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Trip Report Cooking with strangers - Anselm alone in the City of Light

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I stared again at the heads of the Kings of Judah. Once standing proudly in the Gallery of Kings on the western face of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame, the statues were torn down and beheaded by a Revolutionary mob who thought they were images of French rulers. Twenty-one heads survived; they now sit on stone plinths in the Gallo-Roman baths at the Musée du Moyen Âge.

Most are intact, although aged. A couple are missing their mouth and lower jaw, and one has lost the side of his face; none of them has a nose. But it is their expressions that entrance me. I always expect to find them huffy or even outraged, confined as they are to an enclosed room some distance from their place on the cathedral. Instead they seem relieved and perhaps even pensive, as if they were remembering the remarkable history they witnessed in the 550-odd years they stood above the entrance to Notre-Dame …

Seduced by an irresistible airfare, I traveled solo to Paris from the 1st to 14th of February. I thought I would pass along a description of the apartment I rented, a bit of history, notes on the cooking class I attended, some impressions of Paris in winter, and bits and pieces about museums and restaurants. I’ll put a few web addresses along the way, including a link to some photographs.

The apartment

My wife and daughter stayed in this apartment last August, and on their advice, I chose it for this trip. It’s on rue Mornay in the 4th, a quiet side street running between boulevards Bourdon and Henri IV. Canal Saint-Martin is just to the east, while the Marais spreads out to the west. Pont Sully, the bridge that crosses the eastern tip of Île Saint-Louis, is about 300 metres from the door.

The flat is on the fifth floor of an old building (I would guess late nineteenth-century, but perhaps a bit later). On entering the apartment, you see a hallway with doors on either side. To the left are the living room and dining room, connected to make a long open space overlooking rue Mornay. The doors to the bedroom and kitchen are on the right-hand side of the hall; the bathroom is straight ahead at the end.

There is a lot of space for one person; it would be perfect for two. The ceilings are tall with elaborate mouldings. The windows are huge, letting in a great deal of light. There is a small balcony along the front and another on the back off the kitchen. The view from the back is down into a large landscaped courtyard. The floors are hardwood, the furnishings comfortable. The decoration is gentle—a mixture of paintings, masks, and fabric wall hangings. The whole impression is welcoming and comfortable. (www.vrbo.com/24464)

The neighbourhood is a mixture of apartments, offices, and public buildings. The Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal is just around the corner, while the Republican Guards occupy a large stone building on Henri IV. The Sully-Morland metro stop is very close; there are lots of cafés and restaurants on Henri IV and around Bastille. Rue Saint-Antoine became my daily destination for groceries.

Next: some impressions of Paris

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