I’m occasionally given free tickets to the Louvre because the company I work for is a corporate sponsor. So last night after work I hopped onto the metro and zipped down the number one line to the Palais Royal-Louvre stop. I had an invitation to attend the preview of this –
Exhibition Masterpieces from the Leiden Collection, the Age of Rembrandt (from February 22, 2017 to May 22, 2017)
After climbing what seemed like 800 steps to get to level two of the Sully rooms (there’s one miniscule elevator in a distant corner), I did a quick tour of the collection. Aside from the many gems on view, the exhibition itself is small and appeared to me to be somewhat slapdash. I admit that after visiting the New York Met last April (a stunning, huge collection) and the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum in 2014, when it comes to displays of the 17th century Dutch masters, I am spoiled.
In a neighboring room I happily stumbled across two paintings of Venice which I thought were Canalettos, but were in fact painted by his nephew, Bernardo Bellotto. As it turns out, the Louvre curators themselves believed they were Canalettos until 2014! Here is Church of the Salute painted in 1730. It’s almost as if the painting is lit from within. Luminous!
And then, again to my delight, I came across, in the same room, a favorite Monet of mine, Environs de Honfleur (Landscape around Honfleur). To stand in front of a larger-than-life favorite painting – the original – is, well, awesome. I’ve had posters and cards of this snowscape, but this is the first time I’ve actually gazed upon the original canvas. Look at those grays and blues and the abundance of snow in the foreground; the absence of direct sunlight and that heavy sky, pregnant with snow. There’s one single bird flying overhead. The tree branches (apple trees?) are loaded with snow, but what I like best is the muffled silence and restfulness that this painting evokes. Also, and surprisingly, it does not depict cold, but rather warmth.
Here’s another magnificent Monet also hanging on the wall. Claude Monet, Ice floes on the Seine at Bougival. Painted during the winter of 1867-1868, the spot is about 15 kilometres from Paris. The people are drawing water from the Seine with their buckets.
Leaving the Louvre at around 7:30 pm, famished, I jumped back on the metro and got off on the Champs-Elysées. The new FIVE GUYS had opened two months ago and I wanted to check it out. For those who don’t know, FIVE GUYS is this –
American burger chain Five Guys has now debuted its largest restaurant ever in Paris. The massive restaurant arrived on the Champs-Élysées, not far from what happens to be McDonald’s most lucrative location in the world. At 1,200-square-feet spanning five floors, this Five Guys features two kitchens and a terrace.
Being an ordinary Monday night in February, there wasn’t a crowd, thank god. This was my first Five Guys experience, and I was curious. I had read somewhere that Barack Obama’s favorite burgers are Five Guys. So I ordered a hamburger and small fries. Twelve euros, 50 cents. 9 euros for the burger, 3.50 euros for the fries. The milkshakes are 6.50 (I didn’t order one.) As I waited for my order while watching the assembly-line method of meal preparation, conducted entirely by happy-looking young men and women, I thought to myself – this burger better be good. (9 euros is USD 9.55)
They called out my number, I took the grease-dappled paper bag that was handed to me and went outside to sit on the heated terrace. I ripped open the paper bag. Inside was a mountain of steaming hot fries, enough to … well, I was going to say ‘enough to feed an entire Syrian refugee family’ – but that sounds disrespectful. Let’s just say that for a small order of fries, the amount was HUGE. They were delicious. And the burger? I opened the foil wrapping. Inside was a double-burger with my selected toppings on it. It was also steaming hot. The squishy sesame bun was lovely and soft. And the meat? Succulent. A bit greasy, tasty and nicely seasoned. I’ll definitely return.
I finished eating, threw the wrappings into the garbage and walked off into the night, striding up the ‘Champs’ to catch the metro home at George V station.