Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Few Things

Just in case you were wondering which direction to turn to reach the Eiffel tower, some helpful street artist is pointing the way.  The wrong way, by the way.

I had to wonder if this image near the Pompidou center had been commissioned by neighbors tired of the tourist hordes keeping them awake at night.

Numerous art galleries in the Marais turn into fashion showrooms during the bi-annual Paris shows. Some true believer took to the streets to post this on a wall on rue des Francs Bourgeois.

Not exactly Prada, but doing his own thing is M. Poulet.  No, I don't think it's selling clothing for poultry but I didn't stop to make sure.

I've mentioned before the difficulty of finding authentic spicy Chinese food in Paris.  Our most recent find is really upfront about how spicy its food is.  Not only is it called Deux Fois Plus de Piments (Twice As Many Peppers), it has a warning sign for those unaccustomed to eating food that makes your lips and tongue tingle: "Peppers may cause stomach pains and diarrhea.  To be eaten in moderation."

I've been noticing lately that the senior citizen contingent is still active on the streets of Paris.  These geriatric jazz musicians set up in various spots around town and gather quite a crowd when they do.  The contributions probably help stretch Social Security.

This no-longer-young fellow is still having a great time and brightening the place up while getting around the city on his own idiosyncratic wheels.

And this guy is remarkable.  He spent days, if not weeks, calligraphing Rimbaud's longish poem Le Bateau Ivre on a long wall in rue Ferou, not far from the Luxembourg Gardens.  I have no idea if it was a commission or a personal enterprise, but wow!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Rosy Times

Who says it doesn't pay to complain?  I've been complaining virtually ceaselessly (I know you're sick of it, but quit complaining!) about the grim gray spring and summer we've had.  The weather gods have taken notice, and except for an occasional shower or two we've finally gotten some sun the last few days.

 Waking up to sunny skies on Sunday we decided to go to a park, and not just any park but the one with the world-famous rose garden, the Parc de Bagatelle in the Bois de Boulogne.

Bagatelle is actually outside of Paris in the upscale suburb of Neuilly.  Being Sunday, it wasn't easy to map a route on which all the buses were running, but with the metro and some long walks we made it out there.

And so did lots of others.  We waited about 10 minutes in line just to pay to enter, but it was worth it for the gorgeous garden, filled with hundreds of different roses, the blue skies, the green, green lawns which (heavens! it's really not Paris!) were open to picnickers.

We spent a couple of hours wandering the paths choosing the roses we'd plant in our garden, if we had a garden with roses.

And when we got back to the bus stop I noticed this embedded in the sidewalk, just in case nature isn't enough for you.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Almost Like Home, Sort Of

When the New York Times did a front page story on these guys a couple of weeks ago, half a dozen people sent me the link.  Cantine California parks every Tuesday and Friday at the Marché Raspail, my local street market, and so not only did I know about them, I've sampled their goods while doing my weekly shopping.  It was our duty, don't you agree?

The hamburgers are awesome, thick, fresh, and authentic.  The fries could use a little work.  They're too limp.  And much as I hate to say it, the tacos are not worth the effort; the homemade tortillas need to be made in someone else's home.

But the people running it are a lot of fun;  two Jordans, one male, one female, both fluent in French with strong American accents and apparently thrilled to be making a success of it. That's the female Jordan up there, working at her usual fast pace.

The other day when I said goodbye and thanked her, she drawled "Y'all come back now, hear?" in a fake Southern accent, which immediately made me think how cool it would be if they offered barbecued ribs.  When I mentioned it to the other Jordan he got a thoughtful look in his eye.  Maybe by the time we get back?

Saturday, June 16, 2012


I can't think of an acronym that feels more right than that for Seasonal Affective Disorder, SAD.

I think I have it. 

The bizarrely wet and gray spring and summer in France (and most of Europe) has brought me down, as we used to say back in the day.

I have a craving for sun so intense that I can practically taste it.  On the odd sunny day (e.g. Thursday of last week. I remember it fondly) it's as if a switch was thrown, bringing a smile to my face and an enormous lift to my spirits.

I'm SAD, to the point that I can't wait to leave Paris. 

I never thought I'd say that.  If you had asked me three years ago whether I'd ever be sick of Paris I would have told you it would happen when pigs could fly.

I saw these little winged porkers just the other day, so there you are.

We're leaving in about 10 days to spend July and August in California.  Yes!!

Friday, June 15, 2012


We wanted another taste of the countryside after our weekend in Normandy, so we got on a train to Tours, rented a car, and took off driving east.  We'd seen many of the major chateaux of the Loire valley before, but the closest one to where we were staying was one I'd never heard of before, Chaumont-sur-Loire.


 It's a true hidden treasure.

Right off the road along the river, you walk up a long, long slope to find yourself crossing thick green lawns studded with contemporary art pieces including spiraling hedges and enormous huts made of twigs, and then you reach a castle so well preserved and so beautifully maintained that you could move in today.

The carvings are sharp and fresh.  The stained glass is beautiful and enhances the views.

The history of the place is written in the armorial crests that include many royals.

All is perfection.  Or so it appears.

And then at one point you choose to follow a sign through a door and you find yourself in a different chateau, one that you aren't supposed to see, and one where the stained glass tells of different things.

This is the backstage, the part that visitors don't know about and that remodeling crews have not touched.  This is the part where the artist who goes by the single name of Sarkis has chosen to install his art.  For Chaumont he has made stained glass panels to hang in the windows of the rooms where the old draperies are folded on the floor,

where the mismatched pieces of armor and old halberds and arquebuses have lain for centuries.

The walls have been untouched for nearly as long and strips of 19th century wallpaper hang from  walls originally built in the 15th century.

Sarkis has constructed leaded panes with images that bear some strange relation to the rooms.  There are images of people, or works of art, of the interior of the dome of Hagia Sofia, of sleeping dogs, or painted tribesmen.

These corridors go on and on and the feeling of displacement becomes stronger and stronger as you no longer see the chateau you thought you were seeing but instead the long-neglected and dilapidated "real" chateau, the skeleton under the sumptuous flesh.

An uncovered window gives a glimpse of the river bank below.

And in another room, the leaded glass offers the same view.

The hidden corridors go on and on.

And quite suddenly you find yourself back on the threshold of that other chateau, the one you started in and you thought was lost to you.

Click here for the website of the Chateau Chaumont-sur-Loire and then click on the video showing Sarkis and work and explaining his vision.  It's in French but worth seeing, even for those who aren't fluent.