Art History Class… and Eiffel and Stonehenge

My three years in Paris have exposed me to more art than any other time in my life.  I always loved art.  But I do have a limit for museums.  My brain will only take so much input and then it shuts down.

What I notice now is my immediate recognition of an artist.  Before, I would have a good idea, but now, pretty damn sure.  And when it’s a new work for me, I still can figure it out.

The DeYoung in San Francisco is a wonderful museum.  They have great relationships with other international museums and I have seen masterpieces there. Or at their sister the Legion of Honor.  And I am sure NYC also has incredible museums – duh.  The Met.  MOMA.

But Paris.  10 to 12 great places that have at least two expositions a year.  That can mean 24 exhibits!  The normal collections are beautiful and breath-taking but these exhibit!  I am seeing paintings that are off in Tokyo or Denmark or Russia that I would otherwise never get the chance to see.  AND they have many works from a collection particular.  That means a private collector has allowed the painting they own to be shown.  I might make it to Denmark, but I am certainly not going to be invited in if I just walk up to a door and knock and ask to see their Renoir.  Let alone know what door upon which to knock!

I have discovered Pissarro this year.  There were two exhibits dedicated to him and some of his paintings were just at the Jacquemart Andre museum I visited this week.   And Monet, of course.

And the Nabis.  I discovered this school of artists at an exhibit at the De Young of works from the D’Orsay.  And particularly the works of Maurice Denis.  He became a commonality between me and a French friend.  She directed me to two gallery showings of his work.  Again, from private collections.  And a week ago I discovered a museum dedicated to him out in St Germain en Laye.  It was his home.  So much fun.

I have a Gaughin exhibit to attend this afternoon.  Not overly excited but it should be good.

Yesterday I went to the NYC MOMA expo at the Louis Vuitton Foundation museum in the Bois de Boulogne.  Cleary I do not overly care for modern art.  It was the most expensive show I have ever attended.  Well, it was only 16 euro.  But I zipped through it in 25 minutes.  So per minute, very dear.  Most things left me cold.  I do like the collections at the SF MOMA.  But I am not heading for NYC for MOMA in the near future.  However, I did discover the terraces of the building.  It is a building designed by Frank Gehry.  I’ve visited before and always loved it.  But never found this higher level.  Great views of the park, La Defense and even the Eiffel Tower.

Speaking of which, they are building some type of glass wall around it for security.  Well, it will be better than the fences.  But still.  And I am sure not glass – some high-powered bullet proof plastic?  Still it makes me sad to think there has to be such protection around it.  I am glad I have visited before this was necessary – and I mean 1960 and 1970.  Just like Stonehenge.  My family drove up and parked off the road and simply walked over to the stones to touch them, to meander, to even climb a bit.  Now they aqre also fenced in.  And the regular isitor gets to walk around them from a distance.  About 10 years ago I revisited the place and was able to take an early morning group visit to inside the stones themselves –but with a guard present.  No more than 8 of us and 6 left early.  That allowed my friend and me to wander alone… with the guard… and look don’t touch!)



They call Paris the City of Light.  And on a black cloudy day, the sharpness of the buildings of Paris against the black clouds is a sight that delights the soul.

Mine at least.

Les Puces

That’s flea market to you.  I have been to the one located at Vannes in the south of Paris.  Just a sidewalk street market.  Vendors bring tables or just lay the items out on the sidewalk, with or without a sheet.  Not much of interest.  I have wanted to go to the GRAND Les Puces de Saint-Ouen near Porte de Clignancourt.  But I have heard so many tales of pickpockets that I was hesitant.  Then I saw a program on French TV that made it look more upscale.  And I have a French friend who is a graphics designer and working with a company that sells antiques.  We went together.

You walk through a few blocks of cheap discount knock off designer stores and then through a market.  Found the best scarves there and at great prices.  I even went back!  And then you get to the real Les Puces.  And it’s quite upscale.  Different sub-markets for clothes, china, furniture, paintings, photographs, etc.  I saw a lot of teak furniture.  Felt like I was in the family home in the 1960s.  I wish I had kept some of it as it is coming back but oh well.  Nothing that I wanted to buy – it was a little expensive and I would have had to ship it back even if I negotiated a good price.

But an interesting day.  And another place checked off the list.


Blogging, Buildings and Butter

My list of blogging subjects is getting far too long! So I am squeezing in a few moments at the laptop between an art expo and lunch with a new friend.

But, merde!  I have rewritten the blogging list six times, consolidating little notes and emails to myself and can I find it now? No!  So I am taking a quick break which you won’t notice because there is no time lapse between sentences – unless YOU put this down.

I found it. And I also made my reservation for the evening of Gregorian Chants at Notre Dame de Paris on December 28. Excited about that!

It’s been a whirlwind of reservations.  My ticket has been purchased and I return to Sacramento on January 10, 2018.  I realized quite suddenly that there are less than 2 months in front of me to see everything I possibly can.  Maroc (Morocco) is done.  More about that later.  Portugal is next week.  Why Portugal?  I have visited every European country other than Eastern Europe and Portugal.  So.  Pourquoi pas!  I am going to Porto for three days and then Lisbon for three more with my friend from North Carolina/Puerto Rico.  She is my secret weapon because she is fluent in Spanish (and French and Italian) and says that while Portuguese is written very differently from Spanish, she thinks she can understand spoken Portuguese.  Because I won’t have a clue!  (Maroc was nice because almost everyone speaks French!)

Building Update

The huge crane came down yesterday.  Which opens up the landscape. (that’s a joke…)  I am surprised actually because the façade is not finished.  Does this mean they will next be putting up scaffolding?  Horrors.  And the same day it came down, another residential building half a block away started their building cleaning.  I have read that buildings need to be cleaned between every 10 and 20 years, depending upon how dirty… and how much the owners want to chip in to pay for it.  That day the jack hammering shifted from the building across the street to the one half a block away.  Not much improvement.

And why?  My apartment building interior stairways were painted just before I got here in May.  And the stairs had the carpet removed and were refinished.  So nice.  And so nice to miss the work itself.  But now – 7 months later – they are painting the lobby.  Really?  Wouldn’t it have made sense to do it all at once?  Whatever.  I walk through and try not to breathe the paint fumes.  One guy.  He’s taking his time.  Oh.  It’s France.

BUTTER.  There is a shortage of butter in France right now.  I read about this but didn’t notice.  I did stockpile a couple packages just in honor of my mother the hoarder.  (We lived out in the country in Minnesota and she kept a lot on hand because of the difficulty of getting to the store.  That trait followed her to California even when she lived 5 minutes from the grocery.) But last week when I went to Monoprix, the big grocery store near me, to stock up in general…  there was NO BUTTER at all.  Empty shelves!  Horror!  From Business Insider:  A combination of bad weather in France, which has lowered the supply of cow feed; decreased exports from leading butter producer New Zealand; and increased global demand has increased the price of butter, according to the BBC. The price of 100 kgs of butter (which is a little over 220 lbs) has increased from about $527 to just over $791 since January.

According to Bloomberg, the current shortage in France has been amplified by anxious consumers frantically stocking up on butter during the last few weeks. 

Supermarkets in most countries have responded by simply raising the price of butter, but French supermarkets have been unable to do so since butter prices are set once each year following negotiations with producers. The next round of talks is set for February.

So.  I know a couple other stores that I can probably find some.  And if I have too much in January, heck, I will bring it home with me.  Love that salted butter.


A Tour of Luxury

I am on a mission to have tea at all the Paris luxury hotels.  Been to 4 in the past years.  This year the Hotel Crillon reopened after 2 years plus remodel.  (A friend who worked in hotels here told me that the hotels close for at least two years so that they can get out of their union contracts.  Maybe – but the Hyatt Regency and the Hyatt Louvre are remodeling around their guests.  The Crillon is all gold and shiny.  Yesterday was the Shangri-La.  It was understated and solemn. Next week is the Ritz.  And more to follow.  I guess I can throw in Le Café de la Paix which is an old elegant but touristy restaurant.

I like to relax in the luxurious surroundings.   For a 12 or 16 euro pot of tea, you can take your time.  I am checking them out for the best place to take my book for an afternoon reading.  However, I am not sure that the 900+ tab for a room is quite worth it.

From Café de la Paix I walked to Concorde for my bus.  I discovered two other Louis Vuitton stores.  Why so many in such a small area – there’s another on the Champ Elysees.  But more importantly I discovered the third Five Guys in Paris.  Two years ago I happened upon the Five Guys in Bercy which is on the other side of Paris from me.  This year they opened one on the Champs Elysees.  Now a third not too far from the Champs…  But it makes sense to me.  If you are going to open a restaurant here and deal with all the hassles of French bureaucracy, you might as well open several!

Did I say hassles?  Marks & Spencers clothing store on the Champs Elysees has closed.  As have the other two I know of in the Paris area.  I read last year they have been losing money and wanted to close.  However, the French labor laws required them to give the workers notice.  OK so we have the WARN act in the US.  90 days I believe.  Here it’s a year notice.  Sigh.  I liked M&S a lot.  Fortunately, the French like the M&S Food Halls so they will remain open.  That’s the smallish grocery stores.  Where I buy my bacon!  Whew.



Dark Evenings

Time changed here a week before it does in the US.  So I am finally enjoying both the brisk chilly weather and the night lights.  I am too old to regularly go out at 10 – when the sun starts to set here in the summer.  So this is  nice.  And I have seen the workmen hanging the lights in the trees lining the Champs Elysees.  And yesterday at the art store, they had all the Christmas things out.  AND coming home last night I spied the official city  Christmas decorations hanging on the buildings here in my neighborhood.  They weren’t turned on yet – but they are ready.

Because France doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving.  So there is nothing to keep them from starting in early November.  Right after Halloween, in fact.  I read in the French newspaper yesterday that Halloween has come to France from… no, not the US.  But from Ireland!  A wiki search told me that it came to the US from Ireland also!  Ha.  Who knew?  There is a little more of Halloween here every year, but I still haven’t heard of the French kids going door to door for Trick or Treat.

And what follows Halloween?  All Hallowed Eve?  All Saints Day.  Toussainte.  Tous/all sainte/saint.  A religious holiday but of course everything was closed!  And the busses almost empty.  In fact, there was a special shuttle between Arc de Triomple and La Defense – I guess something happened (as usual) to the train RER A so the shuttle was there – the shuttle was at my bus stop.  My bus was another 3 minutes.  No big deal.  But the shuttle bus driver solicited me to take his bus.  It was one of those double buses – not English double decker, just extra long.  And it was empty.  So I made his day and got home 3 minutes earlier.

On Halloween itself, a Tuesday this year, I met a friend for lunch.  We met at the Musee D’Orsay entrance as it was a convenient RER for us both.  But oh my.  I have never seen the lines for the Orsday like that for years!  I had to ask the security guard.  Ah ha! Stupid me.  It was a Tuesday.  All other museum are closed on Tuesdays except the Orsay.  Well, most of them.  I guess I haven’t been here on a Tuesday for a long time.  Fortunately, we didn’t plan on having lunch in the Museum.  We found a nice Italian place down a couple blocks and spent time catching up.  I had a pizza – and thought of Round Table…. Yum.