Francine in Paris -Day 11++

Bus #69.

After the Palm Sunday service, we started to look for Bus #69 which is the scenic route to Pere Lechaise, the 30 acre cemetery with some quick but mostly dead folks.  The quick ones were at Jim Morrison’s tomb tying elastic bands in the security fence along with metro tickets that said things like, “I know you!!”  A crowd was there to meditate on the 27 year rock star who died in Paris in 1971.  The neighboring tomb holders wanted Jim to rock  somewhere else when the tomb renewal came up, but Jim’s family decided to keep him there.

Tip:  If you come to Parus, bus #69 is a lovely way to orient yourself to the city for the price of a metro ticket or two.  It makes a big loop around the city.  We only knew this because of Deanna’s friends, Michael and Kerrie-Beth, who love Paris and gave us many wonderful ideas for our stay here.  The apartment that we rented here is owned by their friends.  All in all, their tips have enhanced our trip here in so many ways.  Thank you!

After enjoying bus #69, we explored Pere Lechaise not only finding Jim Morrison but also Chopin’s grave, Abelard and Heloise’s elaborate tomb and, of course, the monument to Oscar Wilde.  (I love you, Oscar!). The tradition at Oscar’s grave is to kiss the gigantic stone Art Deco angel and leave your redlipstick kiss.  Well, that tradition was destroying the monument so the powers that be put up a plexiglass-glass barrier around it.  Did that stop folks?  No.  Now they kiss the plexi or climb up above the plexi to leave a kiss on the stone.  People used to write notes on the stone.  One I remember from an earlier visit was a note that said, “Oscar, you saved my life. Thank you.”

Since it was cold and cloudy today, we needed a cozy place.  As we left the cemetery, we saw a modest cafe called”CDB” which turned out to have a tasty roast chicken and frites lunch for a reasonable price of 11.5 euros.  Deanna wrapped up the extra bread for our breakfast, and when we were warm and full we headed out the door.  Less than a block away was the Gambetta metro, and we were in our way home.  Amen and amen.

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Francine in Paris – Day 11+

Think chocolate eclairs so filled with soft chocolate and glazed with chocolate that it might as well be a soft chocolate bar.  Yum, browsing in any of the many patisseries around Paris can be a spiritual experience.  I won’t even mention the pain au chocolat we bought for breakfast.

Palm Sunday at the American Church in Paris was a treat.  We were greeted at the church door with (first, a security guard) a man who gave us a piece of boxwood and a cross made of plant fiber.  The church is non-denominational.  It looks very Parisian built in the 19th century with lovely high, stained glass windows.  The organ is enormous and is center-stage with the organist sitting behind the altar and below the pipes. It is LOUD.  We sang “All glory laud and honor” led by the organ.  This was the associate pastor’s first Sunday in Paris, Timothy Vance from Bellevue, WA, naturally, so they had him preach.  Brave man, the place was packed.  The choir sang “Kyrie eleison” by Puccini.  The hand bell choir did Acclamation.  Big Wow.

Deanna and I sat between two persons of interest. To my right was Margaret who is a member of the church and the wife of Zimbabwe’s representative to UNESCO which is one of the UN’s specialized agencies and housed nearby.  Since her husband works for Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe, I did not offer my opinion on their government.  Expletive deleted.  I did tell her that I had taught in Botswana, her neighbor.

To Deanna’s left sat Dietrich a man who said he was born in Germany, has degrees in education and law and travels between Paris, London and New York as a lawyer and consultant.  He attends the American church once a month when he is in town.  He was sorry that we will miss the Easter service here next Sunday.  Actually, the pastor made a point of asking the congregation to attend the Easter service at either 9AM or 1:30 as the 11AM service would be crammed to over-flowing with the “Christmas and Easter Christians.”  (Who we love!, he added.)

After the service, Dietrich introduced us to the senior pastor who, of course, has a son attending Lewis and Clark College and many other connections of the “small world ” variety.  Fun!

 

 

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Francine in Paris – Day 11

Le Dimache des Rameaux.  Palm Sunday in Paris.  We are off to the American Church on Quai d’Orsay not to be confused with the American Cathedral near the George V hotel.  (The Hotel Geoge V is so luxurious and posh that Deanna made a special trip just to photograph the flower arrangements.  She was immediately greeted politely by a woman asking to help her – namely help her out of the hotel.  The flowers are over the top, Deanna says!)

Last Friday night, we met my British friends, Ken and Annie, at Cafe Verlaine in the Latin Quarter near the Pantheon on Descartes St.   In the cafe building both Paul Verlaine, the Symbolist poet, and Hemingway lived at various times.  Verlaine had a stormy love affair with Rimbaud and drank himself to an early grave with Absinth, that anise flavored spirit beloved by Picasso and so many other artists.

When we arrived at Cafe Verlaine, Bridget, one of the owners and friends of Ken and Annie, opened the door, welcomed us and pointed us to K&A seated by the front windows.  The cafe is quite narrow and deep with a kitchen and large room for groups in the basement.  The decorations include photos of Verlaine, guitars, photos of famous visitors such as Paul Newman and quotes such as the following:  “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it will stay with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”  Hemingway, natch.

Well, feast is the right word.  The chef has been with them over 20 years and trained as a patisserie chef so the desserts are scrumptious.  My last two desserts there were creme brûlée and an Apple tarte with coffee ice-cream and creme fraiche.

If you come here for dinner, flip to the next-to -the last page of the menu.  For 21 euros, you can select from a list an appetizer, main dish and dessert.  Best deal in town for a delicious meal.  The best parts of Cafe Verlaine though are the owners, Nicos (Greek) and Bridget (from Brittany) and their son (who considers himself Greek) and the waiters – a friendly, attentive bunch.  Plus, you never know who you will meet.

We had just sat down when 8 British men came in the door.  They had no reservation, but one of them had been there before.  Ken,  a Brit from Peckhem in London, immediately talked with them.  They had just flown over from London to attend a French vs. English rugby match, and they were happy!  “If we can crush France in the first 20 minutes of the game, we’ll win!”  Then they went on to drink vast quantities of champagne, sing Swing Low Sweet Chariot and order a bottle of wine for OUR table.  (Rumor has it that the Brits did win the match the next day, but did they Paris Three 2010 155crush them in the first 20 minutes?)

More later, must go to church.

 

 

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Francine in Paris – Day 10

Buskers on the Metro underground come in all kinds.  Some stand in the subterranean tunnels and serenade you as you pass hoping for your spare change.  Some play violins or clarinets with accompaniment from a sound system and iPhone.  My favorite was an ensemble of seven men playing accordions and guitarist and singing boisterous folk songs enthusiastically.  You could hear them from far off – enough time to dig out some coins for their basket.

Buskers also come into the cars.  Sometimes elderly men come on and play their accordions.  One young man brought his electric violin and sound system.  He played two tunes then walked up and down the car holding out his cup for coins.  As the train pulled into the stop at La Motte, he’s ready to get out and run to the next car up and do it all again.  His violin was so new it still had the bar code on the back.  Hmmm, it there real money in this?  Other folks just get on and start haranguing everyone about politics or else they tell their story to one person at a time.  All in all, I find I carry my coins in an accessible pocket to make it easier to donate.

Today, I visited Musee Marmottann.  Right now, there’s an exhibition called Art and the Child which has paintings depicting children from the 16th (?) century to the 19th century.  The Marmottan grew and changed focus as families donated their works of art e.g. a son of Monet donated his collection of his father’s paintings including “Impression, Sunrise,” which led to the naming of the artists as Impressionists.  BTW, when I asked the location of that particular painting, the guard said it was in Japan.  Right.  Also here is an entire room of paintingsParis Three 2010 005 by Berthe Morisot who painted primarily women and children in pastel hues.  Lovely.

 

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Francine in Paris – Day 9

Macarons.  Macarons.  Walking around Paris, many of the sweets shops feature these dainty circles in many flavors.  Even Martha Stewart has a recipe:  confectioner’s sugar, almonds, egg whites, salt and, yes, more sugar.  Then, you make the filling.  Deanna and I bought chocolate macaroons from a lovely shop, deNeuville, in the Marais on rue VIelle du Temple.  (Taste?  Think yummy chocolate bar.). The streets in the Marais are narrow with many old and beautiful buildings such as the two that house Musee Carnavalet, the museum of the history of Paris.

My musings were interrupted by the gas repairman who came up the 78 steps to the 4th floor apt. to check the problem with the hot water heater.  For the first few days here there was both hot water and heat.  Then both went off.  Now, you have to go to the hot water heater and flip a switch when you want hot water or heat.  Then in less than an hour both go off.  The repairman spoke rapid French, but I caught the gist.  Namely, the water pressure is poor, so there is nothing to be done.  A friend of the owners came by yesterday with two of her friends, one of whom was a handy man who apparently diagnosed the issue correctly.  (So in the tiny kitchen, we had an American, a Pole, an Italian and a man from Belgium all communicating in French and English to varying degrees.)  Only Krystyna, a woman from Belgium with a Polish origin, was truly bi-lingual.   C’est la vie.  Pas de problem.

Back to Musee Carnavelet.  This townhouse, Hotel Carnavalet, was built in 1548 then revamped in the mid-17th century by arcitect, Francois Mansart.  The museum also includes the mansion next door, Hotel Le Peletier de Saint-Farageau.  Altogether the history ranges from pre-history to the late 19th century.  Unfortunately, they rotate the open rooms, so today the area covering the French Revolution was closed.  Thus, I could not show Deanna the scale model of the guillotine.  Quel domage.

Some of the rooms have been brought from other locations and reassembled here.  For example, the early 20th century ballroom of the Hotel de Wendel was reconstructed.  An immense mural covers the walls and the high ceiling which is of the Queen of Sheba (and her court) by the Catalan designer and painter, Jose Maria Sert y Badia.  How wonderful it would have been to dance there.  Magical.

After the museum, we wandered down the street to a creperie for lunch; it is called Page 35.  The chef greeted us at the door dressed all in white with a tall chef’s hat.  He was so delighted to see us, we felt right at home.  The crepes here are either savory or sweet.  The savory ones are made with buckwheat flour.  Mine had four kinds of cheeses. Tasty.

After lunch, we walked around the Marais shops and came to a large memorial garden with an opening in a wall made of ancient, black beams, half-timbered.  Deanna pointed out that the beams did not rot because they do not touch the soil but have a base that must have been rock now concrete. In this lovely quiet place is a plaque with the names of some of the 500 Jewish infants taken and murdered by the Nazi’s.  Their ages are in months.  You cannot go far in Paris without a reference to one of the great wars or other tragedies.

Paris 2010 485

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Francine in Paris -Day 8

Window-licking.  The French go window-licking while Americans go window shopping.  Deanna and I went out to find 2 rue de Grenelle where the fictional heroine in the book, the Essence of the Hedgehog, lives.  We didn’t find it but we licked a lot of Windows.  At 8 PM on a lovely Thursday night, the cafes are crowded.  An Irish pub, Ha’penny, just down the street celebrates with everyone wearing big, goofy green hats and raising a pint!  Many of the shops start closing around 8 PM like the flower shop called, the Name of the Rose, the fruit stands, the patisseries, the spice shops, the wine shops – each one a jewel of specialization.

Today, we went early to Le Musee d’Orsay, the railway station turned enormous art gallery.  What a thrill to see the originals of some of the Impressionists.  Manet’s Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe, dit aussi Le Bain, puis La Partie carree of 1863 scandalized Paris as the lone nude was a woman picnicking with 2 fully clothed men, and she was looking straight at the artist without a bit of fluster.  Shocking!!  A group of grade school children sat before it as a docent instructed them on thIs work of art.  Wonder what they thought.  There were lots of groups of school children in the museum today of all ages.

We saw many wonderful canvases, sculptures and bronzes.  Deanna loves Pissarro, so she snapped many photos of his art.  He was a generous man who encouraged the younger Impressionists.  As a young man, he fell in love with a servant in his parents’

home.  When they started to live together, his mother had a fit.  The couple had a number of children but could not get married until much later.  His mother never relented, but he remained devoted to both of them.  Pissarro taught his children art, and, according to Deanna who knows these things, the Seattle Art Museum has a painting by his son, Lucien Pissarro.

Other favorites included Millet’s The Gleaners which was a social commentary on the back-breaking work of the peasant women.  Only the poorest of the poor could glean and then only in the briefest period.  In the background is the overseer on horseback and the tall mounds of the rich harvest of wheat forbidden to the women.    I also saw Manet’s Olympia, Paul Cezanne’s still life’s, and Vincent van Gogh’s self portrait (he died at 37!) among othe memorable works.  There’s a whole section of art nouveau furniture which is lovely with all the sensuous curvilinear lines.

Tomorrow:  the Carnevelet, museum on the history of Paris.

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Francine in Paris – Day 7+

If you come to Paris, if you love art and music, you must attend an evening concert at Sainte Chapelle.  Imagine sitting in a high Gothic chapel with stained glass windows on 3 sides. At dusk, the light still illiminates the stained glass in an array of red, gold, green, purple and blue colors.  Imagine “…Fifteen magnificent stained glass windows separated by the narrowest of columns that soar 50 feet to the star-studded vaulted roof.”

The 7 member ensemble walks into the altar area, 4 violins, 1 violin-cello, 1 bass viol and 1 harpsichord.  Not one word is spoken.  Only the stage is lit.  The musicians launch into Pachelbel’s Canon, Albinoni’s Adagio and Vivaldi’s Les Quatre Saisons.  One encore.  Wow.  At times, I just closed my eyes and savored the superb music in that special place.  Paris Three 2010 291

Sainte Chapelle was dedicated in 1248.  French King Louis IX was so devout he was later canonized.  He may be the only French King who was a saint.  He built this chapel to house Christ’s “crown of thorns” (now at Notre Dame Treasury) and for worship by the royal family (upper chapel).  The servants used the lower chapel.  Louis paid 3 times more for the relics than for the chapel.  Hmmm.

Whatta day!

 

 

 

 

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Francine in Paris – Day 7

The loudspeaker came on at 2 PM in the Louvre.  “Everyone must evacuate the building.   When the situation is over you will be allowed to return.”  Right.  Goldfinch.     (I was near Corot.  Which priceless treasure should I rescue on the way out?). I started to stride purposefully toward the nearest green sign depicting someone running like a bat out of hell when  I noticed that no one was rushing the exits.  Then I came upon Deanna who said that she had not heard that announcement.  So. What gives.  Do they just selectively terrorize the tourists; do they want to clear out a few galleries so they can squeeze in another tour?  Yes, it was Just another day of sensory overload at the Louvre.

First stop this morning was Place de la Concorde with the Egyptian obelisk, 3200 years old from Luxor, in the center, la tour Eiffel in the distance and a gigantic Ferris wheel along the street by the entrance to the Tuilleries and Le musee de l Orangerie.  During the Revolution, 1,119 people died here on the guillotine including Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette as well as the ones who sent them there: Robespierre and Danton.

 

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Francine in Paris – Day 6

Who could fail to enjoy a place like this?  Le Mur des je t’aime = I love you:  the wall.  Imagine a wall in a Parisian park.  On the wall you see the words, I love you, written  1,000 times in 300 languages in many different scripts.  On a sunny day like today, you come here to point to the words that say “I love you” in your language and have your picture taken.  Lovers stroll here arm in arm.  A young French woman sings love songs as she plays the accordion for spare change.

The wall is the brainchild of Frederick Baron.  He wanted the “image of a wall on which the principle languages and dialects of the planet glittered like stars in the sky.”  Address:  Paris, Butte Montmartre, Place des Abbesses in the Square jean Rictus in case you’re in town.

The big draw on Montmartre is La basilique du Sacre-Coeur with its white turrets and domes.  Folks sit on the  front steps and gaze out over Paris or photograph themselves with their selfie sticks and giggle.  Inside is the place of the Gold Leaf.  Wow.  The exquisite mosaics and statuary are elaborately decorated with glittering gold.  “At the outbreak of the Franco -Prussian war in 1870, two Catholic businessmen made a private religious vow to build a church dedicated to the sacred heart of Jesus should France be spared the impending Prussian onslaught.”  It was and they did.  One of the two men, Alexandre Legentil, had his heart buried in a stone urn in the underground crypt.  Hmmm.  Home is where the heart is?  Work began in 1875 and finished in 1914, but the consecreation was not until 1919 after France survived World War I.  Too many wars!

My favorite place in Montmartre is the church of St. Peter, a stone’s throw from Sacre Coeur.  The church has a long, checkered history shrouded in legend and has been almost destroyed by fire and edict a number of times.  Legend has it that St. Denis, missionary to the Gauls, was beheaded here with two of his companions, Rustic and Eleuthere.   However, St. Denis picked up his head and walked to the site of his sepulture where the church now stands.

On this visit I noticed several new things.  First, I found in the church the inscription that indicated Queen Adelaide, wife of King Louis VI, was buried here.  In 1133, the church that was here was given to the King who decided to found an abbey under the protection of the crown. Later, Adelaide joined the convent here and specified in her will that she be buried in the choir of the church.  Her burial marker is modest, indeed.   The most dramatic part of the church is now the 27 windows of stained glass by Max Ingrand installed in 1952 and 1953.  They represent Christ, the life of St. Peter and the saints of Montmartre.  On a sunny day like today, the rainbow colors fall on the pillars and aisles in carpets of primary hues.  Lovely.

  1. The museum of Montmartre depicts the history of a home with a life much looser in style than Sacre Coeur and the church of St. Peter.  More later.

 

 

 

 

 

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Francine in Paris – Days 4 et 5

imagine dining in style at Le Caveau de l’isle, a traditional French restaurant, in a 17th century building on Isle de Sainte Louis.  Naturally, we behaved like tourists and photographed the beautiful presentation of our entrees.  Deanna was almost delirious over the apple tarte.  Delicious.  The restaurant has a large cave below for jazz until 2 AM nightly.36, rue Saint Louis en l’Isle, in case you are in town.

We headed this morning to Notre Dame which has been a place of worship for almost 2,000 years starting with the Gallic and Roman gods.  The Romans are not far away as in the plaza in front of Notre Dame is the Crypte Archeologique.  This archeological dig  shows the ruins of the underground heating system the Romans used for their thermal baths.    Ah, the good life.

Notre Dame began in the 13th century in the mind of the archbishop of Paris, Maurice de Sully.   It evolved over time into its present size and shape which a gazillion people visit each year.  Listening to the bells is wonderful.  Their names are Angelique-Francoise (C sharp), Antoinette-Charlotte (D sharp), Hyacinthe-Jeanne (F) and Denise-David (F sharp).  We should all have such cool names and sing on-key.  The rose windows are worth the trip.  It’s a hard-working church with many services, multi-lingual priests hearing confessions and lots of special events such as organ concerts.  I always buy and light a candle for my departed loved ones. Paul Claudel wrote, “Notre Dame is not just a building, but a living person.  Looking at it is not enough, we must live with it every day for a long time.” Amen.

Tip:  Going to the Eiffel Tower?  Buy your ticket online a few months in advance.  Doing this means you by-pass VERY long lines. Save your sanity!   The process of  getting to the top (2 elevators) and then descending (2 elevators unless you want to walk) is slow and challenging but well-worth the views.  To see this work of art up close is a thrill.  Deanna and I read about its creation in the book, Paris, by Edward Rutherfurd.

Paris Three 2010 205Day 4, Deanna arrived from Seattle and we went almost directly to the massive Bois de Bolougne.  In the midst of this park is the Louis Vuitton foundation which houses art galleries.  The current show is by contemporary Chinese artists.  The Really Big Show is the building itself designed by Paul Gehry as a great sailing ship on a river and basin.  Must see to believe.

 

 

 

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