A Travellerspoint blog

January 2015

A Month in Paris in Winter

Day 6: Liberte, egalite, fraternite ou la mort

81B7FAB2B48FA27E10E54BA42ECEB3EF.jpgThere are a million people in the streets of Paris marching and singing in the name of liberte, eqalite & fraternite. There is a heavy police and military presence.

One reason I love travel is how it has broadened my understanding of history and of events I had read about in dry books, or heard about in dusty lectures by pompous professors. The French fought wars for the values they cherish. Today they are fighting a different kind of war, as we all are. An elusive war, not over land or territory or even freedom or religion. We are all fighting, it seems, for the right to live our lives in peace without fear of terrorism and irrational violence. The "enemy" doesn't wear a uniform or any identifiable sign.

It's so different to be in a place where so much history has occurred and is now occurring in real time. Studying about the French Revolution meant little to me. Standing in places where it took place brings it to life and makes it real. Kings and Queens lived here. People rebelled for causes that were comprehensible. The French fought in two world wars to protect their country and their values.

Today millions made a clear statement of unity. Everyone came together to stand against violence and terrorism.

Posted by teethetrav 08:11 Archived in France Tagged paris france war revolution march liberte equalite fraternite Comments (0)

A Month in Paris in Winter

Day 5: Art & Food in Montmartre

The question of "what was I thinking" has occurred more than once. Why come to Paris in the dead of winter when I could have gone anywhere? I now have one answer to that question. I wandered the western side of Montmartre and did touristy things. As I took my time going up and down hills, I realized that this wouldn't be amusing in summertime heat. Spring and fall bring massive numbers of tourists. Today was a perfect day to sightsee in Montmartre. The people in the street were mostly locals carrying their groceries and running their Saturday errands. I'm starting to look so local people stop and ask me for directions.
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I set out to find where the artists had painted and hung out. I more or less just wandered. It's hard to get too lost here if you look up and see Sacre Coeur you can get your bearings pretty easily. I saw Moulin de La Galette which is now a restaurant and appears in paintings by Renoir. I stumbled on the Lapin Agile Caberet where Van Gogh, Renoir, and Steve Martin hung out. Not together. But Steve Martin wrote a play about it by the same title. And who knew there is a vineyard in the heart of Montmartre? It's the only one in Paris.
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Of course I saw the Moulin Rouge and then worked my way up Rue Lepic where the cafe made famous by the film Amelie is.
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Rue Lepic is food heaven, it turns out. There are fish mongers, butchers, cheese and wine shops, and the always tempting boulangeries. I bought a rotisserie chicken and haricot verts. There were many chicken places, but I picked the one with the longest line. I trust locals to find the best food.

The surprise delight of the day (not that I'm taking the chicken discovery lightly) was finding Theo Van Gogh's house. I wasn't looking for it. I have a passion for doors and windows and I stopped to take a photo of a beautiful blue door. I moved in close for another shot and saw a sign stating it had been Theo's home.

In addition to loving Monet, as I wrote about yesterday, I'm obsessed with Van Gogh. Later this month, I am taking a train to Amsterdam to see the Van Gogh museum. Discovering the blue door was like icing on the tarte !
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Posted by teethetrav 06:14 Archived in France Tagged food paris sacre_coeur france van_gogh moulin_rouge moulin_galette montmartre_vineyard lapin_agile renoir theo_van_gogh Comments (0)

A Month in Paris in Winter

Day 4: Impressionism and Terrorism

When I was teenager I bought a poster by an artist named Maurice Utrillo. I had never heard of him, but I was attracted to the style and the scene and the poster hung in my room until I moved out after college. I learned Utrillo was an artist from Paris and I remained a fan until today. As years went by, I learned about the Impressionists and developed a lifelong love for the work of Claude Monet. I visited his beloved home in Giverny fifteen years ago and was enthralled to see where he created the water lily paintings and to discover the story behind his home, his family, and his life. I was most struck by learning about the rowboat he designed replete with a stand for his easel that enabled him to paint from the center of his pond, facing the water, facing his bridge, painting the water he had created, from the water.

On my first and second trips to Paris, nearly fifteen years ago, I tried to visit The Musee de l'Orangerie where his oversized murals were exhibited. Painted towards the end of his life, Monet donated the eight murals to the city of Paris as a haven of peace offering a "refuge for peaceful meditation..." Both of the times I was in Paris, the museum was closed for renovation. Today I got to see the murals.

What makes art great? I was moved as a teenage by the poster by Utrillo. Today, I was moved to tears by the quiet beauty of the murals of Monet's pond and his water lilies. I thought about Giverny and him sitting in the middle of his pond, painting in solitude. Perhaps the sound of birds and his children playing were all he heard. He painted the same scenes again and again; always different in light and movement and yet the same. The willows draping gently, dangling over the water. The colors changing as the hours passed. Morning light, clouds, sunset. Pale blues, dark blues, greens, hints of pink. I sat on a bench and watched people's expressions as they came in. The huge paintings surround you in an oval room flooded with light streaming in from overhead skylights. Their faces, like mine, were awestruck.

Louise Rosenblatt and others have written about art being a transaction between viewer, or reader, or listener and the artist's work. Meaning comes from that experience. Art, books, films, and music have the power to move us beyond word to sheer emotions.

As I sat in this magnificent city built by dreamers and romantics, by lovers of beauty and freedom and ideals, I was struck by the madness going on just outside the city today. A search for terrororists who murdered journalists and police officers is creating havoc, drama, and terror. They murdered people in the name of religion and their intrpretation of their god. For me, God is in the beauty of every day experiences. I don't comprehend people who kill for any reason at any time. They must clearly lack beauty in their lives and therefore, lack the meaning that makes living so worthwhile.

These pictures show flags at half mast, & signs in stores, & graffiti on walls in the city today.
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Posted by teethetrav 08:31 Archived in France Tagged paris de musee monet charlie terrorists l'orangerie je_suis_charlie utrillo Comments (0)

A Month in Paris in Winter

Day 3: There is no bad weather, only bad clothes

The wind howling woke me. The shutter outside my terrace door was banging. It was late for me, but no wonder I slept in. It was still dark as night, raining and windy. Welcome to Paris in January.
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I was prepared. A friend who worked there recommended a Columbia lined raincoat before I left. It has a thermal lining and a hoodie, yet it is light weight. I also own packable light weight rain boots. It took me weeks of buying and sending back boots to find the perfect pair (Zappos must hate me). I highly recommend Packables by Baffin. They roll up and weigh nearly nothing. I bought them when I was going to England because it's soggy there. They pack beautifully. So, I decided to stick to my plan and begin to explore my neighborhood. My immediate goal is to find routes which do not include the stone, steep staircases which surround Sacre Coeur and dot Montmartre. Going down is not the issue. I need to avoid up, except of course for my apartment which sits in the middle of stone steps (see Day 1 for photo).

So I set off to find lunch at a place that was highly recommended called Le Progres. I found it easily and had a hearty, but over-priced chicken with potatoes and vegetables. Nourished, I set off to walk the Rue des Martyrs, a street known for its restaurants, small shops and bakeries. It did not disappoint. I ended up sorry I had eaten already, but will return to eat my way down this street which leads all the way down to the 9th arrondissement. I stumbled onto a Boulanger-Patisssier called Rodolphe Landemaine where I purchased some rolls for tomorrow's lunch and a tempting little tarte tatin. So pretty. As I was paying, I saw these irresistible little pastry balls and asked what they were. The cashier popped one in my mouth. It was light, airy, sugary and perfect. She asked me if I wanted a little bag of them for 3 euros. Obviously I wasn't going to say no. All that walking and hills would kill the calories, I was sure. Fighting the wind and the rain would easily kill the rest.

By the time I trudged back and stopped at Carrefour to buy a few daily groceries , the sun miraculously appeared. It was the first blue sky I 'd seen since I arrived. I'd like to report that the steps to my apartment are getting easier, but that would be a lie. I stop every few steps and rest, especially if I am lugging groceries. But at the end of the climb, sunlight was pouring through my window. I made a cup of tea and ate half of my little sugar thingies. I'm going to have find out what they are called. image

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Posted by teethetrav 08:38 Archived in France Tagged food winter paris france weather rue_des_martyrs Comments (0)

A Month in Paris in Winter

Day 2: Terror and Sales

By now you have heard about the terror attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris yesterday January 7, 2015. I was out and about on my first full day in Paris. You see, Paris has two sales periods per year; one in summer and one starting--you guessed it--January 7. I did not plan my trip around this, but as luck would have it I am here for the sales, les soldes.

I am not an avid shopper, but I have coveted a Louis Vuitton forever and made my way on two metros to the Champs-Elysees to visit Louis. Turns out, Louis never goes on sale. You wouldn't know that from the amount of people in the store and the voluminous number of products flying off the shelves. A bag that I liked was actually out of stock! But one that l loved was right there calling me. It is brand new and has the traditional monogram but a salmon-colored trim and lining, a removable shoulder strap as well as two chic handles. The price? Well, you know what they say: if you have to ask...Since Louis never goes on sale, I will consider this purchase while I am here. The dollar has been growing stronger, so I'll wait it out while I decide.

I walked the Champs along with a massive number of tourists and Parisians searching for bargains. And bargains there are. Everything (except Louis) is 50 to 70% off. Monoprix, H & M, Promod, Zara, everything is on sale and people were out. I window shopped and bought one warm sweater for 12euros (did I mention it's freezing?). I walked towards the Tuileries and watched as workers removed hundreds of wooden structures that had housed the recent Christmas market. At one point, a large parade of police cars went by but no one seemed concerned or like anything out of the ordinary was happening. Eventually, I asked a security guard where the entrance to the Concorde Metro was and he told me. He didn't seem concerned either.

By the time I got back to my apartment at around 3, my mailbox was filled with concerned emails from my family asking if I was alright. I had no idea what they were talking about. I read a link about the attack my son sent me and I turned on the news. Twelve people were dead. Murdered over a cartoon while Paris shopped the sales.

By late afternoon and evening protesters were out in droves wearing "Je suis Charlie" ('I am Charlie) signs. The French refuse to stay in and be afraid. Good for them. Tomorrow I will be out and about. Otherwise, terror wins.

Posted by teethetrav 07:40 Archived in France Tagged paris france charlie terror je_suis_charlie hebdo i_am-charlie Comments (0)

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