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.

Earthly Remains

Memorial Day 2013

May 23rd would have been my mother’s 94th birthday.

How strange it feels to be in England, instead of New Jersey, during these long, lovely late May days.

‘Your mom passed away’

My mother died peacefully in her sleep on Saturday morning, April 28.

Despite her recent frailty and deteriorating health, I was stunned by the nurse’s words over the phone, ‘Your mom passed away.’

Mom and her father, 1924

In late February, Mom had several falls. She had begun losing weight as her ability to use utensils and interest in eating decreased. I spent 16 days with her in late February and early March, during which time she was moved to her assisted living facility’s memory care unit.

Mom had also become confined to a wheelchair full-time. She seemed more comfortable there and no doubt felt safer than during the final weeks of using her walker. She still knew me and my son, but otherwise her memory was largely gone. We could at least page through her 90th birthday book and she recalled with deep love her wonderful parents.

A beautiful day in February 2018

I was thankful for those weeks with my mother, despite the distress of seeing her in her weakened condition. One afternoon I sat in the local Barnes & Noble and cried on the phone to Clive, asking how long a person could live without eating.

working girl at the Jersey shore

Mom received highly-personalised care in the memory unit, including mealtime feeding. It was both upsetting and positive to see her letting an aide (and sometimes me) feed her. She could still sit up in her wheelchair, enjoy different programs and respond to questions and interactions. As ever, the staff who cared for her told me how kind and lovely she was, and what a wonderful mother I had.

with Mom in the memory unit, February 2018

In late March, Clive and I returned to NJ for another two weeks. We did our usual routines, attending programs with Mom, sitting with her and spending as much time as possible with her each day. While I couldn’t say Mom was doing ‘well’, I was thankful she was receiving excellent care and felt she was doing as well as possible in the difficult circumstances.

Mom at University of Michigan

I knew I lived far from my mother. But based on experience with my father, both of Clive’s parents and other elderly people we’ve known whose death occurred over a period of days or weeks, I always thought and hoped I’d have time to get to my mother before she took her last breath. I always wanted to sit with her at the end, to talk with her, hold her hand, stroke her hair, hug her and tell her how much I loved her and that she was the best mother in the world. This was not to be.

I’ve read and heard many stories about people who die when their loved ones just step away from the bedside or go out for a short while. In most cases, the moment when people leave their earthly life is not our choice.

‘It was very peaceful, with no pain,’ the kind nurse told me. ‘She was comfortable.’

Interesting word, that: comfort-able. In those first, shocked minutes and hours I was not able to be comforted.

last photo together, April 2018

Three things

In between phone calls with my son, who was ably handling immediate matters in NJ, and Clive contacting local friends and booking flights for early the next morning, three things crystallised in my mind about what would happen with my mother’s earthly remains:

(1) Cremation. Over the years Mom and I talked multiple times about her desire for cremation. She felt that in today’s world, environmental concern and physical space was one factor. She also had a deep-seated fear of being buried alive (which I assured her I understood). It was incredibly helpful that, thanks to her clear guidance while she was alive, I had absolutely no doubt about her wishes.

Mom on her 93rd birthday, 2017

That said, I also wanted to be certain – and worried about getting there in time — that before the cremation occurred, I would have …

(2) Time alone (meaning me and Clive only) with her body. And I wanted this before anyone else viewed it. I didn’t necessarily expect anyone would rush over to the funeral home for this purpose, but experience has taught me that when people die, you never know how others may react or what they might do.

(3) Cemetery burial. Years ago, at the time of my brother Rob’s death, my mother reserved a space for herself in the family plot where her son, parents, grandparents and great-grandparents are buried. I anticipated many phone calls and communications with the cemetery for the cremation and interment.

Mom with her mother and me

Thankful things about Mom (and a few about me)

At some point in the hours that followed the news of Mom’s death, I realised my wish to have been with her during her final days and hours — should her death have come that way – was mostly for my benefit, not necessarily for hers.

On our flight to the US, in an attempt to keep my focus on my mother instead of my own loss, I made a list of things I needed to remember and be thankful for.

Thankful about Mom

* she had kind aides and a nurse with her when she took her last breath

* she was ‘comfortable’ with no visible pain or distress

* she was fine the night before, and at 5am that morning when an aide checked on her and she awoke and said, ‘Thank you, dear.’

* she didn’t linger for weeks or months in any horrible ‘out of it’ state

* she died in bed, with dignity, not in a public space or falling out of her wheelchair

* she could still respond to people and say a few words, including ‘I love you’

* we visited her five times last year and had two two-week visits with her this year

* she still knew me and my son, and my voice on the phone

* we had a loving conversation on Thursday, two days before she died (and I will always regret not calling her on Friday)

with me and Clive, May 2012

I also couldn’t help listing more practical things about me (and Clive) that I was and am thankful for:

* our friends D&J offering to drive us to Heathrow and coming over Saturday evening

* D picking us up at 5:30am Sunday for that drive (and, though we didn’t know it then, that he would repeat this generous act of friendship in reverse ten days later)

* my son and belle-fille immediately offering to host a family memorial gathering the following weekend at their home, disrupting my belle-fille’s travel plans and taking all that pressure off me

* timing: my mother died on a Saturday morning. My son, who lives within an hour of her, arrived home from a business trip late Friday night. He handled local matters on Saturday and Sunday, until Clive and I arrived Sunday afternoon. That evening, he had to leave for a crucial five-day overseas business trip. It may be coincidence he was home the one day his grandmother died. Or maybe his grandmother had something to do with it.

Two of my favourite people

My mother’s body

We learned at our meeting with the funeral director that he would organise the cremation and burial of my mother’s ashes.

After going over the details, he left the room for a few minutes to contact the cemetery. When he returned, he said everything was confirmed as we wished and, ‘She’s going in with Robert.’

It’s hard to describe how much those five words meant to me, except to say they made me weep with relief and something much deeper, a meaning and significance I hadn’t anticipated but knew was the culmination of life coming full circle from the years that had passed since my brother’s death.

Mom with her children

In a calm, lovely room – like a large living room, with comfortable chairs and sofa and soft light from table lamps – I had the time I yearned for with my mother’s body.

Mom’s body was laid out on a bed, with a soft blanket pulled up to her chest. Because it was to be cremated, the funeral home had not done a full embalming (e.g. with make-up and a hair-do), but had made her look lovely with her eyes and mouth closed, beautiful as she always was. She looked utterly at peace, more as if she were sleeping than any other body I’ve viewed fully-embalmed in a casket. The dear staff of the memory unit had dressed her in a nice shirt, one I’d bought for her a few years ago, and slacks. Her hands were clasped over her abdomen.

Because the body wasn’t in a casket, I could get right next to it by dropping to my knees on the padded bench beside her. (This is called a kneeler, or a Prie-dieu according to the funeral director. Literally this means pray God, a perfect French word if there ever was one.)

I was able lay my head on my mother’s chest for long periods at a time, hold her shoulders and hug her as I cried and talked to her. I stroked her face and hair and lay my hand on top of her beautiful hands, so I could feel them all the time. Of course her body was cold-ish by then, but my hand on hers actually made them a little bit warm temporarily

holding hands, March 2017

For just a few moments, I thought maybe I should order a nice casket and leave my mother’s precious body as it was. But immediately I knew that would be wrong. She had made her wishes clear. I whispered, ‘Don’t worry, Mom. We will have the cremation.’

In a way, I guess I did get my wish, to be at her side and to touch and stroke her body – though all the time I was in that room, I knew her soul, the essence of her being, was elsewhere. That didn’t lessen the importance to me of having that time with her earthly shell.

Also briefly, I considered keeping Mom’s ashes myself, carrying them back to England so I would always have them with me. But equally quickly, I knew, without doubt, they belonged exactly where they were going.

The grave on the hill

I’m not a big fan of cemeteries for myself. Then again, I’ve written about them many times, especially in Paris (e.g. MontparnassePère LachaiseMontmartre  …) and on the Great Orme in Wales. Clive and I enjoy walking, contemplating and occasionally picnicking in these peaceful places.

On a tranquil New Jersey hillside, my cousins and I have watched the caskets of our grandfather, then our grandmother and then my brother and their father (killed in the same auto accident) lowered into the ground. We’ve visited the site regularly, though I hadn’t been back in several years.

Spending time at the cemetery, seeing the monument and freshly-planted grass seed where the earth had been dug up for my mother’s remains, and knowing they were right where they should be was a tremendous comfort. Clive and I spent a couple of blessed hours on and around that petite patch of the planet.

flowers for my mother at our family gravesite

At the end of the week, my son and belle-fille hosted the memorial gathering in their beautiful home. It was just what my mother would have loved, and I know she would have been as proud of them as I was. Mom always loved a family party.

Somewhat to my surprise, I feel a sense of peace about my mother’s death. It seems all is as it should be, especially with respect to her wishes and her earthly remains. She graced this earth with her presence for nearly 94 years. How can I feel anything but gratitude for her life and for the gift of having her as my mom?

The beauty parlour

The afternoon before she died, Mom participated in a music program and went to the beauty parlour. She always enjoyed these activities, and I enjoyed accompanying her to them when Clive and I visited.

On the afternoon of what would have been Mom’s 94th birthday, I went to the Felixstowe hair salon. This may become an annual tradition.

Mom and me (taking photo) in the beauty parlour, October 2017

My dear friend Sandy gifted me with a little book at our memorial gathering, Healing after Loss: Daily Meditations for Working through Grief, Martha W Hickman’s wisdom-filled gem. The quotation at the top of the page for that day is a Bible verse that spoke to me then and now:

When you pass through the waters I will be with you;
   and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
   and the flame shall not consume you.   [Isaiah 43:2]

My mother’s earthly remains may rest in New Jersey, but I know she will always be with me, here in Felixstowe or wherever we may be. She lives forever in my heart.

with my beloved Mom, May 2008

Thank you for reading and blessings to all and our mothers.

A Respite, of Sorts, in Paris

Eiffel Tower from Trocadéro, Paris

It seemed like a good idea to come to Paris over Valentine’s Day.

The City of Light shines this time of year (see Nine Big Reasons to Love Paris in Winter), and a February visit appealed more than ever because Clive and I had a difficult January.

Bonne année – Happy New Year

In the second week of January, Clive came down with a severe infection which, accompanied by a high fever, sent him via ambulance to Accident & Emergency. There he underwent a series of tests and was given IV antibiotics and IV paracetamol. We have nothing but praise and gratitude for everyone we encountered in the NHS, from the first ambulance crew (there were three in total, on two separate occasions – long story) to the hospital nurses and doctors and all the support staff.

During the days Clive recovered at home, I came down with the dreaded lurgy. The two of us made quite a pair. It took ages for both of us to start feeling human again.

Paris Calling (as it does)

On the Eurostar to Paris

I know I’m far from being the only person in the world who hears Paris calling, wherever she or he may be. As readers of this blog know, as far as I’m concerned Paris is always a wonderful idea.

Once Clive and I were both back on our feet – still not 100% but at least functioning again — I couldn’t help noticing Valentine’s Day miraculously fell during a week in between our various appointments in Felixstowe. After so much lurgy and recovery time at home, we agreed a change of scene and a ‘convalescent visit’ to Paris was in order.

Eurostar booked, Valentine’s Day lunch reservation made at a favourite restaurant and otherwise no plans (except sleep and walking) and we were off.

Over-ambitious at Parc de Bercy

Arrival evening and flowers in winter, Paris

Following are some selected photos to share our week’s activities, such as they were. On our first full day, we didn’t leave the apartment until the crack of 1:30pm, and then only to have lunch at our local café and do a few errands in the quartier.

Café in snow flurries, Paris

On a sunny Saturday we rode the metro to Parc de Bercy. As it turned out, our hope for a leisurely walk there was overly-ambitious due to lingering snow and ice on the footpaths and the Passerelle Simone de Beauvoir footbridge. We viewed Les Enfants du Monde, 21 ‘urban statues’ by artist Rashid Khimoune, ate baguette sandwiches on a snow-cleared bench then promptly made our way to a café back out on the street for coffee.

la Seine still high after recent flooding and snow

Passerelle Simone de Beauvoir footbridge and Bibliothèque National at Bercy, Paris

Les Enfants du Monde, statues by Rashid Khimoune at Parc de Bercy

Great place for a picnic: we found a snow-cleared bench in this part of Parc de Bercy

We were so happy to be out in the fresh air and sunshine and our legs hadn’t started screaming yet – though they had begun to whisper — from all the effort climbing steps and trying to keep our balance on the icy paths. Later that afternoon, we stopped by Trocadéro, though we took a bus most of the way since our legs and feet were now getting more insistent with their complaints.

After the snow, sunshine on Madame Eiffel

Snow at his feet and Ben watches faithfully over Paris

That evening our bodies told us in no uncertain terms that despite our attempted optimism and, ‘This is really good for our health!’ encouragements back and forth to each other, we’d just overdone the walking. Sunday morning we made it to a lovely church service but came straight home and read or napped for the rest of the day.

Sunshine and papeteries

Another day of blessed sunshine took us to Ile St-Louis, for lunch and a browse at a favourite papeterie. I’m afraid that’s about all we managed on this day, still feeling the effects of January and the weekend walking at Bercy.

la Seine, still high – one bench has only its seat visible

Back of Notre-Dame from Pont de la Tournelle

Papeterie Marie-Tournelle, Ile St-Louis, Paris

Papeterie Marie-Tournelle, Ile St-Louis, Paris

Our remaining days have also been quiet and slow-paced. We made a trip to BHV department store, where I finally replaced an ancient, inexpensive and now-dull bread knife with a beautiful one made by Opinel, a trusted French brand.

On our way to BHV, we diverted to another favourite papeterie and café.

Papier + (Papier Plus), near BHV, Paris

Superb coffee at le Peleton cafe, run by two friendly gents from Down Under, near BHV, Paris

Paris sanctuary

I wouldn’t say our time in Paris has been quite the respite we envisioned, not only because we set ourselves back by tromping around Parc de Bercy in the snow, but also because we’re both still not quite recovered after January. Unusually for us, we didn’t make it to any art exhibits, despite several on my current list.

But for me Paris is a personal sanctuary, at once invigorating and calming, inspiring and healing. It’s always a blessing to be here, and I’m thankful to have had this time with Clive, in the City of Light and love.

Kirs at the café, Paris

Tomorrow morning we head back to the Eurostar. We’ll travel together to London, then Clive will return to Felixstowe for a few important appointments next week while I head to Heathrow and fly out Saturday to see my mom. She’s had some recent difficulties as her condition deteriorates; this has weighed on my mind this week and I’m eager to see and spend time with her.

Au revoir, until next time, little café.

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

Painting (and Patisseries) in Paris: An Epilogue; A Slow December Start and Jacquemart-André Art

View from the metro: Eiffel Tower & Australian Embassy

Paris glows in December with festive spirit, sparkling lights, Christmas markets, dazzlingly-decorated shops and boutiques and the lovely bright buzz of the season.

Clive and I arrived in the City of Light on Friday afternoon, the first day of the month. From the metro we viewed the Eiffel Tower and the Australian Embassy, currently featuring a koala on the side of the building.

We’ve had a slow start to December, following the 13-month sinistre dégâts des eaux (sinister water damage) saga and a non-stop November in Felixstowe. These events are described in my previous posts, Painting (and Pâtisseries) in Paris, an Introduction and 5-part series.

Painting (and patisseries) in Paris: An epilogue

When we arrived at the apartment on Friday, our main question was: Will the window open and close?

More accurately, my main concern was: Could I open and close the window on my own? After the final-days’ drama last time, I knew Clive could handle it.

He tried it first. It opened and closed smoothly. In fact, it seemed improved from when we left it.

Then I tried. Voilà! I was able to open and close it fairly easily, too. It was definitely better than when we left it.

We should have guessed: in November, our friend and neighbour, Bernard, had also tested the window. He decided it needed a little oil on its ancient locking mechanism. Merci beaucoup, Bernard!

Brightened by the window working well again, we set off on our usual arrival-evening errands via a stop at the café to say Bonsoir to Vlad and celebrate with a kir.

Kirs at the café

Where did the next three days go after that? We’ve managed a few more trips to the café, bien sûr, a bus ride to a favourite papeterie (stationery shop) and a relaxing rendez-vous with the delightful Kim B. for tea and coffee and pastries.

Un Dimanche à Paris (merci Kim for your company and your photo!)

We caught a bus by Saint-Sulpice church, outside the wonderful Georges Thuillier shop, the best place I know in Paris to find authentic santons (figurines) de Provence.

Santons in the window of G Thuillier

I’m slowly creating my own version of this French tradition, adding one or two santons each year.

Santons on my mantle

Il fait froid — it’s cold!

On a drizzly, freezing Sunday morning, the sight of a red awning warmed our hearts as we walked to a church service.

A grand sight when it’s cold outside

At midday, the atmosphere and warmth (if not the rather ordinary burger and fish & chips – not the best menu choice, we realise) were lovely inside, too.

Warm and cheerful inside

Back in the freezing cold, the line outside the Petit Palais was way too long for us to stand around waiting to see l’Art du Pastel, de Dégas à Redon (The Art of Pastel, from Degas to Redon). It runs until 8 April 2018 so we hope we’ll still be able to see it.

A thrilling collection

Today we were rewarded with an absolutely fabulous exhibit at the Musée Jacquemart-André, Le Jardin Secret des Hansen, La Collection Ordrupgaard  (The Hansen’s Secret Garden, the Ordrupgaard Collection).

This museum, housed in a former hôtel particulier, or grand Parisian mansion, contains the permanent collection of Édouard André and his wife, Nélie Jacquemart, and also features many excellent temporary exhibitions (plus an elegant tearoom/lunchroom).

Clive on the ground floor of Musée Jacquemart-André

As with the museum itself, this temporary exhibit showcases the collection of a husband and wife, Wilhelm and Henny Hansen, a Danish couple from Ordrup, north of Copenhagen. Artists included are Corot, Monet, Pissarro, Sisley, Manet, Gauguin, Matisse, Redon, Degas, Courbet, Renoir, Cézanne and Morisot. Incroyable! Incredible!

Apologies the photos are at an angle or crooked; we were surrounded by several groups and I was unceremoniously elbowed a few times.

Claude Monet, Fontainebleu

I could have stood before Monet’s La Mer all day; this photo doesn’t do justice to the colours and movement of the sea.

Claude Monet, la Mer

Or you can fall in love with Pissarro’s snow:

Camille Pissarro, effet de neige à Eragny

or Berthe Morisot’s young girl on the grass:

Berthe Morisot, Young girl on the grass

and so many, many more.

I wish we’d had more time. I wish the groups weren’t there (at least those who stand in frozen hordes listening to their audioguides and blocking the view for the rest of us). I wish we could return again and again to view the works in the Hansens’ collection. Sometimes life and/or current events can seem dismal and dispiriting; viewing works like these reminds me of the world’s beauty and the talent used so positively to create and support the work.

This exhibit runs only until 22 January 2018; I can’t recommend it highly enough. (And just for good measure, opening March 9 thru July 23, 2018 is Mary Cassatt, Une Americaine à Paris.)

Bravo! Super!

This evening we hosted our neighbours, Bernard and Berthe, for champagne and a petit apéritif. I feel I can never thank them enough for their friendship and help over the years, but am grateful they seem to enjoy our time together.

We’re counting the days until my son and belle-fille arrive later this week. Until then we hope to get to a Christmas market or two and soak up more early-December in Paris.

I always say if you’re thinking about visiting Paris, every month is the best time to be here. If you’re thinking of December, by all means, it’s definitely one of the best.

Christmas market at Auteuil, Paris

Cheers and merci for reading. A bientôt, see you soon from Paris.