Sunday 29 December 2013

France: Art and onion soup

Artist in MontmartreAfter an incredibly late breakfast, we took the metro to Château Rouge station and walked through the back streets to La Butte Montmartre. Crowds of people in Sunday best shuffled out of Sacré-Coeur towards the Place du Tertre, which was already packed with circumnavigating tourists. We bought a painting of a café on our honeymoon in Montmartre in ’79. We had hoped to buy another on this occasion but there was only one artist with a similar style who was charging outrageous prices for his work, just like everyone else in Paris.
Hommage á Newton - Espace Dalí museum, Montmartre 
It was considerably warmer inside the Espace Dalí museum, which houses the largest collection of Dalí sculptures and lithographs in France. Mrs M rested on a bench while I wandered through the gallery to gain further insight into the mind of the Spanish loonie. It is perhaps a sign of an artist’s credibility if part of their work is stolen by Picasso’s dog (Retrospective Bust of a Woman).

Somehow, Mrs M was feeling peckish. We squeezed around a table in the Restaurant Le Consulat to consume a couple of bowls of onion soup next to two American girls who were trying too hard to show they were a couple when nobody really cared. I couldn’t help noticing that one of them left the majority of a plate of mussels while a Dutch chap to my left struggled to eat the same dish with a fork and spoon.

Restaurant Le Consulat - MontmartreParis from Sacré-CoeurThe queue to enter the western door of Sacré-Coeur would not have looked out of place at a January sale. Burly Eifel Tower souvenir salesmen were swept aside by petite French ladies in heavy black coats who weaved in and out of the crowd. Once inside, we went with the flow around the church which was filled with the amplified sound of nuns singing dreary hymns and the smoke from thousands of candles. At one point I stepped out of the conveyor belt of people to admire the architecture only to lose sight of Mrs M who was eventually discovered waving frantically behind a group of fellow escapees. We were finally catapulted out of the eastern door and forced our way down the steps towards the hill that led back to the metro.

Although El Lubnane in Rue Gallande was completely full at 7.30pm, we managed to wangle a table at the back of the restaurant, mainly because they thought we had a made a reservation. After consuming a huge amount of falafel, kaftah, aubergine salad and other delights, we asked the manager for some halwa expecting something similar to the gloopy Omani sweet made from dates. Lebanese halwa however is a dry, crumbly, white, fudge-like paste made from pistachio nuts and sesame seeds which must be consumed with coffee to prevent your teeth sticking together. Impressed by our performance, the manager hugged Mrs M on departure and wished us a Happy New Year.

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