Saturday, August 31, 2019

Here's to hope

Fifteen years ago, we had to leave France early because a Category 4+ hurricane named Charley had hit our island hard.  This week, we watch a Category 4 hurricane named Dorian prepare to hit Florida.  The 5AM update (Paris time) had our island just barely inside Dorian's cone of uncertainty (that's bad).  The 11AM and 2PM updates puts our island just barely outside that cone.  That's a little better, so I can relax now and share thoughts and photos with you.

Sculpture gallery of the Petit Palais, the City of Paris Fine Arts museum.
We've been doing lunch lately (instead of dinner).  Two days ago, we had to go back to the American Library again, so we stopped for lunch just around the corner at Le Relais de la Tour.  Tom had typical late morning brasserie fare: a big omelette with ham and cheese, with a side of fries; I had a small filet of sea bass on a bed of heavenly ratatouille (stewed veggies).  Then yesterday, we stopped in Le Bistrot du Parc on Rue Balard for a fine lunch of beef carpaccio, a burger, fries and salad.  We haven't had beef in quite a while -- or at least, I haven't.

Esperance (Hope), by Carlo Sarrabezolles

The reason we were near the Bistrot du Parc was that we'd explored the Square Carlo Sarrabezolles for the first time.  It was not that easy to find the entrance to this little gem of a park, but it was worth the effort.  The park features much natural vegetation and one of Sarrabezolles' "Esperance" statues in bronze. 

At the other end of the park is a monument to Maryse Bastie (photo below), the French "heroine of the air" like America's Amelia Earhart, except Bastie lived a longer life (1898-1952) than Earhart did (1897-1937).

Bastie came from an impoverished background, and was a single mom due to an early failed marriage.  Then her child died at a young age.  A second marriage to Louis Bastie, a World War I pilot, was good, and it caused her to become interested in aviation.  But Louis died in a plane crash in 1926.  To support herself, Bastie did aerobatics.  She set plenty of records for women in aviation in the 1930s, and for her accomplishments she was inducted in the French Legion of Honor.  She started her own flying school, and she served in the French Air Force, achieving the rank of captain.  She died when her plane crashed in 1952, and she is one of the notables buried in the Montparnasse Cemetery.

On our way home after lunch we paused briefly in the Grenelle Cemetery.  It is much smaller than the Montparnasse Cemetery, but still retains the small town charm that it has always had.

Grenelle Cemetery
This afternoon will be very warm/almost hot, so I walked this morning up to the Petit Palais.  I went in, walked around in the air conditioned galleries, and took in some of my favorite sights in the Permanent Collections on the main level.  By noon I was home, having already walked five and a half miles.

Here are some more photos from the past couple days:

Monument to Lafayette on Cours de la Reine, on the way to the Petit Palais this morning.

A few of my favorite paintings in the Petit Palais permanent collection.  The fabulous, enormous painting above, of a scene in Les Halles in Paris in the 19th Century, is by Leon L'hermitte.

The flour carriers, by Louis Carrier-Belleuse

The lower painting, Grimaces et Misere -- Les Saltimbanques, by Pelez,
is one of my husband's favorite paintings in the Petit Palais.

Flowers in the Grenelle Cemetery

Flower shop on Avenue Félix Faure.

A fabulous Haussannian building on Avenue Félix Faure.

Fountain behind the church of St. John the Baptist of Grenelle.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Celebrate: Eat Dessert First

We weren't expecting much yesterday; just an ordinary brasserie where Tom could have an espresso and pie, and where I could have a glass of wine, at the end of a productive afternoon.  Tom had just finished writing the preface to a new edition of one of his books, I'd started writing a book, and we'd just walked to the American Library in Paris to return and check out books.  It was good to be out of the apartment, which is filled with 10,000+ books.  Books, books, books.

Parc Saint Lambert just before sunset on a lovely summer evening.
Because of the completion of the preface, the occasion called for a minor celebration.  I remembered that there was a brasserie on the Avenue de la Bourdonnais between the rues General Camou and Montessuy which had caught my attention because it has such an honest and classic appearance, and because it isn't big.  It is right around the corner from the American library.

Le Relais de la Tour is the name of the place.  We paused briefly on the sidewalk to check it out.  When we decided to enter, the servers were friendly and welcoming, professional yet humorous.  One showed us to the best table in the place -- a round booth tucked in the corner.  I noted that the decor is an honest, refreshing, non-presumptuous Art Deco.  We were comfortable in our spacious booth.

A couple tables were occupied by older, local residents.   This is a very good sign, especially in a highly touristy area like this neighborhood at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.

The Relais menu proclaims that all desserts are home made, so we ordered a chocolate mousse and a café gourmand.  It was all suberb, and our little desserts were indeed home made from the best ingredients.  You can't fake high quality chocolate! The creme brulée was perfect, and the ice cream in the profiterole was excellent.  I ordered a glass of wine which was not inexpensive, but it was very good.  We like Relais de la Tour very much, and we will return.

Dinner in the evening was just a light meal at home.  Then just before sunset, we walked down to our favorite local park, Saint Lambert, where we sat on a deep blue park bench and took in the sights of families enjoying the cooling evening air in that lovely green space.

Café gourmand at Le Relais de la Tour at 27 Avenue de la Bourdonnais in the 7th arrondissement.
Those two outings plus a trip to the grocery in the morning were more than enough to allow us to complete our daily goal of walking 5 miles.

Here's another photo from Tuesday's evening walk.

Rue de Furstemberg in the 6th arrondissement.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The Paris of Woody Allen

It is not the Paris of Woody Allen.  That's a phrase that is used to describe the parts of Paris that are shabby and unsafe.  Fortunately, most of Paris is the Paris of Woody Allen.

The Seine and the Louvre, at night.
No matter what you think of the man himself, Woody Allen, when he made the movie Midnight in Paris, captured something that many of us feel about this city of splendor and rapture.

In the movie, Adriana says, "I can never decide whether Paris is more beautiful by day or by night."

Some of the most magical scenes in that 2011 movie were made at night.  Now that sunset is at 8:45PM, we are seeing more of that magic than we did early in the summer.

As we walked up the avenues to the Seine last night, we were in the Paris of Woody Allen.  Later, when we left the Seine to walk along the serene Rue de Lille and Rue Jacob, we were in the Paris of Woody Allen.

Street art featuring a beautiful woman, painted on doors in the floodwall of the river's left bank.
In between, we were in the Paris of Woody Allen, but in a place with far more people than I remember seeing in the night scenes of that film.  Down on the left bank of the Seine, between Pont des Invalides and Pont Royal, were droves of people strolling, sitting, talking, eating, drinking, even singing . . . the Paris of Woody Allen, but more festive.

Many cafés have opened along this stretch -- some of them are floating cafés.  It is all very casual; the one fancier restaurant that was attempted under Pont Alexandre III has failed; now that place is a large, thriving pizzeria, serving lots of beer at lots of outside tables; nobody wants to sit inside on a night like this.

The river bank, in the lower part of the photo, and the quai with the Musée D'Orsay in the upper part of the photo.

Up on the quai, even the old-fashioned brasserie/restaurant Le Frégate is now serving pizza, and crêpes.

We'd had a gourmet salad at home for dinner before our walk, but we did stop for refreshments at a crêperie on the bank of the river.  Then we ascended to the quai, and walked down the Rue de Lille.

On the left bank of the Seine, in front of the Musée D'Orsay, looking toward Pont Royal and the Louvre.
Tom did not remember Rue de Lille, with its assorted antique shops.  Peering into the lighted windows of the shops at dazzling chandeliers and fine paintings was a delight.  A few people appeared here and there.  But mostly, it was just us, enjoying the Paris of Woody Allen.

Rue de Furstemberg

The top of the Legion of Honor as seen over the floodwall, from the bank of the Seine.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Our summers in Paris: the book

In what may become the first step in turning this journal into a book, I have started making PDFs of all previous years' journals, going back to 2000.  (The first two years, 1998 and 1999 were written by hand on paper.)

This morning, I finished making the PDFs for August 2003.  This took time, because I had to re-read each one for that particularly unusual month.  In August 2003, a deadly heat wave plagued Paris for a couple weeks.  The aftermath of the heat wave dragged on for a couple more weeks.  In my journal, I chronicled the experience.  I, and others in France, became aware of the disastrous death toll gradually.  Every few days the estimates would rise, significantly.  By the end of that month's journal on August 23rd, I thought the final figure was about 13,000.  In reality, by the end of August, the official heat-wave-related death toll in France was over 15,000.

The Eiffel Tower after the heat wave of 2003 ended.

The air pollution during that 2003 heat wave was horrific.  This pollution damaged my health, and it affected Tom's as well.  Surviving that entire heat wave without air conditioning was not easy.

The heat this summer has been much easier to tolerate, because it has come in smatterings of a day or two here, and three or four days there.  While the air pollution levels have been elevated on some of these days, they have been nothing like the poisonous, visible smog of 2003.

In 2003, I reported on the finger-pointing by French officials who were trying to assign blame for the poor response of the health care system and social services.  Since then, many changes have been made to make certain that poor response will not be repeated.  Since then, the air has become cleaner.  Since then, the apartment where we stay has awnings, more fans, and new, double-glazed windows/french doors.

So on days like today, when the temperature is predicted to be 92 degrees F, the bad ozone level will be merely "elevated," but not extremely dangerous.  We can manage to keep the apartment at least 10 degrees cooler than the high temp for the day, even with its southern exposure.  Rain is predicted for the late evening, and then both temperatures and bad ozone levels will fall.

If you want to read about that historic heat wave of 2003, to get an idea of what it was like, my journal for those dog days is still online at these links:

So yes, I am thinking of writing a book, Our Summers in Paris.  Would you like to read it?

Eiffel Tower and Seine in the air pollution during the heat wave of August 2003.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Inequality, then and now

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, formerly known and the Ministry of Labor, is located in a former stately home called Hôtel Chatelet on the Rue de Grenelle.  The front doors of the ediface have wonderful, polished brass door knockers that look like lions with their feet lazily crossed in front of them.  In 2011, I photographed the door knockers and included them in my journal.  They were in terrible shape then.

Bust of Antoine de Saint-Exupery in the Square Santiago du Chili

Now they look great, but there is always a security guard standing there so I don't feel comfortable photographing them.  Here's a photo of one of them, from  Such irony -- having lazy looking lions on the front doors of the labor ministry.

Something significant happened here in 1968.  As part of the Grenelle Agreements (named for the street upon which this ministry resides), the minimum wage in France was increased by a whopping 35%!  This was part of the strategy for trying to end the rioting.

I passed by those doors a couple times on my morning walk.  I thought about the man who had the palatial home built, the Duke of Chatelet. 

Looking toward the Eiffel Tower from Les Invalides.
The home was completed in 1776.  The Duke was sent to the guillotine in 1793, so he had only 17 years to enjoy living there  --  while the vast majority of the French people were suffering miserably.

The income inequality in pre-revolutionary France was staggering.  I was doing some research on that topic today when I came across a shocking piece comparing what was happening in 1789 in France with what is happening in America today.  This commentary from was published in 2015, before the last presidential election.  Now the economy is shaky.  Look out.

The basic cause of the situation?  The rich not caring about the poor.  If only all rich people would do what Jesus said . . . .

More photos from this morning's walk:

Square Santiago du Chili in the early morning light.  That's Les Invalides in the background.

Flowers from the garden behind the Basilica of St. Clotilde (above and below).

The restaurant Le Basilic in the greenery behind the Basilica (La Basilique) of St. Clotilde.

Place Bourbon, in front of the National Assembly building.

More views of the neo-gothic Basilica of St. Clotilde (above and below).

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Despite the heat, it'll be alright

Rue Las Cases is devoid of commercial activity.  But one building is not entirely residential; its façade has a sign designating it as the "Musée Social."  When we walked past this building days ago, it seemed to be very inactive, but of course, this is August, when many businesses and institutions are closed for vacation.

Still, I wondered, what could this be?  Musée Social?

Flowers on the Place Dauphine.
I know now that it was originally created in 1894 to house documentation from the Social Economy pavilion of the 1889 Universal Exposition.  That year of the exposition marked the centennial of the French revolution.  The new philosophies about how society should be (and is) organized needed to be recorded and organized for this important century of change in the social order.

As the 20th century rolled around, the "museum" became a think tank, or research institute, covering topics within the realms of labor organizing, city planning, and subsidized housing.  Most French people were very poor.  The leaders behind the Musée Social were concerned with their well being, and thought the government actions to address social issues were not bold enough.  Many consider this think tank to have been the impetus behind the creation of the French welfare state.

The Musée Social on Rue Las Cases in the 7th arrondissement.
The first ten years were the heyday of the Musée Social, when its 500 or so members were busy publishing articles, lecturing, and studying.  Many of them also were exerting pressure on the government to institute programs to benefit the needy.

When the feminist Eliska Vincent tried to bequeath her library on feminism to the Musée upon her death in 1914, the institution could not accept the gift because it could not pay the outstanding tax debts on the collection.  The collection subsequently disappeared.

The institute declined greatly after World War II.  Eventually, it became a part of CEDIAS: Center for Studies, Documentation, Information and Social Action.

My walk this morning took me near the Musée Social again.  The morning was cool, but the temperatures today are predicted to rise above 90 degrees F.  This is Day One of an anticipated four-day heat wave.  During weather like this, we open the windows at midnight, and close them at 9 or 10AM.  We do not run the clothes dryer, and we try not to use hot water or electric light bulbs that heat up. In the absence of air conditioning, this is the way to be cool -- or at least, cooler than outside.

On Avenue Bosquet this morning, I was amused to see this graphic painted on plywood construction fencing in front of the Hotel Prince, which is being renovated:

"The Summer will be hot"
The graphic was painted in the late Spring.  How did the artist know that this summer would be hot?

I doubt that we will eat out at any restaurants during these next four days; even the restaurants that claim to be air conditioned are not really very air conditioned.  And there is the problem of getting to the restaurant in the heat.  Having a picnic dinner in the apartment is much more pleasant than going out.

Even with this heat wave, the temperatures in the wee hours of the morning are supposed to be in the 60s F, so we will survive.  Morning walks will be the rule this week.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Finding the most beautiful way

The Montparnasse cemetery was opened in the early part of the 19th Century, when Paris was growing rapidly.  When people died, most had to be interred outside the city limits in cemeteries like this one, Passy, Pere Lachaise and Montmartre.  (These areas were annexed to Paris in about 1860.)

To me, the history of the Montparnasse cemetery site is unclear because the information in Wikipedia conflicts with that of  Which is correct?  Who knows.

So there are either 35,000 or 42,000 plots in the Montparnasse cemetery, and over 300,000 people are interred there.  Montparnasse either was a hill named Mont Parnassus or it was a dumping ground for rubble, and jokingly called "Mont Parnasse."  The cemetery's old windmill (minus its blades) dates back to the 14th Century or the 17th Century.  The land was originally three farms that date back to the Middle Ages or just to the 17th Century.

One thing that seems to be certain is that the land was once owned by the Hotel Dieu (public hospital) and an order of monks (either the Brothers of Charity or the Brothers Hospitallers of St. John of God).  Prior to its official opening as a cemetery in 1824, the land may have been used for burials of bodies that were unclaimed at the Hotel Dieu.

Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre are buried together in the Montparnasse Cemetery (above and below).

In spite of the uncertain history, I like walking in the old cemeteries because they are veritable arboretums, they're quiet and cool, and they have some great statuary. 

The entrance to the Montparnasse cemetery is in the middle of its side along the Boulevard Edgar Quinet.  The best way to go there if you are strolling down the Boulevard du Montparnasse is to turn into the Galeries des Parnassiens, next door to the fancy Brasserie La Coupole.

This covered shopping gallery leads to Rue Delambre and Square Delambre, which ends almost directly across from the cemetery's entrance.

Nikki Saint Phalle, a sculptor, created this monument for the grave of her assistant, Ricardo.
By the time I returned home from this 5-mile hike, the day was warming up.  We didn't venture out again until evening.  For the first time in the 22  summers we've been staying in this apartment, we tried dining at Au Rendez Vous Des Amis, just down the street.  Until last year, this restaurant didn't look appealing to us.  Then something changed.

There was fresh paint, a cleaner look, a new ceiling with new lighting.  White tablecloths appeared.  Daily dinner specials featuring classic French dishes were offered -- but usually only one or two each day, while the remaining menu is couscous and a variety of grilled meats.

A monument in the Montparnasse cemetery.
The prices, in spite of these improvements, are still incredibly low.  We each had three courses last night. Added to that, a big bottle of sparkling water and a generous glass of wine, all for a total of 37 euros.

The food was merely good, not great, but it certainly was good value.  I had a simple tomato and lettuce salad to start with, while Tom had a slice of terrine.  We each had the special of the day, a small sea bass filet en papillote served with yellow rice and green peas.  Tom had a big slice of cream-filled cake for dessert, and I had the home-made dark chocolate mousse.

Early this morning, while still fasting, I did my five-mile trek in the cool morning air in the 7th arrondissement.  I found a prettily charming street, Rue Cognacq Jay, lined with flowering shrubs on both sides, paralleling and near the Seine in the 7th arrondissement.

Flowering shrubs line Rue Cognacq Jay.

Today, the weather is ramping up for another 4-day heat wave, Sunday to Wednesday; then the temperatures will start to descend back to normal.  That means early morning walks for me, and late evening walks for Tom, until Thursday or so.

Here are some more photos from yesterday:

Notre Dame des Champs church on Boulevard du Montparnasse.

Inscription on the gravestone of Gus Erlich, a cartoonist and humorist: 
He was above those religions that make men fight.
He had found the most beautiful way:
he loved everyone.
Love one another and pray for him according to your faith.

Shop on Rue Lecourbe that has been selling honey since 1921.