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May 2001 Archives

May 2, 2001

I sent Mom and Aunt

I sent Mom and Aunt Doris off in the taxi to the airport first thing in the morning and then I went walking. When I heard the music start up in the market on rue Mouffetard I should have known it was a premonition of things to come because they were playing 'Non, Rien de Rien', an old Edith Piaff song. I had been singing it with my friend Jody, the very one who started calling hey Jud over the cubicle wall, ever since we heard it in the movie 'Nobody Loves Me' at the Mill Valley Film Festival. I knew she had arrived in Paris but we hadn't yet made plans to meet up.

I kept walking, along with everyone else in Paris out for the Labor Day holiday to buy the traditional spring bouquets of Lily of the Valley from the kids who were selling them on every block. By this time I was over in the Marais and when I turned back onto the rue de Rivoli to head for home, there was Jody walking along with her Paris friends Gilles and Joseph. They were just stopping to pick up some wine and quiche for supper and invited me along to their apartment near the Bastille. So I had a lovely chance meeting and dinner and that's why I missed posting yesterday.

Flooding has left the

Flooding has left the Seine brownish and unbecoming by day, but looking its best brightly lit up at night, like it was when I walked by on my way back from dinner with Jody.The past week's rain has inundated the roadway again, though today was finally clear and sunny. Our museum plans were deferred by a lengthy lunch at la Cloche des Halles and a stop at Dehillirin, an incredible cookware shop nearby. Note to shoppers. Le Creuset pots should perhaps not be purchased when there is still much walking
to be done.

May 4, 2001

Though most everything else at

Though most everything else at the Cognacq-Jay Museum was elaborately decorated with gold and gems, I kind of liked this simple blue porcelain cat. The museum made a good place to get away from the heavy rain of the morning, and by the time we came out, the sky had cleared. Of course after such an educational morning, Jody and I quickly hit the nearby shops to avoid slacking off those francs spent per day. Proof of purchase is this photo of Jody at the apartment showing off her new rosebud ring to our friend Joseph.

May 5, 2001

Welcome to my next

Welcome to my next round of visitors. I met Meg and Jason at the airport yesterday after their grand first class flight from LA. While I was waiting, I noticed a lighted map of the main Paris roads showing all the accidents and traffic jams. Since the whole peripherique was covered with bright red lights, we decided on the airport bus and RER into the city instead. An army of cranes appeared in the bus windows as we drove between terminals.

May 6, 2001

What amazes me is

What amazes me is how, even on the grayest day, stained glass windows can still bring so much light into a church. It's not for nothing that inside, people are sitting and kneeling in reflection, pausing for a few moments of contemplation during their day. We spent time here at St. Gervais, on our afternoon walk behind Notre Dame, across the Ile St-Louis and over into the Marais. Splitting up later in the day I walked on to the Bastille to meet Gilles, Joseph and Jody for dinner at Chez Paul, while Meg and Jason headed back to the apartment to get dressed for their dinner at Maison Blanche.

May 7, 2001

I'm afraid I'm falling a

I'm afraid I'm falling a bit behind with my posts due to spending more evenings out with my latest companions. So this is back to Saturday night and the wonderful meal Meg and Jason had at Maison Blanche on Avenue de Montaigne. Recommended by Uncle Jay, the restaurant, and the evening, were a great success.

The meal began with an amuse de bouche, a small but very good cup of vichyssoise. Appetizers followed, consisting of salade de haricot vert avec oeuf, where a soft boiled egg with its top trimmed off, was centered over the green beans, and an asparagus extravaganza with the bottom layer containing chopped up oysters and asparagus in a sauce, topped with smoked salmon and then surrounded by more asparagus. Meg's main course was fillet de turbot en sauce de beurre topped with whole baby artichokes, roasted red peppers and a sardine, along with a fritter which also had roasted red peppers and a sardine inside it. Meg pronounced it excellent but for the sardine, especially the one hidden inside the fritter. Jason's entree was une piece de boeuf <> with some sort of delicate green, perhaps parsley sauce not normally served with beef but even better because of the unusual association. Along with the beef were mashed potatoes exceptionelle, really potato flavored, capturing the essence of potatoes so often lost in mashed potatoes found elsewhere. The wine, a fruity Bourgogne Catherine, though a bit lacking in maturity, made a splash on everything it touched, which was quite a lot since Meg unfortunately tipped over a full glass before taking even the first taste. Not to worry though, the waiter was there immediately with napkins to hide the stain on the tablecloth and to whisk away the asparagus with huitres and replace it with a brand new one. Meg's dessert finale was tarte fine des pommes avec glace des ananas et ananas chip, rated tres magnifique with the puff pastry light and airy as puff pastry should be. Jason's biscuit chaud de chocolate was trop grand and a bit overwhelming but superbe nevertheless. Their early arrival, actually during the waiters' pep talk, momentarily disrupted the ambiance of the restaurant but it was restored as the evening continued. The service was especially accomodating when the wine was spilled and the French was flubbed, with the view of the golden dome of Les Invalides and, around the corner, the sparkling Eiffel Tower overshadowing any sense of discomfort. All in all, a special Paris treat.

(Note - this post contains actual quotes from the meal participants.)

May 8, 2001

From the front of

From the front of the Pantheon you can see right across the top of the Luxembourg Gardens all the way to the Eiffel Tower and you can see that finally the weather has relented and provided some blue sky and sun. Unfortunately Jason and Meg left midday for Antwerp, a city known as the Seattle of Europe in regard to its weather, so I'm really hoping that today was the harbinger of Spring finally coming to Paris and it will continue when they return.

I walked up and around the streets between the Pantheon and Luxembourg Gardens before finally joining tout Paris sitting and sunning everywhere. What's the story anyway, is everyone on sabbatical? There wasn't an empty chair to be had, but not all the grass was off-limits so that's where I ended up. And tonight it was back to eating in, after many wonderful meals while I had people around with whom to share restaurant visits. Just as well though for both budget and belly. Even just buying food and cooking up something like an asparagus omelet, ends up tasting much better here anyway.

May 9, 2001

Today was a day

Today was a day for a little house cleaning and for doing some errands. The crucial errand was to find a replacement for the plastic cutting board which I unfortunately left on top of the hot plate while one of the burners was on. And not just for a moment or two but for quite some time, so that there was a nice little half-round melted out of the cutting board and onto the hotplate. At first I thought I was going to have to replace the hotplate as well but fortunately the plastic scraped off leaving only a trace of the accident and a bit of a funny smell. Monsieur Delauney will not be fooled however, because the only replacement I could find is bright orange instead of white like the original cutting board. But it does brighten up the kitchen.

Since I was not out and about by any other interesting buildings to photograph, I took a picture of the door to my apartment, always a happy site after a long day of walking.

May 10, 2001

On a warm day

On a warm day like today, one of the favorite things to do is hang out the window and watch the scene below. This woman has a prime spot, right on the corner of rue de Seine and rue de Buci, which was absolutely buzzing when I passed by around quarter of seven.

Today was also an errand day but of a more personal nature. I explored a new neighborhood along the rue d'Alesia and my quest for some great French shoes was satisified with the purchase of not one, but two, wonderful pairs. And one pair was even a bargain.

May 11, 2001

Today was a day

Today was a day for strolling and for simply being outside. At last, the Paris weather has turned into the spring that I'd been imagining since the start of my visit.

And it was glorious everywhere. After taking the RER up to Pont D'Alma, I meandered back along the Seine, past the woods-like gardens tucked unexpectedly up next to the Grand Palais, eventually crossing the always busy Place de la Concorde. After admiring the Roue de Paris, the huge ferris wheel set up right there at the start of the Tuileries, I made up my mind to come back when I had someone to ride with me. Sticking to the shady side of the gardens, I stopped numerous times to admire the plantings and sculptures, as you see in the photo, and to shake the pebbles out of my new, and by this time very dusty, sandals. From the Louvre I continued along the quai, stopping only to purchase a small purple flowering plant. From there it was a fairly straight walk back home to see if Meg and Jason had returned from Antwerp.

May 12, 2001

Aimez-vous les tartes? A

Aimez-vous les tartes? A cette question, personne jamais ne m'a repondu negativement. So begins Meg's new tart book, purchased today at Dehillerin along with all necessary tarte tins. Soon lucky friends can rejoice at dinner chez Meg and Jason to dine on tartes of all types, sucree and salee. Building on her past success at the famous Marion's Pie Shop on the Cape, I predict there will be minimal time necessary for recipe translation from the French and a bit of practice before Meg can be pestered for invitations. Just tell her, pour les bonheur des votres, faites des tartes!

Again it was a beautiful sunny day looking down the street from the apartment toward the market at Place Maubert with Meg and Jason waiting impatiently for me to catch up and get started on our tarte trip.

May 13, 2001

The final changing of

The final changing of the guests. This is the story of the departure that almost wasn't. When I left early in the morning to meet Peter, I locked the apartment door behind me, turning the key twice around as I always do. Meg and Jason got up at a more reasonable time, packed and decided to pick up some fresh, hot pain au chocolate for breakfast before heading off to the airport. Luckily they had this little bit of extra time, because no matter what they did, the second set of keys would not open the locked door from inside. Checking the web to see that Peter's plane was late, they knew we'd go with the backup plan of seeing them off at the American gate, rather than coming immediately back to the apartment and to their rescue. So they were locked in with no hope of a yummy breakfast, wondering if they were ever going to be able to get out and to the airport in time for their return flight. But desperation led to shouting down to passers by on the street below, in English since it was too complicated to explain in French, dropping down the keys wrapped in a washcloth, and then persuading the good samaritain who answered their plea to climb the five flights of stairs and unlock the door for them. The happy pictures of Meg and Jason departing and Peter arriving demonstrate that all's well that ends well but who would have thought such a thing could happen on the way there.

May 14, 2001

Paris is a city

Paris is a city of serendipity. It's easy, as we did today, to start with no specific plan and end up having had a day of wonderful new discoveries. Crossing over the bridge at the far end of the Ile St. Louis, we walked down along the Seine. When the pedestrian walkway ended we crossed over and walked a block in to discover the Gare de Lyon right in front of us. The main floor was full of the bustle of people coming and going on the pointy-nosed, highspeed trains but upstairs under the high glass roof, the waiting room and its restaurant, Le Train Bleu, was just as it had been during the Belle Epoque in the 1890's. After expensive coffees, though worth it to get this picture of elegance, we headed back toward the Seine and continued on into the Parc de Bercy, a modern park as large as the Tuileries. There was much to inspire my Charlestown roof deck, though I may have to settle for a smaller size watering pot than this one in the photo on the right. The pot turned out to be some sort of garden storage and was just one of the many intriguing features of the park which also included a small pond with a family of baby ducklings, a little glade of birch trees and even a small vineyard. Just beyond the park we discovered another newly developed area called Bercy Village, which included a movie theater, office buildings and a small marketplace similar to Boston's Quincy Market. The shops had us wondering whether we'd suddenly been transported to the Gardener in Berkeley or to any one of the ubiquitous Restoration Hardwares, but we did find the requested house numbers for 1510 Hinesburg Road and Bingham Brook Farm. We ended the day on the new Meteor Metro line, a completely computerized train that seemed really high speed and high design. And we were treated to this sunset to end the day of wandering and surprises.

May 15, 2001

Visits today brought back memories

Visits today brought back memories of working on the Buffalo Architectural Guidebook. We went in search of contemporary architecture, starting with an old favorite right in our neighborhood, L'Institut du Monde Arabe. The day was just bright enough to make most of the solar screens close up and to allow Peter to get this neat photo looking through to the Pantheon and Montparnasse in the distance.

From the austere elegance of the Monde Arabe we moved on to the gargantuan Bibliotheque de France. The central courtyard was planted with natural undergrowth and trees three-stories high, and since people weren't allowed in this forest, it felt like something out in the wilderness, a powerful contrast to the rectangle of four L-shaped towers making up the building around it. Across the entire front of the library was the largest set of stairs we ever saw, like huge bleachers from which to view the Seine.

Crossing the river from the Bibliotheque, our final stop was Frank Gehry's American Center, sadly vacant and in need of cleaning, but with the wonderful curves and intersections seeming to foretell later buildings like Bilbao. Hopefully plans to reopen it as a museum for world cinema will be successful because it has a fabulous setting right on the edge of Parc de Bercy.

May 16, 2001

Close to home, we

Close to home, we spent the day exploring not more than a few blocks from the apartment. Leaning out the window, a shot of Notre Dame and its flying buttresses shows just how close it is. Under the Parvis of Notre Dame, the big plaza directly in front of the church, is an archaeological crypt containing ruins of the original Gallo-Roman city excavated in the late 60's. The center model shows the foreground of Notre Dame around 1750 when it looked quite different, with buildings on the bridge and the area in front occupied by a hospital. After exploring 2000 years of history in the crypt, we came out and back across the plaza to enter Notre Dame itself. We lit a candle, joining it with other flickering candles reflecting the prayers and faces of hundreds of visitors and listened to the songs of the mass of confirmation that was taking place. Outside again, we sympathized with the tired visitors resting beneath the statues on the front of the church, remembering our long walks from the past few days, and headed across the street to Le Fourmi Ailee for the specialite de maison, Apfel Strudel aux cepes. The very mild mushroom flavor heightens the apple sweetness, and with a cream sauce just like I remember from the prune whip of my childhood, it's a perfect end of the day treat. Such a wonderful day makes me agree with the words of the Ani DiFranco song that is playing while I'm writing, 'I've got everything I want and still I want more'. I guess what I mean is that I want these days to continue to be so interesting, to teach me new things, to share with someone special and just to continue.

May 17, 2001

This is how it looked

This is how it looked out the window above the kitchen table with the spire of Notre Dame peeking over the rooftops. We set out to walk along the length of the Viaduc des Arts, unused elevated railroad tracks on Avenue Daumesnil, where we walked along the upper level linear garden called the Promenade Plantee and returned on the lower level, looking into the ateliers and shops fitted into each of the viaduc arches. Heading back towards the house we stopped at Place de la Bastille to shoot the statue, 'genius of liberty', a memorial to those who died in the street battles of July 1830 that led to the overthrow of the monarch. And the skies were glorious blue with only the occasional gray cloud.

May 18, 2001

Les Annees Pop, the

Les Annees Pop, the current show at the Pompidou, looks back at the 60's, a wonderful view of things I knew firsthand, like blowup chairs, the covers of all the Beatles albums, the Bob Dylan poster with the multi-colored hair, and the pale pinks, yellows and blues of Tupperware. And there was the satisfaction of being able to walk from room to room and immediately identify the artist by name, of course including this Robert Indiana 'Love' piece, thanks to all those trips to the Albright Knox Gallery in Buffalo. The architecture on display from Archigram and Cedric Price, among others, fascinated me as it must have also fascinated the Pompidou architects, serving as their inspiration for the Pompidou's exposed structure and bright colors. Throughout the show, I caught myself dancing a bit to the background music of the Beatles, the Monkees and the Kinks. The only thing wrong was, I didn't expect to be so much a part of a retrospective.

May 19, 2001

These steps are where we

These steps are where we started the day, going to the country without even leaving Paris. Following the suggestions in an article from Travel and Leisure, we took the Metro to Place de la Porte de Bagnolet in the 20th and found the village called La Campagne a Paris, a group of turn-of-the-century houses set up on a ridge. There were actually four different sets of stairs linking the houses to the streets below, and climbing them made me think of the Filbert Steps in San Francisco, where you can also get glimpses into little slices of yards as you pass by. Each house on the circle was unique and well-cared for in the Nantucket tradition, with every flower pot and door knocker perfectly chosen for overall effect. And how completely different it was from the busy and touristy, though beautiful, area of the apartment. Heading down from the village, we located the medieval church, shown to the right at the top of the street, and more importantly, the recommended old-fashioned boulangerie where we had the recommended chocolate eclair, and truly a truly delicious one at that. Then our long walk took us back along the edge of Pere Lachaise Cemetery though we were too late to go in, along Boulevard Menilmontant and rue Oberkampf, through the Bastille along rue de Charonne and finally to the Place des Vosges, where we rested our tired feet in the most tranquil of settings. My new walking sandals already have more miles than I ever would have thought possible.

May 20, 2001

On Sunday Parisians go strolling,

On Sunday Parisians go strolling, in the parks, in cemeteries and on the boulevards, so that's what we did. But first they have coffee, preferably sitting outside on such a nice day as this was. Unfortunately finding a seat at any of the cafes required that je ne sais quoi known only to Parisians, so when we saw the Coffee Company on rue Mouffetard, featuring lattes and smoothies, we knew we were all set. Even though we looked tres Americaine walking along with our grande lattes in paper cups, I thoroughly enjoyed the size and flavor of a Paris equivalent to Peet's. With coffee in hand we proceeded along Boulevard Montparnasse and into the cemetery where we found the interesting and graphic monument in the upper lefthand photo but never could find what we'd come looking for, Jean Paul Sartre's grave. Across Avenue du Maine, we eventually reached the Gare Montparnasse where we climbed the stairs to explore the roof garden covering the entire train station. Quite different from other parks we'd visited, this is an example of contemporary garden design around the theme of the sea, in tribute to the Atlantic bound TGV train. Packed lawns and pathways proved it's success but to me it seemed to be too many different ideas in too small a space. Back down again along Boulevard Montparnasse we paid our respects to the Hemingway haunts, La Coupole, Le Select and Le Dome, and headed towards home through the Jardin du Luxembourg, shown below. Though this too had crowded paths, the open expanses of green, and vistas like this one up the stairs and between the trees to the Pantheon, allowed for views that were all your own. Going the last blocks towards home through the narrow streets paralleling Boulevard St. Germain and the Seine, the droves of people walking toward us made it look like everyone was coming from some big event we'd missed. But it was just a human chain of people out enjoying the day and they probably felt the same as we approached.

May 22, 2001

Missed my usual routine with

Missed my usual routine with dinner out, so here is yesterday's post this morning. Our destination was the Parc de la Villette, a modern-designed urban space that is still wearing well. It's a seventy-five acre rectangle bisected by the canal de l'Ourcq with a perpendicular walkway and bridge over the canal connecting the two halves. The northern half is filled by the Cite des Sciences et de l'Industrie while the southern half has la Grande Halle, an immense cast-iron shed with clerestory windows that has the feel of an old train station, and many different park zones created through thematic plantings and level changes. Randomly dotting the park is a grid of twenty-three follies, bright red structures each of a different design and function. The red folly pictured is a pass-through going from the Science Museum to the bridge over the canal. The circular and curvilinear themes used throughout the park, included a wonderful wavy canopy over the main walkway, concrete benches lighted from below with glass circles in the seats, and a variety of paving patterns, including black and white stones set by hand to poke up and make the black ones look almost like mussel shells. My favorite spots were the terraced gardens covered with grapevine trellises and tiny waterfalls flowing down between each step, and just across the next bridge, the jardin des bambous. Its pathways, almost hidden below the bridge, prompted us to search for the stairs down to this overgrown, jungle-like space filled with all different types of bamboo, and to feel like we were among the few to find it.

Between the visits I didn't

Between the visits I didn't include in my last post and some more from today, I've got lots to tell about. After visiting Parc de la Villette yesterday we continued on to a nearby neighborhood in the 19th Arrondissement known as Carrieres d'Ameriques, and the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, site of the former quarries for which the neighborhood was named. And this afternoon we went back there again for more looking and photos. The neighborhood is between Place Danube and the park itself, and reminded me a lot of the area along the Filbert Steps in San Francisco. Instead of steps though, there were steep, narrow streets, called villas, going up the hills between the houses. You know you're still in Paris however because the three cross streets are called rue de Liberte, rue d'Egalite and rue de Fraternite. The upper left photo gives a little of the neighborhood feel. From there we walked on to the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, entering at the top corner and discovering a series of overlooks, populated with sun bathers and general relaxers enjoying the sunny day. From there we followed a downward winding path, through evergreens that were further reminders of San Francisco and especially the Presidio, crossed a suspension bridge and found a little side path leading up through cave-like openings in the butte to a lookout tower at the top. It's from that tower that the right hand photo of Sacre Coeur, off in the hazy distance, was taken. By the time we got to the Canal St. Martin it was getting late, so we went back there again today to explore a bit more. While Peter took the photo from across the canal of this collection of pretty colored buildings, I explored inside in the shops, a clothing boutique, flower shop and gift store. And it was just around the corner from here that we had dinner last night, the one that caused me to delay my post, at a simple place called le 25eme Image starting with wonderful kir's made with a peche liqueur instead of cassis. Something to try when we get back home.

May 23, 2001

Seeing Sacre Coeur in the

Seeing Sacre Coeur in the distance yesterday called to us so today we went to Montmartre to see it up close. Using the book, An Architect's Paris by Thomas Carlson-Reddig, for some guidelines we took the metro to Abbesses, the best existing example of Hector Guimard's Metro station design. Unfortunately, or fortunately for those who will be here when the renovation is completed, it was completely shrouded in scaffolding. Inside we could see new glass being set in the roof and fresh green paint over everything
but a shot of the renovated station will have to wait for another time. From the Metro station we circled around the back of Sacre Coeur, passing through another beautiful park, Parc de la Turure, from which we could actually see back to the Buttes de Chaumont where we had been yesterday. Just below Sacre Coeur, we took a picture of the private vineyard shown to the right, with its vine-covered bower
in the center and then continued on to take this classic shot, shown on the left, of Sacre Coeur from rue Norvins. Before actually going into Sacre Coeur we stopped in the original church on the site to admire its especially colorful, almost modern stained-glass windows where the highest ones looked like something Picasso might have designed. Then we went on into Sacre Coeur itself to light a candle and as we exited, we heard the contradictory sounds of rock and roll. We headed down the front stairs to find the band, shown to the right on the steps below Sacre Coeur, playing music from the 60's and 70's to an enthusiastic crowd which we joined to rest and listen to a half dozen or so songs. Heading back to the Metro along rue Yvonne le Tac, we stopped for cafe creme in the bar/cafe, le Progres, and then discovered a number of great boutiques on the street. Perhaps I should plan to come back on my own, since I did see another great pair of French shoes, in green a la Grandma Pete. I did manage to pick up a nice present for Marcia along the way and admire some very simple but wonderfully-designed children's clothes at a place called Gaspard de la Butte where the clothes were actually made right in the shop. Montmarte is a place where I could definitely enjoy living.

May 25, 2001

The sign above, at

The sign above, at the Abbesses Metro covering the scaffolding for the station's renovation, provided a good starting thought for yesterday's search to see more of Hector Guimard's art nouveau style. We retraced our steps of five years ago, repeating a walking tour of Guimard architecture that we had done on my first sabbatical. The Chardon-Lagache station in the 16th provided an unwrapped example of his most well-known work, the turn-of-the-century design for the Paris Metro system, with the natural, organic flower shapes of the sign obviously growing into the graceful lights, fluid metal work and warm green color of the Metro station on the left. But the 16th arrondissement has many Guimard buildings as well, and it was fun to spot them among the more traditional gray Paris buildings, with their bits of bright color, fluid lines and often, unusually shaped dormers at the top. I especially liked the colors and design of the numbers on the gateway of the Hotel Jassede, shown in the center photo. The first time we did this walk, we stopped before the end and entirely missed the most fantastic of Guimard's buildings, the Castel Beranger for which he won the first prize for facade design in 1898. Details of the front corner piece, shown in the final righthand photo, give an idea of the incredible amount of decoration which continues over every part of the building, as well as the numerous changes from buff brick and stone, to red brick and even to a blue-glazed brick below. Looking up, the delicate cutout of the eyelid window shade is doubled in the shadow it casts and I wonder what other interesting shadows it makes inside. We ended with coffee in the Guimard-designed Cafe Antoine and marveled over the beauty and attention to detail of all we'd seen during the day. Though it's very different from my usual style, I do love art nouveau.

May 26, 2001

Not purposeless but not so

Not purposeless but not so planned either, yesterday was an errand and wandering day. In the flaneur tradition, we went where things looked interesting, over on the Right Bank from the Marais up to the Place de Marche St. Honore. We accomplished our errands and stopped in at a number of trendy shops, including Colette where the basement bar specialized in bottled water, with brands available from all over the world. More to our liking was the wine bar, Le Rubis, where we stood at the zinc bar and raised a glass of Morgon (no Chiroubles on the board) to toast Jay and Marcia. The day ended with a stroll back through the Tuileries, pausing for a long time to watch the boatman and kids with long sticks, chasing their boats around the fountain to push them into another sail across to the other side. And all the time we were thinking of the little Meg and Mike who would have loved that so much years ago.

A mere two block walk

A mere two block walk up the hill from Place Maubert took us to St. Etienne du Mont and the Pantheon. St. Etienne, shown on the left, was begun in 1492 and mostly completed by 1655. It houses some of the remains of St. Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris, who led the fight against Attila the Hun in 512. We entered the church from the cloudy outside, but moments later the sun came out, streaking across the side aisle of the church as you see. St. Etienne probably has the most intricate detail of any church we've seen, and because its' stained glass is light in color, it has a wonderfull light, airy feel quite unlike other Paris churches. Crossing the street outside, we entered the Pantheon, which was originally constructed as a church, but was converted to a civic building in 1885 when Victor Hugo's remains were entombed there. It continues as a national monument containing the tombs of many of France's greatest citizens, including Voltaire, Rousseau, Zola and Louis Braille in the crypt on the lower level. The most fascinating part though, is Foucault's pendulum, showing the rotation of the earth. The pendulum is within a ring whose numbers correspond to the time of day. You can see we were there at 15:30 pm Paris time. There's a great video showing how a piece was cut from the center of the dome and replaced with a structure from which the pendulum hung on a wire, down close to the floor as the photo on the right shows. Once the wire length and placement of the pendulum, held to one side by string, were all correct,
the string was burned through with a candle to set the pendulum swinging. And it just continues to swing.

May 27, 2001

Paying the bargain price of

Paying the bargain price of just 5 francs to enter the gardens of the Rodin Museum, we got the best deal for yet another sunny day. Rodin certainly had the right setting to inspire his work. The resulting sculptures placed about the garden enhance the plantings while the vistas across hedges to distant trees make it all seem like you're in the country. We followed it up with a tour of the gardens in front of the domed church at Invalides, where after much study, I finally figured out that the unusual pattern of planting was a series of musical notes connected in the center with a g-clef. Newly planted, it was still a bit sparse and would be nice to see later in the summer when it has all filled in. We paused inside the church, St. Louis des Invalides, and then continued across the Pont Alexandre III bridge with its four statues gleaming gold in the sunlight. We ended our walk home, passing in front of Notre Dame just as mass was getting out, and stopping in the crowd gathered on the bridge to watch the impromptu rollerskating slalom. Though we've watched the skaters many other nights, this was the first night we've ever seen all five skaters hold hands and weave through the thirty or so soda cans on one foot all the way. No soda cans were knocked over and there was much applause from the crowd at the end of such a feat.

May 30, 2001

Sticking close to home

Sticking close to home again on Monday, we walked a block down Boulevard St. Germain to the Cluny Museum and Jardin du Moyen Age. Outside the museum, we meandered through the renovated garden, which was actually a series of small gardens created to look as they might have in the middle ages. One large area was planted like a natural meadow, with a stream down the middle. A shiny metal sculpture in the center, with its moving parts, reminded me exactly of the contraption we used to make to scare the crows out of the strawberries up at Grandma Pete's. In neat separate squares, there were also gardens of herbs, vegetables and lovely flowers. I had never seen woven fences like these, made of chestnut branches, and common to the middle ages. Once we entered the museum, we headed straight for the remains of the Gallo-Roman baths to cool off a bit from the very hot Paris day. Mind you, I'm not complaining after those long very chilly, rainy weeks I spent here earlier, but the frigidarium still worked as the Romans had planned it, even without the water. Then we spent several fascinating hours viewing the extensive collection of Middle Ages arts, crafts and religious items. Each time I found something I especially admired for its unique colors and patterns or bits of trim, I discovered it was from the thirteenth century and was amazed by aspects of design I would almost have termed modern. The collection of tapestries, all so well preserved and so huge, made me wonder again whether the weaving was a collaborative effort or done by a single person, and how much time it took to weave each immense tapestry. We finished up in the original chapel of the Hotel de Cluny, a small space maybe twenty by twenty, where we could see close up the incredible groin vaults that are only visible towering above in larger churches. Looking at the posted images, side-by-side makes the characteristics of intricacy and attention to detail obvious. Those folks in the Middle Ages not only had a lot more time on their hands, but they also put it to really good use.

About May 2001

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