Music, Art, Dogs, Packing

I am a sucker for an accordion player who plays the traditional French songs.  On the metro today.  I gave him money.  He made me happy.

I walked to the art museum today.  Remember?  The buses are screwed up again. Bright and sunny again, but chilly.  I wore my Chamonix jacket and it was not too much!  Where oh where is spring?  Or at least, the spring temperatures?

These private art collections are just amazing.  I have seen so many recently.  Imagine you have enough money just to buy up all these impressionists.  And then hang them in your home.  And eventually, create a foundation and your own museum so you can lend them to other museums around the world after you die.  Thank you to all you wealthy collectors.  Paris is special this way.  I can’t think of another city where there are so many museums and so many expositions like this.  Today I saw Manets and Monets and Renoirs and Van Goghs and Lautrecs and Cezannes that I had never seen before.  Even not seen in books.  It filled my soul.  And there were a few cubist Picassos but I won’t spend any time on them.

By the way, I did cook last night!  Chicken with noodles, and asparagus wrapped with bacon, and gouda cheese on top of it all.  Tasty, if I do say so myself!  And when I get home, I shall try the ham and cheese wrapped in endive that was served to me in the Netherlands.  And a friend said they had made pasta with shrimp for dinner – and I actually found myself drooling a bit.  What is happening to my relationship with food?  Pretty soon you won’t be able to call me a picky eater.  Funny how we transform even when we age.

Rudeness.  I wanted to expound a bit more about the ‘rude’ French.  Most of the time I have a good relationship with the French wait staff.  I try to speak French.  I know not to rush.  I relax at the meal.  And I ask their advice re wine or dessert.  I can often get them smiling.  What I do know is that they are not American.  And that American efficiency, the attentiveness, the service with a smile and bring the check soon – ya, it’s not here.  And that’s ok.  The gal I mentioned in the last blog.  She had an attitude.  And I think I was more irritated because the other wait staff there know me and are nice and smiling and actually chat with me.  She was not.  She was dismissive of the tourist.  Ha.

The French are more formal.  You must start with Bonjour.  Even Excusez moi doesn’t cut it.  My other French friend said that was rather new.  She said she will often start with excusez moi.  And if someone does the Bonjour thing on her, she answers right back with – so what, excusez moi is not polite?  And basically, what’s wrong with you.  No, I shall never say that.  I don’t have the accent to get away with that.  So I will just keep working on remembering to say Bonjour.

The French say the Parisians are the problem.  That the French outside of Paris are nice and friendly.  Yes.  But I don’t mind the Parisians.  Just don’t give me attitude.

The dog cemetery was …  a cemetery for animals.  Not very big.  And for a place that has been there since 1899, I didn’t see all that many graves.  I did see many new ones.  I think they stopped using it in the 50s and started again maybe 20 years ago.  The most common name – Kiki.  Yes, there was Rin Tin Tin.  Nothing special.  And a St Bernard that saved 40 peoples lives, the 41st killed him.  Yes. It said that.  Hmmm…  I don’t know if the saving of the 41 was so difficult and treacherous that he died or that the 41st didn’t like the dog and killed him on purpose.  It’s a mystery.  But many new headstones.  That makes me wonder… do they reuse the space?  I know in some of the people cemeteries, you buy the plot for a period of time.  And if the family lets it go, well then.  The space becomes available.  Do they dig you up and toss you into a mass grave?  I don’t know.  Too morbid to investigate.

There was a lady who was raking and watering.  We chatted.  And I held up my end of the conversation.  I know I know I keep saying this. But it’s always tickles me when I speak French spontaneously.  And they understand!

And lastly, my friend with the heart problem texted me after reading about herself in these pages.  I was delighted to hear that after several hospital stays, she is now home.  Perhaps a long recovery… but that’s still good!  Glad you are doing well, my friend.

Now to practice packing.  Literally, taking everything and putting it into the two bags to see if it all fits.  And if not, what stays…  I must do this early enough that I have time to find solutions.


The art museums have launched their spring and summer expositions.  My list is long and trips are being crossed off quickly.

Jacquemart Andre is a private museum in a fabulous mansion.  The house is wonderful to behold and imagine living such a life.  There is “art” throughout the house – the couple had, among other pieces, a Rembrandt.  But the museum also has a small space dedicated to special shows.  Unique offerings.  Often shows of special individual collections.  I saw the impressionists owned by a Danish banker which now reside in a museum in Denmark.  I love these types of shows because I see art that I would never have seen otherwise.  Just like the pieces lent from the private collections.  I’ve commented before: when I see the piece is lent from a private collection, I wonder where that piece was displayed.  In the living room?  The hallway?  The kitchen?  Or maybe even a separate room just dedicated to that work of art.  I will never know but it’s fun to speculate.  So the latest show at Jacquemart Andre was of a Danish artist who was compared to Vermeer.  OK.  I could see a resemblance.  But nothing more.  Still it was interesting.  And always fun to visit that mansion.

The Luxembourg museum is another small museum.  They have great expos.  This time: The Nabis.  The Nabis is a collection of artists working in a particular period.  They named themselves the Prophets.  The artists include Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, and (notice the Oxford comma???)  Maurice Denis.  All my favs.  Pretty amazing to realize that many of the paintings I recognize.  In my four years in Paris, my art knowledge, which was not inconsiderable to start, has grown by leaps and bounds.

The Ateliers des Lumieres is cutting edge of art.  Digital reworking of great masters.  I saw the show last year of their Klimt.  You sit in a large open space, on the floor, or, if you are lucky, on one of the few benches against a post.  The show is digitally produced and projected everywhere.  Every wall.  The floor.  You are surrounded.  The paintings are deconstructed and reconstructed.  Flow across the walls.  Separate.  Morph.  Unimaginable.  Two years ago they had a show of Van Gogh.  It was on the outskirts of Paris.  I didn’t bother.  After seeing Klimt I kicked myself.  They moved to a new space for Klimt.  And this year they reworked Van Gogh to fit this new space.  I went the first week.

And was disappointed.  I love Van Gogh.  But the Klimt show was superior.  In fact, a Japanese “short” they showed before the Van Gogh was better.  Now, it was still spectacular, but the bar was raised so high by the Klimt.

Normally, I detest the Pompidou.  It’s modern art.  I always thought I was a modern kinda gal.  But my taste does not run with the curators of the Pompidou.  However, they did have a Hockey expo last year that got me in their doors.  And this year I went to see the Vasarely.   I surprised myself by deciding to go to that.  Pop Art.  Op Art.  I was amazed.  Reminded me of much of my teenage years.

Tomorrow I am off to the Louis Vuitton Fondation for an exhibit of impressionists from a private collector.  I think I actually saw this same expo in London last December.  That didn’t dawn on me until after my friend bought the tickets.  But this is fine.  I enjoy impressionists.  And many of these paintings are rarely on display.  Seeing them twice is fine.

I’m off to The Netherlands and Amsterdam next week.  The trip to visit a close friend and her family will include a walking tour of Rotterdam modern buildings and a Van Gogh expo.  That’s all in the daytime.  The evening will be a Todd Rundgren concert.  More about that in a future blog.

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!)

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.

Museums and Art

Yesterday I went to the Musee d’Orsay.  I join its association each year and get discounts and free entrance but most importantly, I get to go in at 9:00 am.  The rest of the world has to wait for the normal opening time of 9:30.

2016-11-30-09-07-47Being in that spacious hall by yourself is an incredible feeling.  Like ownership! If you didn’t know, the d’Orsay was one of the major train stations in Paris.  It was closed and eventually remodeled and reopened as a museum.  The focus is the impressionist period- the Louvre retaining the antiquities and Rembrandt, etc.  The Pompidou took all the modern art.  The ‘Orangerie holds the Monet water lilies in specially designed rooms and has other special exhibits and a small permanent collection.   This year American Gothic by Grant Wood made the trip over to L’Orangerie from the Art Institute of Chicago for a special American exposition.

I am also an Ami du Louvre (Friend of the…)  But I can only take the Louvre in small doses. So the membership allows me to drop in from time to time and see just what I want and not feel like I am wasting a ticket.

2016-11-30-09-28-212016-11-30-09-28-38However, it’s the d’Orsay that really draws me.  To go early when it feels like your personal space.  The only other people (usually) are the guards.  Guards?  Well, they are not docents.  Security I guess.  Wearing black and with a museum name badge.  They all smile and welcome me.  In fact, this week when I got to the door where they usually take your ticket or scan your membership card, there was no one there.  I saw them all gathered off to the side in a meeting.  I waved my membership card at the guy standing who seemed to be in charge and he graciously waved me in.  Trusting.  Nice.

The d’Orsay also has my favorite café.  You might recall I call it my office?  I have many conversation exchanges there with friends.  The servers know me.  It almost feels like Little Italy when I worked in Visalia.  They would have the diet coke at my table as soon as they saw me walk in the restaurant.  OK, it’s not quite like that!  But some do remember m

While waiting for my friend, I wandered through the rooms.  Stopped by to see Starry Night by Van Gogh but it was gone.  I asked – it’s in Texas right now.  That made me think once again of the complexity of arranging painting exhibits.  How they get everything in the right place at the right time!  And how they know where things are to begin with.  Of course, that’s not that difficult for paintings in museums.  But I have noticed there are always several paintings from a Collection Privee.  Meaning a private collection.  I suppose the art auctions houses keep lists?  Or the museums have been keeping lists for years.

A couple donated their impressionist collection to the d’Orsay – with the stipulation that their paintings be kept together.  The Bonnards from their collection can’t go off to a room dedicated to Bonnard.  Nope.  I like the idea.  Maybe their kids can stop by and see the art altogether like they were visiting the parents’ house.  The paintings are related and can stay together.

The other thing I noticed on this visit was how my knowledge of art has grown over the past two years.  Now, mind you, I did know my art in general.  And I could always recognize the big names.  But now I can walk into a room and say – ah, Maurice Denis, oh, Berthe Morisot, a Degas, a Cezanne, and a Manet or a Monet.  And of course a Bonnard.  And from across the room even!  When you drop in often enough, instead of one day where you cram your head full of all the paintings in the museum, you unconsciously begin to notice enough to recognize styles.

Tres Cher Chalk!

2016-04-28 11.57.24The Pastel Shop was a treat.  The tour2016-04-28 12.53.14 – well, really a lecture – was in the Henri Roche shop: La Maison du Pastel.

The store was founded in 1729, bought by M. Roche in 1865.  He sold pastels and actually created new colors and changed the formula when working with artists including Degas and Bonnard.  His son, a doctor, joined him.  The son continued the enterprise after M. Roche’s death and he was later joined by his three daughters.

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The direct line ended there – but in 1999 when the eldest passed, the two remaining sisters sought someone to get involved. . A distant cousin took it over in 2000. An engineer, she learnt the craft from those elderly cousins.

Isabelle Roche (that’s with an accent on the ‘e’ if I had a French keyboard) (ro-shay) welcomed us and told us her family story. I loved the shop with the original wood shelves and boxes.

It was a big job to take on by herself.  Dwindling stock and small clientele…

Serendipity is a marvelous thing.

Isabelle Roche met 2016-04-28 11.55.47Margaret Zayer in 2010.  Margaret is an American and an artist who was at the time a student in Paris.  She joined Isabelle.  Now the two, an engineer and an artist, make the pastels by hand.
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The studio (you can’t call this a factory) is in the country outside Paris so we had to settle for an
excellent video of the very time-consuming process. The process hasn’t changed much – the scale is from 1909 or so. The pigments are now bought from distributors so they no longer have to grind it.  But they hand mix and squeeze and roll.

The pastels are pricey – 27 euros for 3 half sticks, 120 euros 2016-04-28 11.40.36for 12 sticks – but when you see the process, you understand the cost.  The pastels in and of themselves are a work of art.   See the open box on the left?  That holds 72 pastels – with the box it costs 1,385 euros.  Almost $1,600.

2016-04-28 11.49.03I have included a link to the website for the store itself and a link straight to a 15 minute video with much of the same footage I saw today of the process.  I never much enjoyed working in pastel but now I want to pastel again!  Too pricey – and yet, I would feel like I was buying a piece of art and of history.2016-04-28 11.56.38


It’s only open one afternoon a week.  The rest of the time I guess they are in the studio making more pastels.  And nowadays with the internet, why not?

Funny coincidence – I am going to have dinner tonight in a restaurant two doors down from La Maison.  My vegetarian French friend selected it: Le Potager du Marais.  We are checking out a veggie restaurant each week.  (I must admit I am not up for the French cuisine of eat every part of the animal… veggie is stressless!)