The Fire at Notre Dame

I had just arrived at the American Library when I was told there was a fire at the Cathedral of Notre Dame. I envisioned a small fire–not to worry about. I didn’t respond with much drama. We were walking on the sidewalk of rue General Camou in search of our two speakers for the evening. She stopped me and said ‘Look’. She had her iPhone in her hand and after a bit of a wait–it turned out everyone in Paris was on Wifi at that moment–showed me a photo of the fire at the back of the Cathedrale. NOT a small fire. As I often do at moments like that, I freeze a bit. I could tell by her face that she was very upset. I had yet to get there.

I was volunteering at an author event at the Library. I often get the job of greeting people as they walk in the door, asking them to sign in and showing them the donation box. All the events are open to the public and there is no charge. The library is completely dependent on donations so, with a big smile on my face, I ask them for their 10 euro donation. For a few minutes, I completely forgot about the drama taking place in the 4th arrondissement. Then I turned around and saw one of the other volunteers who was manning the drinks table in tears. She also had her phone in her hand. I walked over and she showed me a live BBC broadcast that she was watching. The fire had doubled in size in the 25 minutes since I’d been out walking to get our speakers. The 13th century spire was engulfed in flames.

I realize most of you know all of this already. I wanted to write about it but it’s not new news. This is my perspective on losing a friend. For two and a half years, I lived on the Quai des Grands Augustins. I had only to open my living room window, and look right and there was that magnificent lady that has/had stood there for over 800 years gracing Paris and being her symbol to the world. She had survived a Revolution and two World Wars. In the mornings, I could see the sun rising behind her and in the evenings, when the sun was setting over the Pont Neuf, the rays would bounce, red and purple, off the round stain glass window between the two towers. One afternoon, after a rain storm, I saw a double rainbow dome the towers. It was a magical moment. I have been to Christmas Eve mass there. I have walked up the left tower to see the gargoyles and the famous bell. The first time I took that walk I was 20 years old and a student at Lake Forest College. The last time was two years ago when my friend Barbara and I climbed it on what turned out to be one of the coldest days of the year. Never in my wildest imagination did I think I would ever lose her.

The Spire in flames and about to collapse

Then I moved to the 16th arrondissement in August of 2017. I don’t see Notre Dame on a daily basis anymore. Which makes her all the more stunning when I have to cross the parvis to get to the right bank or am standing on one of the bridges further down the river just gazing at her simple beauty and steadfastness. In history classes or in historical novels that sweep through the centuries, one reads about the destruction of a famous structure and then its rebuilding which takes over 200 hundred years. That will all be told in a couple of pages. As I walked home from the Library last night, I thought “I am part of history. I will never in my lifetime be able to climb the stairs in that tower or walk up the Quai behind Notre Dame, my favourite view, and see the flying buttresses holding up and holding down her flaring skirts.” Notre Dame will be rebuilt but I probably won’t see it.

Sara in 2016. My favorite view – coming up behind the Cathedral, seeing the Spire and the flying buttresses. Photo: Mike Weintraub

At home, I watched the news until it wasn’t news. As with all huge dramas, the newscasters start interviewing bystanders to get their reaction while showing the fire in a corner of the screen. When I went to bed, it wasn’t clear if any part of the Cathedral would be saved. The Fire Chief was optimistic. I had spent an hour responding, in very short sentences, to all my American friends who had written to me expressing their grief in general and their grief for me. I was extremely touched. Paris has become my home and my friends know that. One e-mail just said “So sad”. Another “I grieve with you”. They didn’t need to say more.

Watching the news at 10:30pm. The Spire is gone, the roof is gone. The Cathedral had started renovations which were badly needed and you can see the steel structure that had been holding the spire in place. The renovation was to take 20 years.

This morning, I didn’t want to get out of bed. I felt as if a great good friend had died and I was miserable. Bijou stood by my bed and cried and cried. She was hungry and didn’t care about something 3 kms away. So I was forced out of bed. After giving her her very favourite food, I got on the computer and learned that the main structure had been saved and some of the most valuable art work had been rescued. No one was injured or killed. Macron warned that little fires were still burning and they expected that for the next couple of days. I plan to walk down there this afternoon and pay my respects. I’m pretty sure that I am not at all prepared for what I’ll see. After the twin towers came down, I flew to New York. I wanted to make it real. Watching some news on TV is not so different from watching an action movie. I have to see it with my own eyes to know it happened and have my own private experience.

Photo: Julien Mattia/Le Pictorium
Crowds gather opposite the cathedral on the bank of the Seine to watch the fire
Photograph: Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images
The cathedral’s steeple collapses
Photograph: Geoffroy van der Hasselt/AFP/Getty Images
IF you’ve been to Paris, this one will make you cry. Flames and smoke are seen billowing from the roof at Notre-Dame Cathedral
Photograph: Veronique de Viguerie/Getty Images

I hope these photos are helpful for you to grasp what Paris, the citizens of Paris, the country went through last night. The country is already devastated by billions of euros loss because of the Gilets Jaunes protests. Now this. I believe Macron is hoping to appeal to the International world to raise funds to rebuild this beautiful Cathedral.

A bientôt,

Sara

London: Eurostar, Brexit and Theatre

Since March 4, the French Border Control have been “on strike” to protest the upcoming Brexit. Work was not stopped 100% but slowed down 90%. They feared much more work if Brexit actually happened saying they would have to treat UK citizens as any non-EU country therefore requiring more work, extended hours, etc. “The customs agents are demanding an increase in overnight pay, a danger allowance, and more staff and resources to help with greater controls that will be put in place once Britain breaks away from the European Union, currently scheduled in just over two weeks.” The Local/France. People traveling to London on the Eurostar were queued up four to six hours for the trains. By last week, when I was due to go to London, Eurostar had managed to organise the lines somewhat but also had to cancel three or four trains a day. So last Friday, I arrived at Gare du Nord, lengthy book in hand, ready to sit on the floor and wait whatever time it took to get through all the security, passport checking, etc. This process usually takes about 50-60 minutes in Paris and 30 minutes in London.

Passengers wait in front a British flag depiction near the entrance of the Eurostar terminal at the Gare du Nord railway station in Paris on March 15, 2019 a day after British MPs voted massively in favour of asking the EU to delay Brexit. – The British Parliament on March 14, 2019 voted by 412 in favour and 202 against on the government’s proposal — a rare respite for British Prime Minister following a chaotic week. (Photo by Philippe LOPEZ / AFP)

I arrived at Gare du Nord at 10am on Friday and…..voila, no queue at all. I had arrived 130 minutes early and it still took 90 minutes to get through all the hoops but so much better than 5 hours. People were calm, no big upsets, very accepting. Eurostar even held the train back 30 minutes to make sure that everyone ticketed for the train actually was on the train. Then everything ran smoothly as it usually does with Eurostar. I’ve heard interviews from tourists saying they will never take Eurostar again as if this was Eurostar’s fault. So sad. Eurostar did an amazing job of trying to manage an extremely difficult situation. Brexit has been extended three weeks so for a short time, things are back to normal.

Queue on the left wrapping around Gare du Nord before going up escalator to Eurostar

Saturday morning, I took the Northern line to Bond St. A huge protest against Brexit had been planned. Over a million people coming from all over the UK, met at Hyde Park, marched through Picadilly Circus and other tourists highlights and ended at Parliament. It was called “Put it to the People” march as these protestors and many more people vehemently want a second referendum. According to Reuters, it was the second largest protest since a march against the Iraq war in 2003.

Protesters taking a break.

Everywhere I went, I saw protesters. Little kids carried wonderful placards begging “No Exit”. I saw no violence, people seemed happy to live in a place that allowed freedom of speech–more and more a threat these days. The crowds were massive and one had to plan extra time to get anywhere. I didn’t mind, I’m a supporter of these people. Brexit, to my mind, is not only a stupid plan, but a dangerous one for a wonderful people. I love living so close to London. I love having the Eurostar available and to be able to jump over here for a long weekend of theatre and seeing friends. What will happen is as much a mystery to me as all the shenanigins going on in the US.

Jonty Graham with daughter PoppyAnna Stewart, CNNAnna Stewart, CNN

I’m in London to celebrate my friend, Barbara’s, birthday! For the first time in three years, I found tickets to HAMILTON and grabbed them immediately. We will see it tonight. We made a long weekend of it and Saturday night went to see a musical I had never heard of (I think I’m one of the few people in the world who hadn’t) called COME FROM AWAY. A lovely, uplifting, brilliant story of the friendships that grew out of the forced landings of thirty four planes in Gander, Newfoundland on Sept 11, 2001.

From humble beginnings at the La Jolla Playhouse in California in 2015, COME FROM AWAY has taken theatre goers in the US by storm, won a couple of awards along the way and arrived at the Phoenix Theatre in London in February after spending Christmas in Dublin. The writers Irene Sankoff and David Hein, a Canadian couple, decided to spend a month in Gander on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. A large percentage of the original people were celebrating in Gander the amazing kindness, friendship and love that were extended both ways during that week in September 2011. The writers experienced the same kindness, generosity and love that the 7000 people stranded in September 2001 experienced.

The characters in Come From Away are based on real people – including Beverley Bass, American Airlines’ first female captain (Credit: West End Production Photography)

Though it has been dubbed the 9/11 musical, Sankoff and Hein prefer to call it the 9/12 musical. Most of the passengers on the diverted planes were not allowed to leave the planes for 12-24 hours. Can you imagine being held on a plane not knowing what was going on, why you were in God knows Where and hearing all sorts of rumours. It’s about time these people were celebrated.

The people of Gander offered comfort, hospitality and friendship in a time of crisis (Credit: West End Production Photography)

At the end of the show, something happened that I have never before witnessed. The entire audience jumped to their feet, en masse, as if it had been pre-planned. They cheered and yelled for five minutes while all the musicians came on stage and played until finally everyone left the theatre.

If you live anywhere near a production of COME FROM AWAY: https://comefromaway.com I urge you to go see it. As a reviewer wisely said it is an uplifting story of art for our times. A celebration of the best of humankind. – Tim Teeman, The Daily Beast.

A bientôt,

Sara

Princess Diana

Is there anyone alive who doesn’t know that Princess Diana died in a horrendous auto accident entering a tunnel near the Pont de l’Alma?  It happened 21 years ago this past August.  Emerging from the Alma-Marceau metro and walking towards the bridge (Pont de l’Alma), you have to pass a large flame that to this day is always covered with flowers and photos of  Princess Di.

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Several times a week, I cross Pont de l’Alma coming from the American Library headed to the metro and home.  I’m often with someone else and I always ask, pointing at the site, “Do you know what that is?”  Usually I get back “A memorial to Princess Diana?” or “I’m not sure, what?”  Having come to Paris many times over the last 50 years, I knew that that monument had been there before Princess Di died.  But I didn’t know what it was.  So I asked someone.

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It is the flame that our Lady of Liberty, given to the US by the French, holds for all peoples, immigrants and others, to see as they enter the Port of New York.  “Erected in 1986, the 12 foot metal fire is a made of copper covered in actual gold leaf. Donated to the city by the International Herald Tribune, the flame officially commemorates not only the paper’s hundredth year of business as well as acting as a token of thanks to France itself for some restorative metalwork which the country had provided to the actual Statue of Liberty. Even with the air of global familiarity emanating from the sculpture like heat from a flame, the site has taken on a grimmer association in recent years.”   AtlasObscura.com

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Princess Dianna had her tragic accident just under the monument and not knowing where to express grief, people began putting flowers, photos and expressions of love at the base of the flame.  The younger generations have no idea why it was originally constructed.IMG_1983.jpg      Almost every day and, certainly on the anniversary of her death, something new is added.  I’ve passed the flame when flowers were six inches deep.  There is always a crowd around the Flame, always there for Diana and not Lady Liberty.  Today, many people think the Flame was built for Diana.IMG_1701 2.jpg

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Thirty-two years after the Flame was built, relations between France and the US are not very good.  President Trump has refused to meet with President Macron when he arrives in France Sunday to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the end of WWI.  Vigils are being planned for Saturday night and all day Sunday protesting Trump’s behaviour and the lack of liberty in the US at the moment.

The Flame now seems to represent tragedy.  On a smaller scale–that a Princess died underneath on the roads of Paris and on a much grander scale–Liberty being exchanged for Autocratic rule and Dictatorship.  Trite as it sounds, one can only hope that the flame of liberty never goes out and there is always hope.

A bientôt,

Sara

Le Musée Marmottan-Monet

People traveling to Paris always seem to have high on their list of “Must See” first the Eiffel Tower then The Louvre followed by the Musee d”Orsay.  If you were to ask them who their favourite French painter is, more than likely 60% or more of them would respond “Monet”.  So I have made it a project of mine to introduce Americans to the Musée Marmottan-Monet.

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It just happens to be about three blocks from where I live but that is only one of the reasons I love it.  In no particular order, I love it because 1–it is small and easily negotiable without getting overwhelmed or tired.  2– it has the largest collection of Monet paintings in the world 3–it has the largest collection of Berte Morrissot paintings and drawings and 4–it is a wonderful example of what an old hunting lodge turned town house looked like back in the days when this part of Paris was actually outside of Paris and men came in the Autumn to hunt.

The website of the Musée Marmottan has this to say about the history of the building and the permanent Collection.  “Former hunting lodge of Christophe Edmond Kellerman, Duke of Valmy, the Marmottan Monet Museum was bought in 1882 by Jules Marmottan. His son Paul settled in it, and had another hunting lodge built to house his private collection of art pieces and First Empire paintings.

Upon his death he bequeathed all his collections, his town house – which will become the Marmottan Monet Museum in 1934 – and the Boulogne Library’s historical rich historical archives to the French Academy of Fine Arts.

In 1957, the Marmottan Monet Museum received the private collection of Madame Victorine Donop de Monchy as a donation inherited from her father, Doctor Georges de Bellio, one of the first lovers’ of impressionism whose patients included Manet, Monet, Pissaro, Sisley, and Renoir.

In 1966, Michel Monet, the painter’s second son, bequeathed his property in Giverny to the French Academy of Fine Arts and his collection of paintings, inherited from his father, to the Marmottan Monet Museum. This donation endowed the Museum with the largest Claude Monet collection in the world. On this occasion, the academician architect and museum curator, Jacques Carlu, built a room inspired from the Grandes Décorations in the Tuilerie’s Orangerie to house the collection.

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The Denis and Annie Rouart Foundation was created in 1996 within the Marmottan Monet Museum, in compliance with the benefactress’ wishes. The Museum was hence enriched with prestigious works by Berthe Morisot, Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, and Henri Rouart.

In 1980, Daniel Wildstein gave the Museum the exceptional illumination collection put together by his father. Throughout the years, other major donations have come to enrich the Marmottan Monet Museum collections: Emile Bastien Lepage, Vincens Bourguereau, Henri Le Riche, Jean Paul Léon, André Billecocq, Gaston Schulmann, Florence Gould Foundation, Cila Dreyfus, and Thérèse Rouart.”

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As well as the extraordinary room downstairs that houses many of the Monet’s, the Museum has twice yearly exhibitions.  The one that is there from September 13, 2018–February 10, 2019 is called Private Collections: From Impressionism to the Fauves.  The entire exhibition is paintings taken from private collections, many have never been seen before.

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It seems only right that the exhibition opens with paintings by Monet.

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Caillebotte, who I never studied in University as an Art History major, has become an artist that I highly respect and I have grown to love his work.  The poster announcing the exhibition is by Caillebotte.

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I’ve never seen this work by Gauguin

 

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or this one!!

These two Gauguin paintings are examples of his work from the time he lived in Pont-Aven, Brittany.  I had to include The School of Pont-Aven as I visited friends there last summer.  That is when I first learned of the school and the Gauguin stayed there between Paris and French Polynesia.

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I have taken up way too much of your time so I will introduce you to Berte Morisot and her paintings at another time.  If you are coming to Paris, please make sure to visit the museum.  You take the metro 9 to La Muette.  From there you walk through the wonderful Parc de Ranelagh.  The park ends at the museum.  If you love art, you will not be sorry.

And to wet your appetite in case you are not visiting until next Spring, the next exhibition is posted here!!

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For more information on the Musée Marmottan-Monet: http://www.marmottan.fr/page.asp?ref_arbo=2507

And Paris??  It is cold, cold, cold.  The days have been in the high 40s and low 50s.  The nights have fallen to the high 30s.  Out have come the wooly caps and scarves, down jackets and doubling up on socks in one’s boots.  Restaurants have brought out their large heaters so that Parisians can still sit outside if they choose.  Seats have blankets on them to serve as lap warmers!!!  How wonderful is Paris?!

So wherever you are, stay warm.

Everyone in Paris is praying and wishing the United States Bon Chance and Bon Courage on November 6.

A bientot

Sara

 

Giverny

Is there anyone who hasn’t heard of the town of Giverny, 45 minutes west of Paris by train?  Claude Monet, the only Impressionist painter who actually got rich in his lifetime, lived and painted in Giverny for most of his adult life, 1883 until his death in 1926.  The gardens that he created are the most visited gardens in the world. It is estimated that 28,500 tourists visit his home and the famous water-lily pond every week during the seven month season that the gardens are open to the public.

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I am lucky enough to be here for a week with the artist, photographer,writer and teacher Elizabeth Murray.  Lizzie lives in the Bay Area.  During the 1980’s, she visited the gardens, fell in love with them and furiously advocated to become a volunteer gardener.  She was not only successful at that, by the time she left, she had nine gardeners working under her. After 30 years, she feels that she can now lead creative workshops here and give the gardens and the surrounding area the respect that this amazing place commands.  She is able to talk and teach and transfer the love of every living thing here to her students.

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The wheat fields, full of poppies, in the hills above Giverny

What is extraordinary is that she has maintained her relationship with the Gardeners and the mutual respect allows us, her students, to enter the gardens at 7am each morning and stay until the Gardens open to the public.  We then leave, go back to La Reserve, where we are staying, and have classes, work on art or writing or go for a visit to a nearby town.  At 6pm, we again have access to the gardens and can stay until 8pm.  This, of course, means that the thirteen people that make up our group are alone in the gardens with only the gardeners.  This is more than a private time, it is a sacred time.  The birds chirp happily away once all the tourists are gone but other than that, it is the quiet of nature.  You can hear the flowers welcoming the morning or saying good night to each other.  Many of them fold their petals back into themselves as they ready for a night’s sleep.

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I am not a watercolorist or oil or pastel painter.  When I was young, I thought it would be so romantic to live in a Paris garret and paint.  I would have starved quickly as I don’t have the requisite skills!  But I did want to capture beauty that moved me and I turned to photography.  It was always a hobby.  I loved it and, today, am loving the ease and quality of the iPhone camera.  All these photos were taken with my iPhone 8.

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Rose trellis at the back of the first gardens

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Looking through the arbors of the Grande Allee to Monet’s home.

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The water-lily pond

Because we were present in the gardens in the early morning and again at the end of the day, we were able to appreciate the change of light, the very thing that Monet sought to understand  and to paint.

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My roommate painting with watercolors.               Early morning.

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These two boats were once use to maintain the water-lily pond.  Now they sit and have become an iconic picture of the pond.

I had originally thought that I would use the inspiration of sitting in the gardens and drinking in the beauty to write.  Lizzie told us that to paint would force us to really look, to really see what was in front of us.  We had to bring the commitment to be present.  And though, I didn’t do anything extraordinary, I sat.  I looked.  The time would fly by.  Over the five days and ten times that we were in the gardens, my hand got better at expressing what my eyes saw.

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The famous Japanese inspired bridge.  On the other side, the pond opens up into hundreds of water lilies plants.  They only open up their little heads when the sun is out. (Early morning)

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One of our group who works only in pastels shows us an afternoon’s work.

Not many people, even those that live here in France get the opportunity to live for one week in Giverny.  And much less to visit the gardens twice a day when there are no tourists present.  It is an experience that I will savour for a lifetime.  The lessons are only just beginning to be apparent.

I can’t close without mentioning where home was for the week.  La Reserve is a beautiful large country home of five bedrooms situated in the hills above the little town of Giverny. There is also a Gite, a cottage with three more bedrooms, a living room and kitchen.  Valerie and Francois Jouyet, the owners and our hosts, are some of the loveliest people I have met in France.  Valerie is the cook and,oh boy, can she cook!  Francois was ever present with a huge smile.  There were also Flaubert, the giant dog, 2 cats-one 23 years old and one 2 years old, five rescue donkeys and a rescue pig!

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http://www.giverny-lareserve.com/en/

For more information on Elizabeth Murray, her workshops and her art, please go to:         https://www.elizabethmurray.com

A bientôt,

Sara

La Foire de Chatou

Outside of Paris, to the west, in the middle of the Seine is a small island called Ile des Impressionistes.  Twice a year, le Syndicat National du Commerce de l’Antiquitie, de l’Occasion et des Galeries d’Art Moderne et Contemporain (SNCAO-GA) rent the island and stage the Foire de Chatou.  I wrote about Chatou a year and a half ago but focused on two women who make a living going from Brocante to Brocante.

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This year, The 96th Foire de Chatou opened Friday, March 10 and ends Sunday, March 18.  There are 700 stands selling nic-nacs, good silver, good bone china, paintings old and new, vintage clothing, furniture old and new, beautiful old books that one buys for the way they look on the outside and many many other things that you didn’t even know existed. The first time I went to Chatou was with a friend and her mother.  My friend, Alicia, knew to take her caddy along with her.  Smaller purchases went inside the caddy.  Alicia took her time at every stall.  She picked thru all the boxes laden with goodies, she stood in front of paintings one at a time and carefully thought through her purchases. Sometimes I would skip ahead of her but always find her again as she would leave her caddy outside a stall for me to see.  I don’t have Alicia’s patience.  I did come home with some lovely purchases that year.  My favourite was a small Afghani rug that is probably a prayer rug.

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Alicia and her family went back to California that summer and I went alone to Chatou the following Fall.  Alicia and I had made a friend of one of the women who run the stalls: Mary Cook.  Her stall is Tinker Tailor.  She goes to the UK where, I believe, she is from and brings back lovely bone china and beautiful silver.  I have bought some wonderful things from her that I use every day.  I had bought a sugar bowl that I loved and dear Bijou broke it in her phase of “let’s break everything that Sara owns”.  I told Mary and I’m sure I looked very sad.  So that Fall, I went to her stall first thing to say hello. She had a sugar bowl with a small crack in it and had saved it for me to buy at a small price!!  Now when I go by myself, Tinker Tailor is my first stop.  I feel like I have a friend there and I can come chat if I get tired of walking around.

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Tinker Tailor. Look carefully and you will see a silver toast holder upper left corner.  They are wonderful to hold cards, checks, bills, etc.

There are brocantes all over Paris every weekend and they often will spill over into Mondays or start on a Friday.  Now that Spring is supposed to be arriving, there will be any number to go to.  But Chatou is the largest by far. One time as I was chatting with Mary, I met an American woman who had brought over five other women just to shop at brocantes, particularly Chatou and the famous Flea Market at Clignancourt which I’ve never been to.  Either they find things that cannot be found anywhere in the US or they just like to shop in Paris but Chatou is not cheap and neither is shipping back to North America.

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I’m partly writing this blog for Alicia as she will be sitting in San Francisco reading it wishing she was here spending money at Chatou.  And I miss her.  Chatou is more than twice the fun if you go with another person.  Alicia is the best of all persons to with!

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At the end of a tiring day, Chatou provides a navette (shuttle) back to Reuil-Malmaison where I can take the RER A back into Paris.  This year, I only bought a vase and a wooden duck.  Both I love!!  I didn’t see much else that grabbed me.  But that won’t stop me from going again next September when Foire de Chatou returns to Paris.

A bientôt,

Sara

A day in the Arts

I was invited to join a group of women who go on guided tours of museums and/or areas of interest in Paris.  Having visited most, if not all, of the tourist places, I thought it would be a lovely gift to me.  I didn’t have to do anything, just show up twice a month at a designated place sent to me in an evite.  Two of the group did all the heavy lifting, hiring Kelly Spearman from Kelly Tours and figuring out the perfect size for the group.

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Eglise Notre Dame des Victoire with Kelly Spearman standing in front

Yesterday, we all met at Place des Petits Freres in the 2nd arrondissement. The small square is home to Notre Dame des Victoires and this was our fourth tour of the Fall.  It was entitled Squares of Paris.  Before I go further, I want to say a word or ten about Kelly herself.  Kelly doesn’t just give you a tour pointing out sites of interest.  She first orients you.  Which direction is La Seine? Where is east and where is west?  Then she proceeds to take you back into history and tell fascinating stories of how Paris came to be Paris and all the lively characters living in and out of my fair city.  I’ve never met a guide like her and I highly recommend her to any of you coming to Paris.

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The Church’s organ.  It can only have been left behind by the French revolutionaries because there was so much else to plunder

La place des Petits Frères, where we started our journey yesterday, is in a rarely visited area of Paris. Though we were in the 2nd arrondissement, we were close to the original walls of Paris.  Therefore, at the time of the construction of the church, the land was cheap because it was outside Paris.  A unique addition to this church is the plaques/bricks that cover the inside floor to ceiling.  Each one is numbered and dated.  Each one thanks Mother Mary for a miracle.  Some are more detailed than others,  They are in French, English, German, Italian.  All say Thank you.  It is a space of intense gratitude and even someone like me who was raised a Quaker and not familiar with such religious symbolism couldn’t help but be deeply moved.

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The interior back of the Church.  This part of the church is always built first and the builders move forward.  

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We made our way past the “Cour des Miracles” to Place des Victories where Francois Mansart first placed his mansard roofs–a four-sided gambrel-style hip roof characterized by two slopes on each of its sides with the lower slope, punctured by dormer windows, at a steeper angle than the upper.  Architects were admiring of Italian renaissance architecture and the results in Paris are very pleasing to the eye.  In the middle of most squares (really Places as none are square anymore) there is usually a statue.  This is the first thing built when a new Square/Place is being designed.  Here, as at the Place Vendome where we went next, the stories of statues going up, coming down, going up, being destroyed so material could be used for bullets, is a fascinating journey through the Kings, the Napoleons, the french revolution and the Commune.

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Look carefully and you can see the original name of the street

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Place des Victoires with the third or fourth statue.  This one is of Louis XIV but is so unbalanced that the tail had to become part of the structure making sure it didn’t fall over.

Place Vendome is a masterpiece of urban designing and left no doubt about the amazingly privileged social position of all those who claim it as their personal address.

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Napoleon stands at the top of this column.  Poor guy, he went up and down four times before he was allowed to stay there.

I show you photos as I could never do justice to what we saw today and can only urge you to get in contact with Kelly, tell her how long you will be here and let her suggest a tour for you.  You will not regret it.IMG_1626.JPG

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In the evening, I was invited to a cocktail party and “Talk with the Artist” at the Mona Bismarck American Center.  The show is Landscape with a Ruin by Evan Roth, a Paris based artist.

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I was looking at things I didn’t understand when I saw Evan, went up to him and said “You have to explain this to me”  And he did.  Each of the above scenes is an 18 minute stream shot with infrared light of a place where a fiber optic cable goes into water or comes out of it.  The brochure says that he ‘has measured the impact of the Internet on society for over ten years.’ The internet took him to these places.  I found them haunting, lonely and beautiful.  I think that’s the point.

I came away with an understanding that one has to know the heart and mind of contemporary artists.  We aren’t looking at a Monet where all that’s said is in the painting.  These works like so many others include thought process, a lot of travel, interpretation of things in everyday use and creating art.  I liked Evan and was grateful for my private tour and talk.

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Bianca Roberts, Executive Director, introducing Evan Roth

It is lovely Indian Summer in Paris these days.  We had winter all September so we are luxuriating in this weather for as long as it lasts.  The sun sets around 7pm and the lights and colors on the Avenue Mozart during the waning light remind me why I love Paris.

A bientôt,

Sara