Last Day in Paris

By day seven in Paris, I was exhausted and starting to come down with a cold. Our last day was a Friday and my husband wasn’t working so we could finally have a full day together to explore Paris. Our plan was to visit a few sites and then visit La Louvre in the late afternoon because of their extended Friday hours.

We began our day at the local pastry shop in Grenelle with lots of sugary treats and cappuccinos then boarded the Metro headed for Rambuteau station in the fourth arrondissement on the right bank Seine to see Centre Georges Pompidou.

This enormous high-tech multicultural complex houses the Public Information Library, the Musée National d’Art Moderne (the largest museum for modern art in Europe) and IRCAM, a centre for music and acoustic research.

Centre Georges Pompidou

It was named after French President Georges Pompidou who commissioned the behemoth. It’s doors opened in 1977 and has seen millions of visitors every year since. The Center sits on 5 acres of land, spans over one million square feet, and rises seven levels. The architectural team was made up of British and Italian designers who were awarded the project in a design competition. It was the first time that international architects were allowed to participate. In 1977, the building cost 993 million French francs and underwent renovations in 1996 costing 576 million francs.

Reaction to the building wasn’t always pleasant. The French newspaper compared it to Loch Ness and in a 1980 article, National Geographic described the reaction as “love at second sight.” More recently however, the architects have been praised for their unique approach and out-of-the-box design.

We wanted to sneak in a lot on this last day, so rather than spend hours inside the modern art museum, we settled for taking in its grand majestic exterior and kept on moving.

Just past Centre Pompidou we spotted some wonderful Parisian graffiti. One of the largest and most well known was painted by Jeff Aérosol in 2011. Chuuutt!!! (Shh!) is over 3700 square feet!

Paris Grafitti
Les Halles Food Stand

Next, we headed over to Les Halles which was once the center for the open air fresh food markets. Now, it is a massive construction site as the RER (French transit system) hub is undergoing a huge design overhaul. However, just past all the chaos you can still spot a few fresh food stands in the area.


Beyond the construction and food stalls lies the gardens of Les Halles and the beautiful catholic church of Saint-Eustache.

Considered a masterpiece of late Gothic architecture, its origins date back to the 13th century. Louis XIV received communion here and Mozart choose this church as the location for his mother’s funeral.

Saint-Eustache’s pipe organ is considered the largest in France with 8,000 pipes! Imagine the sound – it would surely be heaven on earth!

We ducked inside to rest for a bit and revel in all its glory. Directly in front of the church is a giant modern sandstone sculpture created in 1986 by French artist Henri Miller called l’Ecoute – Listen.

I love the ying and yang of Paris – the juxtaposition of old and new makes one feel more connected to each other; knowing that you are walking on the same earth as others who have come before so long ago.

Entrance Musee du Louvre

After Saint-Eustache and Les Halles we headed over to the Louvre – our last major stop in Paris. I must say we were both exhausted by now but there was no way I could travel to Paris and NOT visit the world-famous art museum. We spent some time outside in the Louvre courtyard taking in the grand massive scale of the building itself. Once inside we made our way through only a few sections of the museum.

Of course we saw the Mona Lisa a mile away behind closed glass. I knew what to expect, so I wasn’t that eager to fight the crowds to get close enough for a decent picture. I enjoyed viewing the Rembrandts and I really wanted to see Vermeer’s Lacemaker and actually walked right past it. After asking an attendant we found it. It is so small I was shocked!

After only a couple hours we called it a night and took the Metro back to Grenelle. We grabbed dinner at our local cafe, dragged ourselves back to La Tour Eiffel and settled in for the night. In the morning, we said Au revoir and Merci to the lovely hotel owner and staff and caught a cab to the airport.

Til we meet again…

Hemingway & Saint Germaine des Pres

Saint Germain des Pres is located in the 6th arrondissement of Paris, along the left bank of the Seine. This upscale neighborhood has played a major role in literary and philosophical history.

Prior to coming to Paris, I had just finished reading a wonderful book by Paula McLain. “The Paris Wife” is a historical fiction book written from the perspective of Hadley Richardson, Earnest Hemingway’s first wife. It follows their relationship and Hemingway’s early writing career beginning in the states and moving on to Paris and Europe during the roaring twenties and turbulent thirties. So when I found out we were going to Paris, there were a few Hemingway haunts I knew I had to visit.

During the 1920’s young American writers, such as Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, traveled overseas to absorb the “happening scene” that was Paris: the roaring jazz music, the gathering of intellectuals, and the all-night parties were a major draw. The Brasserie Lipp was a favorite watering hole at the time and the site of an infamous “conversation” that took place between the two authors.

Brasserie Lipp

As Hemingway tells it, Fitzgerald invited him for lunch when it was called Michaud’s. “He said he had something important to ask me that meant more than anything in the world to him and that I must answer him absolutely truly,” Hemingway wrote. “I said that I would do the best that I could.” Fitzgerald’s wife Zelda had apparently been complaining about her husband’s plumbing. “A matter of measurements,” Fitzgerald explained. The two withdrew to the toilet. Fitzgerald dropped his drawers. Hemingway inspected. “There’s nothing wrong with you,” he concluded. “You look at yourself from above and you look foreshortened. Go over to the Louvre and look at the people in the statues then go home and look at yourself in the mirror in profile.” “Those statues may not be accurate.” “They are pretty good,” Hemingway said. “Most people would settle for them.”
(“Hemingway’s Lipp and Fitzgerald’s Penis” Pappa’s Planet Blog By David Frey)

Original Shakespeare and Company
James Joyce with Sylvia Beach_Paris_1920 (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Directly on the bank of the Seine sits a marvelous independent English-language bookstore Shakespeare and Company which has a rich history. It is actually the second bookstore by the same name. The first began in 1919 as a lending library/store by Sylvia Beach, an American expatriate. It became the center of literary American culture in Paris. Unfortunately, The original store closed in 1940 during the German occupation of France during WWII and never reopened.

Writers and artists of the “Lost Generation,” such as Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, George Antheil and Man Ray, spent a great deal of time there, and it was nicknamed “ Stratford-on-Odéon” by James Joyce, who used it as his office. (Wikipedia)

Shakespeare & Company
Shakespeare & Company (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

The second, and current, Shakespeare and Company was founded by American George Whitman in 1951. Originally called by a different name, it was patterned after Sylvia’s shop and became the literary hub in bohemian Paris for the “beat generation” of writers. In 1964, upon Sylvia Beach’s death, George renamed the store in honor of his friend. The bookstore has sleeping facilities, and Whitman claimed that as many as 40,000 people have slept there over the years!

Upon entering the store I felt like a little kid in a candy store. It’s mosaic floors, wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, wood-beam exposed ceilings, twisty-turns, hidden rooms, narrow steps, old chairs that look like Hemingway himself may have sat in, and free-roaming house cats made me never want to leave, let alone step into a big-box-book-store ever again!

After WWII, Saint Germaine des Pres also became associated with the existentialist movement. Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus and Simone de Beauvoir could be found discussing their views or debating the nuances of their philosophies at the corner cafes of Cafe Flora or Les Deux Magots.

Of course no trip to this neighborhood would be complete without visiting Notre Dame. We headed over that way before the sun set and captured some amazing photographs. After a wonderful day traveling through literary history, we strolled into an Italian restaurant for dinner followed by giant scoops of gelato at Amorino.

La Maison Rose

Upon returning from Paris, I decided my first painting from the trip would be the quaint pink house turned bistro at 2 Rue de l’Abreuvoir, Montmartre. I began the painting process in Mid-April and just finished up a couple of weeks ago, taking a hiatus to create the 5th grade promotion video for my sons’ class.

Because of the hilly nature of the Montmartre landscape, the perspective on this one was extremely difficult. From where I took the photograph, the bistro and street corner were slightly below me receding into the distance at a slight angle. Not one single point was straight!

While researching La Maison Rose, I learned that Picasso himself had frequented the place and that it was home of Germaine Pichot, a well known painting model and notorious femme fatale. Picasso and Carlos Casagemas, Picasso’s best friend, met Germaine when they first came to Paris in 1900. Carlos fell madly in love with Germaine, but the feelings were not mutual.

In 1901, in his grief and drunkenness, Carlos attempted to shoot Germaine. He missed his target and instead turned the gun on himself. Shocked and saddened by his friend’s death, Picasso fell into a depression. It was this tragic incident that provoked his Blue Period. Germaine was depicted in Picasso’s 1905 painting At the Lapin Agile shown below.

La Maison Rose, Montmartre, Parris, France.
La Maison Rose, Montmartre, Parris, France.

The Blind Man’s Meal] is one of Picasso’s most moving pictures from his Blue Period (autumn 1901–mid-1904). Most prevalent among his subjects were the old, the destitute, the blind, the homeless, and the otherwise underprivileged outcasts of society. The painting is not merely a portrait of a blind man; it is also Picasso’s commentary on human suffering in general. Additionally, the work elicits affinities to Picasso’s own situation at the time, when, impoverished and depressed, he closely identified with the unfortunates of society. (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

The destitute outcasts featured in Picasso’s Blue Period gave way, in 1905, to circus performers and harlequins in more colorful settings. The Lapin Agile was originally conceived to decorate a bar in Montmartre, the interior of which is depicted here. Standing at the counter is Picasso himself, dressed as the melancholy and gaunt Harlequin in a vivid diamond-patterned shirt and three-cornered hat. Behind him, in profile with heavy makeup and pouty lips, leans Germaine Pichot, wearing a gaudy orange dress, bead choker, boa, and feathered hat. (Metropolitan Museum of Art)