Copyright © 2002 by Martin S. Reff
All Rights Reserved
Rained most of the day - shopped, napped, dinner and then our nightly walk downtown
Three policemen on blue bicycles are in front of Gare.
Down on Montparnasse we pass a Pizza Hut with 13 motocycles. I know that we must be exporting our best.
Evening walk - rue de Rennes, rue de Vaugirard, rue de Madam, then de Meziers, across place St-Sulpice to rue des Cannettes, then right on to rue Guissarde (toward the old market). Great street for restaurants = L'Enfance du Lard on the the left and Aux Charpentiers on rue Mabillon; now to rue du Four, then to the market, left on rue Clement to rue de Seine/Tournon, left to boulevard St. Germain; right to place de H. Mondor; then right up r. de Condé. Who are these people and what did they do? We bear left and take rue Crébellon to place d'Odéon - checked out Restaurant Mediterranée then left and down rue d'Odéon where in middle of block I point out an important place.
It's the building in which Thomas Paine, the American patriot, lived between 1797 and 1802. According to plaque that marks the spot, Thomas Paine was 'English by birth, American by adoption, and French by decree." Elected to be Calais's representative to the National Assembly, he actually spent a decade in France.
As we continued our walk on St. Germain toward boulevard St. Michel, I noticed the regulation about posters that was engraved on the side of a building: Defense D'Afficher Loi du 29 Juillet 1881 (Posting is Prohbited by the the Law of July 29, 1881). When the French want a law or regulation obeyed, they make sure it is! It's a good law, particularly in France where posters are popular and are used by all political parties and even some parties that are not political.
We turned right at "Bull Mich" (short for boulevard St.-Michel) and took the métro home. A poster in the métro advertised an American Federal Lottery of 2001. It was headlined with "Permanent American Visas/Get the Green Card/Please register to get information Tel# 01.../in order to participate in the American Federal Lottery of 2001/www.carteverteUSA."
Tried the Musée d'Orsay but the line for tickets dissuaded us. Tried the Orangerie but it was closed for refurbishing. Strolled a bit, but then home for shopping, lunch, and a nap.
Spaghetti and meat balls and, on top of that, early to bed.
To the - Musée Guimet
The Musée National des Arts Asiatiques (known as the "Guimet" after its founder and major benefactor) was where my interest in Japanese painting was sparked, but today I wanted to see those Chinese mountain scenes that fascinated me because of their perspective.
It didn't take me long to find one. It was a scroll depicting a distant mountain scene with high peaks and water that fell, it appeared, for miles to a lake far below. A house and people, the size of ants, were painted with detail. Standing there before the painting was like standing before a long rectangular window in an ancient monastery looking out on the mountains of Tibet. The perspective was that real. I realized for the first time that the long rectangle enhanced the deception and the eye did the rest.
These vertical landscapes are wonderful: bridges, rocky peaks, trees, waterfalls, lakes, narrow trails and passes, houses with porches, occasional boats, docks, people - combined with color and line to carry you to a cloud, perhaps, or to the top of tree.
I want to buy a print to bring home.
Found a vase that reminded me of the one my mother had turned into a lamp and which I now have in the computer room at home.
A beautiful but rather uncomfortable porcelain pillow so that a woman's headdress would not be crushed.
Dragons are a Chinese invention.
Throughout this visit I considered what I was doing and why. I would look with tremendous curiosity at one object, identifying with the artist, so that what I was experiencing might have been what he was experiencing. But mine was different in more than the obvious ways. I found that after thoroughly examining one artifact, a second that was almost like it, didn't attract me. I am just not a connoisseur of such art. I was not caught up again until I found another object that was substantively unlike the one before so that it once again made me curious. The difference was only in the treatment.
Technique intrigues me in these pieces. (Others touch my emotional self.) The artist's craft and materials are what matter. Not so for the works of Hiroshige or Hokusai of the Japanese Ido period which just plain delight me.
I see a writing box on which is engraved: "Look for perfection in calligraphy for it is one of the keys to existence." Another, "Ignorance is an irremediably bad."
Artistic experience is discovery, the beautiful the wonderful
How the West plundered so much from the East!
Brilliant black cases inlaid with stones.
Six cups made of agate-like glass
IDEA: Make a copper barrette for Marcia.
I like screens.
Here's a landscape...a winter scene...on the left coming out of the bottom is a massive old tree trunk that twists upward in powerful turns. A thick branch spreads across the screen. And there, perched on this monumental growth, are frail egrets frozen in an innocent pose. On the bottom I suddenly notice lightly delineated circles - a pool of water - and lying there are broad green leaves smudged with bits of snow. I look at how the the snow was distributed Patches of green decay appear on the trunk - moss.
Clay figures don't turn me on.
Korean area, vast army, child sitting on top of a bearded camel, pans, bottles, a turban.
Classic China - few landscapes, bodies, animal, children on horseback playing polo.
Afghanistan: terra cotta buildings, friezes with animals.
How did they make this stuff - porcelain in teak? 1724, Indonesia.
In a library display case I found a thick volume about 2 feet high by 15 inches wide, and between 3-4 inches thick. It was described as "A collection of 250 colored etchings descriptive of the manners, customs, and dresses of the hindoos." The artist, a man named Soleynes (1760-1824) lived in Calcutta, India and published the book in 1799. And I barely have time to wonder at a series of figures in a small section of one page that must have taken weeks to create 200 years ago.
We had lunch and went back and then to Trocadero. Beautiful art deco bathroom complex down below.
Today was my birthday so we decided to have dinner at our local restaurant. Also we would try to find a filet mignon....no chateaubriand around. A la Ville de Morlaix was closed. No shortage of restaurants, however. We picked La Coupole the largest and busiest in Montparnasse...at the corner of boulevards Montparnasse and Raspail.
It was 7:30 PM but the dining room which holds hundreds of people was already packed. Without a reservation we were directed to the bar where the person in charge of gate crashers handed us a card, estimating a 25 minute wait.
We moved away and then I looked at the card. It was maroon business card with the name of Franz Liszt, the composer, in the center; the name of one of his works, "Sonata en si Mineur," was in the upper left corner with Bon appétit and Bonne soiree on the lower right. Nothing was on the back of the card...no number. How were we identified? I asked and he told me my name was Franz Liszt. It clicked. How charming and utterly French.
We shared a scotch and waited. In about 30 minutes "Liszt" was called and Marcia, whose hearing is better than mine, said, "Franz, that's us."
We were led to an ample table that needed to be set and from then on it was one thing after another and then menus were provided.
We ordered one appetizer, Foie Gras, that was served with sea salt and a marmalade of prunes on the side. Both worked surprisingly well with the duck liver paté.
I had ordered a Bourdeaux, Chateau Fourcas, which I had remembered as a good wine. It was.
Our main course: Chateaubriand - sanglant -rare. It's accompaniment was unfortunately a heap of French fried potatoes. The steak was magnificent. Marcia and I wanted some good red meat and we weren't disappointed. We had fond memories of visiting the Tidewater Inn in Easton, Maryland every summer for a great steak dinner and dancing.
I selected a Baba au Rhum for dessert; it was served with a double daub of whipped cream, slices of pineapple, grapefruit and strawberry and, suprisingly, a small glass of rum with which I could dampen the already soaked Baba. This is the way to live.
Marcia had coffee ice cream shaped like a old fashioned sugar cone, a roll of parfait with leaves of chocolate and coffee ice cream with syrup nearby and coffee/ chocolate candies on the side.
Delicious real coffee and tea au lait helped our digestion.
The bill appeared as follows:
|1 Baba Rhum||F 42.00|
|1 Parfait Cafe||F 38.00|
|1 Fourcas (Wine)||F181.00|
|1 Thé Ceylan||F 20.00|
|1 Double Express||F 35.00|
|TVA Tax Included||19.6%|
Figuring out the cost of just the meal is complicated. In
order to do this, first compute the taxable amount by dividing
the TVA of 102.63 FF by 19.6 % which gives you 523.6224 FF.
That was the net cost of the meal. To find the service, multiply
the net cost of 523.6224 FF. by 16% to derive the tip of 83.7795
|Cost of just the food||523.6224 FF|
|Tax (TVA)||102.63 FF|
|or in dollars||$104.00|
Our normal meals were less than half of that.
While I'm on the subject of money, you might be interested in knowing that the major source of income for most of the governments of Europe is not an income tax but a (in English) Value Added Tax (VAT) or (in French) taxe à la valeur ajoutée (TVA). The per cent varies with each member of the European Union but all must be within a set range. In France that tax is 19.6% and is part of the price of practically everything from dinners out to underwear and electric light bulbs. The tax is hidden in the price and uncovered in the bill or check. But it's not the only item hidden. When you eat out, the service charge is also hidden.
Which abbreviation of the franc one uses depends upon the context. In the broadest context one should use the FRF which denotes the franc République Français, as opposed to the Swiss franc. FF for French Franc was used on the internet to denote the currency for renting the apartment. Within France a single "F " is used generally although our supermarket uses FRF (franc République Français). Historically the FF or the FRF was and still is usually placed after the amount, just as adjectives generally follow the noun, 50 F. You'll notice that in the bill above the F is placed in the same position as $. Is this a courtesy for American visitors or just another indication of the influence of the dollar? All of this information will be academic by 2003 when he Euro will be supreme.
We walked a around awhile and then returned home....to sleep at about 11:30.
The next day we talked briefly about bistros, restaurant, and brasseries. We agreed that Le Coupole is a brasserie rather than a restaurant like Morlaix. The former: bright lights, rapid service, and plain dishes. In the latter we did sit for hours in soft lights. A bistro, by the wy, is somewhat like a brasserie but smaller.
To Bercy via new metro, number 14, which is winner in every respect.
Its entrance at Madeleine consists of a tremendous underground cylinder. Unlike the drab one at boulevard St. Michel at St.Germain, this one sparkles in stainless steel and transparent plastic illuminated from the shell. Down we go by escalator to enter a world of 2001 (oh, yes, that's this year, 2002).
Where once there was small platform, there is a wide one. Where once there was a track going in each direction with nothing between you and the track except air, there is now a complete enclosure which covers the track. It is all steel and plastic and has doors that open automatically when the train stops. Where once there was a train consisting of number of separate cars with an engineer, there is now a train with no engineer at all, with cars connected by an accordion, and with doors that open by themselves exactly opposite the access doors in the track cover that opens simultaneously on the platform.
Now the cars have plenty of standing room with above your head stainless steel bars for holding on. The train runs by itself, stops, and starts all without a human being's presence. The train is much faster than the old ones but it makes horrific screeching sound as it starts and begins to gain momentum. Its windows are huge and everything is stainless steel or plastic.
At Bercy we found three areas. First was an extensive residence complex of modern structures that appeared to house duplex apartments. Each had a unique design and what we saw was the most advanced designs in housing that can be imagined.
Second was mall of shops housed in individual "caves" much like the vintners occupied years before. Indeed the main cobblestone walkway still had the embedded rails for the trains carrying wine, bottles, grapes, and people. Finally, the largest area was devoted to one of Paris' new parks with its open and closed spaces, pools, lagoons, sunken areas, bridges, fields, etc.
As usual we explored, then back to Madelaine, some more walking then home, stopping for a bagette and a tartelette de pomme.
We shopped extensively this morning because we were expecting company tomorrow. Besides we were running out of supplies ourselves. Within a half block at Fran Prix we purchased mostly heavy items - today water(six liters of Volvic), a case ( 6 bottles .75L) of red wine, 2 bottles of white wine, milk, orange juice, and margarine.
At INNO, a larger supermarket, about three blocks away, we bought the following items: cheese: roquefort, a form of chevre, brie; a whole lotte (monk fish ), a bottle of good red wine, good white wine, and champagne; two filets of smoked trout from Great Britain, chicken filets for next day's dinner; a jar of oregano (our supply, which Marcia thoughtfully brought from home, is running out); potatoes, spinach, lettuce, a jar of pesto sauce (we miss our Basil bush); cookies; grapes, peaches, and cashews. We stopped by the bakery for two muffins with cherries in them for breakfast food.
Shopping is frustrating: so many good things but the stomach can hold only so much at one time.
It's 2 PM and off to La Défense.
La Défense is an extensive area just west of the city line where a vast complex of residential and commercial buildings had been built. Taken as an aggregate it constitutes a wonder of modern architecture. We visited it years before. Now we'll return.
The trip is easier and faster. Years ago we had to take a métro and then a bus. Today we took a métro right across the Seine and got off where the esplanade begins.
Overview: La Défense built above ground with no roads, no automobiles, no motorcycles. The architecture is all modern: buildings use steel and other alloys, plastic and glass, marble and cement. Residential buildings are low; commercials scrape the sky. Curves and straight lines; solid squares, rectangles, and circles; truncations provide more light; corners defy engineers.
Each tenant in residential structures has a balcony where no traffic flows below except the occasional click of heel, or a child's laugh.
Shopping takes place underground in a well ordered familiar mall with a supermarket that occupies two floors.
At the highest point in this city is the Arch, a square many stories high which crowns the mall. If you stand in the center under it or forward of it and look east, you will see the mall first stretching to Seine, then avenue de la Grande Armée, next the Arc de Triomphe, followed by the Champs Élysée. On a clear day your eye will see further as far as 0bélisque in Place de La Concorde. And if you have the eyes of an eagle you will see the Arc de Triomphe de Carrousel where the Jardins des Tuilleries ends and finally the tip of the pyramid in the Louvre begins.
The mall is guarded by hundreds of plane trees trimmed back that are budding now and knee high sculpture has been created in cement on the corners of the areas that contain greens. One piece is a person with a calm face; another, a bearded man quite angry; then, two faces, perhaps lovers, blending together so that there is one nose, an eye on one side and one the other; finally, an angry father with his daughter, probably.
The esplanade is a wide walkway made of removable pebble-cement
slabs loosely laid to provide access to what lies below. Fountains
pulse water extravaganzas. The slabs of the sidewalk float and
sometimes clank when stepped on.
The arch in the center is like a box without a bottom so that
you can look right through and see sky.
HSPACE="10" VSPACE="10"> On one side is an elevator
and in front is a canvas spread and held by steel cable. Under
that cashiers sell tickets to the elevator ride to the top of
Could I be seeing solar panels - each one about 30 windows long and about five stories high? All on top of a skyscraper?
Here is a building with windows like portholes - no circles but each is square with rounded corners.
A tremendously impressive new building being completed - two
rounds, then squares, columns, plastic, glass - gigantic is the only
word I can use. See below.
And now try to imagine first a a wing of a enormous airplane. Cut it close to the fuselage where it is thicker. Place this thick end on the ground. Now imagine the wing as a 20-40 floor building. Further imagine that the front edge of this wing type structure is made concave. Spectacular!
Just ahead are two sculptures: The first, in the center, is an old fashioned depiction of a woman with a sword in battle, a cannon, and a man with a tattered flag. It's called "La Défense" and was put near here before anything that we see now was imagined; the area gets its name because the statue was here first. The second sculpture consists of objects created by Miro, anything mentionable or unmentionable, or nothing but themselves. Another object is a giant bronze thumb, placed in a pocket garden, sticking up in the air. Picasso gleefully would have used the middle finger.
One new building we can see from our balcony . From there it looks like two adjacent salamis after diagonal slices have been made on the upper ends. Unusual. Up close you notice that additional horizontal cuts have been made to create air and light space. Phenomenal.
We loved seeing it all again...the mall with its lagoons but mostly we were overwhelmed by the new construction.
Architecture lifts the body as well as the spirit. On a sunny day when's all right with the world, stand close to the side of tall and magnificently created building and look up, noting its sheer, the sparkle, the line, and you will feel yourself imperceptibly drawn up to soar almost as Superman would. You experience the art, the wonder, and the beauty. Consider how it was imagined, created on paper, measured in millimeters or inches, and then with machines and man working jointly inserting each stud to hold a facing granite slab....
Most of Paris is closed today for the holiday commemorating the end of World War II. A ceremony will take place at the Arch of Triumph where France's "unknown soldier" is buried.
Although we knew in advance that stores would be closed, we hadn't lived in the Montparnasse area long enough to know which bakeries would be open and where we could buy "Le Figaro." In Paris one should always have a back up. For example, bakeries close on odd days with an agreement among them to alternate Sunday closing; restaurants also close and open daily for lunch and/or dinner except those restaurants that close on Saturdays or, without notice, on any day; a holiday will often mean an extra day in between or at the end; buses are rerouted for road conditions, strikes, or public events; Métros skip stations for renovation or accident; ordinary stores often keep extraordinary hours, e.g. open at 9 or 10 am, close at 12 noon, open again at 4 p. m. close at 8 or 9 p. m.; the mid day closing for a break or siesta is not uncommon for local storekeepers; chain stores stay open. And naturally all public events are subject to the workers' whims.
Unpredictably our supermarket is open today and so I buy bread there for tonight's special dinner for Charlette and Janine. Michel, Charlette's husband would not be coming for general reasons of health. He rarely leaves the boat.
Charlette had welcomed us to Paris with a fine dinner on her boat, you remember. Janine is another friend we had years before. She and her husband Sidney, who passed away few years ago, lived aboard a nice Dutch barge. Actually their boat, that since has been sold, was moored next to the dock and ours was tied on to theirs as well as to the dock. When we wanted to get off the boat, we had to walk on their boat to get to the floating dock.
Janine was born in France but has been an American for years. She and Sidney, whose family was well known in the world of films, lived in Carmel.
Since our meal for Simone and Mary went off so well, we decided to prepare the same feast once again. This time we would start with Champagne, however.
Before that there was a whole beautiful sunny Paris day. Early to lunch and then métro to Parc Monceau. We had visited the park once before and, since it was a holiday and the museums and other monuments were closed, a walk in the park was the best thing to do. With suntan lotion and sunglasses we faced a real spring day in Paris.
Monceau is the smallest park we've visited but we enjoyed our stroll. Flowers as usual were everywhere as were children, parents, runners, walkers, and lovers always. Beyond a bridge that crossed a small lake, we found two plane trees that had never been cut, one with a trunk about 12-14 feet in diameter.
A sign at a playground announces to parents that different activites have been designed for children of different ages. The parent can check if an activity is suitable by looking at the color of a chicken. The number of colored chickens correspondes to the minimum age for an activity. Yellow for children of 2, green for those of 3, blue for 6 and an activity with a red chicken is fine for an 11 year old. There was nothing for children of my age. Even the toilets were reserved for children.
One children's activity was a practice place for mountain climbing, a sport quite popular with adults whose mountains are not miniature. We watched as two parents helped their children - no more than say 6 - try to climb a sheer flat wall with small grips and steps conveniently arranged. Below was a long drop into the arms of loving parents who wait.
All of the statues we saw in the park - about 6 - 8 were of composers. In all except one, a woman was also present...most in a mood of ecstasy. One woman was bored, however, and I believe that it was Chopin who didn't even notice.
With the exception of the side of the park abutting boulevard de Courcelles, the others are bordered by private homes, each with it own garden, sitting area and private access door to the park. To increase the privacy and seclusion of the area, the other streets which end at the park are all private and have high gates, topped with gold points, separating the private part of the street from the public.
One street, avenue Hoch, quite a wide and respectable one that descends from the Arc de Triomphe loses its identity as soon as it comes near the park: Van Dyke is in; Hoch is out. The road changes to a path, named allée Comtesse de Ségur but she loses it at the other end where it finds the name avenue Valasquez.
High on the list of what makes Paris rich are its street names, those colorful words and numbers that connect us to the people, places, and events of its history and part of ours as well: Place Charles de Gaulle, WWII hero and a president of France; Avenue Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States; Boulevard de Stalingrad, besieged city in WWII; Place Pablo Picasso, artist; Bd. Pasteur, scientist; Rue César-Frank, composer; Place Léon Blum, prime minister; Rue des Pyrénées, a mountain range; Place de Rhin et Danube, two rivers; Rue de Madrid, the capital of Spain; Avenue de Bolivar, freedom fighter in South America; Rue Madagascar, an island off Africa; Avenue de New York, the city/state in the States; Rue de fer à moulin, an iron mill; Rue Paul-Cézanne; Rue Rabelais; and thousands more.
On our way back we ran across a chapel we had visited years before. On that earlier trip we had arrived on bikes. We had wanted to attend the parade on the Champs Élysée but couldn't get near enough to see anything so, as usual, we found something else quite interesting.
The Chapelle Expiatoire is located on place Louis XVI. Originally the land on which the chapel stands was an ordinary cemetery. Later during the revolution it was used for victims of the guillotine, two of whom were Louis XVI and his bride, Marie-Antoinette, both of whose bodies and then bones remained for 21 years until Louis XVIII moved them to St. Denis, the traditional burial place of royalty.
In all honesty I don't remember what interested me.
Back via a walk to Madeleine. Then I showed Marcia Maxim's, the well-known restaurant which also reminded me of Lindy's. Then we passed Hotel Crillon.
Our dinner for Charlette and Janine was a success. We talked mostly about socialism, newspapers, and education.
Because a friend knew that I liked France, he gave me a booklet of old post cards depicting the city of Bordeaux around the turn of the century. Having no use for them, we brought them with us to Paris expecting to sell them for a few francs.
Today we decided to venture into business by investing 40 francs to admit us to an antique show where we could learn how much our post cards were worth. We quickly learned that "nothing" is what they're worth. However, because we had spent so much time at the show, we were FORCED to change our plan for lunch. Instead of splitting a sub which we could buy from a local patisserie, we spent 175 fancs for a lunch that was more than we should have eaten. P.S. We would give the post cards to our landlord who lives in La Rochelle near Bordeaux.
While we were at the show, Marcia pointed to the price tag of 450F that was tied to a cheese box like the one I made and left on our boat when we sold it. My cheese box was about 10 inches wide and 10 inches high and a 8 inches deep. It had two shelves. Its base and roof were solid wood but the three sides and the door were screened in. In it I put all my smelly, aging, cheeses and then put the box in a shady spot on the aft deck. I can vouch that cheese kept in a cheese box is healthier and tastier that cheese kept anywhere else.
But all was not lost. Starting at the place de la Bastille where the show was spread around the marina, we went to Notre Dame. On the way I kept looking at the facades of older buildings. I believe these buildings were built between 1890 and 1910 or 1913. Charlette had told me that Baron Haussmann, the officer in charge of Paris during the latter half of the 19th century, not only mandated the height of buildings but also the number and placement of balconies. We already knew that he had laid out the city as we know it.
The French count the ground floor as the rez-de-chaussée or number "0" and its height is greater than the floors above to make it easier for a business to operate or to accommodate the entry of a carriage so that it could pass into the courtyard.
Each window in front on each floor has a balcony but on the second floor and fifth floors Haussmann mandated all the balconies had to be connected. In some buildings (perhaps they were constructed later) the window balconies of the sixth floor are also connected. If you look on the facades of the building today, you will see considerable variation.
We stopped at Notre Dame. My first experience here took place at midnight on Christmas Eve 1950. The cathedral was lit by candles. The mass was then all in Latin and the chanting was dramatically in contrast with the rustle of clothing and the shuffle of shoes on stone. It was as if the ethereal haunted the hounds of us on earth.
Today, it was still a dark friend although I am not Catholic.
We sat in the rear and I gazed up and marveled for the nth time
at what human beings can do. Its height - 35 meters - is not
great but it soars as if it were 1000. I kept looking for light
and found it in the brilliance of the color red on the windows
in the sky on the north wall.
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