Paris Through a Window by Marc Chagall, 1913, by way of A.M.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Feb 27

Marta and Fred are in the airport -- they took the nail scissors I've had since London 1987, but apart from that all goes well and on schedule. We'll be boarding in about an hour, and we've both decided that if you're traveling Air France, as we are, that France lasts until landing.

Friday, February 26, 2010


It aint over til it's over. 

I'll give you the punch line and then backtrack – we're still in Paris, or sort of.

We arrived at the airport – perfect citizens – a few hours in advance – only to be told that our flight had JUST been canceled because of NYC weather. 

After several hours of traipsing around Charles de Gaulle airport on free but inefficient airport shuttles, we have arrived in the cheapest airport hotel to be found – I was a little dispirited – after all, I'd already said my good-byes to Paris, and they had been hard good-byes. One friend a few weeks ago back in New York, when she heard we were going to Paris, said, “I cried when I left Paris.” Well, so did I. But don't tell anyone. 

But I have to say that when we finally found our hotel (it turned out there were 2 others “on campus” with the same name, hence the confusion although everyone acted as if this confusion had never happened before and again just shrugged their shoulders as they did at the bank last week. France is great at some things, and not so good at the customer service thing. 

Anyway, once we stepped into our room (or even before, starting with the lobby and the friendly, amply endowed receptionist) we felt happier. Our room – with its large double bed and its real bathroom suddenly looked like high high luxury – there is even a flat screen TV and free WiFi. Although we really loved our little Parisian pad, it was a squeeze and now that we have re-entered normal Western life, a bathroom you can swing a mouse in feels fabulous – like we've been camping for a couple of weeks. 

But before the punchline, before we found out we'd be spending an extra night in France, we did a few things that you  haven't heard about yet. I don't know if anyone is still here, but I'll mention a few things.

Yesterday we went to the local pharmacy to take a picture of Thiery and Lucienne only to find out that he had left for a week's vacation in the States. This made me very sad, that we had missed him, but today we went back and left him a note and I hope we shall hear from him again.

Yesterday, thinking it was my last day in Paris, which it really was, I began by going to the Louvre, feeling now very at home there after Fred's quick intro the day before. I knew where to go to the bathroom without paying, where to hang my coat, the fastest way to get a ticket. I went straight up to see Rembrandt, and found him way up on the top floor off in a corner gallery. I looked mostly at several of his self-portraits.

It's interesting. I've been reading about how when the Impressionists were still unrecognized how much trouble they had with the French academy who set the standards of good painting. The Impressionists wanted to paint scenes from everyday life and this was completely unacceptable by French standards. But you look at Dutch painting from the 1600's and there is plenty of real life there. 

I only stayed long enough to enjoy the Rembrandts and two Vermeers and thought I'd better leave before Louvre Fatigue set in. I found my way back down to the street on escalators that gave me vertigo and then went on the hunt for Jenn's chocolate shop across the river on the Left Bank, a very enjoyable walk. It was the only real rain of our stay and I picked up a couple of plastic bags from a souvenir shop to protect my camera.

View from a window high up in the Louvre -- see my Eiffel Tower in the misty distance? 

Bought the chocolate and realized I was just a few steps away from the coffee shop Les Deux Magots which has so much history that I thought I'd better sit there for awhile to rest up a bit, plot my next move, and say I've stepped on the holy ground. 

I drank a lovely hot chocolate and took pictures of people passing on the sidewalk and watched a drama going on between the waiters of the place and a man outside who wanted to bum coins from the customers. The waiters were a snooty lot so I stole a menu and called it even.

Off to the Edward Munch exhibition in a new gallery near the Madeleine over on the Right Bank – a wonderful extensive exhibition that really showed how Munch tried many things – painting, drawing, engraving – I took many pictures there – though this time the crowd was thick. The only time there were too many people for the space provided. 

This one hit me the hardest, "Nude Crying"

And then it was time to go meet Fred back at the house – but on my way to the Metro station my eyes fell upon the Tuileries, the palacial gardens I had not yet step foot in. The sun was just beginning to go down, the rain had stopped hours ago and it was warm and Springlike, and my last night in Paris. 

So I sent Fred a mental text, saying I would be late, and walked languidly through the gardens, watching Parisians enjoy the fountains and the space and the evening light too. I walked along the Seine until it was almost dark and then came home.

The Tuileries

French Dogs Meeting Up

Fred and I chose the most typical French brasserie in our own neighborhood for a wonderful very French dinner, and then we took off for the Eifel Tower – pictures of which you have seen.

I wanted to show you pictures of the carousel that we rode -- bright lights at the foot of the Eiffel straight out of Fellini, and of course more photos of this and that, but there must be alot of people in this hotel on the WiFi because the pictures at this point are taking FOREVER to load, so I will sign off and Fred will get online and check what's going on with Health Care Reform. I am so sorry about David Patterson's announcement today.

Over and out. For now. love, m

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Feb 25


It's midnight and we begin to pack.


We are sad.

And happy.

And sad.

I leave you with a few photos of tonight.

a bientot,

Feb 24

Ok gang, Thursday morning – hate to say these words but it's our last full day. I am waiting while Fred takes a shower, then my turn, then out we run. I didn't write yesterday, so I'll catch up & be on my way.

When we left off the camera was battery-less, but I had made contact with a photographer blogger living somewhere in Paris with whom I exchanged a nice flurry of midnight emails about where to go for new battery. That's where I headed first thing yesterday while Fred headed back to the Louvre. 

I threaded my way through the smallest streets I could find – the photography shops were just about a 10-minute walk from our little place – and succeeded in finding not someone who would cheerfully re-charge my battery for me, but someone who would cheerfully sell me a re-charger, which means I now have a Canon battery re-charger with a plug that works in France which must mean I'll be coming back to Paris many times.

I came back to the pad, this time without consulting the map which made me feel like an old-timer, plugged in said charger and pondered. Do I hang around the neighborhood, waiting for the recharge or just take off? I took off. Fred & I had a plan to meet at 3 at the Louvre, though plans are tricky things without cell phones.

I wanted to go back up to Montmartre. I've been reading a book called “The Private Lives of the Impressionists” and Montmartre often comes up for where they lived and/or had studios. So I wanted to see it. 

It's far away, further than I'd realized. One mistake and 4 metro trains later I emerged – I hardly had any time b/c of the Fred plan, so I raced through Montmartre and its little museum. But I was so glad to be there and get at least a tiny feel for the place, its steep slopes and the way it overlooks the spread of the city. I kind of felt like it was the Woodstock of Paris, a place apart from but close to the city, a place for artists. I hope to return there.

20 minutes late, but found Fred in the Starbucks of the “Carousel” underneath the Louvre and underneath the glass pyramid – an underground world of shops, much of it lit by the glass pyramid above. I wanted to see the paintings that Fred had found especially moving. He said they had been the highpoint of what he'd seen in Paris so I wanted to see, mostly so I would know what moved him, not necessarily because I expected to have the same experience. Plus I wanted an introduction to the Louvre that everyone says is so overwhelming. Some people even told me to skip it all together.

So up and through we went, big light airy galleries. People, but not impassable by any means. I saw the Mona Lisa today. It was yesterday, but I had hoped to begin this entry with that sentence: I saw the Mona Lisa today. It's quite an event. It's hard to look at it as a piece of art – for me it was just such a big occasion to see the painting I'd been familiar with pretty much all my life. And yesterday was the day I saw it. Again, maybe about 3 rows of people in front of me, but not a madhouse by any means. 

Fred and I looked at Italian painting. He showed me the Titian he loved, and the Andrea Del Sarto paintings, and one other Leonardo. And we looked at Raphaels and some Botticelli. My favorite was an Andrea Del Sarto one where everyone looks like a real person with real concerns – the Virgin Mary looked like she had real problems to overcome, Elizabeth looked like an older woman. 

We weren't there very long, but Louvre Fatigue began to creep over me, so we didn't prolong things. We headed home and then back out, this time to Chez Omar, a well known couscous restaurant just a block or two from where we live. A lively place and the food was really good

 – and then to wrap up our evening we Metro'd over to the Opera and Place Vendome, just to look, hoping maybe that the English bookstore on Rue de Rivoli would be open but it wasn't, and besides its window was full of books about money and business and economy so I feel no compunction to return.

Today, I may return to see the Rembrandts at the Louvre. I have to go get Jenn's chocolate. And I want to photograph Thiery and Lucien at the pharmacy. Otherwise, I shall wander most likely – so great to have the camera back in operation. I felt blind without it. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Feb 23

Mes amis, 

Mon dieu, it is evening, or later than that really. We are home after a long day. Fred is munching on things and looking (probably) at one of his new books Рwe hit another book store today and gorged ourselves РShakespeare & Co. I almost didn't go, thinking it a bit of a clich̩ Рif it were the original one where Hemingway used to go I'd have been there, but it's not the original....but we did go, at about 6 or so this evening and it's a great store. Made me want to open a bookstore (not for the first time) Рwhat a wonderful place for people who love books. A great collection of things, unpredictable, your hand just reaches out to check, and you automatically handle the book carefully because you might not buy it. I was thinking as I picked up one book and then another how a bookstore like this is really trusting you to take care of its wares Рand then I noticed how once I'd bought a book this evening, and it was mine, I opened it and luxuriously bent it back so the spine cracked. Such a nice feel, to know the book was mine...

Anyway, it's going to be a wordy night because – horrors of horrors – my camera battery died this afternoon. I've been holding my breath, praying it would last through the week – yes, I forgot my battery charger!!!! I will never ever ever forget my battery charger again! I went online tonight to try & find the right camera store to go to first thing tomorrow morning. I stumbled upon a blog written by a photographer living in Paris with suggestions of where to go – hopefully it will work out.  I also sent him/her an email with my particular plight, and maybe he/she will write back with a specific suggestion. 

I am drinking this wonderful soft drink we found in our local supermarket – Fred discovered their ginger ale when I was sick, but they also make this one called Elderflower which I am sampling for the first time tonight and it is delicious – like the smell of very light flowers or something. We need this back in New York.

So mostly today was me wandering and photographing – and then meeting up with Fred and then I told you about the bookstore – but then something even better happened. But before I tell you about that let me mention that I bought 2 books at Shakespeare & Co. -- one is photographs of Paris taken at different times in history so, if you really want to, you can go to places that still exist and book in hand see what they looked like a couple hundred years ago. The other book I got looks fascinating. It's by a guy who has a bookstore & it's all about the book business from the inside – very conversational it seems and full of personality. Anyway, I bought it right after I had the feeling I'd love to own a bookstore. 

Anyway, after the bookstore, we continued to wander. Within a block or two we came upon a small church. I thought, standing across the street, that maybe we'd peer in. Then I noticed a few people gathering at its entrance. Then I noticed the flyers pasted outside -- “Fred!” I said, “I think that's where the concert is!” We'd seen a flyer a few hours earlier about a piano recital – Chopin & Liszt – and had thought maybe...but we hadn't gotten as far as finding out where etc. But here it was, right before us, and the concert would begin in 20 minutes.

We bought our tickets & went in. I don't have the name of the church – it's printed somewhere in my bag – but it is billed as the oldest church in Paris. It was a beautiful church – small. Chairs set up. A Steinway up front. The church was stone, but across the narrow front was a beautiful dark wooden partition with icons – it was not a Catholic church – sort of Greek orthodox, but not. Fred told me what kind, but it was not familiar to me. It looked Greek orthodox, with hanging candles behind red glass. It was a very beautiful setting. 

And then the music began. The playing was incredible and the acoustics just made it exhilarating. The sound was full, like we were surrounded in it. And he played with absolute spirit. Wow. We were elated. We lingered after the concert. I'd say about 200 people had been there, maybe less. Fred and I lingered, the place emptied out. And then the pianist returned with 4 young boys who sat down in the front row and he returned to the piano a few feet away from them and played another piece – just off the cuff – so Fred and I received an encore to his encore. 

The whole beautiful concert felt like one of those little miracles.

And then we wandered some more through the Left Bank, still busy of course with people doing their evening things of drinking with friends and dates. The night was young. Eventually, we figured we'd better head back.

I am trying not to think of my waning days here. Trying, trying, trying. Yes, this place becomes more and more dear all the time. 

love, m

Monday, February 22, 2010

Feb 22

We begin the day almost always in our Metro stop. I look across and as usual am taken with just the people and the setting, and the way they are not conscious of the setting. 

Yesterday I picked up a new book, called something like "Paris on the Second Time Around." Of course, I do not qualify, but I am impatient by nature and I was ready to see what they suggest for the people who have already visited the things you visit during your first time in Paris. Written by two young women, it suggested a great-sounding lunch place near the Madeleine, in the posh part of town. We wanted to go in that direction to check the Paris equivalent of TKTS (cheap place for theater tickets), plus this was where the Edward Munch show is, plus we wanted to go to the L'Orangerie, a gallery that was once part of the palace of the Tuileries, sort of the partner palace to the Louvre. 

The Paris TKTS was closed & besides didn't seem to have anything we'd want anyway, and the lunch place was closed, but by now we were on a tiny street we never would have been on otherwise, and we went more or less next door, into what was clearly an unadorned neighborhood place. The food was unaffected and we liked it there alot.

I'm getting better at sneaking photos of people.

The Rue de Rivoli for all of you who know Paris. I figured you'd like to see how it was today...

The kind of painting I would paint if I could paint. A girl in the park.

We are going to wait on Edward Munch, we decide, and we head over to L'Orangerie, passing through the Tuileries. It is warmer today -- no need for hats and gloves. Feels almost like Spring.

Trouble with snatching photos is you can't be too fussy with light settings. At least I caught these 2 girls in the pose I wanted. They are standing in front of Monet's water lilies. 

Outside, a famous Parisian painter checks his map...

Then Fred goes his way, and I go mine. Mine is down Rue St. Honore, just to look and see what I find...

Pont Neuf, the oldest bridge in Paris

On our first day in Paris we had passed by Notre Dame. The line was a couple of blocks long so we kept going. Today there was no line, so I went in.

Gargoyles and moon...

And then I began to walk as the sun was dimming, through the Ile de la Cite and Ile St. Louis, two tiny islands in the Seine between the Right & Left banks. These two islands were the original Paris when no other part of Paris existed. So I was curious...

The Right Bank

The rushing waters of the Seine really moved me tonight...

It's about 6:30 now, everyone rushing home...

Good night!


It is Monday morning, but I shall write about Sunday, which was a day of art, and a wonderful one at that. In some ways, much of this trip feels like it is about visual art – painting especially – there is so much here that is very beautiful, moving and human – and there is the time to take it in, to go from one to the other, drinking it in. And with my camera I try to make small paintings. 

We began by heading up to Boulevard Haussman on the Metro, our sights set on Musee JacqueMart-Andre, a collection that an art-loving couple put together in the 1800's. The plan was to have some lunch first, but when we got up there – Sunday morning – Boulevard Haussman was deserted, every place shuttered. 

We did not panic. 

We approached the museum itself, clearly open for business, and were delighted to see that they offered a cafe that was open. We bought our tickets and entered, walking up a gravelled, curved short drive from the street into a walled inner courtyard. Around and in through the front doors and into the cafe – I was taken with it right away. It was full of chattering couples at small tables, the ceiling was very high, the walls covered with tapestries – there was color and light and it reminded me of the Palm Court at the Plaza – or my memory of the Palm Court anyway, which I haven't seen in almost 3 decades – but it had that instant feeling of luxury. 

The waitress hugely disappointed me when she said I was not allowed to take pictures. So I had to sneak a couple surreptitiously, holding my camera under the table and hitting the shutter randomly, hoping to get something that at least might give you a feel for the place.

I enjoyed roaming the house itself. The art did not call to me, but I liked the small but beautiful rooms and, as always, imagining how the people actually lived here, imagining them waking up in their bedrooms, looking out into the courtyard, sitting at their desk, or in front of the fire, sewing or writing. In one room though I was suddenly drawn to a small painting. It didn't look like any of the others. I had to see it. I looked closely. The light in it was unearthly. Ah. It was a Rembrandt. The name of the painting is: The Disciples of Emmaus. And then I looked at a portrait nearby, also by Rembrandt. I have never before caught on why Rembrandt is special – but yesterday I saw how the skin of his subject was rough and craggy, as if it were molded from clay – not from smooth marble the way the most common portraits of the time are done. His faces have much more real texture. And I felt a new door in art open to me. 

There were no photos allowed in place at all -- but I snuck these few from my favorite part, the "Jardin D'Hivers" -- the Winter Garden -- a place with a skylight where you could imagine them sitting in winter.

Met up with Fred again – we generally go our separate ways in museums and meet up later – jumped onto the Metro and went this time to Marmotain-Monet. This part of town was much more populated – ah, so THIS is where everyone is today, I thought. They are NOT on the Boulevard Haussman. The sidewalks were full, the cafes also. We walked through a wonderful park – kids playing soccer, roller skating, some on bikes. Little kids getting rides on donkeys and a small merry-go-round. All of it very low-key. The merry-go-round looked like it had been there for decades without an update. As the children went around, they each held a stick in their hands, reaching to grab with it a ring as they spun. 

The side of the Museum with poster

The art in this museum was wonderful – a great deal of Monet. One small Manet that particularly interested me since I've been reading his biography this week. It makes such a difference to know something of the artist. And I saw many paintings I liked very much from the early 20th century by painters I had not heard of before. I did not make note of their names, just took in the bright colors, the scenes, the wonderfulness of it all, imagined how great it would be to have a life where you could paint and look at what others were doing and go home and paint some more. 

It is Monday morning now and we have some more art ideas for the day – see you in a bit. Love, m