Friday, September 20, 2019

The Woman with a Monkey

The Woman with a Monkey is arguably one of the most beautiful works in the City of Paris fine arts museum, the Petit Palais.  Years ago, she was on display with all the other statues in the gallery on the main level.  Then she disappeared.  I thought that perhaps she was travelling with the Paris 1900 exhibition which recently went to the U.S.

But in my research, I learned that she is in Room 19 of the Petit Palais.  I think I know why.

She is fragile.  She is made of a combination of gilded bronze and enameled stoneware on a framework of metal and wood, with mortar made of crushed brick and joints of colored plaster.

What a nightmare to try to preserve and protect! 

The Woman with a Monkey now presides over a lovely room off the beautiful back corner staircase in the highly climate controlled lower level of the museum.  There she is protected from accidents as large statues are moved in and out, as they are in the upstairs sculpture gallery.  And in Room 19, she is at home with other beautiful Art Nouveau works.  For example, she faces towards Hector Guimard's beautiful Art Nouveau dining room (below).

The sculptor who made her, Camille Alaphillipe, was born in Tours in 1874 and died in Algeria after 1934.  He won the prestigious Prix de Rome in 1898 for his statue of Cain after the death of Abel.  He was featured in the 1908 Salon of French artists, when he sold this stunningly beautiful statue of the Woman with a Monkey.

The museum's website describes it thus:

Hieratic and mysterious, the work owes as much to the symbolist image of the femme fatale holding an admirer in chains as to the neo-medieval inspiration that was special to its author. The ensemble forms a kind of giant art object, and the charm of its silhouette and its shimmering colours make us forget the technical prowess and ingenuity of this artist who deserves to be better known.

Wow.  Such language!

Camille Alaphillipe went to work as a manager of an architectural ceramics factory in 1914.  I know that many of the French who went to Algeria were poor, and the fact that his death date isn't exactly known implies that he died in obscurity.  What a shame!

Tom and I toured the lower level of the museum -- something we had not done in years.  I was so impressed by the works on display there!  Of course, the City of Paris owns far more art than it can display at once, so works are cycled.  Now there are some very important paintings and other objects on display in that lower level, including some major Impressionist works by Sisley, Gaugin, and Cezanne.

This museum is not to be missed.  And, it is not crowded.  Be sure to go next time you're in Paris.  Admission to the permanent collections of this fine arts museum is free.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Now here's real environmental leadership

Environmental projects abound in Paris.  More are added every year.  In addition to more parks becoming tobacco-free, the City of Paris is experimenting with tobacco-free streets.  In the 15th arrondissement, our very own neighborhood's shopping street, the Rue du Commerce, has been chosen for this experiment. 

The St. Leon church in the Dupleix neighborhood in the 15th,
not far from the Champ de Mars.  This is a charming, quiet area.
It isn't exactly the smoke that is targeted; it is the cigarette butts.  According to the magazine for the 15th arrondissement, each cigarette butt (megot) discarded in the street pollutes 500 liters of water and takes 25 years to decompose!

On our walks, we've been noticing cendriers (ashtrays) that have been installed along public streets.  These look like stainless steel boxes attached to utility poles or trash containers.

The experiment on the Rue du Commerce will involve educating people about the new rule, and giving them warnings (not tickets, at this point).

The Linnette Café, our new favorite place to stop for refreshments
when walking along Avenue Rapp.
Another experiment by the City of Paris involves the installation of solar-powered trash compactors in place of the corbeilles,  or trash containers that consist of a plastic bag hung in a metal frame.  One of the locations chosen for these "Big Belly Solar" compactors is the vicinity of the Beaugrenelle shopping mall, here in the 15th.  The new devices will also be installed near the Montparnasse train station and the Quai Branly.

The compactors will hold 7 times as much trash as the corbeilles, which can often bee seen overflowing with trash, particularly on weekends when people have been partying.

Farmers are called agriculteurs in French, and so farmers in the City of Paris are called Parisculteurs.  Two sites in the 15th are new prizewinners in the 3rd edition of the city's Parisculteurs program.  One site of 1600 square meters will be put to agricultural use by the Chemins de l'Esperance (Roads of Hope) association. 

Several ways to sweeten coffee at Restaurant Stephane Martin.
Another site of 300 square meters managed by the town hall has been awarded to Peas and Love (yes, they really use the English words!), a French association created in 2017.  It is affiliated with the Urban Farm Company, which already has several urban farms in Paris and Brussels. 

In Paris, one of those farms is atop the hotel Yooma, in the Beaugrenelle area.  Reportedly, the Yooma farm has been a huge success.  Another existing project in the middle of the rue Paul Barruel in the 15th is also being used to educate children about urban farming.

The biggest urban farm in the world, according to the 15th's magazine, will open in Spring 2020 on top of pavilion 6 of Parc des Expositions, the huge Paris convention center on the southern edge of the 15th.  The two companies selected to run this farm will employ 20-some fruit and vegetable farmers there.  They'll grow thirty-some species of fruits and veggies, using a variety of modern techniques.
Metal Great Blue Heron statues at Julian, a florist
shop on the Boulevard de la Tour Maubourg.
A movement is underway to close the helioport at the southwestern edge of the 15th because of the air and noise pollution it produces.  Both the mayor of Paris and the mayor of the 15th (who are of different political persuasions) have asked the French Minister of Transport to close this facility, which is adversely affecting 200,000 citizens, according to the mayors.

Speaking of air and noise pollution, I have observed that the French are much better than Americans at using leaf blowers which are battery powered.  These electric leaf blowers are quite powerful and very efficient.  I've seen them in use in Paris parks and along Paris streets.  They are not anywhere near as noisy as gas powered blowers, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, they do not pollute the air.  Why can't Americans figure this out?  Why do Americans want to produce air and noise pollution with gas powered leaf blowers?  It makes no sense.  Only a handful of cities have banned gas powered blowers.  Even supposedly environmentally oriented cities like Sanibel are dragging their feet when it comes to banning gas powered leaf blowers.

More environmental news later . . . .

The Eiffel Tower on a gorgeous Fall day.

Julian, florist on the Boulevard de la Tour Maubourg.

Flowers amid the flowering shrubbery-lined Rue Cognacq Jay.

Chef Stephane Martin serves his signature pork roast
with red cabbage cooked in honey -- a dish for two that
could feed a family of four or six!

Stephane Martin's chocolate lava cake is made with
particularly rich chocolate from Tanzania.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Winding down

What a great place to work on textbooks!  Yesterday, we went to the library to return books and to get our deposit back.  A trip to the library is a mundane errand, but when it involves walking across the Champ de Mars, by the iconic Eiffel Tower, and along quintessentially Parisian avenues, boulevards, and streets, it isn't quite so mundane.

A kilim and a Beluch bag face on display on the Avenue de Suffren.
This year, we needed the American Library in Paris and its resources.  We learned that it has a superb American literature collection, as its name implies.  We also learned that it is a somewhat warm and stuffy building; after the hike from the apartment, it takes a while for me to cool down at the library.  The climate control there perhaps operates on a humidistat.

The American Library has all the latest technology for cataloging, checking out, returning, and searching for books.  It is not for morning people; the doors don't open until 1PM, and they close at 7PM.  The staff does answer the phone before 1PM, however.  The staff members are kind and helpful.  We thank them!

Yesterday's visit to the library will be our last for this summer.  So the staff returned our 60-euro deposit that enabled us to borrow books.  Next year, when we return, we will re-up our membership for four months. 

Tajerrashti, an impressive oriental rug store on the Avenue de Suffren.
We spent a while looking into this shop's window because of some impressive carpets on display.
There  is an embargo against Persian rugs now, so we didn't tempt ourselves by going inside.
However, there are some great rugs from Afghanistan (like the Beluch
bag face on the wooden horse) and Turkey at this shop, and it is
the kind of place that does restoration work and cleaning of rugs.  The shop also
buys good rugs and carpets.

After the library errand, we had refreshments once again at Le Relais de la Tour on the Avenue de la Bourdonnais.  Where we sat at a high-top in the front corner, the window was open so that the berets and refrigerator magnets on display in front of the souvenir shop next door were inches away from Tom's shoulder.  I especially admired the laminated Mona Lisa placemats just to the right of my knee.

We had the same convivial server as before.  He brought Tom a warm piece of apple pie and a hot espresso, and to me he served a glass of chardonnay. 

As we were finishing our refreshments, I watched a middle-aged American tourist make all the mistakes she should not make in Paris:  she did not say bonjour or hello, she just launched into her order to the server, without even a smile!  And she did so in English, without even attempting one word in French.  She did not say please or s'il vous plait when she ordered.  She did not say thank you or merci when her order arrived.  I just cringed.  I cringed.

Evening sky as seen from our kitchen window.
We sauntered home at the warmest part of the day, when the temperature reached 72 F and the sun blazed.  What a lovely Autumn day!

We dined simply at home, enjoying the view from the balcony, and talking about plans for next summer.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The unwitting experts in brunch

The Parisians in recent years have adopted the idea of "brunch" with enthusiasm, especially on Sundays.  Yes, they use the English word for it.  But in reality, I think they've had "brunch" ever since the croque madame and croque monsieur were invented.  According to Larousse Gastronomique, the croques' first recorded appearance on a Paris menu was in 1910.  Basically, a croque is a baked ham and cheese sandwich; the croque madame has a fried or poached egg added to it.  Some places add a little Bechamel sauce.

The park by the Tour Maubourg metro station and taxi stand.
In classic brasseries and cafés, you can order a croque at breakfast time, or anytime throughout the day.  It is often served with fries or a little side salad, or both.  It is meant to be an affordable, satisfying meal.

At mid-day, we were walking our default route along the Avenue de la Motte-Picquet and the Boulevard de la Tour Maubourg while Maria the Cleaner was working in the apartment.  Tom needed to eat, and he wanted to do so quickly so that he could return to the apartment promptly at 1PM to send work to his NYC publisher, just as those New Yorkers were beginning to arrive at the office.

Croque madame
The croque is not only an affordable meal, it is also a fairly rapid one.  We settled into leather chairs at a table in the window of Le Centenaire, a classic brasserie on the Boulevard de la Tour Maubourg.  Without even thinking much about it, I ordered a croque madame and Tom ordered the croque monsieur.  The jolly server took our order, and when we asked for a big bottle of sparkling water, he joked, "Ah, champagne, et croques!"

The croques came with fries and a bit of salad.  I ate all of the salad and very few of the fries.  Fries have to be excellent for me to want to consume those calories.  Those fries were merely good.

The croques were perfect.  The cheese was Gruyere, and the bread was pain de mie, or soft, square bread -- as is typical of a classic croque.
Croque monsieur

We didn't eat the croques in entirety.  Tom slipped part of his croque into a plastic bag to take home.  He did this to avoid the jolly server's scolding him for not eating it all.  He stuffed the plastic bag into his shopping bag.

The server didn't scold me for not eating all of my croque, but he did inquire about why I didn't eat the fries.  I simply replied, "C'est bon, mais c'est beaucoup" with a smile and a shrug (it is good, but it is a lot).  He pretended to frown.

After walking almost 5 miles, we arrived back at the apartment at 1PM, well nourished and fueled for a few hours of work at the computers.  Then we relaxed and eventually walked down to A La Tour Eiffel, the café where we first dined in Paris in 1998.  I don't remember what we ate in 1998, but last night Tom had bass and veggies with potatoes, and I had perch and veggies with rice.  I gave my rice to Tom, who loves rice because he grew up in South Carolina.  Rice is a childhood comfort food for him.  I do like rice, but I especially enjoy seeing Tom enthusiastically eating rice.

The young woman who served us was as nice as can be.  She loved hearing that we first dined there in 1998, and that it was our first dinner in Paris.  She was probably a toddler in 1998.

We were home in time to see a beautiful sunset sky from our balcony.  Here are some photos from the evening:

Bass filets with veggies, beurre blanc sauce, and mashed potatoes,
at Café A La Tour Eiffel on Rue du Commerce, across from
the church of St. John the Baptist of Grenelle.

Special of the day, perch with beurre blanc sauce, veggies, and rice.

Ah, that French bread . . . .

A La Tour Eiffel, a fine café in the heart of the Grenelle neighborhood.

Above and below -- sunset from the balcony, looking over Rue du Commerce.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Taking care of a treasure

At last, the leadership of the 15th arrondissement is building up the will to improve the somewhat-neglected yet wonderful Île aux Cygnes, with its popular walkway, the Allée des Cygnes (Swan's Way).  After decades of what seemed like nobody taking responsibility for this iconic place, the 15th arrondissement's town hall is taking ownership. 

Allée des Cygnes, on the Île  aux Cygnes.  Usually, there are no bicycles on the Allée.
While walking to Rue Lecourbe on Friday, I noticed a flyer posted on a light pole.  Its message was directed at the locals, urging them to vote to support the undertaking of a couple projects that would greatly improve the Île.

The beat-up park benches, particularly in the area near the Statue of Liberty, are being targeted for replacement in these proposals.  More poubelles (trash containers) would be installed to accommodate the waste from the many people who love to picnic on the Île.  The walkway itself would be restored, too.

I am a frequent visitor of parks in the 15th, and I do believe much of the problem is simply that the Île is not maintained at anywhere near the same standards as places like Parc Saint Lambert, where the park benches are cleaned and painted regularly, litter is collected frequently, trash containers are emptied daily, and running water is available.  Much could be accomplished by simply adding the Île to the daily "to-do" list.

There have been a couple improvements to the Île in recent years: (1) the identification of the many trees and addition of educational signs about each type of tree, and (2) the installation of sports equipment in the sheltered area near the Statue of Liberty.

But it is never a good idea to add improvements where there is no plan for regular maintenance.  I just know that the 15th can do a much better job of taking care of the Île because the 15th does so very well with its other parks and public spaces.  Capital improvements alone will not do the trick; regular and attentive maintenance is a must.

Here's a translation of one of the 15th's web pages about the proposed improvements:

Created in 1825, the Ile aux Cygnes is nowadays a popular area for walkers, runners, and joggers. It stretches over 890 meters long, between the 15th and the 16th.  On its downstream end is the statue "The freedom guiding the people" of Auguste Bartholdi [the Statue of Liberty] and on its upstream end, it features the statue "La France Renaissante."  Remarkable for its biodiversity, it is home to nearly 70 different tree species and has become a refuge for many species living on the Seine [including a few swans]. In connection with the Emeriau-Zola District Council, the island has already been upgraded by the creation of an arboretum, the creation of a sports area, and the change of railings of the esplanade. But the main walkway, stairs, and furniture remain in a very old state and require extensive renovation. Given the addition of the Île aux Cygnes within the boundaries of the Seine banks protected under UNESCO, it is more important than ever to restore brilliance to this original and unusual space, as proposed by this project, which is estimated to cost 500,000 €.

Yes, indeed, the recent addition of the Île to the UNESCO world heritage site was an effective way to shame leaders into action, it seems.

Two poubelles at this end of the Allée; these trash containers are plastic bags held in a metal framework.
You notice that the author of the paragraph refers to the Île location as "between the 15th and 16th"?  This attitude is at the root of the problem.  The Île is not BETWEEN the arrondissements; it is within the 15th, according to official maps and according to history; it was created to benefit the ports along the 15th arrondissement side of the river.  These are lucrative ports; they host many a European river cruise ship during Parisian sojourns.

Tom and I took a very slow stroll up and down the Île yesterday afternoon.  I took a small sketchbook with me and started a sketch of the apartment building near Radio France as Tom and I sat on a bench in a shady spot, looking over at the 16th arrondissement.  Lots of folks were out walking along the Seine on the Île; we were fortunate to snag a bench just as a photographer was packing up to leave it.

Looking over at the Joie de Vivre river cruise ship, from the Île.

The apartment building near the Radio France building, in the 16th arrondissement.

Looking at the 16th from the Île.

Under the metro overpass, on the Île, is a popular place to leave graffiti messages.
This says, "Monique, killed by a gunshot by her husband.  104th feminicide."

One of the flyers urging locals to vote for improving the Île.

Where the Allée rises to meet the Pont de Grenelle, where the Statue of Liberty resides.

People sitting on beat-up park benches near the Statue of Liberty.

Uniworld's Joie de Vivre cruise ship, with its lovely scarlet and gray sun umbrellas.

Walking back from the Île, looking at Beaugrenelle and the Front de Seine.

The Joie de Vivre, at the partly shaded Port de Grenelle.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Shop, walk, eat

Friday evening, we dined with Sanibel friends Jane and Marcel once again.  This time, we had a drink in the apartment and then ventured simply around the corner to Le Café du Commerce, where I'd made a reservation by phone.  Le Café du Commerce is not reservable online.

We paused for refreshments at Le Murmure Fracassant
(The Shattering Whisper) on Friday.  It is a brasserie on the Avenue Félix Faure.
Notice the crows in the overhead display cases!
But it is always open, 7 days a week, even on holidays, all the way through the entire summer.  Le Café du Commerce is big, and it is spread out on three levels, with a central atrium open to a glass ceiling that opens and closes according to the weather.  Before the space became a restaurant, it was a fabric store -- hence the need for a glass ceiling that allowed for lots of light.

The servers are appropriately attired in black and white, and they are quite professional.  The restaurant has a fairly extensive menu, which includes many of the French classics that we have come to expect.
Sardine appetizer at Le Café
du Commerce

After a delicious dinner, we walked our friends back up to their hotel on the Rue de l'Avre.  That's a hotel which we recommended to them.  In fact, we've recommended it to many friends over the years, yet we have never stayed there because we have the apartment.  The Hotel de l'Avre has kept up with the times and now has air conditioning.  The location is very convenient, yet the street where it lives is quiet.  We recommend asking for a room facing the courtyard garden.

Earlier in the day, Tom and I found the Rougier et Plé art supply store that is located in our area, on Rue Lecourbe.  While not quite as big as the Saint Germain location, the Rue Lecourbe store is impressive enough.  It occupies a graceful building that was once a workshop or fabric store.  Tall, arched windows line the upper floor's façade on the street side.  Toward the back was an old glass ceiling with metal framed glass panels, some of which could be opened at an angle.

I've been wanting to do some sketching, so I bought two small sketch books, three art pencils, an eraser, and a small pencil sharpener.  So far, I've sketched an image of the sunflower from the center of the Provençale tablecloth on our dining table.  I hope to sketch some more today.

Interesting note about my main sketchbook:  its 67-lb. paper is made in France, but the sketchbooks (spiral bound, with hard black covers) are assembled in China!

A women's hat shop on Rue des Entrepreneurs.
Yesterday was one of those Saturdays when Rue du Commerce is pedestrian-only.  So far, this is just one Saturday per month, as an experiment.  But people of the 15th arrondissement clearly like it.  By mid-afternoon, swarms of locals were walking and shopping on the street.  Pedestrians rule here, unlike back home in Lee County, Florida, which is the most dangerous place for pedestrians in the entire USA, according to one of my dearest friends who is an expert on the subject.

I needed to replace my handbag, which had a broken zipper.  (Zippers are great deterrents to pickpockets.)  So I joined all the other shoppers yesterday.

The first shop I entered, Le Bagadie, sells nothing but handbags and wallets.  The saleswoman was particularly helpful.  First she showed me several Longchamp bags, but as she learned about my preferences, she came closer and closer to finding a bag with the features that I wanted.  Finally, she showed me a Lancaster Paris bag which seemed to be perfect.  But, I explained, I just started looking, and needed to look around some more.  I did say that I thought I'd probably return for that bag later.  It was an expense, and I needed to shop to be sure I had the right thing.

And so I looked in every shop on the Rue du Commerce, Rue des Entrepreneurs, and the entire Beaugrenelle shopping mall that carried handbags.  This took hours, and miles on my feet.  After the Beaugrenelle mall, I returned to Rue du Commerce to check out a few last places.  Then I went back to Le Bagadie and bought that taupe Lancaster Paris bag.

I explained to the saleswoman that I found myself comparing every bag that I saw to that particular Lancaster Paris bag, and all those other bags came up short.  Lancaster is a French leather goods company, headquartered in the 9th arrondissement.  The company was founded in the 1990s in the heart of Paris.  Not coincidentally, France has numerous technical school programs in leatherworking.

Interior of Bernard du Qunzieme.  Notice the many pepper mills
lined up, on display, in the middle.  The Chef recommends a
particular kind of pepper for each dish -- even dessert!
Later, at home, I listened to Tom talk about his day (going over reviewers' comments about proposed new readings in the next Norton Sampler) and transferred the contents of my old, broken-zippered bag to the new French handbag.

Eventually, we decided to dine at Bernard du Quinzieme on Rue des Entrepreneurs.  The walk to the restaurant is pleasant -- down Rue du Commerce to Place du Commerce with its beautiful park named Square Yvette Chauviré, and over to Place Violet and Rue des Entrepreneurs.

On Rue du Commerce, we paused in the doorway of Le Bagadie so I could show the saleswoman the new handbag in use, and how well it coordinated with my dress for the evening.  She smiled said she loved the dress, and that the handbag went well with it.  She is an excellent saleswoman!

Golden bream with julienned veggies at Bernard du Quinzieme.
Dinner was very nice -- rabbit terrine and golden bream with julienned veggies for me, and ham with melon and veal chop with veggies and scalloped potatoes for Tom.  Desserts were a rhubarb concoction resembling profiteroles without the chocolate sauce for me, and a nougat for Tom.  This was great value:  three delicious courses (with properly sized portions) for 27 euros per person.

Even though we've dined at Bernard du Quinzieme only a couple of times, the place has fond memories for us:  it used to be the location of Le Tire Bouchon, a fine bistrot that was run by Isabelle and Laurent Houry.  Nobody makes a tarte fine aux pommes or a pomme purée as well as Chef Laurent does.  He makes so many things so very well!  And you'll never meet a sweeter, nicer person than Isabelle.  We miss having them in the neighborhood!

Here are some more photos:

Veal chop and veggies (above) at Bernard du Quinzieme, along with scalloped
potatoes served on the side (below).

Two kinds of pepper, one for each main course, at
Bernard du Quinzieme.

Desserts at Bernard du Quinzieme:  rhubarb and cream stuffed pastries with pepper ice cream (above),
Nougat with pepper, below.

Starter courses at Bernard du Quinzieme:
ham with melon, above, and rabbit terrine with gherkins, below.

The former town hall for the village of Grenelle was terribly neglected for years,
but now is is properly restored, maintained, and used for community programs.
It sits at one end of the lovely Place du Commerce.

Around the hugging bears statue in Square Saint Lambert are new community
gardens, with apples, ripe tomatoes, peppers, and much more (above and below).
We passed these on our way to Rougier et Plé on Rue Lecourbe.