Paris Potpourri: Seven in September

The Red Wheelbarrow bookshop, rue de Médicis, Paris

Paris remains sunny and warm. We have dined on the in-house chef’s scrumptious stew, complete with parsnips. In this Paris potpourri, we share a few photos and suggestions for seven special treats you can enjoy in September.

1 Flâneur (strolling)

Opéra Garnier, Paris

My previous post described one afternoon walk; Paris is above all a walking city, and that’s true for any time of year. Whether you pass a magnificent structure like the Opéra Garnier or stroll through an intimate residential quartier, there’s always something interesting to see.

Red café awnings seem to be disappearing — still my favourite

Statue of Liberty near some of Pompidou’s high-rises in the 15th arrondissement

2 Musée des Arts et Métiers (Museum of Arts and Crafts)

Clive viewing an exhibit at Arts et Métiers

For my birthday I chose to visit a new (for us) museum, the Musée des Arts et Métiers. This is a treasure trove of fascinating exhibits from scientific instruments to energy, communications, construction and transport inventions, capturing human ingenuity over the course of five centuries.

The museum artfully combines a modern addition with its original former monastery, dating back to the Middle Ages.

Former monastery now housing part of the museum

I had long wanted to see Foucault’s original pendulum and the first-ever calculator, invented by mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal.

Channeling my inner math major at Pascal’s first-ever calculator

The world’s first calculator

Blaise Pascal, French mathematician and philosopher

And for something more modern, a Cray supercomputer 1985

Foucault’s pendulum is brilliantly displayed, suspended from the great height of the monastery’s roof. It’s mesmerising to watch it move back and forth and contemplate the physical reality of the earth’s rotation.

Foucault’s pendulum in its stunning setting

A modern structure is built inside the church, so those game enough to climb many stairs (not us, I’m afraid) can view the pendulum from a much higher perspective.

Steps up and up and up in the modern structure – the pendulum swings above the glass table in front of the tall arch

The Arts et Métiers Line 11 metro station is also worth a stop, designed as it is so you feel as if you’re in a submarine, complete with copper fittings and portholes.

Arts et Métiers metro, Line 11

Arts et Métiers metro, Line 11

3 The Red Wheelbarrow bookshop

The Red Wheelbarrow bookshop

Paris’s best September news is the (re)opening in a great new location of The Red Wheelbarrow, Penelope Fletcher’s esteemed Anglophone bookstore.

You’ll now find this wonderful shop and its inspiring owner at 9, rue de Médicis, in the 6th arrondissement, directly across from the Luxembourg Garden.

with Penelope Fletcher & my first purchase in her new shop (she has great recommendations!)

The beautiful shelves are still being stocked but the shop is open for business. It already has an excellent selection for Paris, literary fiction, poetry and a floor-to-ceiling bookcase of Persephone Books selections.

Cheering you on, Penelope and wishing you great success and a fantastic official grand (re)opening next month.

4 Treize (13) au Jardin Café

Treize (13) au Jardin

We arrived in Paris on Eurostar carriage 13, my birthday was on the 13th and – just a few doors down from The Red Wheelbarrow – we headed to Treize (13) au Jardin, a lovely café also recently reopened after moving from another location.

Here we savoured coffee and delicious carrot cake and –perhaps most thrilling of all — we did so on Treize’s SMOKE-FREE terrace!! Need I say more other than: we will return. We look forward to trying many more of Treize’s menu items. The flowers and plants on display are also for sale.

Treize au Jardin – if you look closely you can see Clive in the shade of the back row on left, enjoying the heavenly smoke-free terrace

5 Dancers in the Luxembourg Garden

Dancers on a small stage in the Luxembourg Garden

I know I’m not alone in adoring the Luxembourg Garden.

There are a million reasons why the Luxembourg is on almost everyone’s ‘Paris Top Ten’ list, including mine. For this post I’ll share just one: that as you’re strolling through, you just might come across a wonderful performance of music or dance or whatever else may be happening on the small stage beneath the chestnut trees.

We weren’t sure what this dance group represented but they were colourful and entertaining and the crowd loved them.

6 European Heritage Days, Part 1: Saturday at the Australian Embassy

On the weekend of les Journées du Patrimoine, European Heritage Days, hundreds of municipal buildings, monuments, churches, historic venues and museums, many not normally accessible to the public, are open and free of charge.

Last year we toured the British Embassy; this year we were fortunate to see the Ambassador’s residence at the Australian Embassy.

Australia’s Ambassador to France, Brendan Berne, speaking to our group

Stepping onto the private terrace which I’d read about for years

Close-up view of Eiffel Tower from the terrace of the Australian Embassy

View across to Trocadéro Gardens and Palais de Chaillot from the terrace of the Australian Embassy

6 European Heritage Days, Part 2: Car-free (mostly) Sunday & music at the American Cathedral

View up the Champs-Elysées to the Arc de Triomphe on a (mostly) car-free day

The city of Paris was (mostly) car-free on Sunday, thanks to Heritage Days. The vibe was relaxed, the sun shone and we enjoyed a stroll to the American Cathedral, where we saw a concert by an incredibly-talented young pianist, Artur Haftman.

Piano concert at the American Cathedral, Paris

The American Cathedral has a flag hanging for every US state. After an internet search on my phone and a lot of craning my neck, I found the New Jersey state flag.

NJ state flag in the American Cathedral, Paris

7 Notre Pâtisserie

Notre Pâtisserie’s turquoise storefront, rue Amélie, Paris 7e

This pâtisserie is the kind I like supporting the most: a stand-alone operation, not part of a chain and one in which you can see through the glass at the back into the baking area. The wallpaper is Paris-themed and Francesca, the owner, told me she has an all-female baking team. Their creations look and taste divine, especially the vanilla mille-feuille.

Shelf & Paris-themed wallpaper at Notre Pâtisserie

Bonus item: a few food treats

Starting my bday with Paris’s best pains au chocolat at our local café

(Hot) Chocolat Viennoise & crèpes w/citron et sucre (lemon & sugar) at Carette

Lemon tart and *outstanding* vanilla mille-feuille from Notre Pâtisserie

Finally … keeping it real

A common problem faced by many residents and visitors to Paris, especially when communicating with family and friends, is that you have no business complaining about anything because, seriously — you’re in PARIS!

Generally I agree. It’s a blessing to be here and complaining brings me down. To me it’s unattractive, negative and pointless. I try to stay positive with my posts.

However (you knew there was going to be a ‘however’ …) I thought I would end this Paris potpourri by sharing just one less-than-thrilling event, just to keep things real.

To make quite a long story short:

– we needed to go to a Darty store regarding a mobile phone problem (this alone is worthy of a long sob-story saga, but I shall refrain)

– by the time we found the store, we were hot, tired, cranky and in need of food and coffee (and I was coming down with an annoying cold)

– there were no cafés around, only a few fancy-ish restaurants serving lunch on white tablecloths

– we became increasingly frustrated over how far we wanted to hike down the street searching, knowing we had to come back to Darty

– fiddling with Google maps we ‘discovered’ a McDo (as the French call McDonald’s) near the next metro stop

– we trekked down to McDo and succumbed

Food (of a sort – or ‘edible food-like substance’) from McDo

Now I know it’s not a sin to eat at McDo (well, for us it sort of is one), but sometimes you have to do what you have to do, even in Paris. At least it saved us from becoming one of those bickering-on-the-street couples one sometimes sees during travel. Perhaps I should say, ‘Merci, McDo.’

As always, I’ll be sad to leave my beloved City of Light but will look forward to our return, whenever that may be.

On the terrace of the Australian Embassy, a real treat after reading about it for years

Merci for reading and à bientôt, until next time.

La Rentrée, Warm Weather and Walking in Paris

Eurostar coach 13 – my lucky number

Clive and I arrived in Paris yesterday to unseasonably warm weather – around 29C/84F – though thinking of the past few years here, this may be the new normal for September.

The sky is intensely blue, sorbet ice-cream stands are still serving customers on the footpath and people are still strolling around in shorts.

Café afternoon, Paris

La Rentrée

Paris in September vibrates with renewed energy from la rentrée, the time when residents return from their summer holidays, children begin their new school year, shops display their autumn wares and new museum exhibitions seem to open every day. You can just feel the buzz around you.

Chocolatier with pencil decorations for the rentrée.

We always visit our local café as a first stop after unloading our bags. The drinks definitely tasted more refreshing than usual in the late afternoon heat.

Refreshing kir (white wine and cassis) and ‘Schweppes’

From the café we proceeded to our usual first-night shopping, finding everything except the always-elusive parsnips, les panais. These are of course for Clive’s famous beef stew, which he has promised to make over the weekend. (Well, we did see SOME panais but they were humongous, almost mutant size and not ideal for the stew.)

This morning, after catching up with our dear neighbours and running a few errands, we discovered a new bio (organic) vegetable man in the quartier. Lo and behold, he has parsnips – not too fat, not too thin but just-the-right-size parsnips! Clive said they must be bio because they still have the dirt on them. We will return in a few days when the chef tells me it is time to buy the veggies. I’m looking forward to a tasty stew in the days to come.

Statue of Benjamin Franklin

Across the street from Ben on his hillside

While Clive worked in the apartment this afternoon, I decided to be a flâneuse (stroller) though my walk, if slow, wasn’t totally aimless. As always it was lovely to see the statue of Ben Franklin, peacemaker extraordinaire, at Trocadéro.

I’ve written about this statue before and think it’s a perfect one in its size, in the way this great inventor, diplomat and writer is rather modestly depicted and in its location on the hillside and in the quartier where he lived during his time in Paris. How the world could use more peacemakers like him today.

Up closer to statue of Ben Franklin

Here’s a view if you walk up the side street, appropriately named rue Franklin, and get behind the statue.

Ben’s viewpoint looking out over Place du Trocadéro

A peaceful place to think of my mom

Path in Passy Cemetery

My walk also took me to Passy Cemetery and the gravesites of a favourite artist, Impressionist Berthe Morisot, and her daughter, Julie Manet.

I miss my mother in so many ways since her death this past April. Since I don’t live near her gravesite in the US, something about visiting the gravesites of this other mother and daughter who deeply loved each other brings me comfort.

Julie Manet’s grave, with her husband Ernest Rouart and several members of their family

Berthe Morisot’s grave, with her husband Eugène Manet and his brother, artist Edouard Manet (bust) and Edouard’s wife Suzanne Leenhoff

Gold lettering on Berthe Morisot’s grave – maybe I’ll contribute to getting this improved one day

It may seem strange to head to a cemetery on our first day in Paris, but it felt just right to me today. My only regret was not taking an armload of flowers to lay on Morisot’s stone, but the florist immediately outside the cemetery didn’t have what I wanted. It’s a good reason to return another day with a bouquet from my favourite flower shop.

View from a walk in Passy Cemetery

The weather’s supposed to break tomorrow, with temps cooling down for a few days then creeping up again. We’re looking forward to seeing a few new exhibits, revisiting a few favourite places and trying to relax a bit in between. More to come.

A good day to sit in the museum’s shade and admire the Eiffel Tower

Merci for reading and à bientôt, see you soon from Paris.

Then They Stay Dead: Reflections at the 15-Year Mark of my First Husband’s Death

My late husband Gary and our son at Giverny, Monet’s garden outside Paris

My first husband, Gary, died 15 years ago today in Sydney, Australia.

Many events have happened in my life since Gary’s death, including (not in chronological order) our son’s graduation from high school and college, my retirement from a long corporate career, my son’s wedding to his beautiful bride, my move from Australia to England, the deaths of both my parents and my wedding to Clive.

Last year I wrote about my reaction as a new widow to ‘In the Next Room’, the well-known words of Henry Scott Holland. In death’s immediate aftermath, the deceased may be in the next room of Heaven, but they most certainly are not the next room of our physical space.

And they never will be again. My faith is such that I believe the soul is eternal, and I pray I will be reunited with my loved ones one day. But they have left the life we knew with them on this earth.

‘Distressed Haiku’

Walkway to Sydney’s Shelly Beach, one of Gary’s favourite places

The following lines are included in Distressed Haiku, written by American poet Donald Hall after the death of his wife.

You think that their
dying is the worst
thing that could happen.

Then they stay dead.

The husband and father – or, in my parents’ case, after the death of my brother Rob in an automobile accident, the son — stays dead while we raise children or attend graduations or weddings, when we gather year upon year for family birthdays or Christmas dinners, when we recall a special time and can’t share the memory with the person who made it so. And on every random day when something expected or unexpected causes us to think of them. They stay dead as we pass the one week mark, one month, two months, six months, one year, two years … fifteen years (or in my brother and uncle’s case, 45 years …).

I share Hall’s words not to be negative or bring anyone’s spirits down, but because they speak the truth to me. They capture the truth about the long-lasting impact of the death of a loved one, particularly when it’s an untimely death. If there’s a positive to this truth, it’s that some say grief is the flip side of love, and we experience grief because we were so blessed to love and be loved.

Love also endures

The first photo I took of Gary, a few weeks after we met

I’ve been doubly blessed with my two husbands, Gary and Clive. I’ve written about Gary before, about the night we met and how lucky I felt throughout our marriage; about the kind of person he was and the gifts he gave to the world as a devoted husband and father, son, brother, friend, gardener, coach, umpire, scuba diver, animal lover, photographer and DIY master; about the tradition I’ve developed to scatter red rose petals in his memory each August 2nd – at Shelly Beach near Manly, Sydney, his favourite place, or wherever I may be.

Gary loved to scuba dive around this Shelly Beach headland, where we scattered his ashes

Today I scattered rose petals in the Felixstowe seafront gardens. I came home to Clive and as I do each year gave him a red rose for his desk. Red roses for love, for Gary and Clive.

Thank you for reading and may all those who are grieving eventually find peace.

Allez les Bleus! A Paris Café, Football and World Cup Finals

World Cup weekend, Paris 1998

Clive and I are looking forward to watching France v. Croatia in Sunday’s World Cup final. We’re so disappointed England’s inspiring young team won’t be there, but they exceeded all expectations by making it to the semi-final. The country couldn’t be more proud of them.

With tomorrow being le quatorze juillet (the 14th of July or la Fête nationale, France’s national celebration day to mark the storming of the Bastille during its Revolution), followed by Sunday’s big game, we can imagine the overwhelming excitement and anticipation in Paris.

World Cup 1998

I happened to be in Paris 20 years ago this month, apartment-hunting with my late husband Gary and our son. The week we were there, France, as host nation, reached the World Cup final for the first time. The city was joyous with anticipation.

The game was played on Sunday night, July 12, at the Stade de France, the national stadium just north of Paris. A day or two before, while we were out viewing apartments, I snapped the photo at the top of this post. It’s a café in the 7th arrondissement, where several men were hanging the Tricolor, the French flag, one of thousands that appeared all over the city.

We watched the game on a small TV, cheering with everyone in the country every time France got the ball. France won, beating Brazil 3-0. The legendary Zinedine Zidane scored two of the goals, became a national hero and later received the French Légion d’honneur. The city went wild with joy. Celebrations (and noise!) filled the streets all night long and throughout the next day, 13 July, the day we miraculously found our apartment. The day after that, le 14 juillet, festivities continued with the traditional military parade on the Champs Elysées and evening fireworks over the Eiffel Tower. It was a magical, exciting time to be in the City of Light.

But as far as football went, it seemed a momentous one-off, a thrilling coincidence that our short time in Paris happened to be during that particular week.

Living with a Brit

Life changes, for most of us, in ways we can’t imagine. Never did I think I would one day find myself living with a Brit, or foresee how this particular Brit would somehow convert me into a person who enjoys following the sport of football – at least a couple of teams.

We support our local Suffolk team, Ipswich Town (go tractor boys!), in the Championship League and I’ve loved watching Arsenal in the Premier League, not least because their now-former manager, Arsène Wenger, is a distinguished, articulate Frenchman. We’ll give the new manager a chance (actually, both new managers as Ipswich also has a new one), but I can’t imagine anyone living up to Wenger.

My footy teams

At the European and global level, we also enjoy following various pan-European tournaments and, once every four years, the World Cup. On a trip to Paris in July 2013, I recounted to Clive the excitement there during the 1998 World Cup. I was retracing some of my 1998 apartment-hunting steps while working on my memoir (still-in-progress) chapter about the search, and showed Clive the photo of the men hanging the Tricolor.

Of course we had to find the café and see if any of the guys in the photo were still there. The photo doesn’t reveal the café’s name, but I thought it was near la Tour-Maubourg metro. We found it – called la Source – on the corner of rue de Grenelle and Boulevard de la Tour-Maubourg.

Café la Source, Paris 2013

Café on the corner, la Source, Paris

After a cool drink under the awning, I made my way inside to the bar area with a print-out of the photo. The bartender called over several young waiters, but they didn’t recognise anyone. They urged us to return the next afternoon, when le patron, the owner, would be there. ‘He will remember,’ they said.

And so he did. Le patron said he’s the one standing with his back to the camera in the photo, supervising all the activity. He named the others in the photo, seemed pleased to have it (showing it around to all and sundry) and we had a lovely conversation about that special weekend. When Clive and I sat down to eat, he brought complimentary glasses of rosé to our table. After the meal, I couldn’t resist asking him for a photo, to which he graciously agreed.

moi (holding my 1998 photo) with le patron at la Source, 2013 Paris

This year’s weekend sequence is a little different than it was 20 years ago, with 14 juillet coming before the big final. Let’s hope the continuous celebrations will be the same.

If you happen to be in Paris and around la Tour-Maubourg, say hello to la Source and its patron for me. And maybe you could let me know in a comment: have they hung a Tricolor this year?

Wishing everyone a joyeux 14 juillet and spectacular Sunday. Along with millions of others, Clive and I will be watching the game on TV.

Allez les Bleus!

la Source, side view, across from la Tour-Maubourg metro, Paris 7e

Cheers and merci for reading. À bientôt, until next time.

A Mother, a Daughter and a Cemetery in Paris

0 path 3

Pathway at Passy Cemetery, Paris

Reflections about mothers and daughters and earthly remains have been on my mind and my heart lately, since my mother’s death less than three months ago.

In what strikes me now as a profound, intentional occurrence gifted by a merciful God or Universe – or maybe by my loving mother herself – it was only hours before I received the call telling me my mother had died that I read Julie Manet’s diary entry about the death of her mother, French Impressionist Berthe Morisot.

Morisot’s untimely death (from pneumonia) occurred when she was 54 years old. Julie, her only child, was but 16.

Berthe Morisot, ‘Julie Manet et sa levrette Laerte’ (1893), Musée Marmottan

A Daughter’s Grief

On 17 April, 1895, Julie wrote, ‘Oh, what sorrow! Since I last wrote in my diary, I lost Maman. She died at half past ten on Saturday, 2 March. I cannot even describe my grief, the depth of my sadness. In the space of three years, both my parents have left me [her father, Eugène Manet, died in 1892] and now I am an orphan …

‘Oh God! Help me to bear this loss, sustain me, you alone can help us in our adversity, and, if I’ve lived thus far, it’s only by your grace. Yes, dear God, you are infinitely good; make sure Maman is happy at your side.’

The words of this young woman spoke to my heart. I felt the depth of her grief and marvelled at her maturity, eloquence and faith. And I lifted a prayer of thanks that I’d been so blessed to have my own mother for so many years.

Twelve hours after reading this, I received the call that my mother had died. A month or so after that, after I’d returned from the events following her death, I finished Julie’s diary.

Julie lived until 1966. I knew the earthly remains of her parents were interred at Passy Cemetery. A quick internet search confirmed that Julie’s remains, and those of her husband, artist Ernest Rouart, along with several of their family members, are also interred there.

Clive and I had visited this cemetery several times before. I knew I wanted to return, to see Berthe Morisot’s grave again and find her daughter Julie’s.

Visiting Paris Cemeteries

It may seem an odd activity to do in Paris, but Clive and I have enjoyed visiting several cemeteries. Most Paris guidebooks, and even a few Top Ten lists, mention Père-Lachaise, the largest, where we’ve taken lovely walks and most recently paid respects at the grave of French writer Colette.

We found the grave of the de Camondo family in Montmartre Cemetery, and were surprised to come across Monsieur and Madame Pigeon fully-dressed and in bed at Montparnasse Cemetery.

M et Mme Pigeon, Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris

The cemetery at Passy is one of Paris’s smallest, located at the Place du Trocadéro (across the street from my beloved statue of Benjamin Franklin).

Berthe Morisot’s grave at Passy Cemetery

Berthe Morisot spent most of her life, except for summer sojourns to the countryside outside Paris, in the Passy quartier.

If you didn’t know that she and her husband, Eugène Manet, were buried here, it would be easy to miss their names and dates, which are engraved on the tombstone beneath a handsome bust of her brother-in-law, renowned artist Édouard Manet (1832-1883).

Much has been written about the connection between Berthe Morisot and Édouard Manet. He was married to a Dutch woman, Suzanne Leenhoff; Morisot married Manet’s younger brother, Eugène, when she was 33 years old and a successful artist in her own right. The remains of all four are buried in this gravesite.

Bust of Édouard Manet at his gravesite, Passy Cemetery

I was distressed to see that Morisot’s granite stone was covered with leaves and dust, no doubt exacerbated by the current heat and dry weather in Paris, but still looking neglected. I hadn’t remembered Morisot’s grave this way at all. With my hand I brushed away some of the debris, then was squinting so hard to read the faded gold lettering that I neglected to take a photo.

You can see just the top part of Morisot’s stone beneath the Manet bust.

Top edge of Morisot’s tombstone beneath the bust of Édouard Manet

The engraving on the flat stone – when you look really closely — reads: EUGÈNE MANET, 1833 – 1892; BERTHE MORISOT, VEUVE [widow of] EUGÈNE MANET, 1841 – 1895

I told Clive I was tempted to return with a dust brush. He didn’t share my enthusiasm for this task, but neither did he discourage me, bless him.

A Peaceful Place for a Cup of Tea

Pathway and glimpse of Eiffel Tower at Passy Cemetery, Paris

We strolled along the pathways, admiring some of the graves (and the occasional glimpse of the Eiffel Tower), while also keeping an eye out for a gravesite with Julie Manet’s name on it. No luck. We had noticed a man behind a desk in the small office at the entrance on our way in, and figured we could ask him for Julie’s grave location when we left.

At a shady intersection, we came upon a couple of benches that seemed perfect for a rest and a nice cup of tea – thanks to Clive, who had all the necessary supplies in his backpack, including our trusty thermos.

A peaceful place for a cup of tea in Passy Cemetery

A few people walked by and one woman nodded with a slight smile when she noticed us sipping. No-one seemed to mind (we’ve done this in Père Lachaise as well). I think everyone was enjoying the cemetery’s peacefulness and blessed shade.

I savoured my cup of tea, but was disappointed at the faded lettering and unkempt state of Berthe’s grave stone. And where was Julie’s grave?

Unfortunately, when we left, the man we’d seen in the office was deep in conversation with another man. He locked the door and together they walked up one of the pathways.

Julie Manet’s grave and Famille Rouart Manet at Passy Cemetery

Two days later, I returned to Passy Cemetery, making sure to arrive well before closing. In my bag I carried a dust brush and a small bouquet.

My first stop was the office, where the man we’d seen locking up on Sunday was at his desk and available.

He searched on his computer for Julie Manet and Ernest Rouart, jotted down the grave location and guided me to a huge wall map. The site was very close to where we were standing, just up a flight of stairs from the entrance circle.

Gravesite of Julie Manet, Ernest Rouart and family

After reading Julie’s diary so recently, finding her gravesite really moved me. It’s located at the end of a row, in a completely different section from her mother’s. And unlike her mother’s, it’s well-marked and cared for, with more recent engravings that are distinctive and easy to see and read.

Famille Rouart Manet – the remains of Julie Manet, her husband Ernest Rouart and two of their three sons (and several of their family)

I stayed here for a little while, contemplating the fleeting passage of time, the gift of closeness between mothers and daughters and the lives of Julie Manet and Berthe Morisot, to whose grave I headed next.

Julie Manet’s gravesite, Passy Cemetery, Paris

Mourning and memories

Julie visited her mother’s grave at the one-year mark of Berthe’s death. She wrote, ‘Today is the anniversary of that dreadful day when Maman suffered for the last time … I am alone and still mourning, but nature itself is cheerful and sunny … There is something reassuring about this place, which seems to whisper to me that Maman is happy.’

I brushed the leaves and dirt off Morisot’s grave as best I could; the letters remain nearly impossible to read as the stone really needs a power wash and refreshed or restored engraving.

Nearly impossible to read: faded engraving on Berthe Morisot’s grave stone, Passy Cemetery

Berthe Morisot’s grave stone, as clean as possible with a dry dust brush

Perhaps I can figure out a way to have Morisot’s gravesite improved once my coordination of my own mother’s engraving and cleaning work on her gravesite is complete. I would love to see a bust of Morisot added to her gravesite in Paris. As the only woman in the original group of Impressionists and one who successfully balanced her professional work with marriage and motherhood, Berthe Morisot deserves as much recognition as the great male artists who were her contemporaries.

My little bouquet was somewhat swallowed up by the tombstone’s expanse of grey. Next time I’ll take an armload of flowers.

My little bouquet under Morisot’s engraving, Passy Cemetery

A Memorable Mother and Daughter

If you’re interested in Berthe Morisot or Julie Manet, I highly recommend Berthe Morisot, by Anne Higonnet (1995) and Growing up with the Impressionists: The Diary of Julie Manet, translated and edited by Jane Roberts (2017).

I also recommend visiting the Morisot collection at the Musée Marmottan, from where you can take the 32 bus directly and only a few stops to Trocadéro and Passy Cemetery. And of course you can view her work at the Musée d’Orsay; I can’t wait for the Orsay’s Berthe Morisot Female Impressionist, 18 June – 22 September 2019.

Berthe Morisot, [Julie in the] ‘Bois de Boulogne’ (1893), Musée Marmottan

On the third anniversary of her mother’s death, 19 year-old Julie visited Passy Cemetery.

She wrote in her diary, ‘Whenever I go to the cemetery, behind the big cyprus tree which shadows my parents’ granite tomb, I see the blue sky, which seems to whisper to me: “Those for whom you mourn are happy.” Oh Maman, please tell me if I am going the right way in life … Maman, whom I loved so much, please inspire me!’

Julie was an excellent artist herself, though she never received great fame for her work, some of which is displayed at the Musée Marmottan. She and Ernest raised three sons, helped organise many art exhibitions, and painted nearly every day. Ernest died in 1942; Julie remained surrounded by her children and grandchildren and died peacefully in 1966.

I think Berthe Morisot would have been deeply proud of her daughter, and I admire them both so much for the way each one lived her life.

Berthe Morisot’s grave, Passy Cemetery, Paris

Blessings and merci for reading. À bientôt, until next time.

 

Paris Potpourri: new/old wifi, purple pastry, old/new fridge, a Boulanger that’s not a baker and a few photos of summer in the city

Café in the sunshine, 7pm looking like 2pm

Paris this week has been hot hot hot, thanks to a string of sizzling summer days. Today will peak at 34C/93.2F, which we realise is cooler than where many of our family and friends are at present. Yikes!

This is not our favourite weather, despite the sunshine, as both Clive and I find the heat quite draining. More positively, every year Paris seems to offer more and more places with air-conditioning. Our favourite Paris app, Citymapper (thank you, Kim B for telling us about this free gem!) even tells you which public transportation routes have a/c.

We’re here this time mostly to deal with wifi issues and a 20 year-old refrigerator. I’ll also include a few photos taken on outings between store trips and appliance searches, to share a taste of summer in the City of Light.

Hot summer morning on Blvd. des Capucines

New/old wifi

In late May, when we arrived at the apartment, our normally-excellent fibre wifi service appeared to have died. Oh la la!

The in-house tech guru disconnected and reconnected all the equipment and confirmed the TV and hard-wired Ethernet cable were working but alas and indeed, the wifi was not.

Fortunately, we had with us our little top-up UK portable device, which works in every country where we travel. We usually only use it when we’re out and about (we prefer it over random free wifi as it’s a secure connection, not to mention cheaper than roaming), but were relieved to have it as backup in the apartment.

Our wifi saga unfolded as these situations often seem to do. After trekking back and forth multiple times to Darty, our local electronics store and agent for France Bougytel, we became best friends with employee Matthieu (who seemed to be the only one with a direct line from Darty to Bougytel); sat patiently while he contacted various support staff; accepted advice the wifi equipment needed replacing; wasted a day waiting for a technician who never showed up; rescheduled for this past week; arrived to find the old wifi working perfectly; hauled the two new yet-uninstalled Bboxes back to Darty; resumed our friendship with Matthieu; made sure the latest contract was cancelled and nearly, gratefully, burst into song (Clive says Maxine Nightingale sang the original), ‘Wifi’s good, wifi’s strong, we’re gonna get right back to where we started from.’

Long may it last, and may our trusty backup keep working, too.

First things first: arrival evening at Vlad’s cafe

Old/new fridge – or – a ‘Boulanger’ that’s not a baker

Also last month, the freezer door inside my reliable albeit 20 year-old fridge decided to crack and fall off.

My in-house DIY expert (same guy as in-house tech guru, lucky me) thought he might be able to fix it, though from the start he also said it was unlikely due to the age, unavailability of parts and brittleness of the old door. Nonetheless, back in the UK he scoured the internet and found various items which he tucked into his backpack. Security had no problem with threaded plastic rods of a specified diameter sticking out of his bag on the Eurostar.

If there were any way to fix the old door, DIY expert would have done so. Sadly, after an afternoon sawing and drilling (or attempting to drill?), he reluctantly conceded we need a new fridge.

Our friend Matthieu at Darty had told us his particular branch will soon be replaced by another electronics store, new to us, called Boulanger. ‘Nothing to do with bread,’ Matthieu said.

After looking around Darty and BHV with no luck, we made our way yesterday to Boulanger Opéra, where we finally found a fridge that fits the limited space available. The purchase transaction was smooth and painless, thanks partly to the young Frenchman’s excellent English – we now have another best friend, this time at Boulanger – and delivery is scheduled for tomorrow. I’m at once optimistic and slightly holding my breath. [Update: the fridge was delivered as scheduled, with a nice little freezer and the doors opening the correct way. After trekking all over the city in the heat wave and finally having a new fridge, we bought ice cream to celebrate!]

Summer in the city – a potpourri

In lieu of multiple in-depth posts, I offer the following photos and shorter commentaries as a sample of Paris sights and sensations.

Summer evening, Paris

When you’re strolling on a Paris street – virtually any street! – there’s always something to appreciate, whether a news kiosk, a metro sign, the availability of a Pharmacie, a café or two or three, endless shop windows and doorways or just the daily bustle of Parisians going about their business.

Of course there’s also the innovative Paris parking, which Clive always notices, including frequent, flagrant violations of parking signs, which as ever seem to be completely ignored in most areas.

This vehicle caught our eye because in addition to being parked sideways — not an unusual sight — it’s the first we’ve seen with only one seat.

Parking in Paris – a one-seater

You can also admire the view from a reasonably-clean metro window …

Summer day with la Seine and la Tour Eiffel from metro Line 6

… and currently, in the Franklin Delano Roosevelt station on Line 1, you can cheer for this fabulous poster – multiple copies, up and down the platform – and its creator, artist Carol Gillott of the wonderful Paris Breakfasts blog. Warmest and well-deserved congratulations, Carol!

Paris Breakfasts artwork in FDR metro, Line 1

Regular readers here will know I can never stay too far away from Paris’s countless papeteries, or stationery shops. One of my absolute, all-time favourites is Papier Tigre, which I made it to on this trip after being thwarted last time by a broken toe.

Running repairs: earlier this month, after a pharmacie stop for supplies, Clive bandages my broken toe

From stepping into Papier Tigre (with or without a broken toe), to browsing and maybe choosing a few treasures, watching the cashier package each selection with care and then hand you a petite colourfully-designed ‘Merci’ card containing your receipt, this papeterie is always a joy.

Papier Tigre, Paris

Papier Tigre, Paris

Speaking of favourites, I may have discovered the best pâtisserie on earth on this trip, a concoction I’d read about for several years but never tried myself.

Lily Valley is its name. This sublime creation of choux pastry, violette and vanilla cream and crunchy-ish base – topped with the most wonderful, outrageously-delicious sugared top — was invented by Carl Marletti, who named it for his wife.

I haven’t tried everything Carl Marletti makes, but we may one day get there. Everything in this shop is quality and I can’t recommend it highly enough. (A crazy man started screaming right behind me on the hot, crowded bus when I was desperately trying to balance the little pastry box and keep my precious Lily Valley from sliding onto its side, but that’s another story and I didn’t take a photo.)

Lily Valley, an exquisite looking and tasting pastry

 

Carl Marletti pâtisserie, Paris

 

Outside of Carl Marletti, rue Censier, Paris 5e

On the afternoon when DIY expert was tackling the old freezer door, he diplomatically declined my offer to assist. In fact, he said it was fine with him if I went for a walk to the Musée Marmottan, which I’ve written about many times before. What a gift!

Shady path on a hot day, Ranelagh Gardens, Paris

To my surprise, in the early afternoon, the museum was unusually quiet and calm. The few visitors who were there seemed mostly to be in the lower-level Monet gallery, while I made a beeline for the first floor Berthe Morisot rooms. There I spent a most peaceful time, followed by a blessedly-uncrowded perusal of the many Impressionist-related books and souvenirs in one of the best museum shops in Paris.

Be still my heart! For a few moments I had this Berthe Morisot room nearly to myself (a couple was behind me when I took the photo)

A beloved (by moi) Morisot painting that deserves a post of its own is this one of a shepherdess with her goat. Julie Manet, Morisot’s daughter, wrote about this painting in her diary, ‘the shepherd girl … and her she-goat Colette.’

A she-goat named Colette! Painted by Berthe Morisot. It just doesn’t get any better.

Bergère couchée (my photo doesn’t do it justice),  Berthe Morisot, 1891 (Musée Marmottan)

We’re thankful that despite the wifi issues, the broken freezer door and the intense heat, we’ve been able to get out and about as much as we have. A coffee date with Aussie friends Charlene and Graham was also a treat; our sons spent many days together as Sydney baseball teammates and it was truly lovely to reconnect in Paris. Merci C&G!

Go England! Allez les Bleus!

World Cup excitement is building in Paris, as France beat Argentina yesterday. Our freeview TF1 channel seems to be about 15-20 seconds behind our neighbours’ cable station(s), so every time France got close to the goal, and especially when they scored, ever-deafening whoops and shouts filled the courtyard before we saw the goal on our screen. It sounds strange but was actually quite fun to experience.

Flags are flying and the streets are buzzing. Go England! Allez les Bleus! May the best team win.

World Cup excitement — France won this one 4-3

I hope this post and photos have given you a small taste of Paris in summer. Cheers, stay cool and merci for reading:

À bientôt, until next time.

Été (Summer) à Paris: Mary Cassatt at the Jacquemart-André


Mary Cassatt Été (1894)

In recent days, before I broke my toe, Clive and I viewed some inspiring art in Paris.

First stop was Mary Cassatt at the Musée Jacquemart-André. This small, elegant museum, which we last visited in December, offers yet another terrific temporary exhibit along with the permanent collection of Nélie Jacquemart and her husband, Édouard André.

An American Impressionist

Mary Cassatt, an American Impressionist in Paris (through 23 July) is the first retrospective in France dedicated to Cassatt (1844-1926) since her death. She spent sixty years in France and was the only American artist to exhibit with the Impressionists in Paris.

Beyond the basics, neither Clive nor I knew a great deal about Cassatt and her life. The exhibit provides excellent information (and a detailed brochure in French or English) about the artist and her work. Unfortunately, given she was American and we noticed many Americans at the exhibit, the individual descriptions in each room are only in French.

Poster for the Exhibition

Jacquemart-André poster

The exhibition’s poster features part of Little Girl in a Blue Armchair (1878, US National Gallery).

In a sea of brilliant blues, a young girl seems to daydream (or maybe she’s tired, or bored) as she sprawls in an armchair. A small, sleeping dog curls up on the chair beside her. I was struck not only by the stunning colours but also the child’s dreamy expression and Cassatt’s ability to capture such a childhood moment.

At the invitation of her friend and colleague Edgar Degas, Cassatt exhibited Little Girl in a Blue Armchair in her first Impressionist exhibit in 1879 (the 4th Impressionist exhibit of 8 in total).

Little Girl in a Blue Armchair

Mothers and children, a nice cup of tea and a woman bathing

Cassatt never married or had children of her own, but she’s renowned partly for her lovely, loving portraits of mothers and children.

This exhibit contains many such works, almost too many for me, though I lingered before my clear favourite, the sweet and moving Sleepy Thomas Sucking His Thumb (1893, Bührle Foundation, Zurich).

Sweet sleepy Thomas

Other compelling works in this exhibit include Tasse de Thé (The Cup of Tea, 1880-81, NY Metropolitan), a portrait of Cassatt’s sister Lydia holding a cup of tea and wearing a silky swirly peach-coloured dress with a matching hat.

A nice cup of tea

I also loved the Japanese-inspired Woman Bathing, (1890-91, Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago). To me this painting combines sensuality, peacefulness and an intimate privacy all at once.

Woman Bathing

Été (Summer)

Probably my favourite painting in the exhibition is Été (Summertime, 1894, Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago), featured at the top of this post and below.

We viewed this painting on a hot, almost-summer day. The woman and girl both seem relaxed, almost languorous, as they gaze down at the duck and the water. And what water it is! In real life the painting seems almost to have gentle, moving swells shimmering on the canvas, all sparkling and rippling and reflecting the light, giving a simultaneous sense of serenity and movement.

Été, lazy days of summer

I left this exhibit feeling I’d learned a lot about Mary Cassatt but didn’t necessarily like many of her paintings. Later, reflecting back on them, I realised there were quite a few I really did admire.

The exhibit sparked my interest to one day learn more about this creative, independent woman. At the moment, my heart lies elsewhere, with a contemporary of Mary Cassatt.

Morisot mother & daughter – and a 2019 exhibit

One of the original members of the Impressionist movement, and the only woman at the time, was Parisienne Berthe Morisot (1841-1895).

Like Cassatt, Morisot was born into a family of certain wealth and privilege, and like Cassatt she was recognised for her exceptional artistic talents and works.

Unlike Cassatt, Morisot married, had an adored child and worked and struggled ceaselessly to balance her professional and personal life. Also unlike Cassatt, she died a terrible, untimely death (from pneumonia) at age 54.

A favourite Morisot, le berceau (the cradle), Musée d’Orsay

I’ve long loved Morisot’s paintings, spending quiet time in the rooms dedicated to her on the first floor (US second floor) of the Musée Marmottan and, most recently, reading her daughter Julie’s diary (translated and with fabulous notes and references by Jane Roberts), Growing up with the Impressionists.

A few days after the Cassatt exhibit, I revisited the Marmottan and the Passy Cemetery, where the remains of both Berthe and Julie (and their families) are interred. This will be the subject of a future post (see A Mother, a Daughter and a Cemetery in Paris).

If you’re an Impressionist fan, looking ahead (and I’ll try not to bang on about it too much in the coming months), the Musée d’Orsay has announced Berthe Morisot Female Impressionist, 18 June – 22 September 2019. To say I’m excited is an understatement. It’s sure to be a blockbuster.

Though their lives were quite different in some ways, Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt had much in common, not least succeeding as talented professional women in a mostly-man’s world. They knew and respected each other as colleagues in their Paris art and Impressionist circles. If you’re interested in the American Impressionist and will be in Paris before 23 July, I highly recommend the Jacquemart-André exhibit.

Courtyard, entry and tearoom terrace (under awning) at Musée Jacquemart-André

Cheers and merci for reading. À bientôt, until next time.