We began to wonder whether we are getting too old to be traveling this close to the ground. Getting from the Orly airport to our apartment took forever. I missed my bag on the carousel because it was wrapped in plastic by the crew in Corsica and I wasn’t able to identify it. The walk to the tram line 7 was endless. The metro ticket machine didn’t like our credit card and needed to be coaxed to work. The tram was slow, the metro was crowded, my backpack had to be rested on my knees. In order to transfer to line 11 we needed to exit the metro and walk down to Hotel de Ville on the street because of a station renovation, and finally a short walk through some street construction to the apartment. Marie-Line was out on the street waiting for us and the rest of our day was easy.
The White Rice Restaurant
The dinner was just what we needed. After a long day of travel, to walk around the corner and have a pad thai and a bowl of noodles with schrimp and pineapples was perfection. The owner/server was amazingly ebullient; it was like being in a SNL skit. She bounced from table to table orchestrating everything. Every other customer could have been our grandchildren. Dawn went back to compliment the chef on her pad thai.
Yesterday we returned to the Armenian church in the Marais where we had heard spectacular piano concerts two years ago. This time, the artist at the keyboard was a young Japanese woman, Assami Watanabe. She played an extensive all-Chopin recital, completely from memory. Wow! She did not disappoint. This pianist had a beautiful sense for playing romantic music, the timing and dynamics so heartfelt and precise. Her performance made me think of the passion, dedication, practice and hard work that any artist needs not just to excel but also to make a deep connection with her audience.
Musée National des Arts Asiatiques - Guimet
A walking Buddha, and I would say a young Buddha. His physicality is unusual.
Today at the Guimet Museum of Asian Art, I had the same feeling. Looking at the astonishing craft/art of potters, inlaid cabinet makers, sculptors and painters over centuries, I was again impressed by the dedication and practice it takes to create really fine art. There was a special exhibition on the life of the Buddha with an extraordinary collection of Buddhist art from a couple of centuries B.C.E to the present day. A centuries old bronze, seated monk seemed to breathe as I stood before him.
The most moving contemporary piece was by Takahiro Kondo, an artist who mixed porcelain, silver,glaze and other materials on his own body as he sat in a yogic meditative pose. He must have had an assistant carefully bisect and remove his full body cast which then became an independent sculpture that had an elegance as well as a feeling of death about it. The piece is a memorial effigy dedicated to the 18,000 people who died in the Fukushima tsunami and nuclear disaster of 2011. To paraphrase the curator, the artist manifested the image of life as the image of death. The artist manifested a profound versatility based in the tragic and universal grandeur of an ambivalence that is totally Buddhist in spirit. I was again moved to tears. The piece so clearly referenced the scores of old sculptured seated Buddhas, but it was thoroughly contemporary and startling at the same time.
I guess I see acceptance, but as an embodiment, not a concept. Lately I have been seeing doubt in him. This was after I enlarged the photo. Maybe he has a question. His asymmetrical eyes gives him a real personality. If he were to speak to me, I think he would tell me that I am trying too hard. Maybe he would just smile. I think it would be beautiful.
Click here to see more of our Guimet Museum Photos
El Greco at the Grand Palais
El Greco is one of my favorite old artists (1541-1614). Many years ago, when my son Adam and I traveled in Spain to celebrate the year when I was exactly twice as old as he, we were both captivated by El Greco's mannerist paintings that we saw in Toledo and at the Prado in Madrid. His elongated figures, intense colors and wild skies embodied the passion of subjects and artist. Here at the Grand Palais, there was an extensive collection, lent by museums and collectors worldwide, that showed us his growth and change as an artist over time. The Pièta is rarely seen as it is owned by an unnamed individual. Although not typical of his high mannerist style, it really got my attention because of the intense feeling expressed in the faces,especially between Mary and her crucified son. While I am not a Christian anymore, I certainly am a mother and grandmother. To witness the death of one's offspring must be one of the most difficult experiences to endure. Also the physicality, the detail of the hands, was so palpable. I stood in front of that painting for a long time.
It was surprising that, as far as I could tell, there were no paintings lent by Toledo or the Prado Museum. In my memory those were his most extreme and affecting stylistically, although there were some in this show that went in that direction. In his last unfinished work, you could easily see the influence he had on much later artists like Picasso and particularly The Bathers of Cézanne.
Paris is a little sad this time. We know that everything changes, but sometimes a change takes us by surprise so takes some getting used to. Yesterday we stopped by the Voyageur on rue Parmentier, mostly to see the owner whom we have gotten to know for a few years since renting apartments in the 11th. The minute we saw the new front of the café we knew something had changed. Mo'ammed, or Momo as he was called by friends, left the business about a year ago. The current, very nice young owner said he had no way to contact him, that he had gotten tired and probably went back home to Algeria.
When we had gone to Le Voyageur before, we were always the only non-Arabs in the place, and often I was the only woman, although there had been a young woman who helped Momo for a certain period. We had good conversations with him, about the universality of music and dance and the ability of the arts to bring people together. When we went to Morocco, we sent him a postcard which he kept at the café and showed us on our subsequent visit. Being Algerian, his voice and way of speaking French reminded us of our dear friend Malek who died in 2015. It's not like we were close friends that kept in touch outside of our visits, but it was an honest, mutually appreciative connection that is now lost.
Speaking of loss, today we walked around Notre Dame. The tragic fire damage to this centuries old icon of Paris is a huge loss to the city. Notre Dame is not simply a church, it is a cultural, artistic, historical treasure. When you see the amount of damage, it makes you wonder how it will ever be rebuilt...in spite of the millions of euros raised for the task. I do understand the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) protests about the millions that the French elite ponied up for the cathedral while many working class folks are still struggling. Both causes are valid. One of the very sad, under-publicized, aspects of the fire was the amount of toxic fumes and lead released into the surrounding neighborhoods.
The First Day at the Voyageur (from 2015)
Below is what we wrote about our first meeting at the Voyageur four years ago. We were surprised by his sympathy for Dawn.
A couple of days ago, I let Dawn go back to the apartment and dropped into a bar near the apartment for a Guinness. I have enjoyed the beers I have been drinking but missed my Guinness. In France, the accent is on the second syllable. I managed to make myself understood. There was a paper on the bar so I worked through a couple of articles, paid my tab, checking with the patron that 3 Euros 40 was the right amount. It was bottled Guinness and was okay but not as good as a draft.
The next day we ran out of coffee and it was necessary to go out. Le Voyageur may be the name of this place, it is what is on the mirror. I knew it
had stools at the counter so we stopped in and ordered deux café crèmes. he was very solicitous about Dawn’s arm and breaking the sugar tube and pouring it into Dawn cup. He was on his way to putting a second in when I stopped him and he gave me the opened tube. I had to put my own sugar in.
"Did you want a croissant"? he asked.
"Pain au chocolat?"we responded.
He said he would be right back and went to the corner to pick them up to where we usually buy our baguettes. He mentioned that he was
providing this service because of Dawn’s injury. Otherwise, you get sent out to get your own when a place doesn’t have them or has run out.
So I think he has now recognized me from the previous evening and so he goes over to the place where I had been sitting the night before and acts out my, to his eye, surly and unresponsive body language as he had been trying to joke with me. Dawn finally told him that I speak French better when I am with her and he finally understood that I don’t speak French and that I am not really a curmudgeon. We went on to talk about the ways that different coffee preparations are described in different languages. In the end we paid, 8 Euros 40, and left.
Le Petit Cardinal
Stephen, Dawn, Ophelia, Réné and Pascal
Does anyone wear white anymore?
We have kept in touch with Pascal, the young man who took care of our first Airbnb rental when we arrived here in 2015. He is also a writer and friend of the artist, Bruno Pierre whose studio we have occasionally visited. We met at le Petit Cardinal where we often had a drink together before. Pascal was lamenting the change of ownership. Yes, everything changes, here in the fifth arrondissement as well as with le Voyageur in the eleventh. This time we got to meet Pascal’s lovely wife Ophelia and a good friend of his from Holland who had come to Paris to go to a concert by David J from Bauhaus, a group that the two guys really liked. They are basically my children’s generation. I am not really sure why Pascal still likes to hang out with us occasionally. Maybe he is just being polite. In any case, we always enjoy finding out what people of various generations and cultures are interested in. They are all very much into wearing black, and we happened to be black-clad that day too. When I sent Pascal the photo, I captioned it "Does anyone wear white anymore?"
The Belleville Market
Tuesday morning we headed over to the Belleville Market. It runs along Boulevard de Belleville and is just two blocks from our apartment. It is generally touted as the biggest, best Paris outdoor market for having the lowest prices. It is all that and more. Most of the city of Paris seemed to be in attendance. Not only did it seem that there wasn't room for us to get down the sidewalk, I had no idea how I would purchase anything in this throng. I grabbed a picture off the internet, but it doesn't do justice to the throng in attendance.
So we extricated ourselves and went to a small shop along to buy some olive oil and nuts, then walked along the boulevard for a few blocks and dove back in, hoping for a less croeded area. No luck. We came out again and found a place th buy gargage bags, tonic and other staples. Then we went home.
I write about this to share what I consider a failure in our attempt to be travelers rather than tourists. We should be able to dive in to the local experience, to throw off our incipient claustrophobia and jump into the crowd and figure it out as we go. It might be that we are getting older, but I want to fight the psychological aging even as I must give in to the physical part. My plan is to ease back a little, go to the more sedate markets of Paris, maybe ride the bus when we travel from the airport into paris, rather than three metro lines, with all their stairs, at rush hour and just travel in a fashion that is a little gentler on us.
Two and a Half Short Stories
We got a forecast of a couple of hours of sun, so we hurried out of our apartment and headed for the Luxemburg Gardens. The bus was crowded, but we found seats in the very back with me sitting on the center seat. We had one more stop to go when Madame Driver turned around and in a loud commanding voice demanded,
"Monsieur, descendez immediatement", and then she added (still in French), "Hey mister, you with the hat, get off my bus now." (I recognized chapeau). Now I looked around and didn’t see anyone wearing a hat, except me! People began to turn around and look at me and began to make gestures like I should do something. So I did. I got up, walked to front of the bus and asked her, "Why?" (Pourquoi, another word I know). She didn’t respond and seemed to be looking past me. I turned around and saw the guy she had been yelling at all the time. He was slunk in his chair trying to pretend he wasn’t there. I slunk away, and Dawn and I sat down in the front and realized his sin, he and his friend stunk to high heaven, pungently and powerfully. She kept insisting and finally he slunk off, his friend following behind.
Moments later, the doors opened at our stop, we escaped to another bus that took us across the Seine to the Gardens where we found chairs, examined ourselves for wounds and finding none, we took this selfie to prove that we were okay. Which we really were.
When the bus driver first started asking the man with chapeau to get off the bus, and everyone around us started looking at Stephen, I imagined they thought that we had asked the driver to let us know when we were nearing a certain stop. Madame driver did have a scolding tone in her voice though. Of course I went with Stephen to approach the driver. When she looked past us at the two men with chapeaux sitting closer to the front and demanded that they descend, the reason became olfactorily obvious. Although relieved that she wasn’t reprimanding us, it still felt a bit weird to have momentarily become the center of attention in a public setting like a bus.
When we got back to our apartment building, the building manager, the concierge and a couple of tenants greeted us with yet another reprimand. We had brought our recycling down to the proper receptacles but couldn’t find a bin for the regular trash. We noticed a small, sealed bag of garbage left on the floor next to the recycle barrels, so we did the same. Apparently our Airbnb host forgot to tell us to use our front door transponder to open a different door in which to dispose of the garbage (or we missed it),.The manager said he saw us leave our bag in the wrong place, as if we had committed a major crime. We both assured them in our best French that we now understood the proper procedure. We slunk up to our ninth floor apartment, tails between our legs. It was not our best day in Paris!
A day or two later, we are in the recycling room dutifully putting the paper in the paper bin and pushing the bottles through the holes on the top of the glass receptacle when, Sacre Bleu, I put a plastic bottle through where only glass should go! The lid is locked so we can’t fix it. Dawn wants to skedaddle, but they will know it is us.
Stephen says that we have to tell the building manager because he will know that we are the culprits anyway. I plea for just leaving it alone since, after all, I am the one who has to do the communication. Of course I realize that Stephen is right so we go back, up to the office window to talk with Monsieur, the building manager. I explain that we are terribly sorry but an accident happened while we were putting the glass bottles in the glass recycle bin. (BTW, try saying the French word RECYCLABLES in French, not English. It is not easy to pronounce!)
He shakes his head sadly as if our sin is unrecoverable, but he takes his key and opens a panel behind which he finds another key. When he pulls out a pair of rubber gloves on and I know we are saved. We process back to the recycle room and he put the key in somewhere and opened the top, then he put his gloves and extracted the offending plastic bottle, opened the paper and plastic bin and placed it in. His work was done, the world was righted, God was in his heaven.
As we were walking out, he asked us when we were leaving Paris. I guess he is looking forward to our departure. He did ask where we were from, and we discussed the various ways of recycling. I mentioned that in Boston, all recyclables go in the same bin. We also discussed the various methods in other parts of France. Finally we wished each other a bonne journée and departed on a civilized note. Phew!
I think we have an end to this series of stories. As we were saying, we got instructions to go through other door, which we then followed on our way out but couldn’t find the poubelle. We found the underground garage and saw on a map where people’s caves were (where they stored their wine). We took our little bag of garbage back upstairs and later contacted Marieline for more instructions. She sent back the code. The next day on my own, I took the garbage back down with some recycle, dropped off the recycle, got back in the elevator pressed the -1 button, and after a hesitation, it took me down. When I got there, a man was waiting to go up. I held up my bag and said, "Ordure?" and he pointed around the corner and ascended up in the elevator. Victory!, but with a question. Why did they tell us to take the stairs using the door transponder, instead of just using the elevator? This question was answered the next day, when, while recycling some stuff we noticed another small black garbage bag just like ours on the floor. We were worried that they would blame us, unfairly this time, so we grabbed it, went into the elevator, pressed minus one and nothing happened. So we had to go out and through the other door and down the stairs to get to the garbage. Obviously, the time before the man had called the elevator and that’s why it seemed that I could take it down myself. I think we are finally done with this story.
One of Dawn’s desserts made at home. I thought we needed a photo in here.
Paris, A Day in
I was sitting on the toilet when Dawn’s question floated in from the other room "Do you ever look at me and think that you don’t really know who I am?" This was followed by, "Sometimes when I look at you I wonder if I really know you. Of course I know you, but do I really know you." I pondered this for a while and replied that one way to ascertain whether you knew someone was whether they surprised you very often. When I try to say who someone really is, it just seems like words. Somewhat surprisingly, I can’t say that I know myself any better. Later today, self knowledge will come into play in a big way. The day was about to show not only how little (but also how much) I knew myself.
We attended a choral music concert at the Eglise Madeleine. The group was from the Netherlands, I will omit their name for their protection. They kind of wandered up onto the steps to sing, they wore all kinds and colors of clothing, stood in all kind of postures, held their music haphazardly, introduced their performance first in Dutch, then in badly translated English, but not in French. There was no program. The accompanying organ overwhelmed their efforts. Those who sang did so casually. The one good soprano was the whole section herself, Some looked around while they were singing. I admit that the one song that they all knew went well.
Mercifully, it was short. Afterward, the French couple behind us was outraged that no one spoke French to them. Dawn commiserated with them in a battle of facial and upper body gestures of umbrage.For me, an element of wrongness had been introduced. I believe in right and wrong, but I try not to have that judgment be the first way I look at a situation. But this choral group had awakened, oiled and exercised my need to judge. There would be consequences.
After the concert, we found a cafe/pizza brasserie and had a drink. I had a Schweppes tonic in a wine glass rather than a tumbler with a straw. When she set it down in front of me she said, "Like Champagne". Because the performance had been such a disaster, I looked up another one on my app and found a 7 PM concert. We walked five minutes, took two busses to Îsle St. Louis, walked around the corner and we were there.
The room was small, the chairs close together, the piano-forte up in front, on the floor level. Okay so far. There was a photographer. He had a strobe on the top of his camera and occasionally he would get up, walk around and take pictures of the empty stage. It would flash three times in quick succession, the first two to close the subject’s iris to prevent red eye, then the third would illuminate the subject as the shutter opened. The camera had a focal plane shutter. It makes a lot of noise and most photographerrs use an iris shutter when shooting in situations like this. This camera went sort of
Sometimes he would shot a coupe in a row:
This was not so okay.
The door was shut with kind of a bang. Perhaps we would start. Then more people entered, the door banged behind them. Then more people, the room was pretty full. The presenter came out and introduced the music and the performer. It was in French, but I understood enough. It was going okay until the photographer stood up and he
The performer entered and said a few words and she got
This was beginning to go downhill. I felt an unease in the audience, or at least in me. She finished the first piece. The forte piano is a predecessor of the piano and can have an off putting sound if you aren’t used to it. I wasn’t used to it and it sound was irritating.
The first piece ended and the door banged opened and more people came in and tried to to find seats. She started to play her next piece anyway. Discussion arose in the audience about the seating and people banged into their chairs. All this seemed wrong. I began to notice a kind of hesitancy in her playing. I assumed it was in the music, but doubt was creeping in.
She finished. I knew what was coming:
I tried closing my eyes and putting my hands over them to no avail. The strobes seemed to be coming in through my skull. Strobes can trigger seizures in epileptics. Had I become epileptic? She had finished another piece and started a lengthy explanation. A whispered argument broke out in the audience then much schushing and general noises of disapproval. Loudening whispers for him to leave filled the room. All the while, she was still talking. Finally he got up, declared that he would leave, and with his shopping bags in hand, did so. Oh boy.
And of course while this was happening she was talking, so:
Was he an epileptic? I was totally sympathetic and if I hadn’t been so far from the aisle, I might have left with him. I am not an epileptic, nor am I claustrophobic, but I seemed to be acquiring these traits. I do have a pinched nerve in my neck, and sometimes I need to drop my head forward to relieve the irritation. So here I am, cowering in my seat, head down because I can’t see the the performer anyway, hands covering my eyes, hoping for it all to end. The concert goes on, another piece ends. In my cowering state, I know what’s coming:
The concert ended, but not my ordeal. The performer talked, then the presenter, then both in a kind of Q and A. The camera guy was in heaven. He fired away. In front of them, in back, this side, then that. I just waited. It would be over. I was helpless in front of this assault because all I could see and feel was the wrong of it, and so the evening grabbed me in a way that wasn’t necessary. As someone said, "It was real, but not true." So, even though I was having a crazy, crazy reaction, I wasn’t going crazy. Part of me was watching myself. Noticing, but without the power to make much change. I knew who I was, and this wasn’t it, but I was going to have to live with it for a while. Once we got out of the building, my anxiety quickly subsided. I was free.
On the way home, we took a turn and walked down a street that came to a dead end. There was a large gate and a sign, "Prive". So we just walked back. I turned back to see the entrance to a club. It was called "Impasse". Not today. The next street took us home.
The Silence of Movement at Pavillon Carré de Baudouin
Interactive sculpture, "Emergent", by Justin Fiske. The devices on the white stand allowed the audience to move the little "planets" that hung by threads in different ways.
Kinetic sculpture by Laurent Debraux. The tree rotated in three different sections when people moved toward its placard on the wall.
Shot at "The Silence of Movement" at Pavillon Carré de Baudouin in Paris in the fall of 2019.
Music: "Watching the White Wheat" (trad. Welsh) Arranged/performed by Eden MacAdam-Somer
on her solo album "My First Love Story" https://necmusic.edu/faculty/eden-macadam-somer
Scupture: ADA - analog interactive installation kinetic sculpture post-digital drawing machine by Karina Smigla-Bobinski
The video was shot at the “Silence of Movement" at Pavillon Carré de Baudouin in Paris during the Fall of 2019. As Dawn interacted with the Balloon, unknowing to her, I shot this single clip. The video clip, run twice, with the responsiveness of the Balloon, and Eden’s haunting violin playing seems to express Dawn’s gentleness and patience.
I thank both artists for their beautiful work and their permissions to use them in this short piece. Click on their links above to see more about them.
More about ADA
Similiar to Tinguely’s ‘Méta-Matics’, is "ADA" an artwork with a soul. It acts itself. At Tinguely’s it is sufficient to be an unwearily struggling mechanical being. He took it wryly: the machine produces nothing but its industrial self-destruction. Whereas ‘ADA’ by Karina Smigla-Bobinski, is a post-industrial "creature", visitor animated, creatively acting artist-sculpture, self-forming artwork, resembling a molecular hybrid, such as a one from nano biotechnology. It developes the same rotating silicon-carbon-hybrids, midget tools, miniature machines able to generate simple structures.
‘ADA’ is much larger, esthetical much complexer, an interactive art-making machine. Filled up with helium, floating freely in room, a transparent, membrane-like globe, spiked with charcoals that leave marks on the walls, ceilings and floors. Marks which ‘ADA’ produces quite autonomously, although moved by a visitor. The globe obtains aura of liveliness and its black coal traces, the appearance of being a drawing . The globe put in action, fabricate a composition of lines and points, which remains incalculable in their intensity, expression, form however hard the visitor tries to control ‘ADA’, to drive her, to domesticate her. Whatever he tries out, he would notice very soon, that ‘ADA’ is an independent performer, studding the originally white walls with drawings and signs. More and more complicated fabric structure arise. It is a movement experienced visually, which like a computer make an unforeseeable output after entering a command. Not in vain ‘ ADA’ reminds of Ada Lovelace, who in 19th century together with Charles Babbage developed the very first prototype of a computer. Babbage provided the preliminary computing machine, Lovelace the first software. A symbiosis of mathematics with the romantic legacy of her father Lord Byron emmerged there. Ada Lovelace intended to create a machine that would be able to create works of art, such as poetry, music, or pictures, like an artist does. ‘ADA’ by Karina Smigla-Bobinski stands in this very tradition, as well as in the one of Vannevar Bush, who built a Memex Machine (Memory Index) in 1930 ("We wanted the memex to behave like the intricate web of trails carried by the cells of the brain"), or the Jacquard’s loom, that in order to weave flowers and leaves needed a punch card; or the "analytic machine" of Babbage which extracted algorithmic patterns.
‘ADA’ uprose in nowadays spirit of biotechnology. She is a vital performance-machine, and her patterns of lines and points, get more and more complex as the number of the audience playing-in encreases. Leaving traces which neither the artist nor visitors are able to decipher, not to mention ‘ADA’ herself either. And still, ‘ADA’s work is unmistakable potentially humane, because the only available decoding method for these signs and drawings, is the association which our brain corresponds at the most when it configures itself.
© ADA - analoge interactive installation by Karina Smigla-Bobinski written by Arnd Wesemann
This exhibit was a truly wonderful gathering of work from around world. It was in the 20th arrondissement, up on the top of rue Mesnilmontant. Until the last few moments, we were the only people in any gallery that we were in. The silence was in great contrast to the noisy crowded galleries we had been in.
The Dance Center
Our dance friends, Maggie and Ghislain, have been deeply involved in their autumn intensive this week. We attended their students’ showing on Friday and were again impressed by the seriousness, composure, and abilities of their students. Ghislain teaches Balanchine based classical ballet, Maggie does Graham based modern dance.
They address the audience is French and English as their students come from many countries. Maggie is Dutch, Ghislain French. They had sponsored a video showing of our work in 2015 because they wanted their students to see how artistic work can evolve over time, even when people get to our age! They are a lovely, hardworking couple, and we always like to connect with them when we are in Paris.
Dawn at La Favorite. We stopped in on our way home from the performance. It’s a nice friendly place on the Right Bank near St. Paul’s Cathedral that we often go to on the way back to the 11th or 20th.
The Alana Collection
The Art in their Home
The scultural quality attracted us to it
This is a private collection from a couple who live in Newark, Delaware. Our friend, Isabelle was dismissive of the quality of the works.
Click here to see more Alana Collection photos
At the Chapel of the Lamb of God
Dominique Hofer, he played fiercely, almost like he was angry. Starting with Bach’s wonderful Chaconne that brings back memories for me from age 17 at the American Dance Festival and José Limon. The other three composers he played were unknown to me, but fascinating: Pochon, Flury, and Ysaÿe. Only in the Malinconia of Sonate #2 by Ysaÿe did he play quietly...it was beautiful, such a welcome contrast in a room that was acoustically very bright. It was a technically demanding recital, and the musician took no breaks, including two encores. He was technically very much up to the task, but I questioned his musicality. He bowed stiffly and never smiled. Still, I complimented him on the concert. It was a tour de force. Like most of the recitals we have been hearing, it was free, but of course open to donations. We have been increasing the amount we give since we value hearing live music.
The concert started with some applause in the back of the chapel. The violinist came forward, took a stance and began to play. Until he announced his encore, not a word was spoken. Also, what has been strange is that none of the performers we have been hearing has any online presence. Maybe a youtube video or two, but no facebook page or website promoting their work or CDs. Odd.
Félix Fénéon at L’Orangerie Museum
He was a Parisian anarchist and art critic during the late 19th century. He coined the term "Neo-Impressionism" in 1886 to identify a group of artists led by Georges Seurat, and ardently promoted them.
The Fénéon Prize was established in 1949 by his wife based on proceeds from the sale of his art collection. Sophie Maheu who we are about to visit in the next section has received one of these prizes.
Dinners at the Grand Bain and Pane, Olivio & Pomodoro
Dawn outside the Grand Bain.
The blackboard was large and awkward to use in the crowded restaurant. It was easier to use the photo on m phone to pick the next course, and also to look at it to remember all the ingredients of what we were eating.
Our first forays into hipster Paris. We found le Grand Bain through lefooding.com. It was also a five minute walk from our apartment. It was a tapas place. We didn’t have reservations so they sat us at the bar, where we could watch the bartender make his drinks. The most memorable part was when he placed three ice cubes from the shaker into the drink. He used long tongs and selected them, sometimes rejecting one for reasons beyond me. And even though he was placing the cubes in the drink, he carefully placed his other hand as a shield against any splash reaching the customer. We ate: chanterelle mushroom, monkfish liver, cockles, beets, and rabbit. The place had a lot of energy and was somewhat chaotic. We could order from one of four people in front and there were three cooks in the open kitchen, one of whom liked to dance to whatever music came on. The orders all went into an ipad at the bar which kept order.
Two thing come up here. One is the fact that all we are listening to here is American popular music. In all the restaurants and bars. The second is as restaurants move to the outlying districts of paris because of high rents, they put more and more tables into the small spaces they use. I am waiting for the first restaurant where we sit in each other’s laps.
The second restaurant was the result of my search for comfort food Italian style using Google. Again, we had no reservations, but they found us a table. Again, we sat close to the other tables. The grilled vegetables, Porcini Ravioli in a Parmesan cream sauce and gambas with linguine were delicious and filling. At sometime during the evening, my fleece fell off the chair and was placed on another chair where it was covered with the coat of the young woman who was sitting next to us. As I was digging around for it she returned to the table from being outside, having a smoke. She claimed that my fleece belonged to her. I continued digging around, hoping to find a scarf or hat in the pockets to prove that it was mine when I looked up and realized I was being teased! She continued, suggesting that perhaps we should exchange coats, that hers might be très chic on me. If I had had room in the crowded restaurant, I might have tried hers on, but instead I said I would look much better on her. Dawn was chiming in, making communication possible, but also slowly devolving into Italian. It was fun!
Again, it was in the neighborhood, so an eight minute walk brought us home.
Visit to Sophie’s Studio
This is a photo of Dawn taken by using one of Sophie’s beautiful glass/tree pieces as a mirror. I will add more photos after I get home and have time to work on them.
Click here to see another photo.
We went to have tea with Sophie Maheu yesterday. It is always good to see her. We talked about everything. Art, its difficulty and joys, family, Paris and even the weather. I left my hat there so the next day I bought myself another at the Bastille Outdoor Market.
I worried that Sophie would think my head would be cold so I sent her this picture.
Dawn bought some silk scarves as gifts and I bought myself a new wool scarf so I would look more Parisian. Somehow we charmed the woman who sold me the scarf. She said we were a close couple, using crossed fingers from both hands, as opposed to a couple apart, pulling her hands apart. I had called for Dawn across the market to come look at this scarf before I bought it, because, well because that’s what we do. Dawn explained although it was my scarf, she would be the one that would have to look at it.
So this scarf seller has brought to a close the discussion about who knows whom and how well. What we are is close. For the good or the bad of it, for long periods of time we act as one. When we travel we are hardly ever out of each others’ sight. We act as one, we are one and it has made all the difference.
Naifs at the Maillot
Sometime in the last year, I streamed a film from the library called Seraphine. It was a powerful, brilliantly acted story of a French former nun who became the housekeeper of Herr Uhde, an erudite German art critic, living in France between the wars. She heard voices from St. Mary telling her that she must paint. In the film, we see Seraphine, mixing paints from eggs, animal blood, and plants, and painting obsessively through the night. She paints flowers, but the flowers have an energetic presence on the surface. She uses whatever scraps of wood or other materials she can find on which to paint. One day Herr Uhde discovers her paintings and thinks they are special, unique, and worth selling...which he does. He buys her real oil paints and canvasses and sets her up with a studio and stipend to paint.The subsequent story is a tragic rise and fall of this obsessed woman, but the resulting paintings that we were privileged to see in this exhibition are indeed unique and magnificent. To my eye, they have a kind of Van Gogh-like energy. Seraphine is the only woman in this group of Naifs, and I think the best of them all!
The most interesting thing said about the Naifs was they went back to the Medieval style of painting. That might be true, but it is easy to see them as cartoonists. Serafine feels like she hasn’t gone anywhere except her own heart and mind. Her life ended badly, dying in an institution.
This is our view when we walk in the front door from the Airbnb website.
Night view from the apartment that we took.
The bed is comfortable. Everything works. The kitchen is easy to use. The place is very comfortable to hang out in after a hard day at the museums. The view is in your face all the time through the glass sliding doors.
I thought it looked like Minimalist art, but it is just a photograph of a mirror on the wall in the apartment.
Odds and Ends
After a nice visit with some friends from California, Jonathan and Karin, at their hotel, we walked through a beautiful part of Paris in the Sixth on the way to have dinner with Isabelle and Jean at Moufftard Saigon’s near Place Contrascarpe. It was great to catch up with their lives.
A few odd, last-minute memories: One day the elevator opened on the ninth floor, containing boxes and milk crates of stuff and a young man. He said we should get on as he moved one box on top of another to make room for us. It seems he was moving some of his belongings down to the basement storage room. Maybe he was prepping his apartment for Airbnb? A prominent crate was filled with liquor bottles. In French, he said “Well, I would invite you for a martini, but...” We all chuckled, then wished him a bonne journée.
It was raining on our last day so we decided to spring for a G7 cab to the airport, the only one we took during our time in Paris. G7 is an app like Lyft. It was Toussaint, All Saints Day, a big Catholic holiday in France, so I figured we would likely have a Muslim driver. Chatting with the driver about the frequent grèves (strikes) in Paris, I recounted the story of my long, circuitous underground trip from the Basilica St. Denis, way north of Paris, to return to the fifth arrondissement where I was staying with friends years ago. It was after a concert, late at night. Some of the Metro lines were on strike so it seems that I had to travel under the entire city to get back, plus I couldn’t understand the announcements because French is not my first language.
He said I got along well in French and asked where we were from. When he arrived in Paris 45 years ago, he didn’t know a word of French and had to work hard to learn the language. It turns out that he emigrated from Israel after the 1967 war. He also mentioned that he was soon going to visit family in Brooklyn. Although I didn’t ask, I wondered why he chose France over Brooklyn which seems like such a welcoming home for so many Jews, plus he apparently has family there.
We are home now. It is cold and crisp, but the sun is out. We spent a few hours raking leaves today, and now I sit looking out our big kitchen windows at gently blowing trees with golden leaves.
View of the woods behind our house
It is not the Eiffel Tower, but it is home. I have a great fondness and sentimental attachment to Paris, yet I realize how much the persistence of grey and cloud and concrete affected my mood there this time. Although I have spent a lifetime in the world of culture - dance, theater, music, art - at heart, I guess I am a country girl.
Stephen’s Final Word:
Soon after we arrived at the airport, gone through all the lines, seemingly been poked and prodded by all the authorities, we got to our waiting area only to find that our flight was to be delayed by three hours and twenty minutes. Since we were there two hours early...you do the math. We had various encounters with the food purveyors before we could find something good to eat.
But things turned out OK. A gesture that I interpreted to mean that she didn’t want me to take pictures of her sign really meant that they didn’t have any smoothies left. A soup that was too spicy to begin with turned out to be interesting and delicious once I got used to it. The coffee made by a machine was good and strong.
When they changed our gate, we stayed at the old one reasoning that the new waiting area would be filled with grumpy passengers. We wrote our review of Marie-line’s apartment. Dawn found a cute tin of mints for Tess.
After many hours they announced that we all had to come up and get our passports checked again or the Americans wouldn’t let us in. We refused to stand in another line, deciding to be the last on board and just stayed in our seats. We were in group five, so we woud be the last to board. I bought seats in the back of the plane where the plane narrows and we woud have a window and an aisle seat. They would be there when we got there, but we had no chance of getting overhead bins for our bags. Surprise, surprise, a small empty bin waited for us over our seats into which our bags fit snugly. The food is good.
BUT, none of this is my final word. As we got on the plane, the attendants were waiting for us to show our tickets so they could send us down the correct aisle. My ticket was already put away so after Dawn showed hers, I just said, "I’m with her." One of those handsome stewards looked at me and said, "Lucky you." So my final word, actually three, is "Yes, lucky me."