PARIS – the grand scale




Dedicated to Dominique, my most favourite and the most chic ‘frog’ and Karen who put the whole trip together and got us a great table at the World Place

It was Bronwen’s choice, we wanted a half term trip, she wanted to speak French and go to Johnny Depp’s restaurant.

The flight, withdrawn from the Air Miles account was uneventfully late in arriving in CDG and caught the train into the city. We trundled through the suburbs of northern Paris with their high rise housing blocks and burn out cars, past the Stad de France scene of England’s defeat at the hands of the South Africans a day or two before and eventually emerged into a warm sunlight on the left bank of the Seine. We crossed the road and into the arms of the Pizza Iolanda for lunch. It was good to see people smoking in a restaurant; obviously the French have set aside their 12 month old ruling on smoking in bars and restaurants.

I rose early the next day and wandered around the area near our Novotel and entered into the Bistrot Linois warm and full of transient local residents quickly consuming a coffee and croissant before disappearing into the Metro.


The Tour Eiffel, I stood underneath it centre and looked up into the infinity of wrought iron like some great extraordinary tree. Sian and Bron bought a ticket for the top leaving me to nurse my vertigo and try to capture this amazing iron work on paper. Built in 1899 it was nearly torn down twenty years later until someone suggested it would make a great radio mast. Crowds queued for tickets, girls from northern Africa wandered around each trying to make people to read their postcards detailing their poverty. Several pairs of soldiers ambled across the piazza formed by the Tower’s four giant legs; safety catches on, posing for the occasional photograph.

Travelling along the Seine, up stream to Notre Dame, I was befriended by a delightful Korean student who caught me drawing her. We disembarked beneath the great cathedral in the heart of Paris, the heart of France, as all road distances are measured from a point not far from the steps of the West door.

Grand gothic on the grand scale, a masterpiece which begun in 1163 and took nearly two centuries to complete. Like the Eiffel its intricate exterior and interior was difficult to get down on paper. And inside it was packed with people making their way round the aisles and filing past the side chapels.


Monsieur Depp’s magnificent restaurant, called the World Place, aka Man Ray. All major credit cards accepted.  The World Place is a vast floor space, glitzy and very 50’s. We were expecting to see Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Frank Sinatra, Bing and the rest of the Brat Pack descend the sweeping double stair case.

Around the room tall, luscious coloured women, on the arms of men with impossibly broad shoulders and tiny waists paraded, flamingo-like between the tables whilst on stage the young pianist played the occasional flat note; Sian and I gawped while Bron disappeared into the wash room to talk her photograph.


The Louvre: after the French Revolution, the salve of culture was needed and thus the majestic Louvre was transformed from palace to picture house. In 1793 the Museum Central des Arts opened to the public in the Grande (that word again) Galerie from where the collections gradually spread to take over the entire building. Anne of Austria’s apartments were taken housed the antique sculpture galleries and she was, presumably housed elsewhere in the palace!

More recently sticking a glass pyramid in front of this Baroque facade is the ultimate gesture, only in Paris. And so the Louvre, fabled for its vastness, continues to grow this day, art on the grand scale, a building on the grand scale the Louvre is a city within a city. As we make our way to the entrance ticket machines we pass through a shopping mall (all art stuff), past the Post Office and the temptation of Starbucks.

Everyone wants to see the Mona Lisa. The gallery is, like Notre Dame, full to capacity and the lady with the enigmatic smile is cordoned off so people can file past, gaze and move one, occasional an out stretched hand rises above the heads in the queue to fire off a digital camera.

Artistic counterpoint: Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. A wonderful collection housed in part of the Palais de Tokyo which was built as part of the International Exhibition of 1937. the Museum of Modern Art was officially opened in 1961, before entering take time to admire the post modern fascist architectural exterior, spray paint typography and skateboards. Inside, build in a moment for an excellent brownie in the Musée cafe!

Then you can see works by Robert Delaunay, Jean Fautrier, Christian Boltanski, Georges Rouault, Robert and Sonia Delaunay, Raoul Dufy, Marcel Gromaire and notably two of the three Henri Matisse triptychs of La Danse (1931-33) and La Fée Electricité (1937) by Raoul Dufy.

Finally our time was running out: Service is again something that Paris does on a grand scale or rather it takes a big delight in providing its unique blend of surly waiting on table, the prelude to the most excellent Steak Frites, with a dainty half bottle of Médoc. So my proposal to return to the Linois was accepted by the girls for our last meal in Paris before returning home early the next morning.

Tim Baynes

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© 2008 TB