Tuesday, 11 February 2014

I was working in Paris on Saturday, so there was no way I was rushing back home.
I'm so not a morning person that when I opened my front door at 6am, I was surprised that it was still pitch dark ...
But I was in Paris by 11am. And after a browse in the flea market - and a big steak and frites lunch - and the frustration of arriving 10 minutes too late to see the Brassaï exhibition because I'd stupidly forgotten that France is one hour ahead ... that early start (and I did get the work bit done, honestly) was catching up on me.
But next morning I awoke to discover that just across the road from my hotel it was a bustling Sunday morning on a little street of delectable fromageries and patisseries. Did I want to walk around with a smelly parcel all day ... well, no, not really, so just a grand café crème and a croissant and a regretful peep into the cheese shop which, after all, has a couple of branches in London.
Then a stroll in the sunshine ... yes, there was sunshine in Paris ...  down the Champs-Elysées where the tricolor flags look so much more fluttering and flirtatious than the Union Jack.
My project for the morning was this dazzling exhibition of Cartier diamonds.
My dear, the tiaras ...
Diamonds, rubies and emeralds for princesses, maharajahs, and the stonking rich.
The Queen's lovely rose diamond brooch, the Duchess of Windsor's flamingo, Liz Taylor's bling and the Princess Grace's engagement ring.
But in the end, the dazzle and the crowd all got a bit much.
Funny, they weren't selling any bling in the exhibition shop. I guess you don't really fancy imitation when you've seen the real thing.

Later I headed to the Musée Nissim de Camondo, spotted on my last expedition when I set out on the trail of the Hare with the Amber Eyes. It is one of the mansions backing onto Parc Monceau. Built in 1911, so too late for Charles Ephrussi to have visted there - but I'm sure the two wealthy Jewish families, both interested in art and living on the same street, must have been acquainted.
Maybe for a few years at least, ladies in diamonds made their way up the grand staircase to be received in the salon.
But it is a house imbued with sadness because Moise de Camondo's young wife ran off with an Italian riding instructor soon after their marriage, his only son was killed in the air force in 1917 - and the house became a place of mourning.
It seemed such a lonely place .. unfortunately, imbued also with that unmistakeable cheap disinfectant aroma of Parisian lavatories. Which makes you appreciate the National Trust's corporate pot de pourri.
You try to imagine this mansion filled with flowers - the buzz of conversation - grandchildren running up the stairs after a visit to the carousel in the park.
But Moise de Camondo's only daughter and his grandchildren died in Auschwitz.


Anonymous said...

Beautifully put, you can feel the sadness .
Best Herts

Cosy Books said...

Oh Mary, I can always count on you to provide a welcome respite from the drudgery of my domestic duties. Your trip to Paris made me green with envy and a bit ticked that we won't see the likes of that Cartier exhibit around here!
And thanks for the review of The Invisible Woman, it's one I'm really looking forward to seeing.
Happy Valentine's Day!

mary said...

It was such a sad place, Anon.

Cartier won't be on in London, Darlene, so I seized my chance and it was spectacular. You will absolutely love The Invisible Woman.

Sally said...

I love that you can pop over to Paris for the weekend and partake of such delights as steak frites and diamonds. From the antipodes, I enjoy living vicariously through your posts.