October in Paris: Furniture Moving via Japanese Landscapes at Musée Guimet

Musée Guimet, Paris

Clive and I are back in Paris for a few days, my favourite month (well, in Paris they’re really *all* my favourite) in my favourite city. This week we’re primarily here to accomplish a few necessary tasks in the apartment, to ready it for some serious painting and repair work later this month.

On our way in from Gare du Nord this afternoon, we managed to make it to the last two hours of the last day of the exhibit Paysages japoniais, de Hokusai à Hasui (Japanese Landscapes, from Hokusai to Hasui) at Musée Guimet, a museum that houses vast permanent collections and wonderful temporary exhibitions of Asian art.

If only this exhibit had been extended, for even a short time! I would have returned multiple times, to soak up the delicate, incredible beauty of the works on display. But that’s always the thing about Paris: infinite riches on offer and never enough time to see and do everything.

Paysages japonais at Musée Guimet

Ethereal artwork at Musée Guimet

Last hours of the exhibit, Musée Guimet

We weren’t the only ones taking in the exhibit in its final hours. I tried not to get frustrated by the number of people in front of each work and kept saying to Clive, ‘It’s okay, I’m definitely going to buy the catalogue.’ (This is something I don’t often do, though during the heat wave in June, I splurged for the catalogue of the Pissarro in Éragny, Nature Regained exhibit at the Musée Luxembourg.)

Book for the Japanese Landscapes exhibit, Musee Guimet, Paris

We started to fade and just before the closing time, I stepped into the always-enticing boutique (gift shop) for a browse.

There, along with all the other final-day exhibit-goers, I was greeted by a big sign that said the catalogue/book was completely sold out and would not be reprinted by the publisher.

Sooooooo disappointing! We all exchanged mournful looks and milled around picking up the odd postcard or fridge magnet, far from the envisioned experience of reading and learning and absorbing the artists’ works. I’m thankful we can hold in our minds and hearts the landscape images we were fortunate to see today

Clive likes the ones with people in them – some with humorous body language or facial expressions

I love the moon

While waiting for a bus to complete our journey from Felixstowe, we glimpsed the Eiffel Tower through the trees. Another great work of art, to be sure.

Glimpse of Eiffel Tower from the bus stop, Paris

Bonjour, Paris. As ever, I’m overjoyed to see you.

I’m not sure I’ll post again this week, but hope to do so if we have a few moments in between measuring small spaces and moving furniture around.

Cheers from Paris and thanks for reading.

Les Journées du Patrimoine: the British Embassy and Musée de la Vie Romantique during Paris Heritage Weekend

In the garden of the British Embassy, Paris


Les Journées Européennes du Patrimoine, European Heritage Days, are taking place all around Europe this weekend.

Many historic buildings and sites normally closed to the public are open to visitors. In France, many museums are free. Paris offers a wealth of wonderful possibilities in every arrondissement, or district.

The British Embassy

My Englishman on line by a British Embassy sign

Since Clive and I have not yet received an invitation to dine with the Queen at her Paris residence, we thought we would take advantage of today’s opportunity to visit.

The Embassy located is at 39 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré (almost directly behind the U.S. Embassy). The line was long but kept moving, and from what we could hear, we were among a tiny number of English-speaking visitors. The majority were French.

line for British Embassy Heritage Days

Once past security, we walked through a typically grand courtyard to the main entrance.

On the steps of the British Embassy

Inside, we were greeted by friendly staff, picked up a welcome brochure and watched the ambassador’s video-welcome message.

Clive between the Queen and the ambassador

We thought the rooms were elegant but not over-the-top ostentatious. In the Salon Bleu, the blue room, we managed to take another mirror-selfie.

Salon Bleu

Several rooms had beautiful views to the garden.

Salon Bleu room view

Clive said the Throne room with all its crimson splendour reminded him of Christmas and taking the kids to see Santa Claus. All that was missing, he said, was a sign saying, ‘Gone to feed the reindeer.’

The throne room

This may be as close to a State Dinner as we are likely to experience. Like the other rooms, the dining room was elegant but not pretentious, just sparkling with silver and flowers and chandeliers. It must be stunning when the candles are glowing.

Dining room at the British Embassy, Paris

We walked to the end of the garden, where Clive picked up a few conkers from among hundreds that had fallen from a chestnut tree. There we found an almost-hidden bench and relaxed there, before heading back to Place de la Concorde.

Garden of the British Embassy, Paris

Redouté’s Flowers at la Musée de la Vie Romantique

In the afternoon, we viewed the exhibit Les Pouvoir des Fleurs (The Power of Flowers), Pierre-Joseph Redoute, at the Musée de la Vie Romantique.

The museum entry is indicated by a modest banner on rue Chaptal.

Banner for la Musée de la Vie Romantique

One then proceeds up a cobblestoned path to the museum, once the studio of Ary Scheffer and gathering place of Frederic Chopin and George Sand, among others.

Pathway to the Musée de la Vie Romantique

Redouté, a Belgian artist, was known as the Raphaël des fleurs. He possessed not only great scientific knowledge but also great artistry, and worked with many leading botanists, including Joseph Banks.

Watercolours by Pierrre-Joseph Redouté

Watercolours by Pierrre-Joseph Redouté

The exhibit recounts Redouté’s legacy that inspired not only other painters but also creators of wallpapers, textiles and porcelain. My favourites were his delicate watercolours and the works he painted himself.

The artist and one of his works, Pierre-Joseph Redouté

0 5 Redoute fleurs

Flowers by Redouté

Clive and I have been to this wonderful small museum a number of times. Today, as part of the Journées du Patrimoine, admission was free. The rooms and garden café were more crowded than we’ve ever seen them, but I was so happy finally to make it to this exhibit. It runs until the end of October.

A popular spot today, the garden café of the Musée de la Vie Romantique

Le Pouvoir des Fleurs, the Power of Flowers

Merci, Paris, for a weekend of opening so many doors.

Cheers from the City of Light and thanks for reading.


Three Days in Paris – Candied Violets, Birthday in the Rain and Mozart Exhibit at l’Opéra Garnier

le jardin du Palais-Royal, Paris

Those who have spent time in Paris know you can experience endless sights, sensations and emotions in a single day

Here are a few photos and highlights of our past three days in the City of Light – and/or the city of intermittent rain and drizzle, as the moments may be.

Day One – les flâneurs, or walking around

Today we decided to walk as much as possible. This was partly because we spent most of yesterday riding trains and undergrounds, partly because many manifestations, or protests, were planned in response to President Macron’s proposed overhaul of French labour laws, and partly because Paris is simply a great walking city.

The most concerning event however was not a protest. It was arriving for lunch at our local café to find 1) no sign of Vlad and 2) the other waiters exceptionally, almost overly, friendly. This caused immediate alarm! We worried Vlad might be gone once again and wondered if the others were trying to ensure we remain regulars. We decided to wait a few days before asking.

Café sans Vlad

In the afternoon, we checked out a branch of a well-known French sweet shop, À la Mère de Famille, literally ‘to the mother of the family’.

Big kid in a candy shop, À la Mère de Famille, Paris

In addition to all manner of beautiful chocolat and nougat temptations, this shop offers a boiled sugar sweet I’d never tried before: candied violets. These little purple flowers are one of the most gorgeous-looking and tasting sweets I’ve ever had the pleasure of purchasing.

A supply of candied violets from À la Mère de Famille

This day we also found two patisseries unexpectedly closed – c’est la vie – and a ring of annoying trucks blasting their horns around the Arc de Triomphe. These were the only protests we witnessed, or more accurately, heard.

Trucks slowing traffic and making a lot of noise around the Arc de Triomphe

We relaxed over evening kirs at a café with purple chairs, before heading back to the apartment for Clive’s famous beef stew. It was delicious even without the parsnips.

Paris purple: love these café chairs

Day Two – Birthday in the Rain

Best birthday wake-up: cup of tea followed by coffee and birthday card and presents from my hubby.

Best birthday sight: seeing the back of Vlad from across the street as he served a table on the footpath. And lovely to think his colleagues were friendly just because they were pleased to see us. C’est bon!

Best unusual birthday experience: walking with our elderly neighbour to a local contractor and organising some work to be done later this year; making new contacts and experiencing the warmth of friendship and feeling like a local in the quartier.

Best get-out-of-the-rain activity (after lovely lunch at Cafe Louise, discovered years ago thanks to Rosemary of Aussie in France): checking out Lavrut art supply and papeterie in Passage Choiseul …

Lavrut art supplies & papeterie, Paris

… and wandering by a bookshop in la Galerie Vivienne.

Galerie Vivienne, Paris

Best Paris discovery: finding a new shortcut to the Palais-Royal as we made our way to the metro.

Best surprise moment of the day: our early evening stroll beneath the Palais-Royal arcades, along the edge of the garden. I think we were both caught unexpectedly by its beauty and serenity in the gentle rain. This historic building and garden are located in the heart of Paris, yet we were virtually the only ones there. Despite the rain, the fountain still flowed. A magical moment to remember.

le jardin du Palais-Royal, Paris

Best birthday dinner (as requested by moi): 2nd night of Clive’s stew (it’s best the 2nd night!) accompanied by a glass or two of Burgundy.

Best presents from amazon UK: when the concierge rang the bell and gave us the day’s arrivals, a new shredder and two boxes of assorted lightbulbs, all ordered before we left the UK. Spreadsheet man had inventoried our lamps and lightbulb needs. As a late-night birthday treat, he ran around replacing low-light bulbs with LED ones, brightening our space with the lightbulbs and his presence.

Best long-distance birthday event: Skype with son.

Best overall birthday experience: spending the day with Clive, in Paris.

Day Three – Mozart exhibit at l’Opéra Garnier and Violette Ice Cream at les Galeries Lafayette

Blue skies over Opera Garnier

From everything we read beforehand, attending Mozart, une passion française at the Opera Garnier seemed like a good idea.

The poster outside the building looked inviting.

Poster for Mozart exhibition at Opera Garnier

Once inside the lower-level visitor entrance, we purchased tickets in the usual way. After that, the signage seemed to disappear. We wandered around looking for hints and took a mirror-selfie before heading upstairs.

Mirror selfie on lower level of Opera Garnier

Up on the main level, we wandered a little more and a sign seemed to point to a rather dark side staircase. It didn’t seem right but eventually we proceeded up, with me muttering about the phantom of the opera (which I’ve never seen). On the next level we found another sign.

As you can see from the photo, there weren’t exactly hordes of people to reassure us we were on the right track.

Clive leading the way down hallway of Opera Garnier

Finally, voila! We reached the entry to the exhibit – and I see I have once again (this time inadvertently) taken a mirror selfie of the two of us. Looks like we’re the only ones interested.

Voila! Entry to Mozart exhibit

The exhibit was in fact quite good, giving a great overview of Mozart’s time in France and the professional and public responses to his music before and after his death. It’s the kind of exhibit the French do so very well, diving in depth into an aspect of an artist and his or her work with ever-unique commentary and illustrations of the person and the era.

Like the building that houses it, the exhibit has many marble steps and some are dimly-lit; we both nearly tripped on one set of stairs and a few minutes later, a man did fall. Otherwise this is a little gem of an exhibit.

Emerging back into the gilt of the Opera Garnier, we both felt in need of sustenance and a pause to relax, so headed across the street to Galeries Lafayette.

The gilt of the Opera Garnier

The view from the Galeries Lafayette terrace was very cloudy by late afternoon. We camped out at the level 6 café where I discovered yet another divine purple treat: violette ice cream. The taste is exquisite, so much nicer than my photo.

Cloudy view from Galeries Lafayette terrace

Violette ice cream aka heaven at Galeries Lafayette

It’s hard to capture the department store’s beautiful dome in a single phot, but it’s not a bad place for afternoon tea if you’re in the area.

Dome of les Galeries Lafayette

I conclude by adding that today we also returned to ‘our’ café for lunch, greeted and served by Vlad. It may have been our imagination, but we thought he seemed genuinely as pleased to see us as we were to see him.

Thank you to all who sent birthday emails and messages. I appreciate every one!

Cheers from Paris and thanks for reading.

Paris in September: la Rentrée, a Happy Return

Eiffel Tower and the Seine, through the metro window

This evening Clive and I arrived in Paris. We’ll spend a few days here, which I requested for my birthday (later this week). I love being here any time of year and that includes September, the month of la rentrée, literally the return – not only of children to school, but of residents to the city after summer holidays, to cultural events, museum exhibits, routines of daily life and – so far anyway, as no heat wave is forecast — cooler temperatures.

Our journey was smooth, beginning with huge thanks to our friend David who offered most kindly to drive us to the local train station after the last-minute cancellation of the branch service from Felixstowe. Merci beaucoup, David! Once on board, Clive did his puzzles and I read and looked out the window (and took his photo).

Clive doing puzzles on the train to London

We anticipated Monday hordes and there were plenty of people at St. Pancras station, but what a difference now that the northern hemisphere school year has begun. Less screaming children, more silver hair.

St. Pancras station, London

I’ve said it many times but I don’t think I’ll ever get over how easy and fast it is to travel from city centre to city centre via the Eurostar. You barely have time to unwind, open a book or magazine or have a snooze and a snack. Thirty minutes or so in the UK, then you enter the tunnel. Twenty minutes after that, the train emerges into northern France, which looks a lot like our beloved Suffolk.

Northern France through the Eurostar window

The total journey takes 2 hours and 15 minutes. Gare du Nord is undergoing endless renovation and construction and is rather grungy, especially compared to St. P. But it’s all about location and I can never help feeling thrilled – over the moon, actually — because we’ve arrived in Paris

Gare du Nord, Paris

At Gare du Nord, we hopped on the first metro, then made one change.

Changing metros & never a long wait

As usual, I had to photograph La Dame de Fer, the iron lady, through the window as we crossed the Seine (photo at the top of this post). I wasn’t quick enough to catch the new koala on the side of the Aussie Embassy – maybe another day.

It’s a rare first night we pass up a visit to our favourite waiter, Vlad and a relaxing kir at ‘our’ café, but this evening we lost some time searching unsuccessfully for parsnips for Clive’s stew. We forgot or never knew our parsnip man doesn’t work on Mondays – however we did find all the other ingredients so the chef has what he needs and we will enjoy his famous beef/veggie dish for a couple of nights this week. We looked for Vlad on our way back but it was later than usual and we think he had left for the evening.

A walk was then in order and we appreciated the sunset behind the statue of Maréchal Foch (a French general and Supreme Allied Commander in WW I) at Place du Trocadéro along with a visit to Ben Franklin on his hillside. Everything is looking wonderful

Sunset at Place du Trocadéro, Paris

Ben Franklin and his flowers

Clive snapped this photo of me on the Trocadéro esplanade. Paris is so much more than the Eiffel Tower, infinitely more, yet the sight of this graceful symbol of the city still moves me. I’m so happy and grateful to be here.

Bonjour, Paris. I’m so happy to see you again.

Cheers and thanks for reading. Happy rentrée to all who are welcoming autumn and the new school year and happy spring Down Under.

Oh the Relief: Cool Temps, Cool Art and Cool People in Paris

Musée Marmottan, Paris

Like everyone else in Paris, we eagerly anticipated last evening’s break in the canicule, or heat wave, and the heavenly arrival of cooler temperatures.

The heat was still ferocious when we walked around on a few midday errands; a blinking sign above a pharmacie showed 39C/102F. I told Clive that was because it was directly in the sun and he replied, ‘So are we.’

39C outside the pharmacie

We celebrated the evening’s falling temperatures by heading out for a stroll and a final visit to the other Pissarro exhibit at the Musée Marmottan. This small museum is a longtime favourite and the advantage of going on their late-night opening is – in addition to last night’s cooler temps – the relative lack of crowds or groups.

Thursday night at the musée – everyone gets their own painting to view

How restful and soothing, to contemplate la bergère, the shepherdess, one of my all-time favourite works of art, along with so many of Pissarro’s other pieces, from rural scenes to urban Paris, from summer to autumn and winter and sunrise to high noon to sunset. Always, the Marmottan’s lower-level Monet gallery (superbly air-conditioned) is a feast for the eyes and the heart.

By 8:30pm, when we exited the museum, the outside air was downright cool. We opted to take the bus home and thoroughly enjoyed sitting on a bench by the bus stop and luxuriating in the beautiful fresh breeze while we waited.

Welcome clouds and a fresh breeze outside the Musée Marmottan

This morning brought a wonderful treat, when we met writer Linda Spalla and her partner and fabulous photographer Bernie Verdier.

I recently contacted Linda, after reading her delightful memoir (which includes Bernie’s fantastic photos), Bernie’s Paris: Travel Stories with Love. I highly recommend this couple’s great story of love and Paris, where they’ve spent every summer for the past 14 years. Linda also writes a daily blog post from Paris (found at the same author link above) which I look forward to every day. Over coffee and pastries, the four of us shared a few Paris stories, a little of our respective histories and a lot of smiles and congenial conversation (so busy talking I forgot to ask for a photo!). Thank you, Linda and Bernie for getting together with us today, especially after your busy week with family visiting!

We wrapped up our final day in Paris this trip with – bien sûr – a visit to our local café for a late lunch and good-byes to ‘Vlad’. All afternoon we felt a buzz in the air; we think it’s a combination of Friday and looking forward to the weekend on top of the blessed end to the canicule.

As our friend David noted in an email, it’s ironic we came to Paris this June to avoid the summer heat. The canicule was quite the experience and not one we’re keen to repeat. That said, Paris in the heat is still Paris, and that’s more than enough for me.

Café in the sunshine Paris

Au revoir to our home away from home for this trip and à bientôt à Paris.

Cheers and thanks for reading. More from our home by the sea in England.

Coping with the Canicule: Summer Scorcher in Paris

This person had the right idea: blessed shade in the arms of an ancient tree, Jardin du Luxembourg

The canicule, or heat wave, continues in Paris. Temperatures as high as 36/37C or 97/98F (38C/100+F in some parts of the city) are supposed to break tomorrow evening, Thursday, around 5pm – less than 21 hours from now, not that we’re counting or anything.

Following our strategy for handling the heat, outlined in Searching for Shade in a Paris Heat Wave, we’ve managed to get out and about a little in the past two days. Riding the bus and metro and being outside for even a short time has been energy-draining and extremely uncomfortable, especially for this cool-weather-loving couple.

A fabulous exhibit (and deliciously air-conditioned!)

I can’t recommend highly enough Pissarro à ÉragnyPissarro in Éragny, Nature Regained (thru 09 July at the Musée du Luxembourg). In tandem with Camille Pissarro, le Premier des Impressionnistes (thru 02 July at Musée Marmottan), you can really feast your eyes and spirit on the beauty of this artist’s work.

Pissarro à Éragny is a stunning display of the great Impressionist’s depictions of the countryside around his village of Éragny-sur-Epte, with fields and orchards, farms, workers, homes and gardens, sunrises and sunsets. Many of the works are from private collections and museums around the world, including a couple in Australia.

I don’t often buy an exhibit’s heavy catalogue containing every painting displayed, but there were so many paintings I loved and could have looked at all day in this exhibit that I splurged on the full catalogue. Heartfelt thanks to Clive for lugging it around in his backpack for the rest of the day in the heat.

After the musée, where to but the adjacent Jardin du Luxembourg, one of Paris’s best and most beautiful gardens. There we found a shady spot to catch our breath and regroup before continuing on.

Trees and shade in the Luxembourg Garden

In addition to the exhibit, we’ve made our way to a favourite papeterie (stationery shop) or two, enjoyed one lunch at a regular café stop and disliked another (very ordinary slap-dash salads) at a brasserie we tried for the first time today. We did have a productive trip to Office Depot so all was not lost, except a few gallons of perspiration as we walked part of the way.

A simple Parisian café, sometimes the best

And no matter the weather, a coffee and pain au chocolat at our local café, along with a warm greeting from the owners and friendly chat with ‘Vlad’, never disappoints.

Morning treat at our local, Paris

Depending on your hemisphere, today is the longest or shortest day; here in Paris, the summer solstice includes Fête de la Musique, a city-wide music festival. Groups of all sizes and styles perform all night long, in every arrondissement, or district, in venues ranging from street corners to concert halls.

This event is considered either wonderful or horrible; it depends on who’s talking. I’ve read of unruly noise torturing residents until dawn and of those who thoroughly enjoyed seeing musicians in a variety of settings. A park near us reportedly drew 7,000 attendees at last year’s Fête de la Musique concert. We debated on and off about checking it out this year (from the edges – I don’t like crowds in any weather), but the prospect of heading back out in the canicule and walking around with a lot of other people just didn’t appeal. Maybe next year.

In the meantime, wherever you walk in Paris, there’s bound to be a pretty patisserie nearby.

Patisserie in pink, Paris

Thinking of our U.S and UK friends and family who are also coping with the heat and we hope and pray you’re staying cool and well.

Thanks for reading and more soon from a cooler – we hope! – Paris.

Searching for Shade in a Paris Heat Wave

No takers for benches in the sun, Square Barye, Paris

So much for our plan to visit Paris in June and thus avoid both summer hordes and summer heat.

The City of Light is sizzling in a canicule, or heat wave. Today’s temperature reached 34C/94F and is expected to rise over the next three days.

As I wrote last year about Paris in August, what we like least about the summer season anywhere is soaring temperatures, especially when we’re away from our tree by the sea and Felixstowe’s wonderful coastal breezes. In Paris we’re moving slowly and doing our best to get things done while avoiding the worst heat of the day.

Yesterday, Sunday, we happened to take a bus that stopped just off the Champs-Elysées. We walked across the Rond Point intersection, where late this afternoon there was an incident involving a van targeting police officers. We had no idea this was happening, as we were out and about in other parts of the city. It wasn’t until we received several text messages (sincere thanks to those who sent them) that we heard the news. Thankfully, no officers or bystanders were injured, though traffic was reportedly stopped for some time. On Sunday morning, there was nary a car or pedestrian in sight.

Sunday morning at Rond Point, Champs-Elysées

The reason we were in that area was to attend church at Scots Kirk Paris, a lovely small venue where we enjoyed meeting the congregation, being introduced during the service and, over coffee and tea afterwards, learning more about the church’s interesting history in Paris. We plan to return.

Our strategy for handling the canicule is to get out early – we always advise arriving at exhibits when they open anyway, to avoid crowds – walk and sit in the shade as much as possible, come back to the apartment during the worst heat of the day (feet up, fan on, shutters closed), venture out later if and when the temps decrease a little, and buy and eat ice cream. Best flavour so far: lemon meringue!

Excellent free exhibit at Hôtel de Ville, Paris – air-conditioned, too!

Strolling along the Seine offers some chance of breeze and shade, as does finding a bench in a park and/or a spot under the trees. Today it was a challenge to find a bench in the shade – no takers for those in the sun, as shown in this post’s header photo.

Along the Seine, Pont Louis-Phillippe, Paris

A bend in the Seine and shade under the tree

On Ile St-Louis, I snapped a photo of Clive, with the bridge named Pont Marie behind him. It wasn’t a planned photo; we’ve walked across Pont Marie many times. Today we just paused as we were strolling along enjoying both the river view and the flower baskets on the other side of the street, and I said, ‘Let me take your photo.’

Flower baskets on Ile St-Louis, Paris

The Pont Marie holds many memories for me with my late husband Gary and our son, over the years when the three of us came to Paris as a family. (I write about those years, and this place, in the memoir I’m continuing to work on.) Today when I looked at the photo of Clive and that special bridge, my heart filled with emotion and gratitude for both men in my life. It’s a darn good photo, if I may say so myself.

Clive and the Pont Marie, Paris

As for tomorrow and the next few days, we may surrender to the heat and scale back a few of our planned outings.

Cheers and thanks for reading. A bientôt and stay cool!