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!)

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.

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.

A Multitude of Miscellany

Le Chat est disparu. Vraiment. Maybe you remember the photo I posted of the cat at the Café Le Ruc where I meet Albert? He was a nice well groomed fat cat who lounged on the seats at any table he choose. I haven’t seen him for the past two weeks so I inquired today of the waiter. I love this waiter. Old school French. Deliberate. A bit stoic but warms up. By now we are almost friends – I have been seeing him almost every week since April. So I asked in French and got an answer in French that the cat has simply disappeared. I knew we were friends when he asked me if I had taken him – with a little laughter in his eyes. Non, non, Pas Moi! So I miss the cat. I think they do too.

It was an exciting morning at that café. While waiting to pay the bill (Albert had left, it was my turn) I saw four guys running down the street. Fast. And then about 4 others more slowly. And I heard commotion and then I heard Stop Him but that was around the corner. So I have no idea of the outcome – but I am assuming I saw a voleur (thief) being chased by someone who discovered the pickpocket. I hope he got him. Unlike other times, there were no police in the area. This is one block from the Louvre. And during special state visits, there are often police in their fancy white shirts, ribboned, and capped, directing traffic. Not today.   Just tourists dodging traffic to get to the museum.

Which I did too. One of my best investments was the annual memberships to the Louvre and to the D’Orsay. These get me special entrances with no lines any time. So I can just drop in when the feeling hits me. And what is great is that I get to see only that which I want and don’t feel any guilt that I didn’t spend hours there – that I missed something.

2015-06-24 11.42.45Today I went to the Napoleon III apartments. This is from the 19th century. And it has never been a favorite of mine.2015-06-24 11.41.08
Except. I guess I have changed. I actually liked it. I actually could see myself sitting back in one of the chairs, relaxing, having an aperitif.

2015-06-24 12.29.44And after I wandered through the Moyen Age – the medieval section for some tapestries and china. Now this is the way to enjoy the Louvre.

But let’s skip back in time to my visit yesterday to the Immigration Museum.

After a delightful lunch -yes a big lunch- with three friends, I set out for the immigration museum.

2015-06-23 16.07.34I took Uber to get there quickly as it was across Paris.  Coming back I got to take a tram.  French trams are great – I rode them in Tours last year.  Now I have discovered they are putting them in a circle around Paris.  I think it is about 75% complete.  A nice alternative to bus and metro.

Back to the Museum.  I found it very interesting that they have a museum dedicated to immigrants. I believe it opened in 2007. I think the closest thing that we have to this is Ellis Island and it’s not the same thing at all.

There was the regular exhibit which followed immigrants starting in about 1900 when they first started keeping track and having identity cards. Until then apparently you could just move anywhere you wanted, buy or rent. Then they started the identity cards and from that point on it was possible to trace where the immigrants came from. In a way it’s a history of French colonization from Algeria to Cambodia and all other all other places in between. 2015-06-23 15.42.15And other countries in Europe – Italy, Austria, etc. The museum shows what those immigrants brought with them to France -from making and repairing accordions to a violins to clothing –many tailors – to even a poster from I think the 70s that said the immigrants clean up the dog shit and we need to be thankful for them otherwise Paris would be full of dog shit. Literally. And Seriously. An interesting approach but certainly blunt and it makes its point.

And the special Fashion exhibit is actually why I went now because it will be closed before I come back from Germany. I’ve discovered over the years that I really like these fashion retrospectives in museums from Balenciaga to Gauthier. But I was curious – why fashion on display at the museum of immigration? Obvious answer if you think about all the famous designers. 2015-06-23 15.24.34They design for Chanel. For Dior. For Givenchy. So many of the fashion icons starting in the early 1900s were immigrants who then were fully adopted and embraced by the Haute Couture. Alexander McQueen: not French, Balenciaga: not French; Tom Ford: not French, and there’s a lot of other names that I am missing but they designed for the major fashion houses. These immigrants were fully embraced. And what a great reminder as to the benefits of immigrants.

We are such a melting pot. This is a bit odd to us. A French friend shared that an American visitor asked her where she was from. She said – France. The American said, yes, but where were your ancestors from? Um. France. We are so used to that question in the US. Except for the Sioux, etc.. we all came from somewhere else. These people just lived here, in most cases.

Yes. Now immigration is a questionable area in France – with the terrorists etc. There were maps tracing the routes. One map showed a lot of people going to South and North America: Canada and the US. One little tiny dotted line coming back from the US was the only indication that was some traffic from the US back to France. But as I stared at the map, I realized – me and my ex pat friends – we truly are immigrants.

That’s too heavy a thought for now. Something to mull over. So, instead, back to today’s lunch:

After the Louvre I made my way to the Opera area for lunch with a French friend. The bistro she suggested was packed so we went to another close by that had an American theme. She picked it. It was fine. I was there for the conversation with her, not the meal. But it was funny. Reminded me of a Washington DC restaurant that served California pizza back in the 90s- it had broccoli and other strange things on it – like nothing I had ever seen in California. So this place served Caesar Salad. With chicken. Sounds great. Classic. But non. Mais non. It was Caesar with chicken. And ham. And tomatoes. And Texas Toast. That was on the menu. It showed up with all that PLUS pepper. And mushrooms. And guacamole.

I am discovering great places for conversation exchange. Tomorrow, back to the delightful café at the Tuileries Garden. Then about 5 (open late on Thursday) at the café at the Musee D’Orsay. How cool is that? Part of me wants to continue to discover new places. The other part enjoys the warm feeling of having a routine and a place that’s “mine” in Paris.

Health update – the cold that started at 6:15 on June 1 in the evening seems to have left at 6:03 am yesterday, June 23. Weird. When I opened my eyes, I just felt that the “bug” was out of my system. However, the congestion lingers. I bought congestion meds today. One last try before going back to the doctor.

And Travel Plans. Off to Berlin on Saturday morning. I finally spent several hours on Sunday going through my various Berlin books and I think I have my general plans. I am not taking the laptop or the tablet, so my blogs may have to wait. Or maybe I will be daring and post from the phone! Stay tuned!

German- I don’t speak German. I’ve been in Germany several times – the last time in 2010. Then my lack of German was not an issue – it was just a train ride with a friend so we spoke to each other. Now I am going to Berlin for four nights and as I research things to do in Berlin I suddenly realize that German seems like a foreign language to me (well duh). I mean a language for which I have no affinity whatsoever and particularly after having been in France now for four months – and I do think in French from time to time – and I realize that I’ve been coming to France since 2007 and I’ve never questioned my ability to communicate (how effective my communication is – well, that’s another question). But I’ve always had an affinity for French and now I realize going to Germany I’m going to be relying more on my English and then I won’t know automatically what words mean or have any clue how to pronounce them. Shrug.

Today Albert and I had an interesting conversation about how words can change our lives. Just by using the words, even before we may fully believe them. In my case, how I started to say : I am moving to Paris – before I knew how and when. Et voila! That led us to the concept of Impossible. As we talked about that, Albert told me there is a saying in France – “Impossible n’est pas francais.”   (Impossible isn’t French.) He said it. I just stared back. And finally burst out – but that’s not true! Everything is impossible in France. He did the classic Gaelic shrug and said oui. But it is a saying. Another French friend confirmed. And I told her – but but but, that’s a lie. And she said, yes.

  1. Weird.

I like my French friends. I am getting along well with French in general, but those French who seek out Americans – we are sympatico.

I ask clients often – are they happy? And I asked that of myself today. And the answer continues to be a resounding yes. Yes. And yet, I have discovered a niggling thought at the back of my head. It’s wondering about my future – and what happens in the fall. I go to London in September in order to extend my legal time in France. But that will take me to December 20. Do I go to Ireland? Scotland? The Channel Islands? And push my time here to January? And what of my house? And the friend living there? And do I immediately apply for a one year visa? And do I sell my stuff? Or Goodwill it? And And And…

All things that really don’t matter right now. My focus is improving my French. (Ohh! You didn’t see that, but I first wrote ‘my focus is learning French” and I corrected myself, admitting I do know French and now I just improve it! Like that! Owning French!)

So. Not an issue. Not even a concern. Just something I have noticed. Recognized. Called out. And am moving it to the back room to wait. Time out for those thoughts. Live every day. In Paris.

Cooler words cannot be spoken.

Time plays games

IMG_5316Thinking I hadn’t posted for a while… And realized tonight I posted on Tuesday and this is only Thursday and that is only 2 days, really. Yet it feels like a week.  <Although I didn’t finish this post until today Friday but the time weirdness continues.>

Am I still on jet lag?


IMG_5218After the delivery excitement, I had another nice chat with the Over a Certain Age Meetup group at a new bar – almost in my neighborhood. It was just up from the Arc de Triomphe. Le Bidou. Tiny! From the thirties – and still feels like it. They had photos of Edith Piaf. So very nice. After I went to dinner with Laura from Sausalito   I am no longer surprised by 40 euro lunches or dinners. Wonderfully tasty.

April’s Fool Day is supposed to be a big thing here in France – particularly with paper fish pasted to your back. But I think that’s in the schools. I didn’t see much activity and I didn’t catch the news either. But I did have another chat with Alain.   Fascinating to discuss the differences in our political systems and in our businesses. And the US entrepreneurial spirit. Ha. We use a French word to describe a pretty American characteristic. We meet in a very fashionable café by the Palais Royale. With the cat on the red chair with the green walls near the toilettes.IMG_4564 (1) Very plush. Comfortable. And we sit by the window in a corner. And each time, the waiter sets down two newspapers at the table next to us. Moments later an older woman comes in and seats herself on the bench with her back to the wall, surveying the restaurant. Fascinating. What a ritual. I don’t know if it just Wednesdays and if she is meeting someone… but it intrigues me.

IMG_5244 While in the neighborhood, I stopped by the Palais Royale, one of my fav jardins.  and watched the kids play.  It wasn’t sunny enough for a photo of the plants – next time.

IMG_5235Then I made it to a café by the Rodin Museum to meet two people from the Infinite Possibilities trainer group – I met them in Orlando in January. They are here for a week. It was a spontaneous event and great to catch up. (This was NOT a 40 euro lunch – it was a basic Croque Monsieur).

Off to another Over a Certain Age gathering for a couple hours… Finishing with a client on Wednesday night. Coming home on the number 6 metro which gives beautiful views of the ETIMG_5264.

That takes us to Thursday. Look what a short period this was and yet it feels ages to me. And I have been having soda or water at the gatherings so don’t blame this on wine. Or maybe I need more wine?

Today was a work on line day. Many things to catch up on – emails, bills, bank accounts. And research for a printer. While I mastered the Monoprix delivery, the Amazon and everyone else delivery seems incredibly complex.

I am going to be here awhile and wanted a printer/copier/scanner. My landlady was going to sell me her old HP and it would have been a good solution.  But it stopped printing black ink.

So I am looking for one not too expensive and after a lot of research, found one on Amazon and FNAC for about 60 euros.  But after hassling with Amazon on line and not being able to get it delivered to one of their drop off places, I finally figured out that the printer is too big to be delivered to one of their stations.

And my building doesn’t have a “doorman” kinda person that I am aware of so I don’t want it delivered here and have it stolen.  And FNAC has it but only online and they don’t do “deliver to store and pick up” like in the states so I am stuck on delivery for that too.

I guess I am going to have to spend twice as much money to buy one that is in stock at FNAC or Darty.  Or just forego a printer… but that’s hard because I use printer in my work.

How do people get things in France?  Oh to have a Best Buy…

But a friend here offered to have it delivered to his place and I can get it from him.   However, today (4/3) when my brain has gotten off the roller coaster carousel of printer decisions, I have decided to just buy the more expensive one and bring it home on the bus with my cart. It’s only two stops away. Done. But tomorrow.

This whole experience was emotionally draining – as a friend reminded me living in a different culture can be draining.  But, done.  Decision made.

Last night I was sitting waiting for a bus about 8 pm. Still light out after daylight savings change. And realized I had no real clue of the time when I look at my 24 hr. watch. Someday I will start associating the 24 times with things like meals… but right now. No.

IMG_5305Evening stroll on ile de la Citie.

On April First I was set free of tickets! Somewhere earlier I think I criticized the French for their monthly metro cards flat fee. On April 1st my pass was “live” and I realized I could jump off and on a bus or metro without incurring any additional costs. Oh. This is a good thing. I can make as many extra stops to the picturesque places that I like.

And Thursday was a milestone. I have been here four weeks. Met an American on the bus – he got up and gave me his seat which of course gave away that he must be an American. He was from Minnesota. Told him I was here for 9 months… and realized, one is done. Now I am only here for 8 months. Sad.

Friday night, tonight, I am meeting Edna for French/English conversation. So I decided on a quick morning trip to the D’Orsay. Several “bustimate” opportunities on this trip.

I peeked in on the Van Gogh’s and the Nabis and saw they have a special exhibit of Bonnard. Ho-hum. WRONG.IMG_5313 Oh I love Bonnard. IMG_5325The rooms were quite crowded but I can come back anytime! And will do so in the morning before it gets busier.IMG_5312  And apparently I was confused on my last visit here – you CAN still take photos- but NO flash  And not of any pieces on loan.  This Bonnard exhibit was incredible – so many museums participated.  Truly a global program.

Discovered a new bus (82) that takes me to Montparnasse by the Eiffel Tower. And has a very close -The closest – Bus stop by me.

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