How I Spend my First Mornings in Paris.
Act I: Coutume Café
The place to start a morning with Rodin or any day in Paris is at Coutume Café. The coffee sculpted here will knock you to the floor with a genius similar to that which Rodin will later use to smack you around his gardens.
After the sucker punch of espresso or half-white or iced latte expect a left hook of pancakes with fruit. Don’t worry the floor is a lovely and sunlit place to faint.
Ask for a to-go cup because walking in the Parisian sun is fun when that coffee stuffs a big fat mug into the mouths of people who say Paris isn’t the greatest in the world at coffee.
From Coutume Café go west a few steps on Rue de Babylon and then a right on Boulevard des Invalides and then about ten minutes later (give or take stopping at Napoleon’s tomb for a photo-op), Auguste Rodin is waiting for you at the corner of Boulevard des Invalides and Rue de Varenne.
Act II: Museé Rodin.
This is where to get the Paris Museum Pass, sometimes referred to as the don’t be a sucker and stand in lines instead of enjoying Paris pass, to the layman. The line is never that long and even if it is you can cut the time in half because you’re in line for the Museum Pass and Musée Rodin. So two lines at once. Sometimes you must fight genius with genius.
Start the museum Rodin in the Hotel Biron. It’s the trust-fall part of the adventure day here, where you will learn to trust Rodin with your soul in a collection of his smaller works placed lovingly indoors where he worked and created. You’ll need this trust later. Trust me.
Out of Hotel Biron head for The Gates of Hell, a sculptured scene from Dante’s Inferno. It’s a good thing you’ve developed a trust for Rodin because otherwise you wouldn’t trust the man to take your soul down the layers of Hell without knowing he was going to be bringing it back up.
Now it’s time for a walk in a Parisian garden because what in the hell else could possibly come after a genius’s 3-d model of its gates. The sculptures Rodin placed in the sun and green of his gardens he chose deliberately and are some of his favorites and mine and yours too. And say cheese because Rodin said, “Nature and antiquity are the two great sources of life for an artist. In any event, antiquity implies nature. It is its truth and its smile.”
If you’re still standing by the time you’ve reached the back of the gardens, lounge chairs are there for you to think about why.
Continuing counter clockwise there’s a café that sells a half-bottle of rosé which is perfect and does all the work for you so that you don’t have to miss any of Rodin or Paris outside because of silly things like measuring or buying too much rosé.
Now you’re ready for Rodin’s most famous sculpture called The Thinker. I imagine this is how Rodin would want me to feel as I leave his former home and workshop, but I think deep down he would also want me to feel free to relive the scene from Midnight in Paris where the pedantic gentleman gets in the argument with the tour guide. And I do. Every time.
Act III: Lunch at Au Pied de Fouet
From Musée Rodin head east on Rue de Varenne, a right on Rue Barbet de Jouy, and a left on Rue de Babylon for the red-doored coziness of Au Pied de Fouet. This is where Lumière from Beauty and the Beast would have gone to lunch before once daily and twice on Saturday performances of Be Our Guest at the master’s chateau. This place is the reason you came not just to Paris but to France.
I go there for the bottles of wine with no label because there’s nothing cooler than drinking wine from bottles with no label.
The staff is lovely and last time I was there they educated me on what the cool kids of Paris were drinking at the moment and they argued about it among the staff and offered samples and then I knew what to order for the rest of my trip to remain in high Parisian fashion at cafés.
Epilogue: The Bridge Pont Alexandre the III to Petite Palais.
From Au Pied de Fouet head west on Rue de Babylone and then a right down Boulevard des Invalides and continue on past the park in front of Napoleon’s tomb.
Where this park meets the river there leaps a bridge called Pont Alexandre III. Gill from Midnight in Paris met the girl in the end here. Though, ironically, the views from between its lampposts are of Paris and of the Eiffel tower and of the Seine and make a compelling case that Paris is in fact not at its most beautiful in the rain. Though it is.
Cross the bridge and where it meets the Right Bank is the selfie opportunity you’ve been waiting for in Paris. If that’s your thing.
You’re now on the Right Bank, which means across the street from the bridge is Petit Palais.
Petit Palais is a museum that is uncrowded and circulates visitors and air conditioning and delight through a survey of the history of art in Paris and in a building that was made for art’s sake and nothing else.
The courtyard of this museum is a great place to get a sparkling water and cool off if it’s summer and to decide what to do with the rest of your Parisian day because you’re in the middle of it all.
Upstairs of the Museum Café here there are outlets to charge your phone or Ipad or anything else that you can stick into the plugs beneath the couches. Which makes sense because everything that doesn’t require batteries is already charged.