Diary

Le Voyage en Frants

10 March 2018 | Diary

I have a longstanding campaign — fought largely in private and only, it must be said, while drunk — to have France renamed “Frants” in accordance with its correct pronunciation.

“I have gone to Frants,” one might write in a note to the tax man or a loved one, “and I’m not coming back.”

As it happens, Samara and I have been hiding in Frants for the past few days. Overwhelmed by the horrors of regular life, we decided to come to Paris for a refreshing break of cafes and art museums (though it was my secret hope to get a few insane Parisians on side for my renaming-of-their-nation project).

The last time I was here, I’d set a “whole” Monday aside to visit the Louvre only to find that (a) the middle-class catchphrase that “a day really isn’t enough” is obviously true, and that (b) the Louvre and every other museum in Paris, is closed on Mondays. I spent my suddenly-free 24 hours abroad, as any devoted world traveller would, watching The Inbetweeners on DVD in the hotel room.

This time, determined not to fail so completely in front of my wife, I checked the opening hours of everything and together we plotted an itinerary in advance. We also became determined not to share the misery of the many sad-looking Japanese people in berets when we landed at Charles de Gaul only to find Paris rather damp and with an eerie, out-of-season feeling.

We chose to look on the bright side of everything being deserted. We benefited from the complete lack of a queue to get into the Musée d’Orsay and we were able to gaze upon the famous sauce for ages without being asked to move-along-please-sir.

In the same museum, we enjoyed a particularly garish collection of furniture and vases that looked like something you’d find at the home of Boycie and Marlene or possibly Saddam Hussein.

At the National Museum of Natural History, we saw a beautiful quail egg (“you can’t have it, Samara”), a pickled chimp ear (“you can’t have it, Robert”) and thousands of animal skeletons. If anything, it was too many animal skeletons.

A placard next to the skeleton of a Striped Hyena had been mistranslated as being from a Stripped Hyena, which was technically correct.

In the Saint-Germain neck of the woods, we enjoyed hot chocolates at the Cafe de Flore, presumably just like the ones Picasso used to drink; we also walked past Les Deux Magots where Sartre and de Bouvoir once chain smoked and where I like to imagine Georges Perec played pinball. The name, of course, means “The Two Maggots.” Everyone knows that.

Itinerary be damned, the highlight of the trip however was the blind luck of spotting a poster on the Metro advertising a Foujita retrospective. We love Foujita and one of our favourite books to leaf through at home is filled with photographs of him looking candidly glamorous with his beautiful outfits and his toothbrush mustache.

The show was at a far-smaller but less sleepy museum called the Maillol and we decided to go there instead of the Louvre. The show had only opened the day before our arrival so it seemed like impossibly good timing. It makes me want to be better at knowing what’s going on in the world as we almost certainly miss obscure little things like this all the time.

The Foujita show was lovingly summoned from private collections all over the world and it felt like an extremely rare opportunity. It included the chance to rifle through see some of his personal possessions. These included, as you might expect, paint brushes and tools but also a pair of mantelpiece dogs. We found it very charming that Foujita owned a pair of mantelpiece dogs. It turned out that they’d been the subjects of one of his paintings, which was also included in the show. This was quite a jarring personal connection and extremely lovely.

On our last night, we scrapped the plans we’d had for a healthy vegan meal when Samara overheard some tourists discussing a Canadian bar in which poutine was being served. Edible poutine is a rare thing to find outside Samara’s hometown of Montreal and we felt that if it could be done anywhere else it would be Paris. So our final night in Frants (if I keep slipping it in like that, it’s bound to catch on) was spent eating a delicious travesty of fries, gravy and cheese curds. Yum Yum.

*

Thanks for reading this rather-more-of-a-travelogue-than-intended diary entry. You can also see our holiday snaps with a little more commentary here. Back to sexy old normal next Saturday.