Catching Up in Paris with Somers and MacLean.

A month has passed since I last wrote. Since then my sister, Dr. Margaret Somers, and our friend, Dr. Nancy MacLean came to Paris to visit. They gave a joint talk at the American Library in Paris–which I moderated–and the next evening answered questions on American politics and political economics at The Red Wheelbarrow bookstore.

The Red Wheelbarrow Bookstore: Nancy MacLean; Margaret Somers; Nita Wiggens; Penelope Fletcher.

We then made a whirlwind visit to Bretagne and la Côte de Granît Rose visiting with my friend, Roland, who kindly lent us his three-bedroom home while he slept in his boat–which he loves. He insisted we weren’t putting him out in any way. He even took them on a boat ride around L’ile de Brehat. On the way home, the engine fell off the boat–not down into the murky depths but was dragging along while the men, Roland and Nancy’s husband, worked at pulling it up. Nothing like coming to France on vacation and having a big adventure on the water!

Nancy, Bruce, Sara and Margaret in Pontrieux, Brittany

Because of the very difficult situation in the US, I’ve been doing a lot more reading about how US government works, the forces that do not want Democracy because it gets in the way of making mega-billions (numbers I can’t even imagine), the huge efforts to end all social programs–which help our neighbor who may not be as lucky as we are in life circumstances. It has been eye-opening and appalling–if only at how much I’ve taken for granted–that others want a Democratic system that works for all us as much as I do.

My sister is an academic and has written a wonderful book along with a colleague, Fred Block, The Power of Market Fundamentalism: Karl Polanyi’s Critique. Nancy has written a best seller Democracy In Chains; the deep history of the radical right’s stealth plan for America. They were invited to the American Library in Paris July 2nd for an Author event.

Sara, moderator; Nancy MacLean and Margaret Somers at ALP

It was quite an honor to moderate and ask both of them questions. The two books actually address a similar topic: the growth of the free market as something that promotes financial equality for all. Somers’ book lays the historical background and MacLean’s book goes from 1958 with the fall-out of the Brown vs the Board of Education supreme court case to the present day and the Koch brothers.

Dr. Margaret Somers, Dr. Nancy MacLean, Sara Somers, blogger

It is beyond the scope of this blog to tell in more detail the specifics of Somers’ and MacLean’s talks or to review their books. I do encourage anyone interested in learning more about political economics to read these books. It’s one thing to listen to either sides’ rantings. It’s another to get educated information and form an opinion based on facts–even though facts seem to be going extinct.

Dr. Margaret Somers, Amy Sulkies Below, Dr. Nancy MacLean at The Red Wheelbarrow

The next evening, at the Red Wheelbarrow, there was lively back and forth of questions and answers. It was a beautiful Parisian evening and when the gathering finally left the bookstore, it was still light out, the energy was high and it was hard to contemplate going home and to bed. There is something about Parisian nights and the the sky still being light at 10:30pm that makes one just want to stay out and join the bustling sidewalk culture that is at the heart of Parisian life.

Bruce, Margaret, Sara near Lezardrieux.

The next morning, we all got on the TGV fast train to Brittany. What a pleasure it is to show friends some of the most beautiful places in France outside of Paris. All too soon, both women were on the way to Potsdam, Germany where they gave keynote speeches at an International Conference: The Condition of Democracy and the Fate of Citizenship.

Happy Bastille Day, July 14th,

A bientôt,

Sara

A month later……

Since my last post, I contracted the common cold and was laid low for two weeks. It is beyond my comprehension that we can cure so many ills but the common cold still does most of us in and it just has to run its course. It starts so slowly and shows no sign of being menacing. Blowing my nose every five minutes. In Paris, my nose starts running Nov. 1 and lasts until March 31st. It seems to be the price of walking outside so much–to get the metro, see friends in cafes, etc. So who knew that that day turned into two weeks of misery. I had to cancel almost everything. I had a scheduled flight to San Francisco and anyone who has flown with a congested head knows how miserable and painful that can be. I was determined to be well before the flight even if it meant never moving from my couch.

I planned a month long trip to Oakland to see doctor’s, do my taxes, clean and organise my home and probably do repairs. I wasn’t looking forward to the trip. Paris is my home now and going to Oakland is work not a vacation. I still find it painful to wake up there with the news in your face 24 hours a day and none of it good. Scandal after scandal. Who’s going to jail for what financial or political conspiracy? There was one piece of great news that made me jump up and down. Congress and Senate, both I believe, voted to protect millions of acres of National Park land, land that the Trump administration has been trying to get it’s hands on and destroy the protections that have been in place for years. When I ask friends ‘how do you stand it?, the news?’ They inevitably respond, ‘I no longer listen to the news.’ I understand BUT…..how many of us that want things different aren’t listening anymore or reading anymore? How do we stay informed when the media just eats up all the distractions and twittering? My way was to record The Late Show with Stephen Colbert each night and watch it the next day. He always has some political person on and makes it funny enough to be palatable. It helps that he and I are on the same side of the fence.

Then there is the matter of the weather. I picked February and March to be in Oakland in hopes that I would miss the worst of Paris winter. And what happens? Oakland has not had weather higher than 54o and rain most of the time. Not just a little rain, but gales and flooding and high winds. I’ve been dressed like a ski bunny most of the time. And Paris?—gorgeous weather — 20o/21o. I saw a photo of people sunbathing in the Place de Vosges! My timing is impeccable.


Gusty winds and rain will move across the Bay Area in time for the evening commute. Meteorologist Kari Hall has the details in the Microclimate Forecast.

I was in Oakland one week when I learned that a very good friend of this blog, Philippe Melot, had died suddenly. He was fit, rode his bike regularly and hard, ate well, didn’t smoke, didn’t drink. I was just stunned. I still am. But it reminded me to tell everyone I know how grateful I am for their presence in my life, their friendship. You just never know. It will be a shock all over again when I get back to Paris and realise I will never see Philippe again. It just breaks my heart. He loved Americans and was so kind and generous to all of us. He was, in my opinion, a very special man and special Frenchman.

RIP Philippe

The Gilets Jaunes have not slowed down. I am dependant on my friends in Paris to keep me informed of all the activities. One would think nothing happened in the rest of the world if only watching American news. Even NPR only gives the highlights. I subscribe to The Guardian and keep up with the Brexit antics but Les Gilets Jaunes just get small print. A week ago, my friend Barbara wrote: “Violent protests again in Paris on Saturday. Went to the library to return your book and could hear explosions everywhere and smoke everywhere. My eyes were burning at Rue General Camou. Of course the library was closed. I could see gilets jaunes and CRS everywhere. Losing all hope that this is ever going to end.” Now I’ve come to understand that the gilets jaunes are attacking jews. This just keeps getting worse. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/feb/24/alain-finkielkraut-winds-of-antisemitism-in-europe-gilets-jaune

So for the time being, the rain falls in Oakland, the sun shines in Paris. Brexit may not happen until 2021, if at all. The Gilets Jaunes are being courted by the far right of Marine LePen and the Italian President and Prime Minister (both financially supported by Putin??). Meanwhile, they continue to destroy Paris and cost the French government billions of dollars. I do not think this is the way to win friends and influence people. But France is the land of protest. Life goes on except for my dear friend, Philippe, who I will miss terribly.

A bientôt,

Sara

Happy Holidays

IMG_2160.jpg

BONNES FÊTES ET BONNE ANNÉE                                                                                     However you celebrate the holidays, Out My Window wishes all of you peace and joy.  Paris has been relatively warm this past week but this morning, Christmas morning, it is a brisk 34oF/1oC.  However, the sun is out, at least for awhile, and the bells at Notre Dame de Passy are ringing loudly.  Below: windows in Paris.

IMG_2156.jpg      IMG_2166.jpg

Many of us wondered if the Gilets Jaunes and the many others who have joined them would back off for the holidays.  After Macron’s speech and then the shootings in Strasbourg, a plea was made to not protest the following Saturday, Act V as the Saturdays were being called.  The police were exhausted, many had been called to Strasbourg and there was hope that the GJs would give Paris a break for the holiday weeks.  But no, they called for a protest.  They intimated that the government was hiding behind a false statement that the shootings were by a terrorist and just lying to stop the protests.  Paris geared up for yet another Saturday of protests and violence.  Thirty of the metro stations announced in advance that they would be closed, the American Church and the American Library both closed on Saturday and the exhausted police were called out once more.  However, the streets were much calmer here in Paris.  A man was killed in a traffic accident near the town of Perpignon when the driver rammed into a lorry that had been stopped by the GJs at a roundabout.  That was the tenth fatality during the six weeks of protests.

There seem to be a number of things happening:                                                                        1–the word of the protests spread by way of social media particularly Facebook.  So, as a french friend reminded me, 175,000 people or less are deciding the fate of a country of ten million.  Facebook has become the wild wild west of the Internet.  One can expect all the dangers that come from a lawless entity with no boundaries and no rules.  I, personally, have deleted my account.  Not only do I not approve of anything that Facebook is doing, I don’t trust it to do anything at all in my interest.  For any of you looking to delete your account, there was an excellent article in the NYTimes two months ago advising how to go about removing yourself. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/10/technology/personaltech/how-to-delete-facebook-instagram-account.html

2–Many Parisians are sick and tired of all the violence.  Where once there was sympathy and empathy for the poorest amongst us, destroying monuments, burning cars and wreaking havoc has caused a majority to back off and condemn those that are still actively creating chaos.  It is not clear how many of the original GJs are still involved.  The protests have been hi-jacked by the ‘Black Bloc’, anarchists and right-wing extremists.

3–The protests have expanded far beyond fuel taxes.  Those on the street now include students, academics and citizens begging for more say in the French government.  For an excellent report by an activist, you can read Aurelie Dianara, a Paris-based academic and activist: https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/france-protests-yellow-vests-macron-paris-gilet-jaunes-fuel-prices-minimum-wage-a8681366.html

4–The far right politician Marine Le Pen is taking advantage of the chaos to make the protests her own.  She has brought in hatred of immigrants as a part of the protesting.  The frustration and hatred of Macron may actually make her words more palatable to the french public.  After all, during the 2017 elections, many didn’t vote For Macron as Against Le Pen.  As Populism (which in my vocabulary is another word for Facism) grows in Europe, it could easily go the opposite way.

LES SOLDES                                                                                                                                   When all else fails, go shopping…..  The Winter Sales start January 9, 2019.  For those of you who are lucky enough to visit Paris in January and February, the Winter Sales are extraordinary.  There are two state-mandated sales during the year: the Winter Sales and the Summer Sales that start end of June and go through early August.  Almost all stores want to get rid of all their stock.  Discounts will start at 50% and by the end of the six-week sale, be down to 75%/80%.  People wanting high-end luxury clothing can find great deals.  People will do a lot of research during the first week of January, then be ready to be the first person in the door of their favourite shop.  Many, like me, wait until the mad rush of the first couple of days is over and then we go shopping.

That’s a wrap!

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.

IMG_1941.jpg

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.

IMG_1935.JPG

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.”

Affiche Coll Privées.png

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.

IMG_1915.jpg

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

IMG_1914.jpg

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.

IMG_1924.JPG
I’ve never seen this work by Gauguin

 

IMG_1925.jpg
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.

IMG_1923.jpg

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!!

L'orient des peintres.png

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

 

Eurostar

Once upon a time, if one had a reservation on the Eurostar to go to Paris or to London, you just had to show up a maximum of thirty (30) minutes before departure and all would be well.  Three hours later you would debark in either London or Paris patting yourself on the back for saving all that time by not taking the plane.

Not anymore.  Not in this era of Terrorism.  The French and British may not have school shootings every week but both have suffered horrendous attacks authored by ISIS or those wanting to be connected to ISIS.

So the other day when I took the Eurostar to London, I knew to get to Gare du Nord an hour early.  I immediately stood in a long line of travellers.  First, we electronically checked in.  Then we passed through French Border control.  I handed the officer my passport.  He looked at my name and photo.  He went back and forth with a very serious look on his face.  What was he looking for?  I wanted to offer that I had a French residency card.  I kept silent.  It seemed the prudent thing to do.  After what seemed like two or three minutes, he stamped my passport and I joined the snaking line of travellers moving slowly towards the UK Border Control.  Everyone seemed calm.  Some people chatted up the person in front of or in back of them.  I heard some laughter but most people were like me, just wanting to get to the departures gate without bringing any attention to themselves.

Ten minutes later, having passed through Border Control without a problem, “How long are you staying?” and “Where will you go when you leave the UK?”, we had finally made it to Bag Security check.  I didn’t have to take my shoes off.  My titanium hip did set off the alarm bells.  So I got the usual pat down.

I made it to Departures with five minutes to sit if I chose to before the snaking line formed again to descend to Quai 5 and board the train.  People politely stepped on board, stored their suitcase and found their seats.  Never did I hear the heavy sighs of impatience that one often hears in the US, the pacing up and down of people feeling entitled to be different.  You can see the wheels in their minds churning in resentment of being made to move like cattle through all the check points.  But, if something horrible should happen, they’d be the first people on the horn, complaining that the government should be doing something about those terrorists.

I’ve grown to be quite grateful for all that these officers do to try and protect their citizens, ex-Pats and many visitors.  It’s not convenient that’s true but I’ll take inconvenience any day over the alternative.

So if you are coming to France, the UK, and now Brussels and Amsterdam and plan on taking the Eurostar, be forewarned.  Arrive at least an hour ahead of departure and you will not feel stressed!!

A couple of days later:  I have arrived at St. Pancras an hour and a half early to return to Paris.  Trying to get information is not fun.  The Brits working here are not nearly as polite as the French.  But, as in Paris, there is a long snaking line of quiet people who, for the most part, are not stressed.

It only took me thirty minutes to get through to the departures room and so had plenty of time to eat my dinner before we left for Paris.

A bientôt,

Sara

 

Technology Hell

It started about three weeks ago when I was locked out of my e-mail account.  I changed my password and twenty-four hours later, I was locked out again.  This happened six times in eight days.  I was so frustrated and felt so helpless that I decided to wait until I came to California, where I am now, to call the service company and find out what was going on.  Then I got locked out of WordPress which is the platform I write this blog on. I couldn’t use my Vonage app to make calls to the United States.  I suppose my antennae should have gone up but it didn’t.  I was too busy being frustrated and feeling very isolated.  It seemed that all my means of connectivity around the world had been cut off.

Yesterday morning, my first morning in California, I awoke to a text from my bank saying they were putting a hold on a credit card until I confirmed an expenditure. It turned out two credit cards had been hacked.  Banks fortunately give you back your money.  The sense of violation and fear that anything can happen, the bank couldn’t take care of.  Today I tackled the e-mail account.  What I learned was that my account was hacked and with the e-mail, the hackers had everything forwarded to another e-mail address.  They must have gotten a lot of information as my PayPal account was breached, my Amazon account was breached and a couple of others. When they saw no money was involved, they just moved on.

May 21, 2018–I wrote that not knowing how bad the hacking had gotten. It involved many accounts. Fortunately all money was returned to me and my identity wasn’t stolen.  But every call took 90 minutes as I was taken through hoops etc to secure my accounts.   Microsoft was, without a doubt, the absolute worst company to deal with.  Three times I had to call after I was told my account was secure but it wasn’t.  They don’t even have a FRAUD department! MICROSOFT!! I couldn’t believe it. I am so glad I have had Macs all my life.

Anyway, it’s hopefully in the past.  It’s five weeks later and I am on my way back home to Paris.  They had gotten into this account also.  Why? Sure beats me!  But I can start up my blogs again.  So dear reader, I look forward to greeting you from sunny and warm Paris.

A bientôt,

Sara

Let It Snow!

Today is the second day of snow in Paris.  Today it is sticking to trees, to plant life and bushes, roof tops and bus stops.  It is glorious.

IMG_0333.jpg
From my terrace.

When I was a young college student, there would always be snow in winter here in Paris.    Six inches to eighteen inches.  Then and now, it is other-worldly.  Men with roasters and large platters of roasted chestnuts would stand at the end of any of Paris’s many bridges.  They would take a page of newsprint, double it over then roll it into a cone.  Into the cone would plop fifteen or so hot chestnuts.  Holding them would be warmer than your glove.  Imagine a twenty year old American girl who loved to daydream crossing the river Seine, hot chestnuts in hand, snow flurries adhering the fantasy daydream.

4f7f68c1-0dd4-4577-bf93-2f2dbb01620f.jpg
Along the Seine (courtesy of The Local)

Today, I have to go to one of the many French administrative offices to deal with my impots d’habitation.  I don’t believe we have a tax for renters in the US.  They are similar to what cities require hotels to tack on to our bills (and now, of course, AirBnB has to do the same thing).  I could take the metro and be warmer or I could walk a little further and catch the 63 bus.  I’ve been here four years and three months.  I haven’t seen snow in Paris until today.  This choice is a no brainer.

43a04773-8652-4d36-8681-9f58839416f1.jpg
Train tracks (courtesy of The Local)

It is very grey and the closer the bus gets to the river, the less the snow is sticking.  The Eiffel Tower was large and dark in the grey sky.  The bus moves through the city easily.  There isn’t much traffic today.

1517923756_000_YX05U.jpg
Versailles (courtesy of the Local)

I thought perhaps I was the only one enchanted by the snow falling.  I hear it has mucked up traffic outside of Paris and tourists cannot take any boat rides on the river because of the flooding.  At least they could walk around all day.  Probably not today unless they want to get very cold and very wet.

I met my friend, Fatiha, at St. Sulpice where my administrative office is.  She assured me that I was not alone.  She loved the snow.  Just not enough to walk outside a lot.   When I arrived home, I was very wet and very cold.

1517923835_000_YX13L.jpg
Walking one of the many parks

 

DVW2QTMXcAAL3mt.jpg
One of the Wallace Fountains  — Wallace fountains are public drinking fountains designed by Charles-Auguste Lebourg that appear in the form of small cast-iron sculptures scattered throughout the city of Paris, France, mainly along the most-frequented sidewalks. They are named after the Englishman Richard Wallace, who financed their construction.

A bientôt,

Sara