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.

Grounded: Feet on the Footpath in Felixstowe

View from the footpath, Felixstowe

Days of driving around my mom’s area of New Jersey, compounded by the disorienting effects of jet lag, left Clive and me feeling the need to get grounded — literally, to feel earth instead of pavement beneath our feet.

Our walk began by a group of beach huts, many now open as the owners air them out and prepare for summer by the sea.

Beach huts, Felixstowe

We strolled to the estuary of the River Deben, before turning inland.

Following Clive by the River Deben estuary, Felixstowe Ferry

Felixstowe’s scenery as always lifted my spirits as we traversed public footpaths across fields and meadows. Our feet and bodies became nicely-grounded (‘It’s so great to be doing this!’) and, after several hours, quite sore (‘Perhaps we chose a rather long walk for our first one back.’).

Buttercups and feet on the footpath, Felixstowe

Clive’s Fitbit recorded 24,500+ steps up and down and around. He paused to say hello to this lovely creature.

Stopping to say hello, Falkenham near Felixstowe

As for me, no Fitbit but ever-growing awareness that we had indeed taken many steps. I still marvel at the blessing of living in a town and country where walking is so much a part of the culture and public footpaths welcome all.

Public footpath through a farmer’s field, Felixstowe

All being well, we’re happy to remain on the ground and away from airports for a while. Cheers and happy walking or however you enjoy being outside.

Visit with a Beloved Ho-Ho-Kus Piano Teacher

Miss T, a wonderful teacher to hundreds of piano students

Once in a while, an unexpected opportunity arises and we do something we wouldn’t normally do. Such an occasion happened for me today.

Without calling or writing ahead of time, I rang the doorbell at the Ho-Ho-Kus home of my former piano teacher, Miss Takayama, or Miss T, as I’ll call her (though she later married and became Mrs I and is now widowed). The petite but très formidable Japanese woman pictured above opened the door and greeted me with her beautiful smile.

I’m not sure Miss T remembered exactly who I was, but she welcomed me warmly and invited me in; I told her Clive was waiting so we stepped back outside and the three of us talked there.

Miss T told us she taught piano for 72 – seventy-two!! – years. She said, beaming, ‘I’ll be 99 next month!’ – that she was born in 1918 and her birthday is June 4. She lives on her own in the same house in which she taught hundreds of children to play the piano.

I was fortunate to be Miss T’s student from kindergarten through eighth grade (then took up cello, to join the high school orchestra — sadly, Miss T only taught piano). Every Wednesday I trudged up the hill, walked down her driveway, through her garage and into her basement studio. She reminisced about this today, saying because her mother, then her husband, lived upstairs she never felt it would be right to have her teaching studio in their family space.

I must offer huge thanks to this blog’s readers Sue and Candice G for their recent comments about Miss T, especially Sue who wrote that Miss T still lived at her Ho-Ho-Kus home. These comments appeared this week on one of my most frequently-read posts, Downtown Ho-Ho-Kus: 1960s and Today. Originally published in 2009, the post continues to receive regular comments from former residents. A number of us, when sharing special Ho-Ho-Kus memories, include piano lessons with Miss T.

When I read Sue’s comment, I knew I only had a day or two to react, if I wanted to try to see Miss T on this trip. This morning, I bought a birthday card. Though I normally consider it rude to ring someone’s bell without calling first, we leave tomorrow so I decided this afternoon, after spending time with my mother, I’d take a chance.

For any of Miss T’s former students who may be reading this, she is as bright and vibrant as ever and I’m in awe of her strength and determination to remain in her own home. ‘All my memories are here,’ she told us today.

After chatting for a short while and not wanting to overstay our welcome, I asked Miss T if we could take a few photos. She kindly agreed to stand beside her front door plaque, which reads, in addition to her name, ‘PEACE to all who enter; GRACE to all who depart.’

I found this very moving as it truly captures the spirit of this wonderful woman. She was a part of my life, week after week, for nine years, not only at each Wednesday lesson but also on the days in between, knowing she expected me to practice and I’d better do so! Though I didn’t appreciate it at the time, Miss T was a steady, demanding (in a good way) and reliable figure throughout my childhood and early adolescence.

Thank you, Miss T, for your expert instruction, your encouragement and enthusiasm for my playing and for giving me the gift that whenever I was joyful or grieving or just needed to vent my emotions, I could turn to the piano and find comfort.

Clive took this final photo, which he promptly labelled ‘the long and short of it’. I couldn’t be happier Miss T opened her door to me today.

Thrilled to see this petite but très formidable teacher again

Heartfelt thanks from me and all your grateful students, Miss T. Wishing you the most joyful of birthdays as you approach your 99th year.

Mom at 93

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Mom as a girl in Paterson, NJ

My mother, on her 93rd birthday, had a lovely, busy day. She wrapped red, white and blue ribbon around a metal frame to make a Memorial Day wreath for next Monday’s USA holiday. She leaned on her walker and without complaint or other assistance made her way down the long hallway to morning exercise and back again to the dining room.

At lunch, Mom enjoyed vegetable soup, spaghetti and meatballs and – after blowing out her birthday candle – chocolate ice cream. Yesterday, at our small family party, she happily consumed birthday cake, several chocolates and a little glass of champagne.

Adjectives that still describe Mom: loving, empathetic, polite (the staff repeatedly tell me how kind she is to one and all), brave, sometimes anxious, almost always positive and always a shining role model of how to live with soul-deep courage and beauty and grace.

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Working girl, Sea Girt NJ, 1944 – oh those days at the shore

People Mom still knows in person or in conversation: her parents (long gone), me (her only surviving child since 1973), Clive (most of the time), her grandson and – surprisingly to me, because she’s a more recent addition — her grandson’s wife. Mom indicates vague recognition of other names and memories (her two nieces, her Ho-Ho-Kus friend Betty W. & Atlanta friend Edith C.) when we talk simply and quietly about the past.

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Mom and her grandson, Ho-Ho-Kus NJ

Mom’s Alzheimer’s is progressing, as it does. I’m no longer able to reach her on the phone every day, our nearly ten-year-old ritual. She no longer remembers I’m calling and doesn’t think to return to her room — often the only time I can get her is just as she wakes up. I try not to think about losing this precious connection.

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Mom with her daughter and grandson, 2012

How can I live so far from my mother? The reasons are complicated and some are private. I’ve fantasized for years about bringing Mom to me, first in Australia and now in the UK. Due to many factors, including her need for and contentment with familiar territory and the absence of any other family should something happen to me, I have not seriously pursued this path. This situation, at this stage of my mother’s life, is one of my life’s greatest challenges and greatest sadnesses.

I pray I will know what to do for my mother, what is right and best for her each step of the way as her disease continues to progress. I pray she will remain content and feel loved and cared for by those physically and emotionally close to her.

I thank God for the life and love of Dorothy Dilts.

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Red roses for love — Happy 93rd birthday, Mom

God bless you always and happy birthday, Mom.