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Petit Post on Paris


Hello all, I’m sorry I’ve been so absent from the blog. We all came back from our trip inflicted with a virus that took us down for days and days. I’m now coming out of my cotton-headed fog and will post a few tidbits from our trip and direct you to my flickr set, Stella’s flickr set and Max’s flickr set for more pictures and commentary. And in another post I’ll tell you about the Karen Kilimnik exhibit we saw and about my studio visit with American artist Matthew Rose.

Winter in Paris

We set foot in Paris on a day that turned from drizzle to golden perfection and while we had only two more sightings of sun in the 8-day trip, the city of grandeur and cafe societies didn’t fail to deliver, even in the rain.

Notre Dame
Paris is full of parks and the parks are full of benches. The ambiance is like an outdoor living room. Here, these two (they have to be Parisian because she’s smoking) are parked on a bench behind Notre Dame. The day was glorious, warm and sunny. Many people were out sitting and strolling.

We stayed in an apartment near Place de la Bastille and did much of our cooking/eating at home, so we got to immerse ourselves in the dailiness of Paris life: We shopped at the Monoprix; we shopped at the open air markets; we bought baguettes each morning for breakfast. (One improvement in the baguette department, they now come in whole grain — “baguette cereal” I believe is what they call it– delicious!)

Stella trying to make a decision on the hundreds of yogurt options. This entire aisle is yogurt! And see the picture big to see the grocery store’s red chandelier — something I didn’t notice (being blinded by yogurt) until I looked at the photo.

Many folks wear basic black in this chic town. This young woman stood out even at the colorful market for her great color combination of fuscia and orange.

Bastille market
This is the Bastille market where we (and everybody else) shopped on Sunday and Thursday. There’s a market like this in each arrondisement.

Paris is a great walking town. The scale is low-slung and human. No big office tower canyons here. It’s more like Greenwich Village all over the place.

Low-slung and dense. The city is not full of office towers. This is a shot we took from atop the Eiffel Tower looking towards Les Invalides.

There are parks and open space and even an elevated park, Promenade Plante, on an elevated railroad track that’s been turned into a municipal mecca — handicap accessible via elevator — with gorgeous plantings.

Promenade Plante
Promenade Plante. The bamboo archway is just one of the nice unexpected touches.

You may remember that folks in Philadelphia are trying to accomplish something similar with the abandoned Reading Terminal viaduct that runs above Chinatown. Here’s information on Philadelphia’s Reading viaduct project that people are trying to get started here to transform that abandoned railroad line. Let’s hope Philadelphia can get it together to make this elevated park. The Paris park is like everything else in the city, full of grace and beauty and something that enhances the quality of life for the people.

Adding up the Small Moments

I’m always for the accumulation of small moments that add up to something memorable. So some of my favorite memories of the trip are of the serendipitous non-events we witnessed like the group of what might be military school graduates posing in front of the Eiffel Tower. (Ecole Militaire is just a block away.) Even non-tourists want their picture taken with the big Paris monuments in the background.

graduation day?
With Ecole Militaire right nearby I had to think this is a group of graduates from the military academy.
Here’s a restaurant called Thanksgiving in the Marais that Stella and I happened upon the day after Thanksgiving. It’s Louisiana cuisine and the sign in the window says it’s “Bayou La Seine.”
light and grafitti
This was in Passage St. Paul in the Marais, where we also found a remnant of the stone wall around the ancient city of Paris. We wandered upon this street again by accident and saw that the grafitti had not been removed. Is it decor or does the proprietor not want to incur the wrath of who put the mark up there.
Paris gas station
Paris gas station, a no-nonsense approach to buying gas. There are few of them, and because they’re so minimally intrusive in the urban scene they’re almost invisible.
Paris, soccer
A soccer match seen from atop the Eiffel Tower.

Small moments in the Louvre

Louvre, art education
Art education at the Louvre. This was in a room with the Watteau Poiret painting.
This Roman Empire-era frou frou at the Louvre, a small sculptural homage to Augustus Caesar from the Roman period, was a reminder that Neoclassical art has much to do with imperial Rome. Grand, excessive, showy, works all over town have this kind of ornate bombast.
Louvre skylight
I have many photos of things at the Louvre and you can see them at flickr. Here is something I didn’t expect to see — shadow of workers’ feet doing some repair on a skylight. We heard the feet before we saw them.
Louvre conservation room
Conservators working on classical statues. The light in that room was great.

Paris Underground

The Paris Metro, which costs a little over a Euro when you buy a carnet (10 tickets) is clean, fast and comprehensive. We rode it a lot when we weren’t walking, which was our preferred mode of transport.

French drain
French drain system runs along the floor of the Metro. It’s a small channel that’s lower than the floor and catches any water that comes up and in and prevents it from being on the floor. Many of our neighbors in Lower Merion have French drains to protect their basements.

The impulse to create beauty

Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe. Decoration on a grand scale.

Paris is a great decorated city. Not only are there curlicue neoclassical plinths and arches and monuments everywhere. But there’s an overall urge to decor evident in even the smallest cafes which never failed to have colorful posters on the walls. I kept thinking how in our American way restaurants and cafes seek out professional decorators to “do” a place up properly. Starbucks being the first but by no means the only example. The ambiance is corporate and contrived and manipulative. In Paris, people put real art in their emporia because they like it and because they want to live with something beautiful in their view. That’s it for this post. I’ll be back later with more.