europeans think 100 miles is a long way, and Americans think 100 years is a long time. It is awe-inspiring to me to stand in a building that is 600+ years old (much older, in places) and see objects that also date back multiple centuries. There were objects on display from the 6th century. You can’t see those things and continue to believe that the medieval period was “the dark ages.”
When I left the museum I discovered that the sun had finally come out after about 8-9 days of clouds. Here are a couple of pictures from a small park behind the museum:
The plants and trees in the little park–Paris has lots of these small parks called “Squares” (they are never square) always named after a person, e.g. “Square Laura Thomason.”
This is the back of the Cluny. You can see how elaborate it is–like a scaled-down castle.
Really a neat place to visit.
Finished out the day with a visit to Carrefour (grocery store) where I almost bought more than I could carry. But now I have plenty of nice food for tomorrow and Monday. And a detective novel to read!