Last time I was in Paris I was alone, so I spent my spare time mooching around the bookshops of the Latin Quarter. This time, with my wife and teenage daughter, it was a bit different. I found myself mooching instead around the textile and dressmaking shops of the Place St. Pierre in Montmartre, and having lunch in the cafe featured in "Amelie". This last attraction is a typically and admirably
French phenomenon; tourists flock from far and wide, as we did, because of the movie connection, but cafe is run with complete indifference to it all. Sure, there are pictures of the movie and Amelie table covers, but it's still a rough-and-ready bistro serving very good, cheap meals, and catering for the locals.
During our visit to Paris we were also lucky enough to be able to take in the Stein exhibition at the swanky Grand Palais museum. They've gathered together the paintings originally collected by Gertrude Stein, her brother Leo and sister sister-in-law Sara, so you get to see some of the greatest paintings of the first half of the twentieth century. But if you're interested in Gertrude Stein the writer, as I am, then it's a bonus, as there are home movie clips of Gertrude at her sister's Le Corbusier home, and of her reading from "Tender Buttons". I hadn't realised how many artist's had painted her portrait; in addition to the famous Picasso portrait. I also hadn't quite realised how, in her "Autobiography of Alice B Toklas" Stein had bigged up her own role in the formation of the famous salons at the Rue de Fleurus, to the chagrin of her brother Leo, and others. Such is the benefit of being a writer; there's always the possibility of creating your own myth, which then becomes almost impossible for anyone to undo.