We were in the city of day- and night-light for two days longer than planned; seek not to know further, other than that we're back home now. Let's just say that it was total joy to walk for miles, discover more, eat well, and see two stunning exhibitions (Anselm Kiefer's Pour Paul Celan at the Grand Palais Ephémère, a new structure at the foot of the Champs de Mars, and a big Georg Baselitz retrospective at the Pompidou Centre, a serendipitous stumbling-upon - since I hadn't seen it advertised - to balance the other monumental, post-war German genius).
There were other surprises. I've always wanted to stay in a hotel on the Île Saint-Louis, and we did, very happily, at the lovely Hotel du Jeu de Paume, strolling out along the back and side of the building-site that is currently Notre-Dame, very well informed by the board-exhibition as to what's going on. We had taken a dear friend who's confined on a virtual WhatsApp walk around the Duomo in Florence, and decided to do the same here. So we all gasped when we rounded to the west front and found it lit up in blue
as are all the major landmarks of Paris right now to celebrate France's taking up the Presidency of the EU. I'd wanted to see the stars on the Eiffel Tower, but had to be content with blue in the distance with the dome of Les Invalides in front
and the following night, after a day of brilliance and blue skies, a crescent moon hovered above the Panthéon
where we'd hoped to see the homage to its latest incumbent, Josephine Baker, but the building was closed for three days so we simply enjoyed another exhibition around the periphery, offering so many images like La Baker in her prime with pet leopard
and her role as the only woman to speak at the March on Washington (she's with Lena Horne on the right). What a life she led, and what a great human being.
For this it wasn't a wasted visit. I also got to show J my favourite church in Paris, Saint-Étienne-du-Mont opposite the Panthéon, with its stunning choir screen.
Hadn't previously appreciated its abundance of 15th and 16th century stained glass, either.
More serendipity came in the Montparnasse cemetrery where, having duly admired the outlandish monuments of Niki de Saint Phalle to two dear friends and the Baudelaire cenotaph,
I was just remarking on how prosaic the place mostly seemed when we suddenly discovered, not knowing it was there, the grave of Jacques Demy and adored Agnès Varda - the headstone covered with lipstick kisses,
a cat homage
and several potatoes left among the offerings - mine was a 3D 'lucky' card of Buddha which I placed between the stones and the middle potato, all I could think of but it somehow felt right -
just as there are metro tickets on the joint grave of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir.
Had to look this one up, and found that Saint Agnès was known as 'Dame Patate' and dressed up as one for her 2003 Venice Biennale installation Patatutopia, which used 700 pounds of tubers. This is a still from a documentary fim of hers I must see, The Gleaners and I. No wonder she's the film director who inspires the most love and affection of all.
After our Montparnasse wander, we finally visited the Catacombs, which was not quite what I'd expected but not uninteresting. Kiefer and Baselitz must wait on another blog instalment, but I must mention two last wonders which framed our visit - on the metro from the Gare de Lyon, a fellow singing melancholy French songs perfectly in pitch and sweet tone, not for money, and to balance it on the metro to the Gare du Nord yesterday afternoon, a chap with a murine companion, daintily ribboned.
Paris can still surprise; this time it was not an anticlimax after Italy.