July 20, 2015 § Leave a comment
We loved our morning coffee and baguette, maybe some eggs, sitting in the kitchen with the window open, listening to the beginning sounds of the day. The bathroom is at the back of the apartment, the view is treetops from the courtyard below, rooftops and sky…. and windows of other apartments…. I often wondered who lived on the other side of those windows. A ritual – every morning I would open the window before I started to put on my make-up….all was quiet but for the cooing of pigeons, and occasionally, mostly on Saturday mornings, I could hear faint sounds of music. American pop music, but I didn’t mind that so much. It seemed to come from a small attic window in the roof of a building behind ours. I can’t imagine how many stairs it took to reach their door.
Then came the realization we had only one week left. There were things I really wanted to do that I had not, which put us into a bit of a panic mode. Though I tried to just savor the moments, I couldn’t always. Here are a few things from our last week in Paris.
We met Rachel … the lovely vivacious and brilliant young woman who rented her wonderful apartment to us. As luck would have it she had a business meeting in Paris with enough time in her schedule to meet us for lunch. Our good fortune all around.
We met John Davis at his home in Passy. This kind and gentle soul is a veteran of World War II. His warm smile and sparkling eyes belie any trace of that experience. When the United States entered the war after Pearl Harbor he was a senior at Berkeley. He joined the army and landed in Normandy after D-Day on July 28 1944. At twenty-four he was an ordinance officer responsible for moving trucks and tanks across the channel. While in France he met 15 –year old Jeannette in the village of Granville, they would marry years later. In tribute to John there will be a special Post soon.
Our visit with John Davis led to the discovery of buildings designed by architect Hector Guimard. Born in Lyon in 1867, he was an important French architect, interior designer and designer of Art Nouveau objects. In France the Art Nouveau style is often called the “Style Guimard”. The building John Davis lives in was designed by Guimard, but his most important work and masterpiece was just up the street at 60 rue La Fontaine – the Paris dwelling Castel Béranger (1894-1897). Look closely for all the details in these photographs we took.
The entrance to Castel Béranger – how would you like this to be your front door!
Best-known works by Guimard are entrances to the Paris Métro, which was completed just in time for the 1900 World Exposition. By 1903 he had designed numerous Métro entrances. Eighty-six have survived …. you’ve seen them no doubt. They are one of the things Paris is famous for. We have all passed under them as we walk down the stairs to catch a train, or leaned against the railing to talk to a friend or read a map. His fanciful designs combined wrought iron, bronze and glass to create these grand and graceful entrances.
Chateau Vincennes. The day we went we were blown about and rained on, which meant no walking through the gardens which was a shame because they were highly recommended to see. I think the appeal of the castle itself is to historians and to little children who love to run about imagining themselves as knights or princesses. Alas, the better idea would have been to go on one of the day trips we abandoned, but we have no time to waste fretting over it.
A little restaurant in the 11e…. Le Chemise. So good we went back a second time. I adore the waiter who looks like Johnny Depp….the two on either side of him are the owners. While the chef (on the left) is in the kitchen the other two move about as if they were dancers. Back and forth from kitchen to table. As if choreographed, lifting plates high or low in order to pass one another within the confines of their small dining room. We witnessed some very fancy footwork as they managed to avoid colliding.
Cuttlefish – a first for me and absolutely delicious!
We dined twice at Metropolitain in the 4e – a favorite of our friend, Anne-Lise. Once early on, and now at the end, for our anniversary. That night we dressed up a bit as you can see by Tom’s very French foulard!
Charming in every way, including the two waiters who make everyone welcome. The space is even smaller than Le Chemise. The food is excellent. Be forewarned if you go that the loo is downstairs via a spiral staircase so small you feel like you are a corkscrew as you descend. We originally thought about a grander place to celebrate, but changed our minds. At this point in the trip we realized were eating really good food without having to pay grand prices and we were quite happy doing so…perhaps I was still harboring my desire for that fabulous handbag at Bon Marchè? Perhaps.
The magical dessert Tom ordered is presented in a shallow white bowl with a sphere of chocolate resting in the center. It begs to be cracked open, but patience is the key here. The waiter has in his other hand a small pitcher of hot chocolate syrup which he pours slowly over the chocolate shell, melting it away. The reward: a scoop of ice cream in a pool of warm velvety chocolate…..now you can reach for your spoon!
I danced in Montmartre! When we got off the funicular that takes you to the top of the hill and right to the steps of Sacre Coeur a man was playing a violin and another danced gracefully by himself. He looked up at me and smiled, motioned for me to join him which I did! Tom remarked later he may have been “a plant” and was in cahoots with the violin player…… I preferred not to think of it that way at all… he had a wonderful smile and was such a gentleman, smartly dressed in his summer linen jacket. A sheer delight and yet another unexpected Paris surprise.
We ended the day by joining Terrence Galenter for a Bordeaux wine tasting – a small gathering of expats and Parisians at an apartment in Montmartre.
La Fondation Pierre Bergé … in tribute to the legacy of Yves Saint Laurent. A unique heritage of 5,000 garments and 15,000 Haute Couture accessories, 50,000 drawings and related objects preserved in museum condition, which you can only see if you are a Benefactor of the Fondation. We had seen this poster in a métro station advertising a special exhibition. “Yves Saint Laurent 1971: The Scandal Collection”. Fun to see the clothes and sketches but I wanted more….I wanted to go into the archives to see more of his creations…. this was merely a snippet, a glimpse of his contribution to fashion.
We walked Avenue Montaigne, passing the doorways to famous haute couture shops….
I walked boldly into Marni to look more closely at a dress I could see as I peered in from the street….so lovely. A feathery light sheer printed fabric, perfect to float about in at a garden party. On the racks a few pieces in a color listed as “Giada”, which I will describe to you as pistachio mixed with a dollop of cream…..sumptuous.
When I decided on a whim to go into the store and abruptly headed for the door I heard Tom say in a low voice “please don’t go in there….” but in I went. The sales lady greeted me most kindly, knowing I’m sure and not minding at all that I was there just to look. Tom was most relieved when I reappeared without a shopping bag! I suggested he recover over a glass of champagne at the Plaza Athénée – we wanted to go anyway to toast his father who had stayed there routinely many years ago on business trips when he worked for Armstrong. Whatever that champagne cost was less than the dress, Tom didn’t bat an eye when he signed the check.
The Plaza Athénée
Unlike some other hotels recently unveiled after the owners, architects and designers almost strip them of their character, this hotel (we only saw the main floor so cannot speak to the sleeping rooms) is lovely after major renovations, but not at all the same, except for the exterior, as when Moose stayed there (to explain. His given name was Maurice and he was Tom’s father. “Moose” was the nickname given to him by his college football team…rather humorous for the slender 6 foot 2 inch gentleman he was. His given name was Maurice!) Long after his college days he was always known as Moose, by his wife and friends, and even when he sat at the head of the table as Chairman of the Board of Armstrong Industries). I was sad to miss seeing the Plaza Athénée as he did. We sat on the terrace because it was a lovely day. I think if the hotel was the same today as when Moose was there I would have chosen to sit inside – rather like sharing it with him. The staff at Plaza Athénée was so welcoming and gracious as we told them about Moose having stayed at their hotel many many times. We were taken on a tour of the main floor and even invited to see a sleeping room if we wanted. Perhaps we should have but Champagne was calling.
I was struck several times during our stay in Paris by how we were treated by everyone we encountered. Not that I anticipated it would be any different…..it did not matter where we went people made it a lovely experience. Okay, well there was this one tiny restaurant…..very old. So charming and “authentic” from the exterior, Tom insisted we try it. We never seemed to pass by when it was open, but one day we were looking for a place to have lunch and headed there. If it was closed we would go elsewhere. It was open, as soon as we went in we realized the quaint authenticity changed to just old. A fussbol table. Old photographs and posters hanging higgledy piggledy on the wall, most at the very top near the ceiling. The tables and booths were vintage in that they were original, I’m sure, hence no “design cred” and not a trace of “French style” that we who are not French go on and on about …
The waitress was very pleasant but not altogether organized. My food was terrible. She apologized. It was her second day working there. Tom was ignoring all of this, absorbed in his “homemade” beef tartare. He had wanted to try it because he noticed in several restaurants it passed by us frequently on serving trays…. I thought what was on the plate in front of him looked like a mound of ground meat we see in the meat section of our grocery stores resting on styrofoam and neatly wrapped up in plastic, he swore it tasted good, I really wanted to move to another table.
I realize it is a huge leap from the Plaza Athénée to this small restaurant – but there is a connection. At the Plaza Athénée we were whisked about by gracious young polished professionals in elegant soft gray uniforms. Here, we were waited on by a young woman dressed casually in black slacks and a simple cotton blouse, she wore little makeup, intent on doing her job and making sure we were pleased with our lunch. I just can’t bring myself to reveal the name after what I have written about it. It’s not important. The waitress is the focus here. She had to divide herself between the various customers and also tend the bar. Every once in a while she would stop, stand up and push her hair back, checking off in her mind what she had to do next and then do it. She is one book end and the Plaza Athénée is the other…..Paris is in between.
We took a dinner cruise down the Seine … on the El Calife … Tom nudged and hinted for days, saying he had read good reviews and was certain it would be a fun evening. He was right, it was fun. Pleasant dining companions, good food and great scenery …. all a mere ten minute walk from our front door to the dock, far more pleasant than dashing about with the métro and a moonlight stroll back to our apartment.
Galeries Lafayette and its rooftop
It doesn’t show in this photograph, but on the day we went here this floor was a veritable beehive of activity. So many people it was extremely difficult to make my way to the elevators. The store has queues set up for the small designer boutiques and only allows a few people in at a time….at Chanel there was a very long line of ladies waiting to go through. Not my idea of shopping, I much prefer the smaller shops, but this was an experience. The rooftop was a welcome respite!
Time for lunch. Bistro Volnay is on our list of restaurants. It’s just around the corner, so off we go. What a find…. so lovely and the food was delicious. Tom liked our waiter because he wore mismatched tennis shoes. He also liked his lunch. A lot. Do put this restaurant on your list.
We said goodbye to Cyril.
Cyril Guernieri, owner of Galerie Rauchfeld a few steps from our apartment. Rachel (our “landlady”) had told us about Cyril and urged us to meet him. For some reason I concluded he was British. There had been no mention of his last name. “Cyril” sounded very British to me ….. Rachel is British…therefore… it was only when he gave me his business card that I learned my guess was way off. Alors, the first few times we passed the gallery it wasn’t open, we kept stopping to peer in the window at a bronze sculpture I loved.
Then one day we were able to introduce ourselves. We passed the gallery every day, waved if he had visitors, stopped in to say hello if he didn’t. We chatted about this and that, he recommended restaurants and things to see…. he made us feel like we were indeed neighbors. He had been so kind to us and we had grown so fond of him that I wanted to thank him in some way. We sorted out when we could see him before we had to leave and took him a bouquet of flowers – he was very surprised and very pleased. We saw him again during our last couple of days and he thanked us each time for the flowers. A small gesture from us really, he helped make our time in Paris even more special.
Cyril and me. We’re standing next to a sculpture by Rafael Barrios. Overnight the gallery was transformed into a white box with only pieces by Barrios. Each one is made of steel. They play with you….the color changes as you move around them. They are one piece but where they connect it appears one part of it is floating close to the next.
The poster on the left was on display throughout our neighborhood. For this one weekend all the art galleries in Saint Germain des Prés stayed open late. There are so many of them you lose count. Whether it was this event or any day we popped in, gallery owners or their staff were always happy to talk about their artists and answer questions. One night, there was a party in a very tiny gallery on our street. The space is so small….not much wider than the front door…. the party had to be held in the street! We enjoyed the sounds of our street. On this particular evening it was distant conversation and the clinking of glasses. In the daytime it might be the click of high-heels or the sound of roller wheels as someone pulls their suitcase along. Never loud really. Too narrow for buses or large vehicles, and the one-way direction kept it from being noisy.
When I began this page, I didn’t feel very inspired. If that is coming through in my writing perhaps it’s for two reasons. One, I’m back home writing at my desk and not at the table in the living room of the apartment. Two, I’m not in Paris. We fell into kind of a “slump” at the end I think. The Paris newsletters I get and my France Today magazine arrive and I will continue clipping articles for my travel file….. what I can’t sort out just now is what to do when I am here and my heart is in Paris. At the beginning we felt like we had a good length of time to just enjoy the city…. some mornings we did not leave the apartment all that early. After all, we had days and days and there was no need to rush about…..and the next thing we knew we were packing our suitcases. I did buy something blue. I searched for something red but didn’t find it. I have still not been to the Marché Puces. As I look out my window here the images of the lovely old buildings I saw from the window of our apartment on rue de Seine are still vivid and will always be with me. This image borrowed from MyLittleParis newsletter captures what is etched in my mind’s eye.
If you have not been to Paris, go. If you have been to Paris, then go again. Stay for as long as you can. You won’t be disappointed, you will discover wonderful surprises.
I did take a photo from the street of Tom standing in the window of our apartment. I meant for him to take one of me but we just forgot. I’m not sure if I want to add the photo of him in the window…. here, at the end….. but it’s too good to leave out.
I began this exercise to inspire me to write again. So it is I who am saying adieu….at least for now. I will return to Paris…soon. Then perhaps I will post a picture of me in the window.
June 7, 2015 § Leave a comment
The city is familiar now. We love our neighborhood. The lady in Carton now sells me baguettes with a wink and a smile. The gentleman who owns the Pharmacie close by is friendly and has been most helpful when we needed it. When we go now to pick up a few things he recognizes us and comes out from behind the counter to find what we’re looking for. The lady at the dry cleaners does not ask us to pay when we drop our clothes off. The other night after dinner in, I nudged Tom into going for a walk. It was 10:00 pm yet still light. We walked up a street we had not been on before, eventually coming to an intersection where some musicians were playing….as we got closer we could see a woman dancing. At first I thought she may have been passing by, but when the music stopped she took a little bow and stepped back to stand next to the trio. In less than a minute they began playing again, and out she came. A “woman of a certain age” (perhaps 75 or 80), she was dressed in a skirt with little bits of delicate fabric peeking out from the hem, topped by a long sweater. There were rings on her fingers and decorations in her hair. She wore more makeup than she needed. She moved to the music in a rather staccato fashion, repeating the same step over and over, then twirling around holding her skirt up a bit. When she turned in our direction I could see her eyes. They revealed a faded sparkle that she seemed to be holding onto. Perhaps she danced for the joy of it, perhaps she danced for the few coins she would get at the end of the night. Perhaps she was a good friend of someone in the trio…her expression seemed to me to be one of “It’s not the same now. For now this is what I can do”. I looked up into the sky, now dark, and at the cafés around us. Elsewhere in the world all kinds of things were going on. People getting up. Going to bed. In their offices. Picking up children from school. Paris is just Paris. One poignant moment after another. 🌾🌾🌾 I love the door to our apartment. It’s not a fancy door. There is a very simple handle high up on the left you can use to pull it shut when you leave. There is a small pull in the middle of the door – small in scale for the door size, mounted just where one would place a door knocker. I think that came later. The stairs are a lovely old wood and wind gracefully from the entrance. One or two pieces of the balustrade are loose. If you hold on to the rail as you go along there is a pleasing sound the loose ones make, perhaps to remind you to treat it gently. We went to Le Bon Marché, famous in Paris, and beyond I suppose, a fashion design mecca. It was actually a pleasant surprise. It is decidedly upscale, but not stuffy. A chance to see on a larger scale what you only see one or two of in fashion magazines. Not the beehive of tourists like Galeries Lafayette turned out to be where you could hardly make your way through the crowds of shoppers the day we went there. Tom went to Le Grand Epicerie, which is part of it, but in an adjacent building. This is only one image of the grand scale of product displays. While he ogles this “wall of chocolate”, olive oil and fois gras, I’m salivating over handbags of butter soft leather. I worked my way around to scarves and found a lovely one. I didn’t hesitate. It certainly cost less than the handbag I had my eye on! I made it up to the second floor but had to leave to meet Tom or else I might still be in there….. We agree to meet in the beautiful little park across the street from Bon Marché. Another surprise. From le Bon Marché we walked down rue Sevres where it changes to rue de Four. Take note ladies…. Lovely shops all along the way. Don’t skip the side streets. Some names you know and many you don’t. Time for lunch. We head to La Cigale Recamier…. We liked it so much the first time Tom insists we go back. I decide on the shrimp soufflé for lunch, which turned out to be incredibly wonderful, and a Grand Marnier soufflé for dessert! Tom stuck to his soufflé aux champignons and the Valhrona chocolate for dessert. I want to add here that we have eaten shrimp several times so far and they are sweet and succulent. They taste ever so much better than those we eat in the U.S.
We went back to the Philharmonie to a Daniel Barenboim concert. Just him and a piano on stage. Two Schubert concertos. The acoustics are remarkable. We were seated very high up and it was no different than sitting in the front row as far as the sound goes. To hear him play was indeed a pleasure. Getting to our seats was another story! We were top tier and I was so frightened as I made my way between those standing to let me pass and the chair backs on the next row that I was totally undone by the time I reached my seat. I felt as if I would topple onto the orchestra seats far below. I made myself concentrate on the beautiful surroundings. When Barenboim sat at the piano and began to play, the music floating through the air soothed my jangled nerves. We finally visited the Louvre…. we began walking through and decided the best approach was to pick what we really wanted to see and off we went. The same principal applies here as to walking the streets of Paris where it is impossible for me to just walk along because each window display draws my eye. (Something that makes Tom just a little crazy… a lot crazy actually, until he finally decided it was useless and now his reaction is “there she goes. C’est la vie“). So here we are in the Louvre. We keep losing each other. Or it’s “wow, look at this”. Glorious paintings and sculpture that take your breath away. It’s not our first visit but one forgets what a treasure trove it is. We decide to see Napoleon’s Apartments… Napoleon III.
Originally the apartments of the Minister of State, they were created for Achille Fould, four times minister of finance under Louis Napoleon, but he never lived there. They were first occupied by his successor, Count Alexandre Colonna-Walewski natural son of Napoleon I and his mistress, Maria Walewsi. The apartments were occupied by the Finance Ministry from 1872 to 1989. After 1989 they were opened to the public.
One jaw dropping room after another. They are now furnished with pieces that reflect the time or that belonged to a royal…. The bedroom of Charles X is simple, yet striking. Beautiful blue tapestries on the wall. It is arranged as bedrooms were, with chairs set about where members of his court would sit. Being in your bed, if you were a king, was quite a public affair. People all around. The public was allowed to just stream through. Le Grand Palais. Built for the 1900 Universal Exhibition. We went to see two exhibits – a John Paul Gaultier retrospective that everyone was raving about, and a smaller one about The Lumière family, pioneers in the development of photography and motion pictures …
John Paul Gaultier
Can Can Dress
Despite Edison’s work, the Lumiere Brothers are considered the true inventors of the motion picture and produced the first film shown to a public audience in 1894.
The exhibit includes this 30-foot high wall displaying thousands of motion pictures running simultaneously. The history of motion pictures is told in a fastinating documentary and through the display of equipment, sets and costumes that have played an important role in the advancement of the art.
We’ve had hits and misses. But mostly hits, which is really nice to be able to say. and I’m not ready to leave. Not ready at all.
May 28, 2015 § 2 Comments
It is now May 23rd…..
and as much as neither of us want to think about it, the calendar I’ve kept is a reminder that we have fewer days ahead of us as temporary Parisiens.
We have had oysters and white wine for breakfast at the Sunday morning market. Champagne and soufflés for an afternoon snack at Le Cigale Récamier. We have had more hits than misses. We have seen beautiful art as we walk down street after street of galleries. If we ventured in we’ve been met with a pleasant greeting, no expectation of a sale, a willingness to share details about a painting or the artist.
We ate dinner at Pièd au Fouet, a restaurant so small you could hardly turn around. I had the most remarkable profiteroles I’ve ever tasted at RUC across from the Palais Royal. We met up with Terrance Gelenter and his merry group of expats who gather every Sunday morning at Café de Flore. We relaxed in the sun by the fountain in Les Tuilleries. We have walked between five and eight miles every day. Tom has mastered getting around on Le Métro.
We went to Les Viaduct Des Arts in the 10e. The last two blocks we walked by ateliers who make and repair any musical instrument you can imagine. From violins to harmonicas to tubas and pianos – you can watch people work as you pass by. By re-purposing an old elevated train track a “green line” was put in its place. It is now a path lined with shrubs, trees and flowers. The arches below that supported the original track have been filled in with galleries now occupied by artists and artisans – furniture, sculpture, clothing, jewelry… a happy experience followed by a simple and delicious lunch at Au 105 La Renaissance owned by a charming gentleman from Algeria. A whole new meaning to the term “neighborhood bistro”… We arrived rather late for lunch, delighted to find we were the only English speaking guests. Others came and went. A few men who had been there for lunch left, then returned for their coffee, then moved to a table in the back to play a game of cards. The owner took off his apron and joined them, and did not mind at all when we had to interrupt him to ask for our check!
Talk about re-purposing…. I had read an article about the opening of a new Hermès store on rue de Sèvres. Once upon a time there was a grand piscine (swimming pool) in the Hotel Lutetia. Whether the idea came from an architect, or from their own creative staff, the conversion of a swimming pool into a retail store was something I had to see. The original Art Deco design has been preserved. So, if you were going for a swim, you would have opened the door and no doubt passed a reception desk and on to the pool itself. You entered above the water line…..now, when you go through the front door you enter below the water line
We discovered the Carrefour Odeon just yesterday. Less hustle and bustle. It leads you right to the Jardin Luxembourg and to the highlight of our day. We were lucky to find a vacant bench just inside the entrance next to a small meadow. Tom was napping in the sun so I decided to walk around a bit. Only a few steps from where we entered the park is the Jardin de Medici, an exquisite and lush garden with a statue and fountain at one end, swags of green and shade trees on either side that create a screen from the rest of the park. It is serene and magical. Today we returned for a picnic. What a treasure! We followed that with lunch at La Mediterranée…recommended by Cyril Guernieri, owner of Galerie Rauchfeld, and one of our “neighbors”… not only one of the loveliest restaurants I’ve ever been in, but also some of the best food we’ve had so far.
And here are a few photos to fill in the visual details ……
Le Cigale Récamier
Au Piéd de Fouet
Café de Flore
Terrance Gelenter and friends
We decided to stay and have lunch which I topped off with coffee ice cream…
The fountain in Les Tuilleries
Les Viaduct Des Arts
To to show you the exterior and interior of what a gallery between the arches looks like.
Where you can have a fancy metal balustrade made like this one. Then a workshop where umbrellas are made. Hanging along the back are the “ribs” waiting for their covers.
As as you walk on the green line there are lovely modern apartment buildings on one side and the classical style on the other.
Au 105 La Renaissance
When Tom has a good meal all is right with the world…
Le Jardin Medici
May 21, 2015 § Leave a comment
David Bowie is has come to Paris after opening to record crowds in London. The venue is Philharmonie 1 at Cité de la Musique – think Kennedy Center in Washington DC or Lincoln Center in Manhattan. The dramatic architectural design is a stunning backdrop for performances and music education for all ages.
A state-of-the-art multi-media assault on almost all of the senses which turns out to be exactly what’s needed to present the diversity of David Bowie’s talents. The sound portion of the experience was developed by Sennheiser. Everyone wears a pair of Sennheiser earphones which have been equipped with sensors to play the audio associated with your current location in the exhibit and, of course, the sound is spectacular.
If you’re a David Bowie fan you may already know this but, David Bowie was born David Jones. When his career started to take off he changed his name to avoid the being confused with Davey Jones, the then-popular singer in The Monkeys. He chose the stage name Bowie for the American pioneer Jim Bowie, an association with the pioneer spirit he displayed throughout his career.
We were familiar with his music and one of his persona, Ziggy Stardust, but it turns out that’s just the tip of the iceberg. He has had many other persona, has appeared in more than a dozen feature films, is an accomplished mime and a rather good painter.
We spent over two hours in the exhibit without realizing so much time had passed. Well worth it!.
I tried to strike a similar pose. As you can see that didn’t work, perhaps because I wasn’t wearing something a bit more edgy and “feeling the vibe!”
May 21, 2015 § Leave a comment
The Galerie-musée Baccarat occupies a magnificent old home on Place des Etats-Unis
Sitting in this room where we watched a video of the glass blowers at work was like sitting in a jewel box! Some of the patterns and pieces in the museum exhibit have graced the tables of Royal families, Russian Czars and other dignitaries. They are still made if you can afford them. One glass we saw from a pattern produced for a Sultan would cost over 25,ooo euros today.
Of the more than 600 employees, only a few are designated as master artists for glass blowing and allowed to work on the more complicated designs. We watched a video of a glass blower working with the liquid glass but you really can’t grasp what you are seeing – watching the liquid glass be shaped and formed is fascinating.
May 20, 2015 § Leave a comment
Paris is the unexpected.
In the window of an art gallery is a display of ancient sculptures. Off to one side is the capital from an old column….three pomegranates are scattered across the top.
A lady dressed in all black, glides by on her black motorcycle – mais elle chausseures est rose! Her red leather ankle boots with 3 inch heels are what catch my eye.
The Longchamps travel tote carried by women when traveling, while useful, never appealed to me enough to buy one. The other day I see a woman is carrying a red one. All of a sudden it has a new spirit, this rather utilitarian piece.
I’m standing in line at the grocery store and a couple walk in, he with a day’s growth of beard, in jeans and casual. She with her hair coiffed and a fancy barrette holding back one side, bright red lipstick, a floral print dress and shimmery gold shoes. She walks next to him in a rather timid manner. What is their story I wonder.
Les Heures Bleu... Paris is blue. Perhaps in winter it is another color. But for now, in the month of May, it is blue. Indigo. A deep navy blue. In French, “bleu marine”. Pour les dames est les hommes. The lovely bright but rich summer shade of blue I only see here – for the clothes and accessories meant to travel to the South of France and the Mediterranean. A scarf, a shoe, a handbag. It is seductive and I want some in my closet – a few blocks away is Escales, a shop that is a blue and white heaven. Fait accompli!
The color shows up in other ways. In the daytime the sky is a powder blue. At night, before turning into the deep dark night sky, for a time it is a luxurious shade of blue…. it almost glows. If you could touch it I think it would feel like silk velvet.
I discovered an old Frommers guide in our apartment. Excerpts….
“…Paris. Few words can evoke more emotion and promise than this one.
…It is here that you can best contemplate what it is you want from life.
…There is the visit , and there is the return, the tiny thrill of re-connecting with the person you were in Paris. The person in you that you like best and can’t always be.
…It simply is inexhaustible in its ability to charm, to seduce, to please, and to invite you to search deeper and with more intensity.”
We’ve just been to see “David Bowie is”, an exhibition traveling the globe, now in Paris at the Philharmonie. About writing songs and where his inspirations and ideas come from, he says “…all these influences had an affect on me and I put them into my memory bank.”
Paris is in my memory bank.
Meeting a starving artist…really…seated at the table next to ours while we’re having lunch. He introduces himself, ” my name is Louis, like the King”, asks if his smoking will bother us. Apologizes for his poor English, which is actually rather good. We talk about this and that. He finishes his coffee and gets up to leave, asks if we would like to see his art exhibition at a gallery a short distance away. We agree to come after we finish lunch…. I’m not sure whether he thought we would really come. I think there might have been a small hope we would buy a painting…..when we arrive he introduces us to the gallery owner, gives us a tour and explanation of his work, which he describes as “uncomfortable”. And it is, until you listen to the story behind each piece. Well, okay, it still is…. He previously worked in the theater as a dancer and singer but something was missing, wanted to express himself in a deeper and different way, put all his money into his painting, and lives simply in a 10 square meter apartment on the 8th floor of a building with no elevator. One day recently he got a phone call – someone had seen his work and recommended it to this gallery. Louis was thrilled. One piece sold right away so he now has money to buy better brushes and paint…..We wish him great success and leave empty handed but for the unexpected encounter.
How to turn a day around……..we set out to visit the Fondation Louis Vuitton that just opened in the Bois de Bologne. After trying in vain to secure tickets on line, we decided to purchase them there. We arrive, taking pictures of the building as we make our way to the entrance. To our surprise there were hundreds of people in a queue who were also there to buy tickets! We decided to save it for another day. On the way out we notice a small sign pointing where to enter if you purchased your tickets on line. Since there was no one in it perhaps we were not the only ones defeated by the web site. So what to do? Eat, of course. We had passed “Sequoia” as we headed to the museum. Tom said he saw food that looked good and we should have lunch. He was cold having worn only a light sweater and was determined. I was a bit skeptical since it is right in the path of people coming and going to the museum which can sometimes mean “captive audience, no effort required”. But then the restaurant has been there far longer than the museum……in we go. Great lunch.
With no plan about what we would do next we pull out my list to check for possibilities and head to The Baccarat Museum which turns out to be well worth the visit. Some of the pieces are so delicate and the patterns so elaborate …. one room has a table filled with designs created over generations for royalty. In one pattern there is a glass that passes through the hands of 15 people before it is declared finis!
Do you happen to know how red crystal is created? Very interesting….you mix 24 carat gold powder with liquid glass, heat the glass to 540 degrees centigrade, and it turns red. The exact process was developed in 1847 and remains a closely guarded secret. Any other colors are achieved by adding metallic oxides to liquid glass.
Feeling much better about the day we walk toward the Champs Élysées and Tom notices a sign for an exhibition devoted to Jeanne Lanvin, a woman who began her career making hats and went on to create one of the most famous couture houses in Paris. The display of dresses and gowns is breathtaking.
As we pass the Hotel George Cinq, we decide to go in and have a drink in the bar. I remember coming here with my parents and little brother in the early 1950s. There was a television in the bar that we would watch. No more television, but the bar is still in the same spot. Tom and I stayed here for the millennium celebration in 1999. The hotel budget for flowers has to be astronomical….here is a glimpse of what we encountered this day. Peonies in the most amazing color. In the courtyard are purple orchids. These pictures should stop you in your tracks!
Oh dear, cocktails or tea….what to choose….. We chose tea and I ate enough clotted cream to frost a three layer cake!
From my cushy chair I could watch people come and go – we needn’t have worried about how we were dressed. It was all over the map! From grand dames to the rock staresque to a swarthy group who looked like they could be a swat team to sweat pants (even with a designer bag, really?) ….all against the backdrop of flowers and grandeur.
So that is how you turn a day around if you happen to be in Paris…..
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May 19, 2015 § 2 Comments
Just a few blocks from the Galerie-musée Baccarat is the Musée Brignole-Galliera where we saw the Jeanne Lanvin exhibition. There were so many beautiful gowns on display but the lighting did not allow us to capture well on camera. All but the ivory gown you see here are very early pieces from her collection. They were beautiful for their time but very simple looking styles for today….the later designs are breathtakingly beautiful and I would love to be able to show them all so you could see.
Madame was known for her overstitching which transformed fabrics into works of art. She used the most delicate silks and luxurious satin. There is a gold coat in the exhibition that is so extraordinary – yards and yards of overstitching – perhaps you can find the image on line. Not only were her designs feminine, I think when a woman put on a Lanvin gown she would have been completely comfortable because it hung or draped so perfectly on her body. And she would have certainly felt very beautiful.
Women of all ages were at the exhibition. Students sketching. Older women pausing for long periods of time….made me wonder if perhaps they were thinking of their younger days and the evenings they wore beautiful gowns….