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)

Montmartre, Paris

It seems a million years ago that we were in Paris; so much has happened in the past three months. But I feel the need to finish writing about Paris, if only to relive my wonderful memories.

My most favorite day of the vacation had to be the day I visited Montmartre. In another life, Montmartre was a bohemian hilltop haven, home to some of the world’s greatest artists, writers, and poets. The winding cobblestone streets, small boutique-style shops, infamous dance halls, and Place du Tertre, where local artisans paint en plein air, sounded like heaven to me and I couldn’t wait to spend the day exploring!

Abesses Entrance

After a 30 minute metro ride from Grenelle, I finally landed at Abbesses, which I later learned is the deepest station in the Paris Metro system at 118 feet below ground! The ground-level entrance is beautiful! It is one of the last remaining Art Nouveau glass-covered designs created by French architect Hector Guimard.

I Love You Wall

Upon exiting the station, one of the very first sights you come to is “Le mur des je t’aime” (I love you: the wall). Here the words are written  311 times in 250 different languages and dialects. People come from all over the world to see the wall and declare their love for one another.

Montmartre Street

As I navigated the cobblestone streets, I wondered if Picasso or Van Gogh had walked these exact streets before me. I stopped into a few little quaint shops. I really wanted to buy a piece of local art, but the prices were outrageous!

Next, I found a funky little resale shop and knew I stumbled onto something. How cool would it be to own something once worn by a Parisian? I tried on a few tops, but nothing fit quite right. Then I spotted an adorable little rain coat and voila, perfection! The best part? It was only 5 Euros! I had found my little memento for the day.

View from Stairs

I continued my journey climbing a series of steps-and-landings, steps-and-landings, steps-and-landings for what seemed like a mile to reach the “Place on the hill” (Place du Tertre). The square was covered by mostly portrait & caricature artists with their easels and surrounded on all sides by over-priced cafes and shops. Only a handful of people were actually painting.

Getting My Caricature Done

Most were just trying to make a euro by accosting tourists. I held out for quite, walking around the square admiring some of the art, until one gentleman with a kind face asked if he could do my portrait.

I was sure this wouldn’t end well for my pocketbook, but after climbing all those steps, I wanted to sit down and take a load off.  We struck up a conversation about art and family among other topics, and I actually enjoyed my time with him. When all was said and drawn, I came away with an adorable caricature, a twenty minute respite, a nice conversation, and only a minor dent in my wallet. It was well worth it!

Caricature in Montmatre

Just past the square is the Sacre-Coeur Basilica. The Roman Catholic church was designed in a Romano-Byzantine style inspired by sister churches of Italy and was completed in 1914. The exterior was carved from a type of travertine stone whose calcite turns white when it mixes with rainwater. It was a beautiful sight.

The entire city of Paris is visible from the front court of the Basilica. The dome sits over 650 feet above the River Seine and you can see for 30 miles. It is the highest point in Paris after the Eiffel Tower.

Museum of Montmartre

After wandering outside the Basilica for a while, I continued on.  I headed West on Rue Cortot and stumbled upon the Musee de Montmartre.

The building was built in the seventeenth century as The Bel Aire House and is considered the oldest in Montmartre. During it’s peak, it served as a meeting place, studio space and home for many well-known artists, such as Renoir and Émile Bernard. The museum houses many great works by Toulouse-Lautrec, Auguste Renoir, Suzanne Valadon, and her son Maurice Utrillo. I wanted to view the collections, but unfortunately, their credit card machine was not working and they would not take my American dollars. I was out of luck, so I kept on exploring…

La Maison Rose

Just around the corner at 2 Rue de l’Abreuvoir was the most quaint bistro, La Maison Rose. It’s bright pink exterior and green shutters stand out against the surrounding buildings and landscape. I was able to capture this wonderful image of a young couple dancing in front of the cafe. It is my favorite moment from the day.

Clos Montmartre
Montmartre Vineyard (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Just down the street I passed by Clos Montmartre – the last active vineyard in Paris. It covers over 1,800 square yards and contains 1,900 vines of 28 different grape varieties.

After sightseeing for a few hours, I was famished and it was getting chilly outside; time to take a break and warm up. I wandered into a small cafe called Chez Ginet and settled in for a hot cup of cappuccino and a goat cheese/eggplant salad. It was absolutely delicious and so pretty. I had to take pictures!


It was starting to get dark now, but there was one more check on my “To Do” list before calling it a day. Relying on my trusty iPhone GPS, I followed the main streets to my final destination. Along the way I passed over the Montmartre Cemetery where countless well-known artists, playwrights, authors, and dancers are buried.

Montmartre Cemetery

Making a left onto Boulevard de Clichy, I continued on. It was dark now, perfect for viewing the infamous dancehall. As I made my way, I passed by numerous “adult shops”. I clutched my purse a little tighter.  Not once did I ever feel afraid or threatened, but it was dark and judging by the shops, it may not have been the best place to be a lone woman. Finally, there she was, the Moulin Rouge, lit up in all her splendor. What a sight! You could almost hear the music from inside.

Moulin Rouge

Judging by the crowd of tourists taking pictures, I was not alone in my quest. I snapped several photos and then disappeared underground to catch the Metro. I settled in for the ride back, ruminating about all the wondrous sights, sounds, tastes, and memories of the day. Montmartre. My favorite day in Paris!

Paris in (Almost) Springtime

At the end of March my husband had to travel to Paris for work and guess who was able to tag along for a vacation? Before he had even finished telling me the plans, I emphatically said, “YES!” and had mentally packed my bags and made arrangements for the boys and the animals. Let’s just say he had me at, “Paris.”

Hotel Ares Eiffel (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

We left on a Friday redeye out of Detroit and landed in Paris about 8 a.m. Saturday, albeit tired, so ecstatic to be in “The City of Lovers”, “The City of Light“.

We stayed at Hotel Ares Eiffel a quaint boutique style hotel in the Grenelle neighborhood of the 15th Arrondissement. We stashed our luggage and quickly located the neighborhood Starbucks for some much needed caffeine and European croissant. Once our room was available we unpacked whatever would fit into the tiny hanging closet and crashed for a few hours.

In the evening we hopped on the Metro and headed out for dinner across town to the historic Brasserie Balzar located near the Sorbonne in the Latin Quarter of the 5th Arrondissement.

Brasserie Balzar
Bordeaux & L’Onion Soup

The brasserie opened it’s doors in 1890 and has been frequented by philosophers, artists, and intellectuals ever since. The brasserie, according to Sandra Gustafson’s Great Eats Paris, “..remains a favorite of Left-Bank intellectuals and would-be bohemian’s of all types.” French existentialist philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus were regulars at the Balzar. Actually, it is said that they had their last great argument here in the summer of 1952 which led to the demise of their friendship.

There was no such great drama in the air during our dinner; to the contrary, we met a nice family from California seated next to us and the L’onion soup and Bordeaux was delicious!


On Sunday we did a whirlwind tour of Paris. By the end of the day I was thoroughly exhausted and my legs were sore. I kept thinking about and thanking my surgeons. Without my new ankles and back, none of this would have been possible! I was feeling truly blessed and grateful.

After croissants and cappuccino’s, we caught the Metro and made our way along the Seine to the iconic Eiffel Tower in the 7th Arrondissement. It was much larger than I’d imagined and more beautiful in person.

Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower

We followed the Parc du Champs de Mars East and wandered the nearby streets. I was on a mission to see the infamous building at 29 Avenue Rapp designed by French Art Nouveau architect Jules Lavirotte. On the way we spotted another one of his beautiful designs at 3 Square Rapp.

Next we headed over to view the Arc de Triomphe and shop on the world famous Avenue des Champs-Élysées in the 8th arrondissement. Around 9 p.m. we dragged ourselves into Pizza Pino for dinner and wine overlooking the streetlights of the boulevard.

Arc du Triomphe
Arc du Triomphe
Avenue des Champs-Élysées
Avenue des Champs-Élysées
Musee d'Orsay
Musee d’Orsay

Tuesday was cold and rainy – perfect for touring the Musée d’Orsay. After waiting in the cue for over an hour in the drizzling rain, it was a relief just to get inside and sit for a few minutes. The building itself is a beautiful piece of art. Set on the banks of the Seine, it houses art collections from 1848 to 1914.

Musee d'Orsay Clocktower Cafe
Musee d’Orsay Clocktower Cafe

The museum, which opened its door s in December of 1986, was installed in the former Orsay railway station built for the World Exposition in 1900.

The museum is home to some of the world’s most famous sculptures. The entire ground floor was sprinkled with giant marble monoliths from the past two centuries. Since I didn’t have too long, I started with the Impressionists’ paintings. To get there, you pass through the back of the museum cafe which is gorgeous! At the end of the cafe is an enormous clock window overlooking the Seine.

After hours of walking around the museum, I jumped on the Metro towards ‘home’, grabbed dinner at a local brasserie, drew up a steaming hot Hermes bubble bath back at the hotel, and called it a day – and what a great one it was!

Stay tuned for my adventures in Montmartre, Saint-Germain du Pres, and Louvre-Tuileries. Au Revoir for now.

Once-In-A-Lifetime Opportunity

Last month as I was preparing to head off to art class I received a call from my husband who was at work. His company, TWI, does non-destructive thermal imaging for a myriad of clients, mostly aerospace related. However, on this day, they were inspecting a very different kind of material; an original Parisian work of Art from 1916. He invited me to come down and see it up close in person.

TWI had previously done inspection work for MoMa. They put TWI in touch with a Florida lawyer who was assisting his friends in researching an original work of art from the Spanish Cubist Juan Gris.  They had acquired the two-panel Papier Colle’ while vacationing in Argentina.

Once at TWI, I met the couple and their lawyer.  A professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology and a second academic gentleman proficient in manuscript analysis were also present and had already conducted their analysis of the piece.

The couple’s journey began about two years ago when upon returning home from vacation, the husband placed the two panels in his home office and just stared at it for about 6 months, trying to make sense of the Cubist collage.

Gris
Juan Gris_Papier Colle’_1916

After some time, he began to notice that among the drawings of the clouds, bottles, fruit, revolver, bullet holes, military figure, French newspaper clippings and note cards, were various books drawn within books. On the right-hand side of the left panel, the artist drew in a book binding with “Juan Gris Paris 1916” printed at the top.

Trying to make meaning of the collage, the owners showed the piece to an art curator.  She noted the round bottle and flat-bottomed clouds of the left-hand panel were characteristic of Pablo Picasso. While Gris’ collage work was usually very colorful, Picasso’s were more neutral. Some of the hand writing also looked like Picasso’s.

By 1916, WWI had taken a major toll on France. Gris, a pacifist, did not fight. We also know that Picasso did not enter the war. Actually he and Gris’ were nearly the only two in their circle that did not go to war. As such, both men were in Paris in 1916.

While each panel has Juan Gris’ name on it, the real mystery, and million dollar (literally) question is whether Pablo Picasso collaborated on the papier colle’. If so, it would be the only documented collaboration (that we know of) between the two artists and worth millions of dollars!

We did not solve the mystery on this day, but their journey will continue. Eventually the piece will be auctioned off at Sotheby’s and either way, the couple will be all set. I wish them the best!

As for me, it truly was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity 🙂