Supposedly this was going to be more of a day of relaxation, because we only had one concert scheduled. Even though the rest of the day was going to be on our own, we still managed to visit four churches and one museum, in addition to attending the concert! And as usual, we managed to get ourselves lost on more than one occasion although we think we’ve mastered the Paris metro.
The first church we visited was St. Germain-des-Près, former post of André Marchal, a well-known blind organist, followed by St Séverin, which was one of the first posts taken by Camille Saint-Saëns. Up to now I remarked to Carl that I had seen hardly any people asking for money on the streets (as we saw in other European cities), so I had to guess that they had been taking a break for the weekend. Since today was Monday, we always saw people standing outside the doors of churches with their hands extended, asking “S’il vous plait?”
We decided next to go to the area near the Musée de l’Orangerie to find lunch but got ourselves completely turned around and ended up walking in circles trying to find a restaurant with regional French cooking. Out of desperation we stopped for a croque-monsieur (ham and cheese sandwich) and a salad before asking for directions to the museum.
It took us about forty-five minutes to stand in line to buy tickets and luckily it was not too hot. When we finally went in, we both were surprised to find the signature pieces, Claude Monet’s “Water Lilies” in eight huge murals, much larger than we had ever imagined. We were also surprised that the museum allowed people to take pictures, except no flash was allowed.
The next church we visited was “La Madeleine” where Saint-Saëns was organist-choirmaster, succeeded by his favorite pupil, Gabriel Fauré. This was the church in which the Fauré “Requiem” was first performed, and also where Chopin’s funeral was held.
La Madeleine is right across the street from Fauchon, Paris’ exclusive gourmet store, which I’ll write about in a separate post. Suffice it to say that visiting Fauchon was another experience in itself!
After returning to the hotel for a little break, we set out to find St Ephrem where an all-Chopin piano recital was to be held. Even though we had a map of the area, we searched high and low to find the church. I even asked several people who lived in the area how to find the church, and got “Je ne sais pas (I don’t know!)
After missing the first 20 minutes of the concert, we finally retraced our steps and were relieved to find the church tucked away behind an iron fence. Hugues Chabert, pianist, gave a magnificent all-Chopin recital in this acoustically-perfect Syrian Catholic church. There were only 35 people in the audience and they had run out of programs when we finally got there! Carl said this was very typical of the size of audience Chopin actually played for. I guess they wouldn’t have had printed programs, either!