Sunday in Paris
Hello, before I tell you about our day today, I have to add some random tidbits I forgot to mention.
MacDonald’s has gone organic with children’s Happy Meals to attract parents back.
Oh, a correction- only French churches built before 1880 face east and west, so you have to know how old the church is before you can confidently point north!
Street art in Paris include plastic sculptures of breasts. Here is a description that explains the small plaster breasts, decorated in many different ways, that I saw high up on buildings. “French street artist Intra Larue started casting plaster sculptures from her breasts as a joke. Our society has rendered the female breast in such a light that outside of a sexual context it is… well, a bit uncomfortable, bizarre, taboo. And yet, as a part of the female anatomy, it’s as normal as the next thing. Well aware of the taboos, Intra Larue takes to the streets with her delicate yet provocative, forward-thinking works.
Intra Larue’s process is a meditation on fragility, freedom, and color. She draws on inspiration from her quotidian—old typography books, Art nouveau, and fingernails—but revels most in finding the right corners for her work, for which she has curated an eye. Boulevards are out, as are most low spaces, so she climbs— rubbish bins, poles, pipes, ladders—anything to allow the sculptures to be seen and not touched. Placement is paramount, and for that she is attentive to avoid school grounds and religious buildings.”
You can see some of her “breasts” at http://streetartparis.fr/intra-larue-installs-her-painted-breast-art-streets-paris/.
When we were in the Marais yesterday, Caroline told us that French police are guarding Jewish schools and synagogues because of the ISIS threat.
Now on to today’s adventure. It began with a metro trip to the open air market at Richard Lenoir, which is open six days a week all year round. There are huge displays of fresh fruits and vegetables and flowers that extend the length of two streets. Behind them, in the buildings you can buy any type of cheese, fresh fish, fresh meat, fresh chickens or ducks. Because it was in season, and the season is very short, Caroline wanted us to try mirabelles, which are very small yellow fruits in the plum family and one of her favorite fruits. I had two and wasn’t impressed- they seemed somewhat mealy and had a strange tartness. Lenore bought some strawberries which were delicious.
Unfortunately, we had just had a large breakfast and I wasn’t hungry. I wasn’t interested in tasting the fruits or purchasing an almond croissant that Caroline said was delicious. I believe her and on another day I would have jumped at the chance.
After the market, we boarded a bus to go to the Orsay Museum, which claims the largest collection of Impressionist paintings in the world. There was a little difficulty getting a bus because the first Sunday of the month some of the streets are closed to traffic. While we waited for the bus, we watched a small procession across the street that involved the French flag, men in dark suits and two men in white military uniforms with a drum and a trump. We’re not sure what that was about.
I chatted with Sue and Sally about what we admire with the French. We’d happily take their political system, mentioned in an earlier message, their college system (Caroline got 2 Masters degrees, one after the other, and her entire schooling only cost her 800 Euros because the government provides stipends to those who qualify) and their health care system. We also like their attitude toward food. They do not count calories at all, yet they eat cheese, drink wine, eat croissants and still manage to be slim and chic (greatly due to the fact that they walk or bicycle many places).
We weren’t that interested in the tiny apartments, at least in Paris. (Caroline said that most are furnished with a focus piece of furniture and the rest is from Ikea!).
There are no screens on the windows- and Sue, who lived here for a while, said there were no insect problems. In the south there are mosquitoes and still no screens on the windows. And most places lack any air conditioning, which given the heat and humidity was very unfortunate!
The Orsay Museum is located on the left bank of the Seine just opposite the Louvre. It is housed in a former Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898 and 1900. The museum holds mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1914, including paintings, sculptures, furniture, and photography. It houses the largest collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist masterpieces in the world, by painters including: Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cezanne, Seurat, Sisley, Gauguin and Van Gogh. It was opened to hold the overload of art from the Louvre as well as specially donated collections. You see information and the art it houses at <http://www.musee-orsay.fr/>
I saw exhibits of paintings by Van Gogh and Talouse-Lautrec, then room after room after room of paintings and sculptures by Rodin and Degas, as well as paintings by the other Impressionists already mentioned. It was a strange and incredible feeling to take photos of the paintings!!! I took many!
We had lunch in the most ornate restaurant in a museum that I have ever experienced. Just Google “photos of restaurant inside the Orsay Museum” and you will see photos of the restaurant and the museum. You will also see an enormous transparent clock through which you can get a great view of Paris!
Caroline helped me find a sweet children’s book in French for my granddaughter Isla. Then she showed us the ballroom in the museum! There used to be a very elite 400-room hotel within the train station replete with the exquisite restaurant and ballroom, which explains their existence. Train travel was never so gracious!
Caroline gave us each a beautiful and extensive visitor guide to the Orsay, inscribed with what I assume to be loving words in French and signed by her- a lovely and unexpected gift.
Our lunch was amazing and well up to the standard set by our lush surroundings. Chicken and spinach presented within a crisp sack on top of pureed yams. Absolutely delicious! It was topped off by a hot chocolate mousse cake that was so rich even I, chocoholic that I am, couldn’t finish it.
Well-fortified, we got on the metro to go to Montmartre, a neighborhood made famous by past artists- most of the Impressionists, as well as Picasso, and writers. An interesting bit of information about Picasso- he was very taken with African masks and they inspired the narrow strange faces he began to put on figures in his paintings and ultimately started the Cubist movement.
We went to Sacre Coeur, which is the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris. It is situated on the highest point in Paris and the view is spectacular. While almost all Catholic Churches are dedicated to Mary, Sacre Coeur is dedicated to the sacred heart of Jesus. It is a very ornate church with Roman and Byzantine architecture. There is statuary on the face of the church that includes two riding figures flanking Jesus. One of those figures is St. Joan of Arc, who is the patron saint of Paris. I think the other is Saint Denis, the patron saint of France, shown with his sword facing down so it looks like a cross- which indicates he is on a Crusade.
There is a perpetual service and prayer and when we were there we heard a lovely service that included very sweet singing by the nuns there. The stained glass windows, that extend from floor to ceiling, the rose windows, the murals and paintings were breathtaking. Unfortunately, out of respect, no photos were allowed. You can learn more about the church and see pictures of it, both inside and out, as well as the view of Paris at http://www.sacre-coeur-montmartre.com/english/#_=_
Oh, I forgot to mention that there are many many steps up to the Basilica- or you can take the funicular. Some walked and some rode (I was among the latter).
The building looks very white and clean- due to the fact that the stone used to build it gets whiter and whiter when it rains!
To get to the square below the Basilica from which you can walk or take the funicular, we passed the Street of the Martyr. Caroline told us the story of St. Denis. During Roman times, the Emperor wanted all of his subjects to worship him. St. Denis refused, was brought up to the top of the hill, roped onto a cross and then was decapitated. Legend has it that Denis climbed down from the cross, picked up his head and started down the hill. When he noticed all the blood, he washed it off and continued his progress. When he got near the bottom of the hill, a member of his congregation asked him what had happened to him- and Denis died on the spot. She buried him there and the next day golden wheat grew on the spot. A basilica was erected there and French kings and queens were buried there. However, during the revolution, the people felt that royals should be treated the same as regular people- so they dug up all of the bones, played soccer with King Henry’s head, dumped all of the bones into a pit. All of the kings since the revolution have been buried there.
After this inspiring visit, we walked down the hill to the Place du Tertre, which is a square in the heart of the Montmartre quarter where painters and caricaturists both paint and sell their paintings. I definitely saw a number I would have loved to purchase!
Caroline gave us stories about the different Impressionists who lived in Montmartre, most of whom adopted a bohemian life- meaning they were not that interested in selling their painting, they just wanted a happy life. Most of them died poor and were only recognized after their deaths.
The exception wasTolouse-Latrec, who was very rich and supported the others so they would like him. He also spent a lot of time at the Moulin Rouge enjoying the favors of women who “danced” there and painting signs about their shows.
I realize I’m not giving much information about the Impressionist and Post-impressionist painters, despite Caroline’s wonderful stories and photos of the artists, their homes and their inspirations. I’m tired!
I do have to tell you one more thing. We met a famous street artist whose name is Gregos. He casts his face with different expressions and places them on the sides of buildings. You really need to go to http://www.gregosart.com/ to see what I’m talking about. The idea is to have his face “interacting” with the people who view it- and he takes photos often of that interaction. For example, he took a photo of Caroline kissing one of his faces and posted it on his Facebook site. While Caroline was taking a photo of all of us pretending to interact with another one of his faces, he apparently came behind her and took a photo as well. She’s going to check to see if he posts that one!
He is getting to be very famous and has 1000’s of faces through France as well as other countries, including the US!
Our adventures ended with a metro ride back to the bottom of the long hill on which our hotel sits. During the ride, two men came into our car- one with a beat box and one with an accordion. They rapped and then one of the men held onto two poles and did a number of fast flips, ending upside down and hurtling toward the floor to stop before his head hit the ground. I was going to take some photos, but Caroline warned me that they would want money. They weren’t that successful getting money from the crowd in our car, so when we left, they moved to another car.
We slogged back up the hill and here I am. Now I need to pack up, because we leave at 8 am tomorrow morning to go to Giverny to see Claude Monet’s beautiful gardens, among other things.