L’art de triomphe
Delve deep and you will find where modern and traditional Paris meet
EVERYTHING about Paris is on a grand scale and you can easily get lost in its beautiful streets, like Baudelaire in a consumption-induced delirium.
The best thing to do is pick a limited number of things to visit and then go and see them in your limited timespan. We chose the themes of modern art and traditional cuisine.
While there are plenty of good options on the artistic front, you’ll need some help seeking out the best places for traditional cuisine in the French capital. Because of Paris’s multicultural nature, it’s actually a lot easier to find Vietnamese, Italian and Moroccan food than it is to find good old-fashioned French fare in the City of Lights.
I started the modern art trail with the man considered to be the father of modern architecture: Le Corbusier.
I’ve been fascinated with this man ever since I saw how he basically desecrated our own Eileen Gray’s house down on the Cote d’Azur in a seemingly desperate fit of jealousy against a woman who was even cleverer and more talented than he was.
LE CORBUSIER’S apartment (fondationle corbusier.fr) is at the top of a building on the south-western edge of Paris, with views front and back (and from the roof terrace) of the Bois de Boulogne, Roland Garros (home of French Open Tennis), Stade Français Rugby’s home ground, and the Parc des Princes – Paris St Germain’s home stadium.
The museum/apartment is so discreetly located that you might (as I did) walk up and down the street several times before deciding that this must be it. There was a good crowd gathered inside of fans of the man who made his mark in 1940s Marseille, when there was acute demand for simply designed apartments that could efficiently deal with the post-war housing shortage and still look stylish.
The apartment is suitably Spartan in design, with plenty of Le Corbusier trademarks to be found all over the space – maximum use of light, space-saving quirks such as walls that become doors, a raised bed in order to get a better view of the Bois de Boulogne, minimal living-room area, maximum creative workshop area, as well as the separate bathroom areas for him and her within the conjugal bedroom.
The bus ride back from the Appartement Le Corbusier towards La Muette metro station takes you through some impressive avenues lined with embassy residences and millionaires’ homes.
Finding a good spot to eat an affordable lunch and still have that Parisian buzz is a challenge but the solution is to go to the nearest boulangerie.
Here, you’ll find that you can sit down and eat a crispy fresh baguette accompanied by a drink, allowing you to lunch like a king for under €10 a head.
It was back on the metro then to the Musee d’Art Moderne (mam.paris.fr, metro: Iéna).
It’s in a large splendid building overlooking the banks of the Seine.
Inside, the permanent exhibition was partially closed due to refurbishment works, but even the ground-floor exhibits were a wonderfully condensed collection of some of the most stunning and important works of modern art from the early and middle part of the 20th century.
Best of all, however (and well worth the additional price on your entrance ticket), is the awe-inspiring temporary exhibition of the late Chinese artist Zao Wou-Ki, which runs until just after Christmas 2019.
For dinner that night we found a cracking brasserie close to Nation metro station called Le Petit Louis.
It was the kind of place where an absinthe-soaked artist wouldn’t look out of place and which has immaculately maintained its 1900s ambience. It offers a friendly service, where the rabbit and the home-made burger were cooked to perfection, followed by the best crème brûlée I’ve ever had.
The next day was a big highlight – one of the best things in modern art since Portrait of Sliced Bread. The Atelier des Lumières (atelier-lumieres.com) opened earlier this year in an old disused industrial space in the centre of Paris near Rue Saint-Maur metro stop.
USING multiple projectors and a stunning soundtrack, the work of Austrian artist Gustav Klimt is presented in a spectacular animated show that illuminates every surface of the walls, floor and pillars of the former foundry. It’s one of the best uses of technology to showcase the beauty of Klimt’s work as well as telling you a lot about his personal story.
It’s something of a culture shock to re-emerge blinking into 21st-century Paris after such an emotionally immersive experience.
Another delicious lunch sitting at a table in a wonderful Parisian boulangerie was followed by a visit to a museum that houses all the best of art from the era that kick-started the entire movement of modern art.
The Musée d’Orsay (www. musee-orsay.fr) is a former train station that holds the treasure trove that surely comprises the best Impressionist collection in the world in the heart of the city where Impressionism was first revealed.
We kept the turn-of-the-century buzz going with an even more atmospheric choice for dinner at the Le Bistrot du Peintre (the Painter’s Bistro).
This is a paradisiacal spot representing all the best in art deco style, with a beautifully tiled floor, carved timber staircase, painted ceiling panels and an open terrasse from where you can watch Parisian life strut by.
Sumptuous duck confit and slow-cooked lamb were the choices to match the magical ambiance. Proof that the Parisians make an art form of everything. ÷Conor Power is the winner of the 2018 Travel Media French Best Destination Feature award.
Like clockwork: Musée d’Orsay Art: Gustav Klimt’s painting ‘Der Kuss’ (The Kiss), and Conor with wife Fiona