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Thursday, August 13, 2009

My last post from Paris

This is my last night. I need to wake up at 6am to catch a taxi to the train to the airport. My trip back will be 17 hours including a three hour layover in Detroit, of all places. Just when I am finally getting the hang of where the a is on the keyboard. Oh well.

I will recount as many of my adventures as I can here, and hope there is some internet access in Detroit, which would be a great way to pass a couple of hours.

To continue about yesterday, the Jeu de Paume holds photographic exhibits. I went there without knowing what was on exhibit, and discovered a fantastic show called Planete Parr. Martin Parr, if I've got his name right, is a British photographer. He also is a collector of all kinds of things, mostly items that make some kind of social commentary. So there were, for instance, Sputnik souvenirs, Afghan rugs commemorating Sept. 11th, Obama items, etc. His photos, at least the ones on display, often highlight incongruities in a scene he observes, like tourists at Nagasaki, or someone on the Champs Elysees, except it's the one in Las Vegas. I took some of my usual people looking at art photos. When I left and was outside the museum, I realized that there were hugh blow-ups of about ten of his photos outside/ It was an ad for the exhibit, but it was also an installation on its own. So I spent probably a half-hour taking photos of the people looking at his photos. Except, of course, that if they noticed me they moved away, so as not to be in my way. I think I may write Parr a fan letter with some of my photos of his photos! I can't be the only one to have thought of this, though, can I? Or maybe he took some himself. Mine are probably all out of focus, anyway.

I walked around the Tuileries for a while. Lots of people were sunbathing, and some, not just kids, were wading in the fountain. I had a lemon and blood orange sorbet cone and sat for a while, but in the shade.

Last night I ate once again at the corner restaurant where I'd encountered the drunk Whoopi Goldberg look- alike a couple of nights before. I had trouble finding it, and had actually given up and decided to eat at the next place I came across, which just happened to be... I ordered lambchops with green beans. The beans were especially delicious, cooked in butter but not drenched in it. And there was a huge pile of them, the beautiful thin French ones, on the plate. I don't think I've ever seen such a large portion of vegetables on a restaurant plate. I savored each one, along with the lambchops.

Today, I had decided to go to an area in the Marais (again!) called village St. Paul, which was described as a series of shops of antique dealers and other interesting things. Near there is an elevated park built on an old railroad viaduct. It extends for several kilometers. I had never heard about it before,but was intrigued. Apparently several other cities have taken the idea and used it in their own environments. My final plan was to go to the Orangerie, the museum opposite the Jeu de Paume that houses Monet's Water Lilies series of paintings. And then home to pack, write in my blog, and then have a final dinner, spending the last of my mother's gift, back in the garden restaurant that is outside my window. I am happy to report that aside from dinner, I have accomplished all that I intended for my final day.

I didn't realize until I got there that I had already been to Village St. Paul, but had'nt recognized it. It is housed in a series of old buildings that I had read was once a convent/ Very pictursque, of course. Many stores were closed for the annual vacation, or had limited hours. But I soon stumbled upon a shop with all kinds of brightly colored straw items. There were hats and purses, but also jewelry and other unusual items made from the straw. In my typical fashion, I asked the owner/designer, Veronique, if she could put this together with that, and soon we came up with a necklace that combined several elements. I can't explain it and do it justice, so you'll just have to see it. I also bought a hat from her; as well as a brooch which we pinned on the hat. Her prices were amazingly resonable, for Paris, and for handmade items. She had all kinds of drawers filled with little elements for necklaces, hats, earrings, etc. Oh, I forgot the earrings!

I asked Veronique if she ever put any of the small elements on her purses. Her answer was that she doesn't like to do too much, because that raised the prices, and she wanted to keep them affordable, but that when she sold things to places like stores in the US, she made them fancier and more haute couture. But here, it was only when someone like me had a special request. Oh, I felt so haute! She didn't have a website, didn't want one, but she did ship things, to stores, and to individuals. Hmmmm...

By the way, I have to mention that this, and virtually every conversation I have had here since the project ended, has been in French. Not perfect French, probably more like second grade French, but French nonetheless. I am so pleased that I have pushed myself, even when people speak English, even sometimes with friends like Marie and her family, to communicate in French. Now I have to find ways to continue practicing and learning when I get home.

I did finally leave Veronique and headed to the Passage Plantée. It was nice, but not as nice as I'd anticipated. It's a great use of the space, and there did seem to be quite a few people using it. But, I guess because there are so many wonderful parks in Paris, both large ones and tiny little neighborhood pocket parks, I just didn't find it that exciting. Plus I like looking at the architecture so much here, and you couldn't see all that much of it over the trees and plantings, that I found myself wanting to descend again to street level. I am glad I took a look, though.

Next stop, Place de la Concorde and the Orangerie. The Orangerie houses Monet's incredible panels in the space for which they were desgned. There are about 7 panels, in 2 rooms. The images are so ubiquitous, on scarves and postcards and you name it, that I don't really focus on them when I see them. I think I must have seen the paintings before, but have no clear memory of doing so. They are exquisite. If you are in Paris you must make sure to see them. Yes, they are overtouristed, with people snapping photos, of the paintings, each other, etc. Me too. But it doesn't matter. The colors and images are so vibrant. No postcards or photos in books do them justice. And I doubt my photos will, either.

The rest of the museum was also wonderful, a collection of impressionist and other paintings by Matisse, Renoir, some early Gaugins that showed the beginnings of his primitive style, Picasso, Modigliani, and some others with whom I wasn't familiar. In the bookstore I bought a postcard of a Picasso and a Matisse, thought about getting some of the waterlilies but decided against it. There were a number of books about Paris, and I noticed one about restaurants in gardens. There, I found my very own restaurant in the hotel, that I can see from my bedroom window,where I had the gazpacho and ginger and rum punch and molten chocolate cake the other night, where I am going to have my dinner shortly, as soon as I can pry myself away from writing. I was excited, and told the hotel manager, Anna, when I got back. She apparently wasn't familiar with the book, but was pleased. I also told her how much I liked the hotel. She was glad, especially since she is the one who designed the rooms. They are all different, and funky. Definitely my kind of place. And this is a budget hotel. The price for my single is 60 euros, which translates into about $85. Not bad for Paris. Not bad at all.

I am tired and hungry, and also still have to finish packing. I am going to end this entry here. But I am going to continue and recount one more episode, not here but on the train from Karlsruhe back to here, which has been on my mind and which I want to make certain to recount before my trip ends. There are other incidents, too, mostly from my visits in Germany with Christian and Dorthe, and with Mari and Falk. There are also some episodes and incidents from here in Paris that I hope I will be able to describe. But those, I think, will need to wait, probably until I am back home.
This trip, I have spent very little time at our near famous monuments, aside from the Louvre and other museums. I have seen the Eiffel Tower from afar from the Place de la Concorde, same for the Champs Elysees and l'Etoile. But, as it was the last day and I was so close by, I decided to walk from the Museum partly up the Champs, even though I knew I would find it overly commercial and even tacky. And it was. I did see a couple of limos and their drivers, though, and wondered who their clients were and which international chain store they were in. Probably not Parisians.

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