L'Art de la Bonne Vie

photo: cafe de la mairie 6e
Everybody on the terrace faces south, like late sunflowers.

Doing Saturday Stuff In Paris

Paris:- Saturday, 3. October 1998:- After batting the thing around all week, it is decided that we will have our editorial meeting at the Café de la Mairie of the sixth. This faces the place Saint-Suplice and is handy to about 48 local restaurants.

It is my first editorial meeting with a contributor and the day is perfect for it, with the sun filtering through the leaves to the terrace. It is just warm enough too. About 30 other people, who are not part of the meeting, have arrived first and are already comfortable.

The recognition signs work, and then we wait more or less calmly for seats and a tiny table - it does not take long. Ours is front row; with a view of the passing traffic and the fountain across the way.

After the waiter has taken the order, the church bells racket for a while, for no apparent reason. My croque-monsieur is basic; two slices of wonder bread, fried cheese on topphoto: roller hockey and almost a whole piece of ham inside. I add mustard to try and stretch the ham a bit.

Saturday afternoon roller hockey in the place Saint-Suplice.

My luncheon partner is 'bulking up' on account of doing the roller derby last night. But this is a story for another editor; my version of it is in this week's 'Au Bistro' column, but second-hand.

By the fountain, some older boys are playing hockey on rollers. I remember when the place wasn't paved like it is now, when I thought it was an Italian piazza. It is good and smooth for the rollers.

We chit and we chat. This is more or less what everybody else on the terrace is doing; but this is our first time - after dozens of emails, going back to last February. We talk about the Web-magazine business; about where we think it is going and how it is going to get there.

Nothing stays the same and when the sun slides further west it begins to get cooler. We have cafés, but do not have any cognacs or cigars and we split the bill; leaving a fair tip, without debate.

Weekends are short and there are things to do, places to be by a certain time. A book is sought; and I want one too. The fnac at the Forum des Halles is a central target we can agree on.

But first I want to see this stove boutique, around the corner in the rue Mabillon. Three times I've been by it and three times it's been closed for lunch. It is after lunch now.

The Galerie La Cornue has stoves like iron Cadillacs and if you are passing the shop, the sight of them will stop you. You have to look at them because none of them are white and none of them look like they are made out of tin.

Like a gallery, you have to press a buzzer to get in. I tell Madame Brigitte Baranes how many times I've unsuccessfully come to see her and thisphoto: cornue boutique is good for a laugh. This is the Latin Quarter and most shops close at lunchtime - so why not a stove boutique too?

Unusual Saturday window shoppers, looking at La Cornue's extraordinary stoves.

Mme Baranes says a collection of Cornue stoves, dating back to 1908, are on display in a gallery just off the Champs-Elysées, and suggests I take my photo there. Today is the exhibition's last day.

With a few wiggles, it is almost a straight walk down the rue Mabillon, across the boulevard Saint-Germain, through the rue de l'Echaude, to pause for a café at La Palette. Then the rest is the rue de Seine, the pont des Arts, through the Louvre's Cour Carrée, and more wiggle around the rue Saint-Honoré, to get to the Forum des Halles.

Getting in isn't much of a problem until we get to the fnac, which is jammed to its low ceiling. It looks like everybody on the right bank wants to buy a CD or a book today - or, having found what they want, are passing the time in long lines to get to pay for it.

Bing! The time runs out and we get out, bookless, and I know the shortest way to the nearest métro, past a teaming crowd for 'Action Paysannes' at the Fountaine des Innocents. I wonder if it is always like a circus here on Saturdays.

Down the stairs and zig and zag through the tunnels until there is a division. My lunch partnerphoto: les halles, sat, 3. oct is heading for Vincennes and I for Défense. Bisous and we race apart in opposite directions. My train is packed with shoppers and other Saturday people.

Early fall Saturday crowd, near the Forum des Halles.

Up to the surface again at Rond-Point and the avenue has its circus too. Most of my trips are made while Parisians are in their offices and schools and I am not used to this mob. It's like a holiday, but I guess it is just a normal Saturday.

The gallery is a bit further off the avenue than I expected. But it does in fact have a display of 90 years' worth of Cornue stoves, together with bright paintings by Philippe Hortala. They are set in a circular display, amid a still-life tableau of wheat and pumpkins and other items from the kitchen-garden.

In the Galerie Piltzer this ensemble is called 'La Bonne Vie de l'Art' and it is as attractive as it is unusual. Sonia Corcket, who works at the factory, not far from Paris, tells me the stoves are hand-made - like art - and because they are made of steel and iron, it is a noisy factory.

I've been in noisy factories but never in one where iron and steel were worked by hand. Madame Corcket says La Cornue does not have tours. Maybe someday, but not now.

The stoves are sold all over, but the manufacturer's official Paris showplace is the shop in the rue Mabillon. It is closed between 12:00 and 14:00 if you happen to be in the area.

I take the back streets to get back to the métro. It is like the end of the week here; and you do not get an inkling there are hundreds of thousands on the Champs-Elysées until it is about 20 metres away. It looks like Saturday-afternoon fever.

Galerie La Cornue
18. rue Mabillon, Paris 6. Tel.: 01 46 33 84 74.

A photo of the five-star model La Cornue stove - 'Le Grand Castel' - taken in the Galerie Piltzer, is featured on this week's 'Café' page.

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