Friday, April 19, 2019

Notre Dame

 Dear friends and family,
Below is an account of the horrible tragedy from friends who are renting on the ile St Louis, just behind Notre Dame.
She does a very good job summarizing  their experience. See below after our comments.

Like a number of  you, we have been to Notre Dame many times (Midnight Mass, baptisms, organ recitals, etc). We lived about 100 yds from the bridge behind Notre Dame (Le Pont Archeveche) and I walked by it every day on my way to work. Judy made a point of passing by daily. We never wanted to take her supreme presence for granted.

We we were horrified watching the unimaginable destruction unfold before our eyes. It was so sad to see it go up in flames, little by little.
Already the donations are coming in to rebuild. It took 200 years or so for the original to be "completed". I hope we live to see the completion of this "rebuild".
We were truly shaken by this
Tony and Judy

On Tuesday, April 16, 2019, Ruth R. wrote:

Last week, school vacation started in many outlying parts of France. There were many French tourists from outside of Paris. We boarded a bus near where we live and quickly rode across the small bridge over the Seine connecting the Ile Saint Louis to the mainland, the Left Bank. On the bus were a mother visiting with three young daughters. The youngest, with the pinkest jacket and the pinkest barrette in her hair, perhaps four or five, gasped  as we had the view of the Seine right by where we live, “Aah!” she sighed, “Notre Dame de Paris!” I told this charming story all last week. Last night, as I stood on the bridge with hundreds of silent people watching the flames, I cried.
Notre Dame de Paris - pen and ink sketch by Tony Donovan
We had walked across the bridge nearest to Notre Dame a few minutes before the start of the fire,  stopping, as we do each time, to look at the Cathedral and the river, saying, in gratitude, we never tire of this view. It is the photo of where we reside in Paris that sits in our New York living room.
When we heard of the fire we went to the bridge near us. There were no news media yet, just people gathering. Hundreds. Silent. Even those on their phones were whispering so no one could hear. Disbelief. Flames. Sirens. Cascades of water pouring into the Cathedral. The flames not subsiding.  One man stood on the balcony of his apartment facing the Cathedral. We could hear, through the open French windows of his apartment, the music of the Requiem Mass that he was playing.

There are no adequate words for the immeasurable loss of the treasures inside. We went to see Notre Dame this morning. The firemen (500 of them) were able to save the outside stone structure and the two towers. We are told people were able to save some religious relics. The entire wooden Medieval interior and sculptures are gone. Macron says France will rebuild. The coat of arms of Paris is an old ship floating on a rough sea,  the motto in Latin always under it is “Fluctuat nec mergitur.” “We are shaken but we do not sink.”
Ruth (and Merv)

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Leaving Paris for Le Sap

Well, the time had come to leave our apartment. We had our last little get-together on Rue du Tresor with Jo, her guest, Bryna, Henri and Denise, Jacques and Claire and us. Sandwiches, Prosecco and Jacques' Cheesecake. The next morning, we finished packing and took a last look around the neighborhood.
Last minute items to squeeze into our bags.

A wedding at the City Hall

Looking back to the Right Bank from the bridge over the Seine.
The tip of Isle St Louis with Isle de la Cite in the background.

We dropped our big suitcases at Jo's place and we took the metro to Porte Maillot to wait for Jacques and Claire to pick us up for a few days at Caroline and Alexis' place in Le Sap, Normandy. Click HERE for a previous post about their Manor House.

Foundation Louis Vuitton

The next day, after recovering from the monster traffic jam, we took Tom and Peg to see the show at Atelier des Lumieres. After that, we walked to the meeting spot for the walking tour of the Marais, had lunch then left them there for the tour. We met later at the end of the tour.

The next day we had tickets for the Impressionism Exhibit at the Foundation Louis Vuitton. Click HERE for an older post about this place. We had tickets for a Shuttle from Etoile to the museum but there were 50 or more people waiting for the small buses that held about 15 at most. We finally took a cab to get to the next line to get into the museum.

This was an exhibit of the Courtauld Collection from London. The museum in London was being renovated so the collection came to Paris. This was an amazing exhibit. There were many recognizable works from the most famous of the Impressionist painters. These paintings were either sketches/studies for a final painting or one of several on the same subject. For example, Monet painted 12 versions of his painting of the train station in Paris, Gare St. Lazare. For some, one could see that they were incomplete or works in progress while others looked just like the final products in other museums.
Here are some examples.
Manet's A Bar at the Folies Bergeres

Another Monet painting of Cap D'Antibes (like the one at the museum in Giverney among other places)

Cezanne's Card Players
 Van Gogh Self-Portrait

The exhibit had only recently opened and it was mobbed. It was difficult getting a real good view of some of the paintings. At the end of the exhibit, there was a small room that represented the owner's collection in his home. This photo below does not do it justice as everything in the room was on the wallpaper. The 3D effect was fantastic.

A quick loop to Bruges, Etretat, Honfleur and Giverney

Judy's cousin Tom and wife, Peggy, arrived on Saturday. We let them rest a bit, then had lunch at our favorite Crepe restaurant, Crepe Suzette (no kidding). As it was market day, we decided to buy our dinner from the woman who sells beef bourgignon, paella and choucrute. We bought choucrute by the number of people eating and added a variety of franks and sausages to satisfy everyone. Our friend, Jo, arrived the same day so we invited her for dinner. There was plenty for her to take back to her apartment for a few more meals.
Early on Sunday morning we took the metro to Charles de Gaulle/Etoile and walked to the car rental. Eurocar was in an underground parking lot near the metro station. After signing my life away, we drove out of the parking garage and took the highway to the north on our way to Bruges. 

Bruges is a beautiful, small, historic town on the Belgian border with France. It is famous for its canals and medieval architecture. Here is the Bell Tower from inside its courtyard. It is the main building on the city square.
The canals flow through the town and there are many small bridges that cross it again and again. Here is a view from one of the bridges. 
 The town was very crowded as it was a Sunday and a beautiful day. Here are a few of the tourists walking along one of the canals. The main square was just jammed with people.
 Judy did a great job finding lodging for this trip. Here is our hotel, Le Duc de Bourgogne, on the canal. It had a great restaurant where we ate dinner and had a terrific breakfast the next morning. Getting to the hotel was quite a challenge. The roads are tiny and they were mobbed with people. But we made it without killing anyone but still had to drive to a parking lot nearby.
Here is the hotel across the canal from our room. The building on the right is the one that Colin Farrell jumped from in the movie, "In Bruges". We love that movie. 

After our breakfast the next morning, we dragged our luggage to the underground parking nearby, found our car and made our way out of Bruges without and accident. We were on our way to Etretat.

Etretat is a charming little village along the coast where Monet painted some of his most iconic landscapes. The cliffs of Etretat. We grabbed a quick lunch on the road when we filled up with gas and wound our way to the coast. At one point we could see the English Channel in the distance near Calais.

This is a great view looking relatively to the north

And here is the classic cliffs in the other direction. This was the afternoon shot with the sun behind the cliff. I looked for a place to get a photo from the other side but couldn't find access to the ocean.

This was a quick stop as we still had to get to Honfleur, only about an hour away. Judy outdid herself again with the BandB she found run by a nice Scottish couple. Here she is in the breakfast room. The eggs were fresh as their free range chickens lay eggs around the yard.
 I really love Honfleur. It is always on my list of places to visit. It was a bit cold once the sun went down but we were still able to get a few iconic photos.

Looking across the "bassin"with the house controlling the locks on the right and the steeple of St Catherine in the background.
 And I love this view with the reflections across the basin. What a spot.
From Honfleur, we set out for Paris with a stop at Giverney. Monet's house and garden had just opened the previous weekend so I didn't expect too much in the garden. However, they had been busy planting annuals and taking care of the perennials so that there was a lot of color in the gardens.

Monet's house was in great shape. It looked like a lot of the trim had just been painted as that beautiful green color was shining off of all the rails and shutters. 
The dining room was in fine form.
After crossing under the road, we came across the 

Japanese Bridge and its reflection. The water lilies had not appeared yet, but it is still a beautiful spot.

Here is one of the permanent residents of Giverney.
Coincidentally, there was an exhibit at the Musee d'Impressionisme, next door, that compared some of Monet's work with Jean Francis Auburtin. They were painting some of the same scenes, although years apart. Can you guess which one belongs to which artist?

 Hint, they are in alphabetical order...

Here's a group of very young art lovers with their docent actively talking about the paintings on the wall. I always love seeing kids in the museums.

From there we drove back to Paris where we got involved in a horrendous traffic jam. We finally managed to squeeze our way to a street on the right and, after several illegal U-turns in front of police officers, we found ourselves on the street with the car rental. Tom spotted an entrance to a parking lot and we drove underground for a bit and found the Europcar office. It turns out the President of China was in town and all roads were blocked.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Around Town

At first I didn't think we were doing much since arriving in Paris, but as I look back, we've been pretty busy with lots of activities.

Since the Nabis exhibit and Jacques birthday lunch we've been out with our sister, Carol, covering a lot of territory. After returning from Nabis on the bus, we ran into our friend, Paul, from Le Peloton, along with his kids. We told him we were on our way to get a chicken at St. Paul and he reminded us not to forget the roast potatoes... we didn't.

On Sunday, we decided on one of the Paris Discover Walks free tours. These are conducted, on a volunteer basis by the Pink Vests.The timing was right for the tour of Montmartre. We met the guide at the Blanche metro stop and he had to split the large group into two groups of 15.

We began our tour in the doorway of the Moulin Rouge. He would take us on a back road tour climbing up to the top of the area giving us a great insight into who lived there and how the area evolved into what it is today. It is more than Pigalle and more than Sacre Coeur. There was a suggested "tip" to cover all the expenses that made this free tour just a little bit cheaper than a paid tour. But very good.

After the tour, we made our way down the hill to a restaurant we had noticed on the way up, Le Sancerre. As we like Sancerre wine, we thought this was a good spot. After soup a l'oignon , salads, profiteroles and a bottle of wine, we were ready to make our way  to the metro and back to our apartment.

At 8pm we were hungry enough to go to out for dinner at Au Petit Fer a Cheval one of my favorites.

That night we went on line to get tickets for the Van Gogh exhibit at the Atelier des Lumieres (ADL from now on), We got tix for the 12:30 entrance. This was an amazing exhibit of a multi-media film that displays much of Van Gogh's work via multiple projectors on the walls, floors and objects in the large open space. Click HERE for lots of pictures of "La Nuit Etoilee - Starry Night".

From there we walked to a meeting spot for another "free" tour by the Pink Vests. This was through the Marais. Although we had spent a fair amount of time in the Marais section of Paris, we found this a very enjoyable and informative tour. We met at a metro stop at the edge of the Marais and worked our way to the Place des Vosges and finished at the Hotel de Ville.
On this tour we  met a woman about our age from Australia. She had come to Paris for a 30th birthday party for a young woman whose van broke down in Australia in front of this woman's house. She ended up staying with the woman for 3 weeks while the van was prepared. They  have kept in contact and the Aussie decided on the spur of the moment to be a surprise guest at the birthday party. Nice story.

But the day didn't end there as Carol and I took the 6:45 Seine river tour. The timing was just about right as the sun set and the City of Light came to life.

We capped things off with a late dinner at Les Philosophes. Unfortunately some of the specials were no longer available.

We had a good night sleep and a light breakfast the next morning then walked Carol to the metro station with a direct line to Charles de Gaulle airports. We really enjoyed her company and her help around the apartment and her spirit of independence.

Speaking of Old Friends

On the 16th, the day of the Big Demonstration, we attended Jacques Bornstain's 80th birthday lunch with  his family. In France the "birthday boy" treats his guests instead of the other way around.

So, he and Claire picked us up at Port Maillot, a few blocks from the riot and drove out to the restaurant, Le Chenoy, in their neighborhood. After a few minutes, people started to straggle in. Son, David, and wife ,Camille, arrived with their kids, Yael, Elisabeth and Matthieu arrived (along with Arris in the photo on the right) and were on their cell phones immediately.

Caroline came with Elias and Arris. Two of Jacques old friends, Jean Pierre and Blanche arrived. We met Jean Pierre and Blance about 40 years ago and see them from time at Jacques' place. Finally, another couple arrived who have been Jacques' friends since the French equivalent of Jr. High.

We all sat together and after a champagne toast by Jacques we all enjoyed reconnecting with everyone.

Then it was time for the cake...
Here's Jacques getting a little bit of help from 4 of his 5 grandchildren.

After the dinner Judy and I piled into Caroline's car with the boys and had a fun time on our way back to Paris. Congratulations to Jacques and here's to another great year.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

On a Lighter Note

There seemed to be an interesting exhibit at the Musee de Luxembourg. It was a show on the "Nabis".

The museum is a small one on the edge of the large Jardin de Luxembourg. It was the perfect size for an exhibit.
As we did not have tickets, we had to wait in line and 5 people at a time were allowed to enter. It took us 45 minutes to enter and we were done in about 30 minutes.
What or who are the "Nabis"? The Nabis were a group of painters who came after the Impressionists. They thought that the Impressionists were too realistic. Imagine that! Their name is hebrew or arabic for "Prophet" as they were going to show the world what the
true art was, an Art Nouveau. The most well know were Bonnard, Vuillard, Denis and Serusier.

As we had already been to an exhibit of Bonnard in London, Judy was looking forward to this show. The paintings were from private collections so  none  of them had been exhibited before. The show was organized by how the paintings were being used in the decor of a home. Some were for the walls of a living room, some for a bedroom, some as panels in a room, some to cover all the walls in a room and even lampshades.

Here's Judy with one of her favorites. Young kids in a park in subdued colors.

Here are a couple which were meant for a living room. The patterns in the women's clothing almost matches the patterns in the wallpaper. This was typical of many of the Nabis' paintings.

Here is a large painting by Vuillard that was meant to cover a whole wall.

This was a small but very interesting exhibit. There were about 90 pieces but that included manuscripts and sketches, etc.There were about 25-30 painting which made it well within my normal attention span for a museum.