More Paris, you say? Bien sur.
All I ever want to do in any city or town is to go for a rummage in a junk shop or market. We'd planned to do the famous Saint-Ouen flea market, but it turns out that arriving in town at lunchtime on Monday and flying out Thursday night makes the entire trip a flea-free zone.
Instead, our host Jorge suggested investigating the Passages - covered passages and arcades woven throughout Paris, each of which has a different focus (so antiques or fashion or Indian shops etc). I'm so glad he did. We stumbled upon a few and sought out a few more (they are clearly marked on maps) and it was more luck than judgment that we found ones that suited our tastes.
No trip to Paris is complete without a nose around Merci, the stylish 'destination store' and a complete blogger's paradise. (That little red Fiat 500 must be one of Instagram's most photographed cars!)
And with good reason. There was so much here I'd have taken home given half a chance - beautiful bed linen, the coolest kitchenware, Christmas specials including the twinkliest of fairy lights and flocked goodies a-plenty (EVERYTHING in Paris at Christmas appears to be flocked, and I particularly liked the fluffy orange or white or red trees outside each bar and boutique).
Luckily - or not, depending on the bank balance - Merci has a big ole online store and ships internationally.
During a stroll along the banks of the Seine, we came across one of those postcard racks and the image that leapt out at me was one I knew well: Marilyn Monroe, jumping in the air, photographed by Philippe Halsman.
One of the most prolific portrait photographers of the 20th century, Halsman holds the title for shooting the most Life magazine covers, and was the creative eye behind so many iconic celebrity images. But he also had his own psychological theory - Jumpology - developed after years of asking subjects to jump for him. The theory is, jumping uninhibits a subject, allowing the photographer to snap a truer portrait than the usual styled-and-PRed-to-the-max celebrity image.
Anyway, Jeu de Paume held the first retrospective of Halsman's work, a life's work, and it was sublime. From the pictures of Marilyn et al to his ongoing collaborations with Salvador Dali, all underpinned by the tangible personal story of Halsman's early life in Latvia, his move to Paris, and how came to flee the Nazis to settle in America.
I'm sorry to say that the Paris exhibition has closed but if it tours and you happen to be close by then do pay Philippe a visit.
And I'm beginning to realise that there is a Picasso museum in every city, or so it seems. Back in the summer we visited the Barcelona one, and I've been to the Antibes museum as well.
The Paris Picasso museum is in the Marais and has only just reopened after extensive building work and much beautification. They've done a good job. This gallery is just so perfect, sensitively making best use of the ornate period property but generating enough white space to allow the works to breath.
And there are many, many works on view, over 5000 in this collection alone, plus any temporary exhibitions that may also be toured in. As well as Picasso's portraits and ceramics, the Picasso Intime floor features assorted personal effects that give a real sense of his private self.
A note: we arrived in Paris on 14 December, exactly a month to the day after the attacks, unsure of what to expect. Would it be a noticeably different city?
Well, yes and no. All appears normal, on the surface of it, until you turn a corner and find yourself outside cafe Le Carillon, almost buried beneath bouquets. Or the candlelit vigil surround the Republique monument. Or every department store or art gallery you visit requiring extensive bag checks and security - all part of the Vigipirate anti terriorist measures.
But it is, and always will be, beautiful, snooty, charming Paris.
Fluctuat nec mergitur.
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