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place de la concorde. paris, france.

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paris monday 20 july


today was a long day. eight plus hours and over eleven miles of enjoying paris.


we started at the arc de triomphe. before walking down the champs-elysees stopped at the “le drugstore”. the drugstore had been a famous spot on the champs with a huge bistro area where locals could get a decent meal at all hours of the night or buy groceries late at night. we went there, when we honeymooned in paris, to get our favorite desert, a frozen orange sherbet served in an orange. although there is still a “drugstore” on the same spot, it isn’t the same. there is a small upscale café, a book store and what appears to be an upscale mall. the front of the building now has a tacky metal cladding that makes it appear that it undergoing renovation.


we walked down the champs with its numerous movie theaters (no change) and many upscale shops (think chanel and louis vuitton) but many of the restaurants appear to cater to the tourists and at considerable cost. do you want a macdonalds? it is on the champs, as is Haagen-Dazs and kentucky fried chicken. We also walked the rue du fauburg st hondre with its art galleries and expensive shops ($2000 for a purse!) and past the presidential palace to place de la concorde. our goal was the renovated musee de l’orangerie and its impressionist art. but the sun was shining so we first walked in the tuileries gardens and to the ferris wheel and the other rides and attractions that are set up there every year. what a contrast between the ferris wheel and mid-way attractions against the background of the palaces of the tuileries and louvre museum. where once kings and queens walked……now “common folks” can ride bumper cars.


by now we were hungry and decided to walk over one of the seine bridges to the left bank to get a small lunch at one of the unchanged old fashioned café-bars on the left bank’s latin quarter – La Palette. la palette is a favorite meeting place for beaux-arts art students and a cafe we have enjoyed visiting in years past. on the way we window shopped the galleries (which were closed for lunch) picking out those we would return to after our lunch. at la palette we managed an outdoor table on the terrace in front of the café and enjoyed not only the meal, the wine and the coffee but also watching the comings and goings of the many locals who stopped by for lunch or just a coffee with friends.

interestingly, we continue to be taken for french – until we speak. we got the french menu while the other tourists at the café got the very different tourist menu (in english, italian, german and spanish). on the street today we were asked for directions twice and even when we replied in english the european tourists took our advice seriously.


after lunch, with the stores and galleries now open, we went into a local art store that supplies the beaux-arts students. it was like going into a pharmacy in the days when medicines were compounded for you and only medicine was sold. the old owner was in a suit and the sales ladies wore sparkling while lab coats. many of the art supplies were kept in old fashioned wooden cabinets or drawers. it was a very serious place. the store was itself a work of art with the most colorful displays of colors in the form of water colors, oils and pigments (obviously the local artists and students mix their own colors) and particularly many different types, sizes and shapes of pastels. i was delighted with the choice of pastels, many of which are not available in the US. for over half an hour the delightful owner personally helped her. we kept thinking of how unhelpful an experience it often is to shop for art supplies in new york or in washington and how shopping in paris actually is fun.


then we stopped in a very very small gallery that had some interesting works and talked with the son of the owner (who is also the painter of the works shown in the gallery). i gave him my card and, then in french, asked him to email me after he looks at my web site. at this point i learned that i was some times “miscommunicating” – what i wanted to say was “write to me”…..what i had been saying was “shout at me.” in the past, i was generally understood and no one saw the need to correct my french except this young man and in a very friendly way.


on the way to the next destination a women stopped to ask if she could help us (we were looking at our map). she spoke in english and it turned out at she was from dupont circle, washington, d.c., and was now living in paris and teaching. after some “do you know” with her we were on our way to another gallery. i am currently doing pastels on cardboard and the “gallerie bailly”, on the seine, had a show of an artist who also works on cardboard. i discussed sending examples of her work with the gallery manager and left her my card. this time i correctly said please “write to me”.


then we did some more exploring or rather re-visiting of left bank streets – often saying “remember staying in that hotel, or eating in that restaurant or parking our car in that garage”? we were tired but it was too early to go back to the apartment. so we took the train to the pigalle area and walked around there. the sex shops, strip joints and peep shows were quiet by day as we walked around. we took a picture of the moulin rouge, went to the bathroom at starbucks (they are really a boon for tourists as far as toilets go) and walked around the streets off the sex epicenter looking at art nouveau buildings.


tired we decided to walk home, stopping at what we read was a great bakery. and indeed it was as the baguette we bought there was excellent. by the by – the cost of a baguette, in any store, is about one euro. we passed by a shop that look interesting, with its selection of prepared foods, so we added slices of different pates to our shopping bag – a fine duck pate that i like and a coarser country pate that neal likes and a piece of quiche. a shop across the way provided a head of lettuce.


as we started out long walk home through the crowded streets that lead to our apartment i noticed le sacre-coeur looming in front of us. since it is on the highest point in paris it is not hard to find as you scan the horizon. then i had this wonderful idea --- our street, rue du mont cenis runs directly into the church square so why not walk to the church and walk home from there – a much more interesting way home – and we would be walking down hill. off we set and when we reached the square leading to the church – or rather up to the church – we forgotten that there is a series of steep steps, hundreds of them, that have to be walked to reach the church itself. of course we could take the hill tram, but that is for "tourists", not for us. so up we went, stopping to scan the wonderful panorama of paris when we reached the top. an interesting fact – the church is built of a white stone that has a high calcium content, instead of darkening with time, each rain actually makes the building whiter. almost home and all down hill past smart art nouveau buildings and tiny squares with busy cafes.


finally back home and a light supper of salad, quiche, bread and cheese and a great rich rose from bordeaux that we had bought for less than five euro.


for the evening's entertainment we returned to the "carnival mid-way" in the tuileries garden, still unsure why it was there – so very, very out of place with the environment. it was really colorful, however and we took lots of pictures. on the way home going out of the park it appeared that the entrance we used was gated off. not wanting to take the "long walk" to the next exit we decided to scale the fence. neal, in almost ungainly way, hoisted himself over and i got ready for the climb when we notice another couple open a gate through the fence – there was no way to know, by looking at it, that it was a gate – we laughed and laughed. end of a perfect day in paris.

art outside the edge

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Taken on July 20, 2009