lundi 12 septembre 2011

Week XIII, wrapping up

Plaque commemorating the Bastille Fortress

Bastille plaque above Cafe on Place de la Bastille
I'm writing this 4+ weeks after leaving Paris, so details are getting fuzzy.  For our last week we planned a bit to cover what we had failed to see yet, plus final returns to favorite spots.
The last day, Tuesday, was spent in cleaning and packing, although towards dusk we returned for a final sit at the Place des Vosges.

We had passed to or through the Place de la Bastille many times.  It's a very grand traffic circle with a fine column in the center and plenty of life on the sidewalks all around it.  The Bastille fortress itself is long gone, pulled down shortly following the revolution.  It was on the northwest part of the present place, and Carolee finally spotted a plaque commemorating it.

This morning we did a test run on the #20 bus to see if would be a good way to get from our neighborhood to the Place de l'Opera to meet the Roissybus when we return to Charles De Gaulle airport.  The test was successful: 7-10 minutes slower than the metro but no need to lug suitcases up and down stairs in the Metro.  Well, being in the Opera area we stopped again at Galeries Lafayette, then cruised again down Rue de la Paix to the Tuileries Garden, but this time turned right on the center walkway for a short walk to the Concorde metro stop, and home from there.  Quite successful, this experiment.  Buses it is!

Andre Jacquemart Museum, rear entrance
We had read up that The Andre-Jacquemart museum was a good visit.  So it was.  The second half of the 19th century seems to have been a flush time for France, and there still exist grand houses packed with art, the creations of wealthy owners who made the collection and display of art their main occupation.  So it was here.  The art was often by the finest masters and the house itself was a masterpiece.  It survives because it was deeded in 1913 to the state (Institut de France).  We loved it.  An interesting wrinkle was that the mansion was placed right on the street and the entrance and area for coaches was placed at the rear and reached by a pair of passages through the building.
     Not yet exhausted, we strolled over to the Champs Elysees and the main Swatch store so Carolee could find a particular watch.  No luck with this, but a stroll through the crowds on the Champs Elysees was a real pleasure.

Administrative building for 12th, with Space Invader
Here and there we would see on walls mosaic plaques, each a different depiction of Space Invaders, which were a sort of higher-class graffiti.  We had wondered if our own 12th Arrondissement was totally barren of them, but we finally found one on the side of a large administrative building over in the Arsenal area.  The building itself reminded us of the size and presence of government buildings in France.   They're often huge and they're everywhere, it seems.  Given the present puritanism in the USA concerning government size, such an in-your-face presence of government will antagonize certain factions.  We didn't hear of any complaints from the French about size of government.
Cute street art on Ile St Louis

More cute street art
Another form of better-than-usual graffiti were stick figures added onto traffic signs.  We spotted these on the main drag of the Ile St-Louis.

Cheap change of business sign
Let's say it's now Saturday and we've decided to have lunch at Les Charpentiers, a favorite restaurant of Carolee's in the 6th Arrondissement.  Let's say we decided to get a good walk and appetite by approaching it from a distance (long for me, short for her).  So we took the Metro to the Louvre stop, did a bit of shopping for gifts under the Pyramid, and then headed out through the Cour Carre, across the Pont des Arts and through a cute little doorway in the Facade of the Institut de France leading directly onto a street behind, either the Rue Mazarin or the Rue de Sens.  Carolee spotted a lovely art-nouveau store front for a business which, evidently, had been changed from a fish store to a wine store.  The new proprietor took a cute shortcut and changed the initial P of the tile marquee into a B.

Pont des Arts, once again

Bookstalls, Notre Dame in background
Odd name, shades of Oliver Sachs' Uncle Tungsten
Lunch and a fine wine at Les Charpentiers
     Next to the restaurant I spotted a sign for a dental surgeon with a very unusual name, which made me remember how much I had enjoyed Oliver Sachs' memoir, "Uncle Tungsten."  Once in the restaurant at 1 pm, and seated at maybe the last available table, we started in on an excellent formule - two courses plus an outstanding wine.

Hotel Schmuck, 6th Arrondissement
On the way back we passed through the Odeon area, very busy, and spotted a hotel whose unusual name demanded a picture.
Fancy cheese shop in Rue Cler
Sunday, September 11, the 10th anniversary of 9/11.  We had been thinking of taking a tour on this day to Mont St-Michel, but I chickened out after having researched its physical demands.  Steep grades and endless steps were a show-stopper for me.  Curiously, I was just finishing John Irving's latest novel that morning and found myself reading a scene set on 9/11/2001.  Coincidence?  Or should I invoke divine guidance that morning?  But the coincidence didn't strike me until breakfast time.  Coffee guidance.
    As you'll see, 9/11 wasn't over for us.  Carolee wanted to go over by the Eiffel Tower and up the Trocadero again.  Fine with me.  So we hopped off the #8 metro at Ecole Militaire and started off our plan by deviating from it into the Rue Cler.  Rick Steve's book makes much of the Rue Cler market, so we had to see it.  It turned out to be a good deal smaller than our Aligre market, and somewhat ritzier.  Prices for produce were 50% to 300% higher than we were used to.  So much for that!
     A short hop along the Rue de Grenelle brought us back to the Champ de Mars and that long, impressive walk to the base of the tower.  But first we ran into barricades and thick crowds.  It seemed it had to do with a women's race with several thousand participants.  The distance, I think, was 6 kilometers.  But heading towards the tower we had to wait to get across the race path.  At the base, wow!  Lines to go up the tower were now one half to one-third the length they had been earlier in the summer.  I suppose the light rain was a factor.  Going up wasn't for us, so it was across the Pont d'Iena and up the Trocadero hill.
     Well, something was going on - US and French flags were flying and in the plaza there was a large construction which resembled a bandstand.  Later we came to understand that it was a representation of the twin towers.  Near the top they wouldn't let us up so we had to detour around the west end of the Palais de Chaillot.  This turned into a bit of a treat, because a tidy little artificial glen with running water had been constructed, and it made for a pleasant slog up the hill.  At the top the presence of media vans made all clear for us - a ceremony was about to commence.  Rather than hang around for that we went a bit further up the hill and entered the small Passy Cemetery.  We failed to find the grave of Edouard Manet, but struck gold with the tombs of a couple of composers, Claude Debussy and Gabriel Faure.  While searching we heard the amplified voice of a young American woman singing "Amazing Grace."  Gave me a funny feeling while surrounded by tombs and mournfully shedding trees.
     From there we took the #6 metro home, surrounded by some of the runners in their blue jerseys.  This line is largely elevated, but aside from two brief views of the Seine and one of the Eiffel Tower, it shows parts of Paris that you would never go out of your way to see.

Ecole Militaire, assembly area for 5000-woman run

Eiffel Tower, it's rainy again

End of 5000-woman run at Champs de Mars

Trocadero, 9/11/2011, from Pont d'Iena

Artificial stream and glade west of Palais de Chaillot

Twin Towers mockup, 9/11 commemoration at Trocadero

At Passy Cemetery across from Trocadero

Elegant alley at Passy Cemetery
That afternoon a few photos along our street, the Rue St Nicolas.  The statue at the corner shows, as it should historically, a bishop rather than a jolly bearded fat guy.  One of the stores along the street, Houles (please pardon the missing grave accent on the e), specialized in elegant furniture and particularly in super-elegant tassels for such furniture.  Their show windows were a daily treat for us.
Saint Nicolas, for Gertrude

Super elegant tassels at Houles, on our street
Monday, the Louvre, and at long last, at least for Carolee.  We finally found the underground passage that takes you over to the Louvre entrance.  Our plan was to catch the major sights and a range of French painting, particularly the roomful of Corots.  So we did, as the pictures below attest.  It was a real joy to visit the Greek statues, particularly the Venus de Milo and the bust of Socrates.  Saving the Winged Victory for later we elevatored up and crossed into the area of French paintings.  I was surprised and pleased to see that Corot painted other than landscapes, and did them all well.  That famous painting (q.v.) of one woman pinching another woman's nipple was explained as a demonstration, worthy of painting up, that the "pinchee" was pregnant with a royal bastard, purportedly the son of Henri IV.  We think a little differently today.  Directly by these were other renaissance paintings, including the painting of Anne of Cleves which Henry VIII sent Holbein to paint so he could see what he was getting.  The story goes that Holbein made her look quite a bit prettier than she really was, with the result that a furious Henry Tudor sent her back.  I haven't heard what Henry did to Holbein.

     Crossing back to the main galleries we lingered by the Winged Victory, in spite of the thick crowds that now made the steps a bit perilous for me.  Then around through the early Italian paintings and through the room with the Mona Lisa, with its own large crowd resembling a bee swarm with camera-wielding arms protruding like antennae.  From there down, back out through the pyramid and homeward.
Michelangelo's slave, model for the police building of the 12th

Mercury, blown aloft by Boreas

Venus and admirers

Venus de Milo, alone

Graceful Greek lady holding a shawm

Hey, she's pregnant!

Louvre, The Funeral of Cupid

Etiquette for Funeral of Love (Cupid)

Louvre, Anne of Cleves (Holbein)

Line to enter Pyramid.  It moved fast

Winged Victory from the left

From the right

Winged Victory captured

By Notre Dame, trees already giving up for the year

Louvre, Cupid & Psyche by Canova

Week XII, slowing down

I seem to have slipped a day, so we start with Thursday, September 1.  This morning we took photos of our cherished Marche d'Aligre, just below.  You will notice perhaps a north African flavor.  Anywhere else in Paris, including at farmers' markets, we found prices to be double to four times as much as they were here.
30 kinds of olives at 4.50 euro per kilo!

Our favorite butcher, chickens roasting in front

Plenty of produce

More produce, flea market in background

Heading to our favorite bakery
     For Friday and Saturday there are a few interesting pictures by Carolee, below.  This may be the day when we went to the 5th and up for a second try to see St-Etienne du Mont.  Missed again - we arrived 15 minutes after noon and it was shut down for the next four hours.  What now?  I was interested in seeing the most-visited Paris sight that Americans don't know about at all - the Chapelle de la Madonna de la Medaille Miraculeuse on the rue de Bac.  It's a pilgrimage chapel, and people come to buy medallions for good health and luck.  Closed, too.  But next door was mammon - the Bon Marche department store - and, with our American hats back on, we had a lot of fun checking out the fine groceries.
Pantheon entablature

Motorbikes being towed off from illegal parking

"La Ruche" beehive ornament
     Sunday Sept 4, we took the Metro out to Parc de la Villette and the Music Museum.  It was pretty empty, but we had a lot of fun, entirely on the first and second floors with the Renaissance and Baroque instruments.  Classical, modern and folk instruments on the higher floors we ignored completely.  Of special interest: the Hemsch harpsichord that the one in my living room is copied from.
Hemsch Double that Hubbard copied. Merde-d'oie paint
Very short Italian harpsichord

Serpents, one highly decorated

Marin Marias strumming a viol

8-string bass viol (count 'em)

Artist of the vielle d'archet

Science and Technology museum
     Monday.September 5, we went in the morning to the Louvre subterranean area to look for gifts.  Moderate success.  Heading back on foot we explored much of the Rue de Rivoli and then ducked over to the Rue des Rosiers to the Jewish section for what appeared to be a very popular falafel sandwich.  They were not real cheap but contained a massive amount of all kinds of veggies along with the falafel balls.  We schlepped them over to our favorite park, the Place des Vosges, and we and some of the pigeons there had a feast.  This was the very day that Dominique Strauss-Kahn had returned to his elegant home on the Place, and the street was full of television vans and antennas. What fun to be near the eye of history for a moment.

News hounds waiting for DSK

More of the paparazzi
 Walking the rest of the way home we spotted a truck with a boom for loading furniture in and out of walk-up apartments,  So that's how it's done!  Later, on a stroll down Rue Daumesnil along the Viaduc des Arts we spotted some extravagant light shades, apparently feathers attached to spherical paper oriental lantern shades - 800 or so euros each!
How belongings are moved into walk-ups

Viaduc des arts, feathered light shades at 800 euros a pop
Tuesday, September 6, we made another attempt at St-Etienne du Mont church behind the Pantheon.  Viewing the very complicated facade I was reminded of a description by E. M. Forster of Santa Croce in Florence as "a building of consummate ugliness".  Right, consummate.  Inside it was also strange.  It's described as the only church in Paris which still has a rood screen separating the nave from the choir.  This may be so, but what smites the eye is an elaborate pair of spiral staircases, one at each side.  The upper portion of each staircase appears to lead to nowhere.  There is also the most elaborate carved pulpit that I've ever seen.  Off to the side is a memorial to Sainte Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris.  She was interred there for hundreds of years, but during the French Revolution her bones were seized by anticlerical forces, publicly burned, and the ashes tossed into the Seine.  There is still an elaborate metal and glass monument which looks like a sarcophagus, but what it holds is one of the marble slabs that was part of her sepulcher.  Pope John Paul II visited this site.
St-Etienne du Mont, organ of Maurice Duruflet

St-Etienne du Mont, rood screen

St-Etienne du Mont, pulpit
      It was not too far from there to Carolee's long-time favorite restaurant, Le Volcan.  We had a great meal, and not expensive at all.

Le Volcan, salut
      The day was rounded out with a visit to Val de Grace, an enormous church erected by Anne of Austria in thanks for the birth of her son, Louis 14th-to-be.  The young Louis got to lay the cornerstone for this monument to his birth.  Must have given him ideas.  A curiosity is that the church is just part of a museum to Army Medicine.  Since you can hardly call this a great draw, it's not surprising that there were almost no visitors, and we were well outnumbered by the museum staff.  These guys were anxious to help and to talk.  Well, you can imagine the boredom.
Val de Grace, dome

Val de Grace, altar
      Back on the  #91 bus.