Paris for art lovers

The opening of a new hotel, a new gallery and two compelling exhibitions in two of my favourite galleries made a pre-Christmas Eurostar dash to Paris irresistible. The draw of the 91-room Bloom House Hotel & Spa, which opened in September (new beds, new everything equals no bedbugs!), is that you can get off the Eurostar at Gare du Nord after a stress-free journey and be having lunch in their courtyard garden oasis 10 minutes later. A green-tiled pond is the focal point, a pergola strung with festoon lighting overhead – perfect for evening cocktails.

We spent our first afternoon exploring the bobo Canal Saint-Martin, a short walk from Bloom House. The 4.5km canal, which stretches through the 10th and 11th arrondissements down to the Seine, is peppered with indie stores, delis and cafés. Following the Quai de Valmy, we dropped into Antoine & Lili, a set of three shops with a sunflower facade. I swooned over their velvet, just-so flared trousers. More swooning, this time for clothing and curios new and old, in Babel (55 Quai de Valmy), a brocante and déco-cadeaux store a few doors down.

interior of colourful Antoine & Lili boutique Quai de Valmy 10th Arr. Paris France
In the pink: Antoine & Lili boutique. Photograph: Eddie Linssen/Alamy

I didn’t know I needed une boule of vegan pear with tonka bean sorbet until I saw the queue outside Sucre Glace, an artisanal ice-cream shop nearby (61 Quai de Valmy; you can see the escargot’s pace we moved at). But that’s one of the joys of being on holiday in Paris: beautiful confections are everywhere. They entice. It’s rude to ignore them. As we crossed one of the canal’s many iron bridges, a tourist barge passed beneath us; take a boat trip yourself with Canauxrama or Paris Canal. Not all stretches of this once industrial area are picture-perfect, though. The trick is to explore the sidestreets; that’s how we stumbled upon the Jardin Villemin, on the corner of Rue des Récollets. This community garden in the grounds of a former convent-turned-military hospital has a playground, lots of lovely old trees, and even a lawn you can walk or lie on.

After a sauna and a swim in the bijou spa back at the mellow Bloom House, we headed off to Poulette, a buzzy neighbourhood bistro near Les Halles and the Pompidou Centre with local friends; we sat on stools at the zinc bar and relished the baked figs with honey and thyme. But lunch at Eunoé the next day, following a visit to Père-Lachaise cemetery, where we paid homage to Jim Morrison, Modigliani, Colette and Proust, took the madeleine. In Proustian spirit, the strapline of this gem of a new French-Japanese restaurant off Place Maurice Gardette in the 11th arrondissement is: “A Parisian restaurant evocative of memories to create new ones.”

Interior of Bloom House Hotel & Spa
Time to mellow out: Bloom House Hotel & Spa

Well, I remember the beetroot velouté, a subtle affair that converted me to a root vegetable I rarely enjoy. As for the dessert of baked pear with creamed goat’s cheese, it did not take me back in time, for I have never had pears quite so delicious. A moment to remember.

It had taken us ages to find Modigliani’s modest grave in Père-Lachaise (look out for a couple of paintbrushes protruding from dried flowers); the Italian artist’s death in 1920, aged only 36, was in our minds at the excellent exhibition of works shaped by his relationship with Paris dealer Paul Guillaume at the Musée de l’Orangerie. The Van Gogh exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay across the river, “Van Gogh in Auvers-sur-Oise”, brings together the paintings of the troubled artist’s last two months of life. The colourful contortions in his final painting, Tree Roots (1890), is as powerful as it is devastating. Unmissable.

Woman sells tarts to a couple at open market in Bastille
Ready to go: open market, near La Bastille. Photograph: Owen Franken/Getty Images

Hauser & Wirth Paris has just opened an imposing new gallery in a neoclassical hôtel particulier near the Champs-Élysées, with an inaugural exhibition by Los Angeles-based figurative painter Henry Taylor. Also near the Champs-Élysées, the newly refurbished French restaurant with a British twist, Lordy’s Paris Club, does a cheese and mushroom “British pie” for the homesick. Or, for something more homegrown, 600 artisans, from cheesemakers to pastry-makers, wigmakers to embroiderers, are opening their workplaces as part of ParisLocal from 17-19 November.

We spent our last morning back at Canal Saint-Martin, this time to shop for girolles and fromage at the Marché Bastille, followed by people-watching at the Bar du Marché on Boulevard Richard-Lenoir. A woman cycled past with five dogs in a wagon. In the market itself, a steampunk ambulatory metal cow-cum-bicycle trailer shuffled backwards and forwards. Pedalled by a human “bell artist”, it certainly gave us more food for thought on the comfy, efficient Eurostar home.

In the picture… Food and the views at Parisian art venues

Beautiful decorated ceiling and chandeliers inside Le Restaurant at Musée D’Orsay
Crwning splendour: Le Restaurant, Musée D’Orsay. Photograph: Nikolay Korzhov/Alamy

Café Renoir The glasshouse Café Renoir in the Museum de Montmartre, situated behind Sacré-Cœur, is named after the famous artist, who painted in the eponymous gardens of this 17th-century mansion, now home to a permanent exhibition of artists, including Raoul Dufy and Suzanne Valadon. Overlooking the Renoir Gardens, the café’s small menu includes goat’s cheese and honey baguettes, quinoa and feta salad, brunch options and traditional desserts and pastries. museedemontmartre.fr

Georges There are great views across the City of Lights from Georges, the restaurant at the top of the National Museum of Modern Art, housed in the Pompidou Centre. Afternoon tea is the best way to enjoy the views of the Eiffel Tower, without breaking the bank on a premium gastro meal. restaurantgeorgesparis.com

Le Restaurant, Musée D’Orsay Once the restaurant of the Hotel D’Orsay, this gilded Beaux Arts dining room offers spectacular views of the Seine. It is open for dinner on late-night Thursdays with a set menu of €31, with a children’s menu for €10. musiam-paris.com/fr/restaurants/le-restaurant

Rooms at Bloom House Hotel & Spa start from €160 per night (bloomhouse-hotel.com). For further information about ParisLocal, see parislocal.parisjetaime.com. “Amedeo Modigliani. A painter and his dealer” is at the Musée de l’Orangerie until 15 January 2024 (musee-orangerie.fr). “Van Gogh in Auvers-sur-Oise – The Final Months” is at the Musée D’Orsay until 4 February 2024 (musee-orsay.fr). “Henry Taylor: From Sugar to Shit” is at Hauser & Wirth Paris until 7 January 2024 (hauserwirth.com)

Check Also

Three castles, three days, three writers in Wales’ border country

Three castles, three days, three writers in Wales’ border country

Day 1: Grosmont to Skenfrith (5.5 miles) The castles of Grosmont, Skenfrith and White Castle …

Leave a Reply