Saturday began with espresso and a ham omelette at a corner cafe. We sat outside, protected from the morning sun by a red and white striped overhang. We ate and watched hundreds of pedestrians stroll past. We admired the striking turquoise pants of one gentleman and tried to guess who was an American based on their footwear. We finished eating and, after waiting the appropriate amount of time, stepped into the mid morning sun for a walk to the river.
The original plan was to visit the Musee d’Orsay, but a long line at the museum forced an audible. We instead walked back across the Seine and into Les Tuleries, the garden next to the Louvre. The sun was hot and the warm breeze stirred the finely ground gravel into wispy tornadoes as it moved through the garden. A few minutes walking along the paths left our shoes covered in a fine white dust.
Leaving the gardens, we walked east along the river, moving between patches of shade to escape the sun. Each block had the recognizable shops run out of green, wooden boxes that sit on the top of the stone walls bordering the river. The owners of the shops all sat in chairs, reading, working on crosswords and looking unconcerned with selling anything. Perhaps it was the confidence of location; they knew enough tourists per day would see the reproduced photograph or old books and succumb to the impulse to purchase.
Our walk too the Picasso museum was interrupted by a brief stop for some rather fetching red tennis shoes. One must always have sensible yet fashionable shoes when walking around Paris.
Our next stop was the Picasso museum hidden away at the Hôtel Salé on the back streets of Le Marais, in the 3rd arrondissement. It is a smaller museum and always less crowded than the Musee d'Orsay or the Louvre. There was no line to enter when we arrived, only placid employees in black suits standing in the shade of umbrellas. They squinted from the glare off the white stone courtyard and mumbled halfhearted greetings as we walked into the building.
Most of Picasso’s works leave me feeling confused and uncomfortable, perhaps from my failed attempts to recognize the subject in the painting. This museum was no different. I stood before his paintings absorbing the bright colors and bold lines to the best of my ability. I still felt like there was some great secret to appreciating his work that I did not understand, like there was some experience I lacked. They museum guide did not have any answers and neither did the man reading out loud from a book on Picasso's art. Even in my ignorance, I was convinced that the key to understanding it all could not be reduced to a few paragraphs about each painting, written on glossy pages in a manner designed to appeal to the modern need for expertise in all things. I left the museum still confused and conflicted about Picasso, but glad that I had made the effort. There is always some satisfaction in trying.
That evening, we walked down past Les Invalides, to the Eiffel Tower. We sat on a bench in the shade and watched the elevators go up and town in the middle of the metal structure. Groups of people sat around on the laws, listening to music, eating, and some just laying on the grass, staring at the sky. Dinner was in St. Germain, at a small, traditional french restaurant. It had delicious, uncomplicated food and a relaxed atmosphere, things to be prized in a city as busy as Paris.