Paris March Mélange, Part 1 of 3: Walking and water and Wallace fountains

Entry to the exhibit L’eau à Paris du XIXe au XXIe siècle (Water in Paris from the 19th to the 21st century)

As mentioned in my prior post, Clive and I promised each other we would really make an effort on this short trip to moderate our pace in Paris, in hopes of keeping healthy and avoiding any silly injuries.

With the exception of one or two long days (and one or two bus dramas), we managed more or less to stick to the plan. Naturally this involved multiple pauses for rest and refreshment at various cafés, along with a mélange (medley) of other activities.

I’m grateful for this guy’s willingness to squeeze in a quick visit to Paris before a medical procedure and our upcoming trip to Australia

Strolling and sightseeing and sampling local delicacies

Clive and others outside ‘Servant’ chocolatier, Paris

On a relaxed weekend stroll, instead of seeing the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker, we admired the church, the butcher and the candy-maker in the Auteuil quartier of western Paris. Yum!

Interior of ‘Servant’ chocolatier, Paris

L’église d’Auteuil, the quartier’s village church

Line outside the butcher shop, Paris

On Saturday afternoon, we avoided a few central areas (and weekend protesters) and instead visited a small exhibit we happened to read about in a local magazine.

L’eau dans la ville: Paris’s water supply and Sir Richard Wallace, the British philanthropist who financed the city’s iconic fountains

Exhibition photo, l’eau de Paris

To mark the bicentennial of the birth of Sir Richard Wallace (1818-1890), a British philanthropist and longstanding resident of Paris, the city presents the exhibit L’eau à Paris du XIXe au XXIe siècle, Water in Paris from the 19th to the 21st century.

The exhibition venue is the Pavillon de l’eau, once a pumping station on the Seine and now a museum devoted to water. It’s managed by Eau de Paris, the municipal agency responsible for the city’s water supply.

le Pavillon de l’eau, Ave de Versailles, Paris

While the exhibit recognises the life and work of Richard Wallace, it also offers a comprehensive look at the history and current architecture and processes involved in the delivery of clean water to Paris.

Building the waterworks of Paris

After the Franco-Prussian war and the siege of Paris in 1870-1871, when many aqueducts had been destroyed, Richard Wallace envisioned fountains that would be both useful and beautiful to deliver clean drinking water to all citizens. He conceived the initial models, then called upon French sculptor Charles-Auguste Lebourg, who completed their design.

Exhibition photos

The exhibition seems mainly aimed at locals. It includes hands-on displays, many designed for school-age children. Big kids like them, too.

Clive at a light board revealing different water sources for different areas of Paris

A short film about Sir Richard Wallace and the history of the fountains that bear his name is presented only in French, but is understandable in the main thanks to its numerous photos.

[from the film] Merci, monsieur Wallace

[from the film] Sir Richard Wallace (whose art collection in London also has a Wallace fountain on its grounds)

Wallace remained a resident of France until his death. He is buried in Paris at Père Lachaise Cemetery.

[from the film] Anatomy of a fountain

Many historic photos are on display throughout the exhibit, along with more recent ones showcasing many of the city’s fountains.

Exhibition photo

We really enjoyed this exhibit. It’s one of countless small, quality (and free) ‘expositions’ the French do so well – interesting, educational and thought-provoking. This one also promotes the work of Eau de Paris with many informative displays sharing past events and future plans. You can also pick up free maps showing the location of every water fountain (Wallace and otherwise) in the city.

Poster for the exhibit, L’eau à Paris du XIXe au XXIe siècle – extended to 31 August 2019

A recent photo I took through a bus window of a woman with a galah on her shoulder also shows a Wallace fountain behind the galah.

Paris sight: a woman, a galah and a Wallace fountain

Another view of the same Wallace fountain

Even when the weather is less than perfect, you can find something interesting to see and experience in Paris.

Moi on a rainy day, admiring another Wallace fountain in Paris

Next to come: Paris March Mélange, Part 2 of 3: A noix de coco (coconut) delight, bookshop browsing, a beloved museum and an ancient church.

Merci for reading and à la prochaine, until next time.

Paris in Winter: A Mix of Old and New and an Injury, Too

Musée du Quai Branly, Paris

Paris in winter is as wonderful as Paris at any other time of year.

The light is beautiful even if the sun doesn’t shine every day. Lines are short(er), cafes and restaurants less crowded and the general ambiance more cozy and drawn-in than during the warmer months. The aroma of cassoulet, a traditional rich, slow-cooked stew, joins that of baking bread as you wander down the street.

Winter late afternoon, Paris

Our Goal

Claude Monet’s Nymphéas (Water Lilies), one of eight panels at Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris

The evening Clive and I arrived in Paris, we received an email from a dear US friend after her Christmas and New Year travels. She wrote, ‘I was weary when we got home. I’m really noticing my age – my mind plans busy days, but my body says slow down by evening!’

Funny, that. Clive and I had been noticing the same thing about ourselves and vowed (once again) to go at a slower pace on this trip.

Our goal was to allow some time to rest and just be, something I’ve always treasured in Paris, despite maintaining a lengthy, running list of things I want to do and see in the City of Light.

Paris: a challenging place to practice patience

Breathtaking bamboo art at Musée du Quai Branly

Our time in Paris is limited – not to mention our time in this earthly life, which of course is true at any age but especially in our (ahem) ‘later years’. It feels even more important to me now to seize the day, or as the brilliant poet Mary Oliver (who died while we were in Paris) wrote:

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
                            [from ‘The Summer Day’]

In Paris, my answer is, ‘Make the most of our time here.’ This triggers the ongoing tension between being and doing. The impulse often arises to move on and do the next thing.

Uniqlo, the wonderful ‘unique clothing’ chain currently featuring Hokusai’s wave

Out and about: Bus dramas, or, words that strike terror into Clive’s heart [he would say not terror but ‘concern based on experience’ …]

View from bus stop on Cours la Reine looking back to the Orangerie, Place de la Concorde – but where is the bus?

A regular Carolyn (CSB) and Clive (CJR) conversation:

CSB: ‘Let’s take the bus! It’s so much more scenic than the metro.’

CJR: Silent, clearly struggling to maintain a neutral expression but giving off massive ‘here we go again’ vibes.

CSB: Studies bus page of dog-eared Paris par Arrondissement, the version with three maps (regular, metro and bus) for each district. ‘Bus xx goes to yy, where we change to Bus zz. Bus zz goes very close to D (destination).’

CJR: ‘Is yy definitely where we change? Does the next bus leave from the same stop?’

CSB: ‘I think so.’

CJR: ‘You think so.’

CSB: ‘I’m pretty sure.’

CJR: Silence.

CSB: Checks Paris par Arrondissement again.

CJR: ‘Let’s see what Citymapper says.’

CSB: Checks Citymapper, our favourite Paris phone app.

CJR: Not-so-surreptitiously looks at metro map.

CSB: ‘Citymapper says the bus stop is there. If it’s not, we can just walk to the next one.’

CJR: ‘There’s a metro stop right at D! Why aren’t we taking that?’

CSB: ‘Because you’re still recovering from surgery and there are two line changes and there might be a ton of stairs. And the bus is much more scenic.’

Return to the beginning and repeat.

By this point, Clive says, he is worn down. He also says the metro has a certainty about it and is often quicker (always quicker if it’s a long distance – true).

Bus stop La Muette – Boulainvilliers, Paris

In fairness to Clive, we took the bus often on this trip. And as if the Universe were supporting his concerns, we experienced all manner of dramas, from buses dumping passengers at unplanned stops; to others, for no apparent reason, not following the published route and going nowhere near our stop; to our own confusion – despite Citymapper and Paris par Arrondissement — about which buses went in which directions from which stops. It varies – a lot. But figuring them out is worth it and other than walking, still my favourite way to be out and about.

View of Pont de la Tournelle from Café l’Escale on Île St-Louis

Maison Sarah Lavoine, Paris (with apologies to the woman I inadvertently caught in front)

Maison Sarah Lavoine – love this tray but not its 130 euro price

When museums aren’t much fun: final-week crowds at the Alphonse Mucha exhibit, Musée du Luxembourg

The Red Wheelbarrow bookshop, a Paris treasure

A special treat this trip was a rendez-vous with an author I admire, the lovely Roni Beth Tower, who wrote the memoir Miracle at Midlife.

This is a beautiful story about the early years of Roni Beth’s relationship with David, who lived in a houseboat on the Seine when they met. They’re now married and have been together for 23 years.

Félicitations, Roni Beth and David!

A beautiful memoir about a mid-life romance – and Paris

Chess, anyone? Le Jardin du Luxembourg — and a few of Paris’s signature green metal chairs, found in parks all over the city

One after the other: an unwanted lesson in practicing patience

I thought we were maintaining a reasonable, if not exactly slow, pace in Paris. That said, in hindsight we realise we ignored some important warning signs our bodies were giving us.

They weren’t anything dramatic, just gradual, accumulating feelings one or both of us had, of weariness or needing more sleep or having less than expected enthusiasm to get up and go right back out again the morning after a long, busy day. But we didn’t take any significant actions in response to those feelings

Jardin du Luxembourg and the Pantheon in the distance (and a couple of vacant chairs)

On a sunny Monday afternoon in the Luxembourg Garden, I stupidly bent from the waist (tsk tsk) and tried to move one of the classic green metal chairs. I’ve only known for – oh, about 40 years now – these chairs are HEAVY, especially the ones with arms and the ones that recline. My lower back immediately shot me daggers of pain for the next several days.

To top off the fun, we couldn’t find the right bus outside the garden, had to trek around many blocks to find it and then got off at the wrong stop to change buses. Given the exceptional circumstance, I should have agreed with Clive’s recommendation we take a taxi. C’est la vie!

The Seine, Pont Alexandre III and the Grand Palais – not the worst place to wait for the bus, even when your back is killing you

The next few days were spent mostly lying in bed, sleeping, dozing, listening to the trill of French conversations in the courtyard, reading the England NHS website (my trusted medical information source), and moving rarely and only thanks to paracetamol and Clive’s help.

I contemplated the bedroom’s green walls and admired the clean, leak-free ceiling, whose repair and restoration I wrote about in the series Painting and Patisseries in Paris.

Clean and fresh after the sinistre dégâts des eaux (sinister water damage – not my favourite French term)

We cancelled an apéritif with our neighbours, who immediately offered to go shopping for us. Later, Madame rang the bell and insisted on lending me a back brace.

On the second and third days after the injury, we went for a slow, gentle walk to keep my back moving, as per NHS advice. I tried to look on the bright side, that the pain was decreasing, albeit slowly, each day. Mostly it was torture, to be in Paris and unable to do much at all. My respect and admiration deepened for those who live with a chronic pain condition.

On the fourth day, Clive contracted a nasty 24-48 hour stomach bug. Reluctantly, we sent apologies to the host of a Burns Night supper, where we actually had planned to taste haggis for the first (and last?) time in our lives. Maybe next year.

Peaceful and serene: Notre-Dame de Grâce, Our Lady of Grace, a ‘village’ church built in the early 1600s. Like most Paris churches, it’s a lovely place to pause and reflect.

These were days of forced physical rest, forced slowing-down and limited mobility. I had ample time to ponder the necessity for a few new C&C travel rules.

New rules for travel well-being

Gare du Nord, Paris

These are pretty simple, really; I think following them is the challenge.

Mainly there are two. Doing the first without the second is what got us into trouble:

  1. Pay attention to the body’s signals.
  2. Take action in response. Slow down, change plans, exercise patience.


  1. Expect random bus issues, especially on a Sunday afternoon.
  2. *Always* bend at the knees when moving a Paris park chair.

Clive says we talk about these challenges, but something takes hold of me once I’ve arrived in Paris. Out comes the lengthy list, and that’s when I need to be a bit stricter in my prioritisation and to lower my expectations of how much we can actually do.

No need to rush: statue in the Luxembourg Garden

Getting back out there

Bibliothèque Germaine Trillion (photo taken Sept. 2018), Paris

For our remaining days, we stuck to gentle walks and a slow pace, with a few bus and metro rides.

We’d previously noticed the outside of the Bibliothèque Germaine Trillion, bibliothèque de tourisme et des voyages (library of tourism and travel). Here we enjoyed exploring well-stocked rooms of books (virtually all in French), music collections, study spaces and reading areas, which included one or two English-language newspapers.

Clive in one of the library rooms at Bibliothèque Germaine Trillion, Paris

Only a few steps from the bibliothèque is Passy Cemetery, which I’ve written about in my mother-daughter post and is always (unless it’s raining) an excellent destination for a peaceful interlude.

Passy Cemetery, Paris

I was pleased to see a couple reading Berthe Morisot’s (a favourite Impressionist painter) gravestone, as I’ve observed other visitors who give all their attention to the bust of her well-known brother-in-law, Edouard Manet.

Grave of Berthe Morisot, her husband Eugène Manet, Eugène’s brother Edouard (bust) and Edouard’s wife Suzanne Leenhoff, Passy Cemetery

Grave of Julie Manet (daughter of Berthe Morisot and Eugène Manet), Julie’s husband Ernest Rouart, both also artists, and several of their family, Passy Cemetery

At Musée du Quai Branly (now officially named Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac), we hiked up a long, winding and rather dark ramp and through several equally dark viewing areas until finally we found the fabulous exhibit Fendre l’Air, Art of Bamboo in Japan.

Darkened viewing area at Musée du Quai Branly

An inspiring exhibit

I adore bamboo and was awed by the artists’ works. Clive concluded that yes, this was an excellent temporary exhibit but it will have to be a real blockbuster to get us to make that long hike up again (or we’ll find the lift, presuming there is one, from the ground floor).

A taste of artisanal bamboo basketry:

Fendre l’Air, Art of Bamboo in Japan, Musée du Quai Branly

Fendre l’Air, Art of Bamboo in Japan, Musée du Quai Branly

Fendre l’Air, Art of Bamboo in Japan, Musée du Quai Branly

Fendre l’Air, Art of Bamboo in Japan, Musée du Quai Branly

On another day, a short stroll in the Tuileries followed by a one-room Monet/Clemenceau exhibit at the Orangerie completed our round of current offerings. So many to choose from, so little time – the essence of the problem!

Jardin des Tuileries and its classic Parisian chairs

View to Place de la Concorde from the Orangerie

Renoir’s tulips, among the don’t-miss lower-level collection of the Orangerie

And on the Île St-Louis, a comfortable café lunch and browse in a favourite papeterie made my day.

Window of papeterie Marie-Tournelle, Paris

Papeterie Marie-Tournelle (located between two bridges, Pont Marie connecting to the Right Bank & Pont de la Tournelle to the Left), a Paris favourite

You never know what you’ll see in Paris – maybe some snow, or a random bus passenger with an un-leashed galah (large pink & grey Aussie bird) on her shoulder.

Moi, in les Jardins du Ranelagh, Paris

A woman just off the bus, with a galah on her shoulder

0 Lady with Galah (resized and cropped)

Closer view of elegant woman with galah

And at the end of an outing, there’s nothing like returning home to your local – café, that is.

Clive in our local, a welcome return


Santons de Provence (little saints) at Georges Thullier, Paris

I’m so thankful my back injury is temporary; it’s almost fully-healed now. I’m thankful we had the time we did in Paris, and that we managed to do quite a few activities despite the days of painful, forced rest – which we could have avoided had we paid attention to what our bodies were telling us and taken action accordingly.

I’m thankful for three nights of Clive’s beef stew (despite the endless quest for non-droopy parsnips), chocolat Viennoise at Carette (now our preference over Angelina), santons de Provence (little saints figurines from Provence) on sale at Georges Thullier, the re-opened Red Wheelbarrow bookshop, the bus and the metro and all our old and new favourite Paris places.

Chocolat Viennoise and pastries at Carette, Paris

Georges Thullier shop, Paris

Penelope Fletcher, knowledgeable and helpful owner (along with her investors) of the Red Wheelbarrow Librairie Anglophone (English-language bookshop)

The Eiffel Tower and Australian Embassy from line 6 metro

Clive accurately (and unnecessarily, I might add) reminds me my Paris list is waaay bigger than the time we’ll ever have available to do everything on it. I’m OK with that. I’m thankful for the chance to practice patience (and prioritisation) in the city that never fails to lift and comfort me.

Improvement needed

Alphonse Mucha poster for Ruinart champagne

If this were a happily-ever-after post, I’d end by saying we returned to the Jardin du Luxembourg, where I leaned back comfortably in one of those hard green chairs, soaked up the sun and relished the present moment, patiently pausing for an extended period of time.

Impression, Sunrise: one of Monet’s featured paintings at Musée Marmottan

But I’m afraid I haven’t quite mastered the art of patience in Paris. A return in the near future should provide an opportunity to work on it.

A Paris café: sight for sore eyes (and sore back) and a fine place to savour the moment

More to come. Merci for reading this long post, and à la prochaine, until next time.

Paris Potpourri: Seven in September

The Red Wheelbarrow bookshop, rue de Médicis, Paris

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

1 Flâneur (strolling)

Opéra Garnier, Paris

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

Red café awnings seem to be disappearing — still my favourite

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

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

Clive viewing an exhibit at Arts et Métiers

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

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

Former monastery now housing part of the museum

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

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

The world’s first calculator

Blaise Pascal, French mathematician and philosopher

And for something more modern, a Cray supercomputer 1985

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

Foucault’s pendulum in its stunning setting

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

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

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

Arts et Métiers metro, Line 11

Arts et Métiers metro, Line 11

3 The Red Wheelbarrow bookshop

The Red Wheelbarrow bookshop

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

You’ll now find this wonderful shop and its inspiring co-owner (she has several investors) at 9, rue de Médicis, in the 6th arrondissement, directly across from the Luxembourg Garden.

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

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

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

4 Treize (13) au Jardin Café

Treize (13) au Jardin

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

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

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

5 Dancers in the Luxembourg Garden

Dancers on a small stage in the Luxembourg Garden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Piano concert at the American Cathedral, Paris

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

NJ state flag in the American Cathedral, Paris

7 Notre Pâtisserie

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

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

Shelf & Paris-themed wallpaper at Notre Pâtisserie

Bonus item: a few food treats

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

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

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

Finally … keeping it real

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

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

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

To make quite a long story short:

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

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

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

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

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

– we trekked down to McDo and succumbed

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

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

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

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

Merci for reading and à bientôt, until next time.

La Rentrée, Warm Weather and Walking in Paris

Eurostar coach 13 – my lucky number

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

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

Café afternoon, Paris

La Rentrée

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

Chocolatier with pencil decorations for the rentrée.

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

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

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

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

Statue of Benjamin Franklin

Across the street from Ben on his hillside

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

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

Up closer to statue of Ben Franklin

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

Ben’s viewpoint looking out over Place du Trocadéro

A peaceful place to think of my mom

Path in Passy Cemetery

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

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

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

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

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

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

View from a walk in Passy Cemetery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Distressed Haiku’

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

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

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

Then they stay dead.

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

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

Love also endures

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

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

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

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

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

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

World Cup weekend, Paris 1998

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

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

World Cup 1998

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

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

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

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

Living with a Brit

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

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

My footy teams

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

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

Café la Source, Paris 2013

Café on the corner, la Source, Paris

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

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

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

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

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

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

Allez les Bleus!

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

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

A Mother, a Daughter and a Cemetery in Paris

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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 — we’d seen their grave before. 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. 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 pianist, 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.