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!

Paris Arrival: Vlad in the café, Ben on his hillside and sizzling summer everywhere

View from the metro: Eiffel Tower & the Seine

What a pleasure it was today, after recent long-haul flights, to travel by train to Paris.

Special thanks to dear friends Fiona and Joyce, who dropped us at Ipswich station this morning for our train to London. Smooth connections via the Underground, Eurostar and metro had us looking out at the streets of Paris late this afternoon.

View from the metro, Paris

After dropping our things at the apartment and doing a few settling-in tasks, we went out again, first to our local café, bien sûr. There we paused for a kir (white wine and cassis) and a chat with our favourite waiter.

A welcome kir in Paris

Café reflections, Paris

Delighted to have seen ‘Vlad’ and confirmed he’ll be working this week, we moved on to shopping and walking, topping up our Navigo passes, accumulating various groceries (eg vegetables for Clive’s delicious beef/veggie stew he plans to make, despite the hot summer temps) and pausing to say hello to Ben, or more accurately, the statue of Benjamin Franklin on his petite Paris hillside.

There he is! Statue of Benjamin Franklin in Paris

Ben is looking wonderful and his summer flowers are really in bloom. A pigeon perched on the back of Ben’s chair and refused to budge while I was photographing the great American.

So there they sit, gazing out at the Paris evening, with the tip of the Eiffel Tower visible above the Palais de Chaillot behind them.

The temps are supposed to rise and rise and rise this week, and the streets and cafes are packed with people enjoying the long summer evenings.

Shady side of the street, Paris

Tomorrow France votes in the second round of its legislative elections. Clive and I are looking forward to attending a morning service at a church we haven’t visited before.

Busy summer evening at Trocadéro, Paris

Cheers and thanks for reading. Hope everyone in areas affected by the heat can stay cool and comfortable. A bientôt from Paris.

What’s On in (My) Paris: June 2017

June Sunday on the Champs de Mars, Paris

Happiness is booking your next Eurostar (or ferry or flight) to Paris.

In just over a week, Clive and I will make a short visit to our home away from home. We decided to bring our July trip forward to get ahead of the summer crowds.

As always, part of the pleasure for me is the anticipation, which includes reviewing my Next Paris list – actually a running, pages-long Word document – of what we might do and see while we’re there.

Of course in Paris, as elsewhere, one of the best experiences is to make unexpected, new discoveries while simply strolling and being a flâneur. Still, to make the most of our time there, I enjoy looking over my notes and preparing a flexible starter list.

Always time for café sitting – especially where Vlad, our favourite waiter, works

Exhibitions with near-term closing dates head the list. My top four this month:

* Musée Luxembourg – Pissarro à Eragny (Pissarro in Eragny, nature regained, thru 09 July)

* Hôtel de Ville, whose free exhibits are usually excellent Le Gouvernement des Parisiens: Paris, ses habitants, l’État, une histoire partagée (link in French; The government of Parisians: Paris, its inhabitants, the State, a shared history, thru 22 July)

* Musée de la Vie Romantique – Le pouvoir des Fleurs (The power of flowers and a contemporary journey of crafts, thru 01 October but summer’s a nice time to visit this museum and its courtyard)

Clive at a table, reading in the courtyard/salon de thé of the Musée de la Vie Romantique

* return to Musée Marmottan, a frequent destination, for Camille Pissarro, le Premier des Impressionnistes (thru 02 July); not specifically for ‘my’ bergère, or shepherdess, as she lives at the Musée d’Orsay and can be seen there, but to soak up once again the many other pieces on loan from private collections and faraway museums we may never visit in person.

me and my girl, Pissarro’s bergère, March 2017

Additional exhibits if we have time (wishful thinking): Grand Palais, Rodin: The Centennial Exhibition (thru 31 July) and/or Jardins (thru 24 July); Quai Branly, Picasso Primitif (thru 23 July); Orsay, Portraits by Cézanne (thru 24 Sept.).

After exhibits, we juggle old favourites with new places, whether bookshops and papeteries, cafés and restaurants, parks and squares or walks along the Seine, on new streets or through new quartiers.

Summer on the Seine, Paris

For our vie quotidienne (daily life), we’re after a new shredder (an important household item!) and I want to have a large, non-standard-sized print from Sydney framed at BHV. On our last visit, I talked with a woman in the BHV art department and she assured me I could select the frame, leave the print there and pick it up on a future trip. Clive and I never mind a visit to BHV.

Surf’s up: Clive carrying our table-top ironing board home from BHV, 2009

Above all I anticipate the joy of just being there, waking to the lilt of French conversations rising from the courtyard – though no joy in the wake-the-dead crash of glass recycling bins – the aroma of Clive’s freshly-brewed coffee with morning baguettes and croissants or maybe a pain au chocolat, and the knowledge all of Paris is just outside the door.

Ben Franklin and his summer flowers, Paris

There’s never enough time for do everything and see everyone we’d like, especially since we value our ‘couple’s time’ as well as reconnecting with our dear neighbours and old friends, and sometimes meeting new ones, too. Not fitting everything in gives us a great reason – not that one ever needs a reason – to return to Paris.

Summer in the Luxembourg Garden, Paris

For now, back to pondering the possibilities and enjoying early summer in Felixstowe.

Thanks for reading and à bientôt.

Paris in August

Hello Eiffel Tower & hello koala on the side of the Australian Embassy

Hello Eiffel Tower & hello koala on the side of the Australian Embassy

Paris in August is typically quiet; Clive and I have enjoyed summer visits in prior years. Last week, while Clive tackled another DIY project, I spent a few days in the City of Light, to work on the current chapter of my book. I did manage to get out on a few necessary errands and stop into a favourite shop or two.

Though many Paris businesses shut down for all or part of August, the city’s main tourist sites, department stores and numerous restaurants, cafes and shops remain open.

August morning by the Wepler café, Paris

August morning by the Wepler café, Paris

Added to the usual seasonal sleepiness, tourist numbers are down this year, though not, apparently, American numbers. In July, The Atlantic reported ‘U.S. visitors to Paris have actually risen by 0.6 per cent this summer.’

One result in any case is lower fares and opportunities to experience the City of Light without as many crowds. You’ll still mix with plenty of people viewing museum exhibits, strolling by the Paris plages  (temporary beaches) and bouquinistes (booksellers) along the Seine, relaxing on café terraces and, if you fancy, playing beach volleyball on the plaza of Hôtel de Ville, Paris city hall.

'Beach' volleyball in front of Hôtel de Ville, Paris

‘Beach’ volleyball in front of Hôtel de Ville, Paris

Our local café (Vlad’s café) closes for three weeks in August, but others nearby remain open; the boulangerie with our favourite bread was open but the one with the best pains au chocolat in Paris closed; both Monoprix stores were open — yay! — and so was a family-run chocolatier, where I chose a little treat to take back to Clive.

Two women I spoke with in the shops, when I commented about their working in August, said they’d taken their long holiday (vacation) in July and didn’t mind returning in August.

August rush hour, Paris

August rush hour, Paris

There’s a lot to be said for quiet, or relative quiet compared to the rest of the year – even if some residential streets feel eerie without traffic.

You can walk along the footpath without being rushed or pushed. The buses and metros have multiple seats available. The department store BHV was as empty as I’ve ever seen it, perfect for not only a household errand but also a browse in the stationery and book departments.

Best of all, along with the large department stores, every papeterie, or stationery shop, in town is gearing up in August for the rentrée, September’s back-to-school season. Shop tables, counters and shelves are laden with temptation, overflowing with pens and pencils and multi-coloured papers and notebooks of all shapes and sizes and all manner of cases, portfolios, bags and backpacks in which to carry one’s treasures.

A favourite Paris papeterie

A favourite Paris papeterie

For many years, the general view was, ‘Never go to Paris in August! It’s deserted!’ More recently, an opposing view has emerged, ‘I love Paris in August! It’s so much nicer then!’

I don’t agree with either; for me the truth is somewhere in the middle. As I get older, what I least like about Paris – or anywhere, really – in summer is the heat. I miss our tree by the sea and Felixstowe’s lovely sea breeze. A Seine-side picnic is a great Paris alternative.

Along the River Seine, Paris

Along the River Seine, Paris

Despite — or because of — the heat, I’m sure the quais of the Seine and the Canal St-Martin, the steps of Sacré-Coeur and the lawns of the Champ de Mars stretching beneath the Eiffel Tower were full of tourists and residents whiling away the still-long summer nights (Paris is an hour ahead of the UK) and soaking up summer in the City of Light.

In August, trees and flowers are still in full bloom. I’m so pleased to say those surrounding Ben Franklin seem to be flourishing.

Ben with his summer flowers, Paris

Ben with his summer flowers, Paris

So, if you want to visit Paris and August is the only time you can go, do it! No matter the month, Paris will deliver its special magic.

Cheers and thanks for reading.

Statue of Benjamin Franklin, a Peacemaker in Paris

Ben Franklin in Paris, newly-landscaped May 2016

Ben Franklin in Paris, newly-landscaped May 2016

When you round a Paris corner or cross a bridge over the Seine or stroll down a boulevard, you may come upon someone – in his or her statue form – who draws you in and makes you take notice.

[Note from Clive: This is a long post. Suggest you make a cup of tea before reading it.]

I don’t recall, looking back, the first time I noticed Ben. He would have drawn our attention sometime when we were walking by – because walking is what you do so much of in Paris – perhaps on an evening stroll or en route to somewhere else.

Ben sparks interest

Ben is located on the western side of Paris, at the southwest corner of the Place du Trocadéro. The place is a busy traffic roundabout and site of the Palais de Chaillot, the palace (now housing multiple museums) whose esplanade offers a terrific view of the Eiffel Tower.

Across a side street, amidst horns beeping, locals dog-walking and tourists hurrying to take in the view, Ben sits unobtrusively beneath spreading chestnut trees on a petit green hillside.

Red arrow points to Ben's location

Red arrow points to Ben’s location

Ben’s location is officially named the Square de Yorktown. This commemorates the 1781 Virginia battle in which the combined forces of American general George Washington and French general Comte (Count) de Rochambeau defeated the English, prompting the Brits to begin negotiating an end to America’s war of independence.

Ben’s ‘square’ is actually a grassy triangle, flanked on both sides by the appropriately-named rue (street) Benjamin Franklin. A tablet placed by the Rochambeau chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) provides tribute to the more than 2,500 French who lost their lives at Yorktown.

Once we spotted Ben, his memorial immediately sparked my interest.

The first connection, from American schooldays, was ‘Oh, cool, Ben Franklin!’ This was accompanied by long-instilled admiration for the man known for everything from inventing the lightning rod to writing Poor Richard’s Almanac to signing the 1776 Declaration of Independence and negotiating the 1783 Treaty of Paris, which finally ended America’s Revolutionary war.

An American in Paris – 1700s

Musée Carnavalet, 2008 exhibit about Ben Franklin in Paris

Musée Carnavalet, 2008 exhibit about Ben Franklin in Paris

As America’s first ambassador to France, Ben lived in Paris – actually on rue Raynouard in the commune of Passy, incorporated into the city limits in 1860 — from the end of 1776 to late 1785.

In 2008, Clive and I visited Benjamin Franklin, Un Américain à Paris, an excellent exhibit at the Musée Carnavalet, the museum of the history of Paris. (I also recall Clive’s less than enthusiastic response to exhibit labels and brochures printed only in French.)

And since 2005, my to-read list has included Stacy Schiff’s well-reviewed A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the birth of America.

By all accounts, Ben was much-loved by the French. Not only did they appreciate his statesmanship, diplomacy and wide-ranging knowledge; they adored his philosophical intellect, his wit and his humour which charmed all who enjoyed the great French art and sport of conversation with him in Paris salons.

My absolute favourite fact about Ben in Paris is that, along with his diplomatic activities and scientific projects, he pursued a lifelong interest in printing and typefaces and established his own printing press in his house at Passy.

What a great online blogger Ben would have been. He wrote and self-published, in English and French, pamphlets, opinion pieces, invitations, letters, and short pieces called the ‘Bagatelles’ – many of which can be found in an inexpensive reproduction of Luther S Livingston’s 1914 gem, Franklin and his Press at Passy.

It tickled me no end to find the statue of Ben, sitting comfortably on his hillside, looking for all the world as if he’s ready to start conversing with you in a Paris salon.

A statue for Ben’s 200th – 1900s

Beneath the spreading chestnut trees, April 2014

Beneath the spreading chestnut trees, April 2014

Ben’s Paris statue, by John J Boyle, is a replica of one now located at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

On the pedestal, two bas-reliefs by French sculptor Frédéric Brou depict Ben being presented to the Court of Louis XVI at Versailles in 1778 and the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783.

All thanks for this memorial are owed to Mr John H Harjes, another Philadelphian in Paris, who gave this statue to the city in 1906 to mark the bicentennial of Ben’s birth.

Harjes was a founder of the Morgan bank on Place Vendôme and also the American Hospital at Neuilly, just west of Paris. Apparently a bust of him resides in the hospital entryway.

I’m no statue connoisseur, but everything about Ben’s Paris statue appeals to me.

The location is in the midst of Parisian life, with much to offer in addition to Ben himself – museums, walks, the Seine, shops, cafes, gardens, the view of the Eiffel Tower and multiple metro lines all close by.

The setting is a gentle hillside with residential buildings behind Ben, the Place du Trocadéro in front of him, the walls of Passy cemetery across the street on one side and the tip of the Eiffel Tower peeking above the Palais de Chaillot on the other. From his perch on the hill, Ben gazes out over the whole scene.

Ben’s size seems just right — larger than life, but not so immense as to exude ‘airs and graces’ or project the kind of military prowess or personal pomposity some statues radiate.

Ben’s body position looks relaxed; he’s sitting down, with his left forearm resting on the arm of the chair and his right hand holding a copy of the U.S. Declaration of Independence. Clive says the pose reminds him of a smaller version of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

Finally, Ben’s expression strikes me as friendly and rather bemused, as if he’s listening or reflecting or perhaps silently composing his next pithy quotation or witty and wise observation about the state of the world.

The whole feel around this statue is positive. Even when the evening is dark or the temperature freezing, whether the trees are in leaf or leafless, the simplicity and humility of it feel warm to me.

Ben in the snow, January 2013

Ben in the snow, January 2013

Over the years, as we passed and paused by Ben, I did notice we could never get up close to the statue because the gate around it, low as it is, was always locked.

I found this slightly annoying and thought it perhaps one of Paris’s ‘keep off the grass’ edicts for certain green spaces. To the list of a million things I always want to do and see in Paris, I added a vague mental note, ‘I should learn more about it’ — not in an urgent way but a pleasant ‘it would be interesting to know why it’s locked and I’ll try to find out more in due course’ kind of way.

Mostly, though, I just wanted to see Ben sitting on his hillside, watching over the world.

Wanting to see Ben – 2000s

Ben at night, January 2014

Ben at night, January 2014

My deepening affection for Ben snuck up on me.

I didn’t recognise it while it was happening, but at some point I began tweeting photos of him in all sorts of seasons and weather.

Then I included him in blog posts, whether about Paris in Winter (see #7), writing in Paris or Paris Spring Sensations (see #7).

Until recently, I hadn’t given much thought to exactly why I like the statue so much. I just knew I liked it.

My affection blossomed into a small but meaningful Paris tradition, especially on arrival: I always want to walk to Trocadéro and say hello to Ben. (The nearby Eiffel Tower view is admittedly another draw.)

An upsetting sight – 2014

WHERE IS BEN!?! 6 October 2014

WHERE IS BEN!?! 6 October 2014

This shocking scene greeted us in October, 2014.

How distressing to find Ben’s hillside ripped up, the pedestal boxed up and NO SIGN OF BEN himself. Still mourning the prior year’s departure of Vlad, our favourite Paris café waiter, I didn’t want to lose Ben, too.

An Internet search revealed the reason for Ben’s absence: RATP, Paris’s rapid transit, work on metro Line 6, ‘yards of sand blasting … and sealing work … ballast discharged through two wells drilled in the roof and swept away by truck‘ [note: this work was/is different from the 2014-2018 works on the Trocadero terraces].

Ouch! I never realised how protective I felt about Ben and his patch of green until I saw it all ripped up. The box teetering on the edge of a giant hole did nothing to help, though its presence at least indicated the statue would one day return.

A week later, when we had to say goodbye to Paris, the digger was gone but the box’s position still looked precarious. I just wanted Ben back in his usual place.

Still no Ben, 13 October 2014

Still no Ben, 13 October 2014

Instead I had to trust the city of Paris, which continuously and mostly brilliantly maintains and improves the city’s historic and current buildings and transport systems, that we would in time see Ben again

Ben comes home – 2015

Ben unboxed, first sight July 2015

Ben unboxed, first sight July 2015

Last summer, I nearly dragged Clive to Trocadéro in my haste to see what we’d find.

Ben’s back! To my deep relief and happiness, Ben had returned to his hillside. What a joy it was, and is, to see him again.

His pedestal looked cleaner. He had a new, paved path. But the grass – or weeds — beneath him were scruffy and unkempt. And we weren’t sure about Ben himself. He still looked like he needed a green-clean.

Still, my spirits soared to see Ben again. I hoped a future visit would reveal more care given to the hillside around him.

Sure enough, last December it appeared some preparation work had occurred on the grass immediately in front of Ben.

Ben at night, December 2015

Ben at night, December 2015

Curiosity rekindled – 2016

By February this year, the area had been further tended, with small green plants poking their heads above the dirt.

Planted area in front of Ben, February 2016

Planted area in front of Ben, February 2016

I looked forward with great anticipation to see what, if anything, would greet us on our next trip.

Finally, last month, we arrived to find that the area in front of Ben appears to be fully planted, as shown in this post’s header photo and repeated here. The gate surrounding the square remains locked.

Ben newly-landscaped, May 2016

Ben newly-landscaped, May 2016

Is this as far as Ben’s ‘renovation’ will go? His unboxing and fresh landscaping have rekindled my interest in finding out more about his statue and the time he spent in the city that means so much to both of us.

To that end, I’ve added a few items to my Paris to-do list and emailed queries to several organisations. Highest on my list:

Ben’s statue

– What department or organisation is responsible for maintenance?
– Is there a budget or some sort of fund (and can I contribute)?
– Will the statue have a green-clean?
– Who has the keys for the gate? Who decides when it’s open? When will it next be open? (It would be unseemly, we feel, to climb over the gate …)
– Who decides what to plant? Find out what kind of tree the smaller one is on Ben’s hillside (I’m fairly sure the larger ones are chestnuts, but check this, too).
– Once I know when the square is open, try to be there and pay my respects up close.

If and when I find some answers to these pressing matters, I shall share them in a future post.

Ben’s time in Paris

– Read Stacy Schiff’s book, which I’ve finally purchased. Enjoy paging through the delightful, also recently-purchased Franklin and his Press at Passy.
– If and when we’re at the American Hospital at Neuilly (no hurry on this one), find the bust of Harjes and thank him.

Always, of course, where to next is — to Ben! To see and greet him on our arrival in Paris and when we’re passing by.

My journey with Ben and his hillside memorial has taught me that, beyond schoolgirl admiration, more than anything else Paris connects me to this great American and friend of France.

The City of Light isn’t perfect, nor was it ever. But two centuries after Ben walked the streets of Trocadéro and Passy, I share his love of the city’s quartiers, its people and – notwithstanding strikes, demonstrations, security concerns, floods and ongoing change – its way of life.

A peacemaker

Ben and his gate, January 2013

Ben and his gate, January 2013

The DAR tablet at Square de Yorktown contains a quote from Ben, ‘the best of all works – the work of peace.’

I wonder what this great peacemaker would think – and write – about events in today’s world. Surely he would have much to say about the USA, the UK/EU and many other national and international topics.

Ben left Paris in July, 1785 to return to Philadelphia. In 1787, he was the oldest delegate to America’s Constitutional Convention.

Two years later, in his beloved France, the Bastille fell on 14 July 1789. The following year, on 17 April 1790, Ben died of pleurisy in Philadelphia.

The engraved quotation at the base of his Paris statue is from the Comte de Mirabeau, a voice of the French people during their own revolution. Translated from the French:

‘The genius who liberated America and poured upon Europe torrents of light, the wise man whom two worlds claim ‘   Mirabeau 11 juin 1790

Ben on his hillside, May 2016

Ben on his hillside, May 2016

This modest statue in its great location is well worth a stop, especially if you’re interested in the enduring friendship between the USA and France.

Change is constant, but with any luck, on our next trip to Paris we’ll say hello to Ben on his hillside and sip coffee at one of Vlad’s tables a few blocks away.

Cheers and thanks for reading.