Friday, August 25, 2017

The world in the streets of Paris

Lion on the Saint Sulpice fountain.
August 25, 2017 -- As we were walking along the Boulevard Garibaldi on our way to dine with friends R and E, I glanced off to the right at a narrow, brick street called rue Clouet.  There was an Orthodox Christian church.  (I’d found all the Russian Orthodox churches earlier this summer.) This one was not Russian Orthodox, nor was it called Eastern Orthodox.  Actually a chapel, it appears to be a mission church of the Orthodox Christian denomination.  It is closed for the month of August, except for masses that were celebrated on August 4 and 6. 

Notre Dame de Tendresse Orthodox Christian chapel on the rue Clouet in the 15th arrondissement.
According to Wikipedia, an Orthodox Christian church is one that adheres to the creeds of the early church.  Photos on the rue Clouet chapel’s Facebook page reveal that this is a racially diverse church – perhaps it is a part of the Oriental Orthodox communion.  The Oriental Orthodox church is not the same as the Eastern Orthodox church, despite the similarity in name.  

According to Wikipedia, “the Oriental Orthodox communion is composed of six autocephalous churches: the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch, the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, and the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church.  In total, the Oriental Orthodox churches have more than 80 million adherents worldwide.”

Ah, you can learn about the world just by walking the streets of Paris.

We followed the boulevard Garibaldi to the familiar intersection of the rue Lecourbe, avenue de Breuteuil, and rue de Sevres.  This last street led us directly to R and E’s neighborhood near the Place Saint Sulpice.

We sat and stared at the imposing church and fountain on that square until it was time to see R and E. The fountain sounded like a veritable waterfall. 

E had a terrible fall on a city bus in May.  She crushed a vertebrae in her back and is lucky that she can still walk.  The recovery is ongoing, but at last she is well enough to enjoy dinner out with friends.

Church and fountain on Place Saint Sulpice in the 6th arrondissement.
After we heard from R and E, we cancelled our reservation at Stephane Martin so we could be with them in their neighborhood.  The four of us dined at the Café Tournon, on the rue de Tournon.  Tom and I had not been there for a few years; the place is looking good – all cleaned and buffed up to Parisian café expectations.

The Tournon now specializes in meat, so three of us ordered the lamb chops, and R ordered a salad with all kinds of things on it – from shrimp to foie gras to duck breast and more.  The four of us shared two Babas au Rhum, and then sat and talked for another hour after that dessert.  We slowly walked and talked up the rue Tournon after dinner, admiring especially the BonPoint children’s apparel shop window; those displays are always so artfully arranged.

BonPoint shop window on the rue Tournon.

Catching up with R and E was delightful.  We share political points of view, so we had much to talk and laugh and cry about.

My bass and langoustine bouillabaisse on Wednesday night at Intuition Gourmande,
on the rue Petel, was delicious.  Tom had a pork and mushroom dish (below)
that was equally good.  Desserts were fine, too.  Intuition Gourmande has
become one of our favorite restaurants in Paris.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Warm day, cool night

View from the Pont de Bir Hakeim
August 23, 2017 – On a perfect summer day for walking along a quiet stretch of the Seine, we started from rue Linois and made our way along the cobblestones of the left bank up to the Pont de Bir Hakiem.  Along the way, we admired attractive houseboats and then noticed a large metal thing on display.  

To satisfy my curiosity, I read the lengthy explanation on the sign posted under the thing, which turns out to be the nose of a former ocean liner named the France.  Here’s a translation:

The Nose of the France is at the Port de Grenelle

Today, of this fabulous ship that was totally dismantled in India in 2006 in the workshops of Alang, there remains only this piece that has braved the waves of all the oceans. 

The former FRANCE in numbers:

Launch: 1962
Nose of The France

Length: 315 meters
Width: 33.7 meters
Draw:  10 meters
Passengers: 2,032
Crew:  1100
Number of bridges:  12
Average displacement when loaded:  57,600 tons
Speed:  30 knots
Power:  160,000 ch

The France that became the Norway, is no more, but a new liner is being built.  A team consisting of enthusiasts, counting among them thousands of professionals in the conception and exploitation of cruise ships, mobilized to take on this ambitious project and offer to France a new emblematic liner, with a human scale, modern, ecological, luxurious, really innovative, and of a different design.

In the milieu of all the contemporary liners who, for the most part, resemble it, this new FRANCE will be a perfect illustration of “the French exception.”

We climbed up to the street level to take the Bir Hakeim bridge to its mid-point, where we turned left onto the Île des Cygnes.  As often is the case, a team of Japanese wedding photographers was there in the middle of the bridge, photographing a Japanese bride.

The sun was almost hot, so we were grateful for the many old and new trees along the island.  When we turned behind the Statue of Liberty to take the Pont de Grenelle to the rue Linois, the sun blazed in our faces. 

So we ducked into the Magnetic building of the Beaugrenelle Mall for a block of air conditioned walking.  The mall is still popular; it shows no sign of declining. 

Sweetbread ravioli with mushrooms in pecorino cream sauce at Bacco

We rode the escalator in the impressive, modern atrium, up one level to follow the mall to its other end.  We then exited at the east end and found our way across the busy Place Charles Michels to the shady avenue Emile Zola.  Tom entered the bakery near the Place Alfred Dreyfus to buy a baguette.  There he continued a conversation he’d been having with the baker – about the different French and English words that mean sour, tart, and acidic.

There is something satisfying about having a conversation with a French baker about how to describe how something tastes.

Vitello tonato -- fine slices of veal wrapped around minced tuna in mayonnaise
with veal juice, vinaigrette emulsion with capers, and eggplant caviar.

In the evening, we took another long walk – down to the noisy rue de la Convention, southeast to the rue Brancion, northeast to the peaceful Place d’Alleray, and northwest on the rue des Favorites to that imposing square in front of the town hall of the 15th.   It was a short walk from there to our restaurant destination, Bacco, on the rue Mademoiselle.  Somehow, we arrived exactly on time, at 8PM. 

At Bacco, we were remembered and greeted warmly, even though the restaurant was already filling up with locals and several tourists.  I think this was the first night the restaurant was open, following its vacation closure.

Seared red tuna with lobster bisque, springroll with sweet-and-sour sauce,
with a salicornia tempura.

The kitchen at Bacco is partly visible through a window into the bar area of the restaurant.  I watched four tall men working away diligently back there.  A special amount of time and effort was spent carefully and artfully arranging the food on plates on the counter under the window.

As beautiful as they were, our starter courses were each somewhat bland.  But the main courses were both beautiful and tasty.  Tom’s risotto with prawns was especially nicely spicey.  My red tuna was cooked perfectly – mi cuit.

Spicey risotto with prawns.
I was glad that I’d reserved our table well in advance, because this restaurant was practically completely full when we were served our first courses.  The manager thought we were waiting too long for our dinner, so she gave us a free glass of wine and a new bottle of water.

Days are growing shorter.  Daylight was gone when we walked up a brightly lit rue du Commerce toward home.  

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The mundane is so important

My default dinner is fish and vegetables.  This one, from last night's dinner at
L'Épopée on avenue Emile Zola, was a golden bream filet with slow-roasted,
diced veggies in eggplant shells.  It was delicious.

August 22, 2017 – There was too much excitement at home yesterday; we didn’t go out until dinnertime. 

Scaffolding had been delivered earlier in the day – two truckloads of it.  Then a crew arrived and began erecting it on the façade of our building.  So begins the process of ravalement -- the cleaning and repairing of the façade of a 7-story post-Haussmannian building in Paris.

I know that Paris has a law requiring the cleaning of building façades periodically.  Our friend Jim, who lives in Paris and Sanibel, tells us that the requirement is for the work to be done every ten years (articles L132-1 à L132-5 du code de la construction et de l'habitation – CCH).

Looking down at the scaffolding stacked in the street, going up on the sidewalk.
However, we’ve been coming to Paris and staying in this building for 20 years, and in that time, this façade cleaning and repair work has not been done.  I suspect the same is true for many Parisian apartment buildings – they’re overdo for a redo.

The building façade is stone – a rather soft stone, perhaps a sandstone.  Balconies are limestone, with lots of interesting fossils.  The stone decorations on the cornices and elsewhere seem to be soft because they erode so much with the weather – at least, on our building they have eroded.

Mortar joints between blocks of stone are very narrow.  Joints between sections of limestone on the balconies seem to be wider, and they hold iron bars that fasten the balcony railing to the building.  Some of that iron is completely exposed and rusting on our balcony. 

We know all too well how critically important it is for building façades to be maintained.  A friend of mine (attorney and former OSU football player Ben Espy) lost his leg when a cornice fell from a building in downtown Columbus.  The building’s façade had been neglected.

We’re all for this work that is about to be done, but I was concerned about the dreariness of living in a dark apartment for a week, and not being able to open the front windows. 

Now that I see how long it takes to erect one level of scaffolding, I realize that by the time they have the basic scaffolding up to our level, we will be leaving. 

After the basic scaffolding is up, a fabric (fiberglass?) skin it put on it to help protect pedestrians and cars from falling bits and pieces.

Yesterday, two truckloads of materials were delivered, and from that, one level of scaffolding was erected.  We’ll see how it goes.  We are on what is called the 5th floor here, which is what we’d call the 6th floor in the U.S.  In France, the first floor is 0, or “street-level.”  There is one level above us, where the former maids’ rooms are located.  A few of these have been cobbled together into apartments, but some are still just single rooms.  We have access to one of those, a room with a lovely view of the Eiffel Tower.

Before we ever arrived this summer, the owners of the apartment had someone move almost all of the balcony’s many plants down to the courtyard behind the building.  There, hopefully, the guardienne’s husband has kept them watered. 

But a few plants, a couple chairs, watering cans, a garden hose, and a VERY heavy marble-topped table remained on the balcony.  We had to move those inside the apartment yesterday.  I insisted on cleaning the apartment before introducing this chaos.  (The cleaning lady is on vacation in Portugal.)

So we were busy with cleaning and moving furniture for most of the day.  A few things went up to the maid’s room, but most of the stuff is scattered about the dining room, in as orderly a fashion as is possible in an already overly furnished apartment.

I figured out that I’m the only person who ever changes the vacuum cleaner bag here.  In 2014, I bought a box of five super-nice vacuum cleaner bags and used one.  Each year, we come here and find the bag absolutely full, so I take it out and put a new bag in the machine.  I just put the fourth of those five bags in.  One bag remains in the box.  Ergo, I am the only person who changes the vacuum cleaner bag, and it is changed only once per year.

The poor vacuum cleaner has been abused.  A couple years ago, I had to buy a new part for it when we arrived at the beginning of the summer.  I swear, next summer I’m buying a new vacuum cleaner for the place.  More than twenty years is long enough to expect a poor, abused vacuum cleaner to work, even if it is a Hoover.

At L'Épopée, Tom's steak came with an adorable red pot of mashed potatoes.
One year we bought a new toaster for the apartment.  Another year, we purchased a new microwave to replace one that died.  We also replaced a coffeemaker in the not-too-distant past.  So you see why we felt the need to check out the new appliance store, Boulanger, earlier this summer.  We are serial appliance buyers.

We aren’t tourists.  We really live here in the summer.  We’re keenly aware of the hardware stores, electricians, plumbers, and appliance stores in the neighborhood.  That’s life.

Monday, August 21, 2017

A secret garden remains hidden

An old entrance to the Hopital Saint Louis was a setting for the French
detective TV series "Navarro."
August 21, 2017 -- We went to the 10th arrondissement yesterday mainly to walk along the picturesque St. Martin canal, but we also visited the two sides of the Saint Louis hospital that we had not seen on August 4 (see Yesteryear to this Year, August 5).  We’d hoped to see the garden at the middle of the huge old hospital.  Everything I’d read indicated that the garden would be open yesterday afternoon, even in August.  But it was not.  We wistfully looked through iron gates covering archways that led to the garden.  Maybe someday . . . .

Peeking between iron bars at the elusive garden in the middle of the Hopital Saint Louis.

We wanted to see it because it is like the Place des Vosges; both the Hopital Saint Louis and the Place des Vosges were was designed by the same architect, Claude Vellefaux.   Here’s a translation of the historical plaque we found near the hospital’s main entrance yesterday:

The construction of the Saint Louis hospital was decided by Henri IV in 1607.  Initially intended for plague victims, the establishment was named for Saint Louis, who died from this malady when he returned from a crusade.  Claude Vellefaux, the architect of the Hotel Dieu, directed the work, under plans by Claude Chastillon, the engineer and architect of the king.  The complex is arranged around a central quartered court surrounded by four large buildings, flanked at the centers and at the corners with pavilions, high coffers, and lofts.  The isolation was total.  The old Saint Louis hospital remains one of the most beautiful 18th century constructions in Paris; the new buildings were erected from 1981 to 1984.  [A new building is currently under construction as well.]

We entered the hospital grounds and walked around.  The original structures formed a square within a square, all the better to quarantine the patients from the outside world.  It was the inner square that we could not access, but there was plenty of space to walk through inside the outer square.  The hospital is huge, and includes many modern buildings that are not the least bit in harmony with the old 17th century architecture. 

Trompe l'Oeil on a door on the outer wall of the hospital.

Looking at the inner square from the outer square of the Hopital Saint Louis (above and below).

The chapel of the Hopital Saint Louis (above and below).

Hopital Saint Louis is a hard-working public and research hospital with a stellar reputation.  Decisions about architecture were made with function and budget in mind, I’m sure; historic preservation and harmony took a far back seat.

When we left the hospital grounds, we walked back to the canal along the rue Alibert.  We found this interesting sign about the canals, which I’ve translated for you:

The canals of Paris are frequently the sets of movies.  Alexandre Trauner, filmmaker, had constructed in the studios of Billancourt a set replicating the ambiance and the life of the neighborhood around the Canal Saint Martin and the Hotel du Nord, immortalized by Marcel Carne in 1938 in his film titled Hotel du Nord, in the style of “poetic realism.”
In 2001, “Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain” by the filmmaker Jean-Pierre Jeunet, gave the canal another “atmosphere.”

The Canals – a history to discover, a heritage to preserve
A unique case in France, the City of Paris maintains a fluvial network of 130 kilometers of navigable waterways, located in five departments and two administrative regions.  This network, property of the City of Paris, is composed of the following canals:
·        The Canal Saint Martin, entirely situated in Paris, that crosses five arrondissements
·        The Canal Saint Denis, that goes around the edge of Paris by the 19th arrondissement, in Saint Denis
·        The canal de l’Ourcq, that goes from Mareuil sur Ourcq to Paris (19th arrondissement).

A look at the old entrance of the hospital from the Canal Saint Martin.
Along the way, we paused at the Canaletto café for refreshments.  Tom enjoyed a big dish of Italian ice cream topped by whipped cream, and I had a snack consisting of tiny toasted Italian bread triangles stuffed with almost melted mozzarella cheese and sun-dried tomatoes.  Yum.  The service at the Canaletto was friendly.
Tom enjoying his ice cream at the Canaletto.

Sunday was the perfect day for this walk because much of the road on either side of the canal is closed to automobile traffic on that day.  We walked all the way up the east side of the canal to the Place de la Bataille de Stalingrad, and from there we walked all the way back down the west side of the canal to the lower edge of the 10th arrondissement, where the canal is suddenly covered over due to the decisions of 11th arrondissement leaders of the past.

Residents of the 10th were taking full advantage of their canal and water views, treating its cobbled banks as their own local beach for picnicking (but not swimming, of course).  It was a delightful scene. 

A few less accessible nooks of paved canal bank were occupied by tents belonging to homeless people.  It is impossible to tell how many of these folks are or are not refugees.  All people look alike; how can you tell an unemployed, homeless French guy of North African descent from a recent refugee from North Africa?  You can’t, unless you engage them in conversation – and that’s intrusive.

An elaborate tent set up in a nook along the canal bank.

A cafe boat serves loungers along the Canal St. Martin.
We just walked and walked, enjoying the Sunday afternoon’s lazy ambiance.  At the rue du Faubourg du Temple, we turned right and walked the short distance to the Place de la Republique, where the line 8 of the metro took us home to the Place du Commerce at the end of the day. 

A picturesque cafe on the rue du Faubourg du Temple.
In the evening, we enjoyed a stroll to the lower 15th arrondissement for dinner at the Café des Ecrivains.   There we had a very affordable and acceptable dinner, across the street from the financial operations center for the Banque Postale – a large, important institution hidden away in that unassuming neighborhood on the rue des Favorites.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

An atypical day

A bronze alligator in the L'Entrepot market at St. Ouen.
August 20, 2017 – 1860 must have seemed like a revolutionary year in the Paris region.  It was then that many surrounding villages – or “communes” --  were annexed to Paris.  That’s what happened to Grenelle, where I sit now, in the 15th arroundissement, and it was true in Montmartre, on the other side of the city.

But the annexation wasn’t so straight-forward in Montmartre.  Part of it was not annexed, and instead it was added to the commune of St. Ouen.  One entire commune, La-Chapelle-Saint-Denis, was erased; its territory was divided up between St. Ouen, St. Denis, Paris, and Aubervilliers.

This re-arrangement of suburbs and city must have been confusing to the residents.  But yesterday, when we emerged from the Garibaldi metro station in St. Ouen, all seemed to be clean and orderly – as if it had been that way for a long time.

An Eiffel Tower in the entry of the Malassis market.
The centerpiece of the Garibaldi intersection is an almost 20th Century church called Notre-Dame-Du-Rosaire-de-Saint-Ouen.  Its first stone was laid in 1898, but its famous windows were products of 1909 to 1930; they were created by Charles Lorin, Florentin Delabre, and Charles Champignuelle.
I love the gracious outlines of that church, and I love the community park next to the it.  The park has plenty of mature trees and families with kids abound there.

We’d explored the church and the park in the past, and we know from past visits how very much there is to see in St. Ouen, so we moved on right away to the main attractions:  the flea markets of St. Ouen.

These so-called “fleamarkets,” or “puces,” are actually an ongoing, nonstop, antiques fair.  There are tacky, actual flea markets outside of St. Ouen; you pass through them if you take the metro line 4 to Porte de Clignancourt and walk the rest of the way north to St. Ouen.

We don’t recommend that route.  We highly recommend that you take the metro line 13 to Garibaldi in St. Ouen and walk south to the “puces.”  That way you can avoid a lot of chaos and shouting people. (I will admit, however, that the line 13 is heavily used since it goes some distance outside the City of Paris limits.  Avoid line 13 in rush hour. Even on weekends, the train fills up.)

Like I said, in St. Ouen, there is order and cleanliness. 

I was surprised to learn from Wikipedia that the land upon which the St. Ouen puces rest is owned by a man, Jean-Cyrille Boutmy, who bought it from Gerald Grosvenor, the 6th Duke of Westminster.  The antique dealers each rent their space on a three-year lease.

The St. Ouen puces are rambling and seemingly endless.  There is no way to see everything there in one day.  In fact, Wikipedia claims that this is “the highest concentration of antique dealers and second-hand furniture dealers in the world” (citation needed).

The puces are arranged in markets.  Some of the markets are buildings, and some are covered spaces between buildings.  Yesterday, we visited markets called Le Passage, Jules Valles, L’Entrepot, Paul Bert, Serpette, Dauphine, and Malassis.  We’ve visited those in the past, too, along with Biron and Vernaison.  (Yesterday was the third time we'd visited St. Ouen.)

Many stalls in Dauphine and Malassis were closed for vacation time.  But there was still more than enough to see.  We kept on until we were over-saturated with sights of fine furniture, paintings, rugs, glassware, chandeliers, and collectible junk.  By then, it was time to head for home.  The puces are only open until 5:30PM, and it was nearly 5 by the time we boarded the line 13 metro for home.

I’m not sure why some people characterize St. Ouen as unsafe.  I suspect that view is a manifestation of racism.  There are plenty of people of color in St. Ouen.  We've never felt unsafe in St. Ouen; on the contrary, we feel at home there.

The Square Marmottan is a lovely community park in St. Ouen.

How the puces came to that area is an interesting story.  In the aftermath of that great series of annexations in 1860, the rag-pickers – called chiffoniers – were pushed out of Paris.  Beginning about 1870, they set up “shop” then between the city limits and the first houses of St. Ouen. 

Starting in about 1885, the city of St. Ouen put order to the flea market area and officially opened the Marché aux Puces, or flea market.  Following some years of good publicity, the Sunday afternoon crowds of shoppers grew.

With that came the growth of entertainment outlets – bistros and cafés.  Gypsies also occupied the territory, and with entertainment venues now available, they shared their music, known as “Gypsy Jazz.”

The bar at L'Atypic on the rue du Theatre in the 15th arrondissement.

In fact, as we sat on the edge of a terrace at La Pericole café, having a simple lunch yesterday, a well-dressed, older Gypsy woman came up to our table and offered to read our palms, to tell us about our future.  We politely declined.

Many more markets were added in the years after World War II.  Now the markets are open to the public on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.  Two wholesale market for professionals (l’Usine and Lecuyer)  open on week days (Wednesday through Friday mornings).

So, you’re probably wondering if we bought anything.  No, we did not.  We’re looking for an old sign that says “Ascenseur” to put by our elevator at home, but we haven’t found one yet.  The closest thing we saw was an old plaque with a warning to stay away from the elevator machinery.

In the evening, we had a very good dinner at L’Atypic on the rue du Theatre – a great way to end an atypical day.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Something solid and lasting, like the art in the museums

Southwest Floridians can't resist photographic this sculpture in the Orsay's central hall.

August 19, 2017 -- Paul Cezanne said, "I want to make of impressionism something solid and lasting, like the art in the museums."  He was the leader of the pack of post-impressionistic painters, the one that Matisse and Picasso called "the father of us all."

We went to see the special exhibition of portraits by Cezanne at the Musee D'Orsay yesterday.  The museum was mobbed (especially the galleries with Impressionist paintings), but the Cezanne exhibit crowd was tolerable.

Mostly, I was impressed by the portraits and the fact that they came together for this wonderful show from museums and collections all over the world.

Here's an entire photo album of my pictures for the day.  Enjoy!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Twenty miles of Paris

La Fontaine de l'Obsevatoire, also called the Fountain of the Four Corners of the Earth

August 17, 2017 – The vegetated wall on the riverfront side of the Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac is something to see in Paris, even now during its state of deconstruction.  Unfortunately, many of the double-glazed windows on that wall are blown, necessitating their replacement and some reconstruction of the wall.  So, the museum is taking the opportunity to do some renovation of the structure that supports the plants on the outside of that wall; as long as the space is blocked off for construction, might as well do everything at once. 

Vegetated wall on the Quai Branly under reconstruction.

Tom and I took a diversion from our normal path through the Branly garden to the Seine.  We walked along the Quai Branly to see the wall of plants.  Only a section of it still has plants; the rest has been unplanted, and the work on the wall is in process.  There were many panels on the construction fence that explained the ongoing work.  I photographed them so I could sit down and translate them later, in the peace and quiet of the apartment.

I just did that this morning, so I’ll share my translation with you (below).  It wasn’t easy.

A peaceful presence along the Seine, the wall of vegetation is becoming an emblem of the museum, a strong part of its identity as well as a remarkable element of Paris’ heritage.  Under the watchful look of the Eiffel Tower, its image circulates in the media or on the social networks.  Across it plays as well the dialogue of cultures that the museum strives to defend and perpetrate.

A new life for the vegetated wall

Conceived by the botanical researcher Patrick Blanc, the vegetated wall has been since 2004 a strong attribute of identity of the Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac.  In language of French symbolization, the establishment is represented by its vegetated wall.
An echo of the collections of the museum and its programs, the vegetated wall carries the universal message of the museum and contributes to sustainable urban development.
Significant works are today undertaken to technically reinforce the building and increase its longevity.  A newly planted creation is coming thanks to the work, replanting part of the plants of the previous wall.

An ode to the continents
The vegetated wall is a living organism.  It is our equal.  Each day, the 22,800 plants that compose it are in dialogue with man:  visitors to the museum, residents of the neighborhood, tourists, citizens of the Paris region passing by the building.  Thanks to the work undertaken, this dialogue that is conducive to inspiration and escape will continue for a long time.
Celebration of the African, Oceanic, American and Asiatique continents, the new wall will hold 376 species from the entire world.  Coming from many of the mountains (Moroccan Atlas, South African Drakensberg, Himalaya, mountains of Chili and Argentina . . .), the plants are notably chosen for their capacity to adapt to the climatic conditions of Western Europe.  Numerous plants from the former wall will be preserved and re-planted in the new wall:  Bromeliads, Corydalis . . . .

At the vertical

The technique of the vegetated wall consists of a superimposition of three elements:  A mineral wool insulation complex and a fixed steel mesh on a metal structure, a ten-millimeter expanded PVC foil, and a three-millimeter polyamide felt made of recycled old clothes.   This felt has a strong capacity for capillary action and retention of water, enabling the development of the roots of the plants. The watering, controlled by the electrovannes, is done via the drippers situated on the irrigation lines installed at different heights on the wall.

An eco-responsible project

Reservoir of biodiversity and of urban ecology, the vegetated wall contributes to the preservation and the reinforcement of nature in Paris.  Its contribution to the quality of the air is clear:  thanks to photosynthesis and to micro-organisms living in the roots, the plants exert a purification in the urban setting – absorption of gas, fine particles, and other elements tied to pollution.  The cushion of air separating the supporting structure from the building also makes excellent natural insulation, on a vast surface, reducing the need for air conditioning in the summer and the necessity for heating during the winter.  The work on the future wall will permit the perfection of the watering system as well to reduce the consumption of water.

The improvements made
Mother Nature's attempt at a vegetated wall on the
floodwall of the Seine.

The principal work consists of resizing the metal structure.  The fixation method for the PVC layers will be modified, to facilitate the maintenance and the work on the wall, augmenting the number of points of fixation.  A support grid for the plants (wire mesh of galvanized stainless steel) will be fixed partway up the wall, in a manner for reinforcing the ensemble of the structure against the effects of the wind.  The joints between the PVC layers will be filled to prevent any infiltration from the back of the complex.  The insulation will finally be thickened to improve thermal performance.

The Campaign “Build the Wall!”

Thanks to the generosity of the public, the campaign for participatory financing organized from May 15 to July 15, 2017, has permitted the museum to finance a third of the costs of the planting of the wall (introducing new species).  The Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac warmly thanks, once again, the donors and the patrons for their contributions to the project.  Thanks to their support, the wall will continue to live long years, with sweetness, beauty, luxuriance, and a positive impact on the environment.

A timeline on the fence  indicates that the work began in July (last month) and will be completed in May 2018.
The Berges de Seine, complete with beach chairs and palm trees (no, this is not Paris Plage).

We continued our normal walk along the Berges de Seine, spotting a plant here and there that Mother Nature was trying to install on the floodwall.  Tom loves the presence of a few palm trees along that stretch of the river.  They remind him of home, of course.

In the short span where we had to ascend to the street (at the eastern end of the Musée D’Orsay), we decided to cross the quay and dine at Le Fregate, a fine brasserie at the corner of the rue de Bac.  We’ve dined there several times in the past. 

I remembered a classic French blanquette de veau that I had there one Sunday afternoon.  Since it was Tuesday, August 15 – a big holiday – I thought the blanquette de veau just might be on the menu again.  It was!  I ordered it, and found it to be a lighter, healthier version of the dish I remember from that Sunday years ago.  Tom just had dessert – a café gourmand and apple pie.

The brasserie is as beautiful as ever, and the service was warm and professional.  

Ceiling at Le Fregate, on the rue de Bac.

After that lunch, we walked on to the Saint-Germain-des-Pres neighborhood.  Right there, on the corner by the church of Saint-Germain-des-Pres, we saw the musicians of the group La Planche a Dixie performing, just as we’ve seen them there on many Sundays in the past.  The leader of the group, Christian Giovanardi, is a drummer and washboard player, like Tom.  Out on the street, Christian is playing the washboard, of course, not the drums.

We stopped and listened for a while.  I noticed that Christian is a very good washboard player, but my husband Tom is better.  Tom thinks it is terribly funny that the playing the washboard is something he does so very well.  Why couldn’t it have been the violin, he thinks.

La Planche a Dixie plays on boulevard Saint Germain, and sells CDs.
We already own all four of the group's CDs.

Percussionist Christian Giovanardi plays the washboard.

After a stroll through part of the Luxembourg Gardens, we left that green expanse via the rue de Fleurus, where Gertrude Stein once lived.  Making our way back up the boulevard Raspail, we were able to catch the number 10 metro at Sevres-Babylone to go home in time to rest up for our traditional holiday dinner at Le Tipaza.

We found ourselves on rue de Sevres once again yesterday.  We stopped in Bon Marché to look around the place and to see if the store might have a scarf that I’d like.  We didn’t find the right scarf, but we picked up a couple decorating ideas and admired some of the two buildings’ finely restored features.  Work is still going on in parts of the two structures.
Stairways and escalators in Bon Marche.

A long lunch at Les Mouettes, on the rue de Bac near Bon Marché, restored our energy.  It was the quiche of the day for me, and café gourmand again for Tom (coffee and an assortment of three small desserts – fruit, chocolate mousse, and crème brulée) – a very nice lunch indeed!

Quiche of the day at Les Mouettes -- a savory ham and mushroom.

We strolled over to the Place Saint Sulpice, whose fountain was looking lovely on such a beautiful day.  We toured the inside of the church for what seemed like the thousandth time.  Then it was time to stroll through the Luxembourg Gardens again. 

Included in that stroll were the two gardens south of the Luxembourg.  At the end of that stretch is the magnificent fountain of the four corners of the earth.  Two great fountains in one day! 
The church and the fountain on Place Saint Sulpice.

We ambled along the boulevard Montparnasse, admiring beautiful and famous brasseries like Le Dome and Le Coupole, as well as funky shops like a costume store that posted masks of political figures on its window.  Can you name them all?  (Double-click on the photo to enlarge it.)

Each of these walks – Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s – were about 10 miles long.

Last night, we dined at one of our favorite restaurants, O Fil Rouge, on the rue St. Charles.  The owners and chef have re-opened after an invigorating vacation.  New items are on the menu.  We ordered one of them, duck breast ravioli, as a shared starter.  Then Tom had a delicious steak and fries, and I was back to my usual fish-and-vegetables habit.  But oh, what a special dish this was:  perfectly cooked red tuna on tasty veggies with just a bit of buttery sauce – all topped by a slice of foie gras entier.  The dish practically exploded with flavor.

We shared O Fil Rouge’s unforgettable pain perdu for dessert -- rich, warm, and seductive – just like the summer evening in Paris.

O Fil Rouge's red tuna, "Rossini" fashion.