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2–sunday in the park with michael, or how to visit paris without seeing notre-dame de paris

“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.” –Orson Welles

“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words, like ‘What about lunch?'” —Winnie the Pooh, A. A. Milne

Spending a lot of money on a trip to Paris suggests that the “bang-for-the-buck” better be good. Deciding to focus on a restaurant instead of a major tourist site takes courage. There are no guarantees that the meals will be good. They can be mediocre and expensive. The choice of a restaurant should, therefore, be well considered.

For this Sunday meal I have chosen a restaurant because of its design; it is in the style of Art Nouveau and heralds from the Belle Époque period. I believe that Bouillon Racine has been designated an historical site.

At the end of the last post in this series–“1–sunday in the park with michael, or how to visit paris without seeing the eiffel tower”–I had walked from Place Denfert-Rochereau, had passed through some parks, and had finally entered the Jardin du Luxembourg.

I continued my walk toward the Luxembourg Palace and altered slightly the direction I was taking toward the northeastern exit. Bouillon Racine is not too far from there, only a few blocks, a turn right then left then right. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)

The Luxembourg Palace and the gardens to the south of it have an extraordinary history. It is my most favorite place in Paris. I return to it each visit.

L’Acteur Grec by Arthur Bourgeois (1838-1886). Ce bronze s’inspire du théâtre grec. It représente un jeune acteur répétant son rôle, un manuscrit à la main et un masque sur le front.

Roughly translated: “This statue is inspired from Greek theater. It represents a young actor repeating his lines with a manuscript in one hand and an expression on his face.”

I like this statue for a few reasons. In another life I was a theater director. On occasion I would see actors posture like him. But I smile–sometimes I laugh–because often I see tourists with smart phones, posing the same way while taking selfies. I imagine a camera in the raised hand of the young actor and an out stretched arm in back for balance, trying to get the best angle for a good photo.

La Fontaine Medicis next to the Palais Luxembourg in Paris.

A short distance away from l’Acteur Grec is La Fontaine Medicis, which was “built in about 1630 by Marie de’ Medici, the widow of King Henry IV of France and regent of King Louis XIII of France . . . [and was] moved to its present location and extensively rebuilt in 1864-66.”

Most tourist do not know that La Fontaine Medicis is attached to another fountain, the Fountain of Léda. One must walk to the back to see it.

So we do not forget, many Parisians and tourists take time out from the day to relax in the gardens. Much of the city street noise disappears.

One should take a moment and look at the interior of Bouillon Racine. Spend a few moments scrolling through the images. (I hesitate taking photographs in restaurants. I find it embarrassing, especially in fancy places. What do the French say? It is gauche.) (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)

The meal of pea soup froide for an entrée and for the main course a hake-like white fish cooked in a shrimp reduction was good. It was expensive but not so much to discourage me from returning. The decor was the highlight of the one hour and a half I spent there.

After lunch I wanted to continue my walk. I made the decision to return home via the Jardin du Luxembourg but along the west side. I wanted to pause at the pissoir. I would walk along rue Vaugirard and would re-enter the gardens through the northwest entrance. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)

Along the way I saw ‘metre.’ The French National Convention wanted to make standard the metric system. Put in place around Paris where most Parisians could see them were sixteen “yardsticks” that made official the length of a meter. Today only two of the sixteen remain, and the one I saw today is the only one in its original location.

Not far from le metre is rue Tournon and the Café Tournon. Here James Baldwin used to drop by.

“Baldwin was known to visit the Café Tournon and the Brasserie Lipp, albeit infrequently, often stopping in before heading off to eat and drink in one of the cheaper neighborhood brasseries or bars. Both restaurants, their Art Deco mosaics still brilliantly maintained, were hot intellectual and creative night spots during the 1950s and ’60s, the Tournon largely considered the place where the St.-Germain neighborhood jazz scene got its start, providing the stage where Duke Ellington made his Parisian debut.”

I turned into the Jardin du Luxembourg, intending to walk the long, straight sidewalk to the pissoir and the ruches. But to the right was my favorite tree–I paused–and further along a wonderful sculpture–I paused–emerging from the vegetation, l’Effort by Pierre Roche (1855-1922). (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)

My Sunday in August in Paris will end in the next post: 3–sunday in the park with michael, or how to visit paris without seeing the louvre. I will continue my walk home. I will see the ruches, the pissoir, a small art exhibit, a Balzac statue by Rodin, and I will take a short detour, sort of, to the Montparnasse Cemetery and pay my respects to Sartre and Simon Veil, who has recently died.


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