In between plumber appointments (and there were FOUR visits involved, including an emergency flooding issue), I've been running around trying to squeeze everything out of Paris that I can. I took a 4 week writing course with WICE that was highly enjoyable and inspirational. My teacher is the editor for a literary journal in Paris, and she spoke on a panel at Shakespeare & Co. with several other journalists and editors about the state of writing, mediums, and cultural differences. Was an interesting talk and I left with an even longer list of authors and publications to read.
I've also been enjoying the festive atmosphere in Paris. I've always struggled with the holiday decor in LA. Lights around palm trees in the 70 degree weather just doesn't scream Christmas to me, though I'm looking forward to being warm again very soon. How cold is it? Not only are dogs taking the metro, but they also have their winter gear on.
The weather does get you in the holiday spirit and Paris is a winter wonderland with Christmas markets set up all over town.
The grand magasins all create elaborate holiday displays. They pick a new designer and theme each year. Galeries Lafayette went with Louis Vuitton toting animals, because of course, your polar bear should be outfitted with only the finest.
They also display a fabulous magnificient, enormous tree inside their beautiful store.
Dior was the inspiration for Printemps super feminine windows of well adorned dolls hanging, swinging and flying over notable Paris landmarks.
We tried to apply the festiveness of the city to a friend's apartment who has accumulated many lovely items from all her visits to the Christmas Markets in France and Germany.
I think we succeeded, and that was even after an indulgent cheese, charcuterie, foie gras and rillettes fest. There may have even been a vodka tasting. It was merry indeed.
I've also been making the rounds of some final museums I've been wanting to visit. I've walked past the Pantheon dozens of times, but just recently went inside to explore.
King Clovis started construction on this site to bury him and his wife in 507 AD. It started as a basilica and wasn't until 1791 that it was turned into the national Pantheon.
You can see the dome from many places in Paris. Supposedly the dome was constructed with such perfection that Foucault used it to test his famous pendulum to prove the earth's rotation.
Downstairs is a sprawling crypt with many French notables buried here like Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, Volatire, Rousseau, and Marie Curie.
I took a trip to the 8th to see the Musee Jaquemart-Andre. It's a 19th Century mansion with some nice collectables from Rembrandt and beautiful paintings and sculpture from Italian artists.
They also had a very impressive exhibit by Canaletto and Guardi, two masters of Venice art. No pictures allowed, but if you're in the neighborhood, go, but prepared to share those beautiful canal scenes with hundreds of other interested fans.
For some reason, I haven't rushed to the Musee de Cluny. I knew it had a famous tapestry inside, but embroidered cloth just doesn't get me going like a nice impressionist painting.
Regardless, I don't want to leave any stone unturned so I went for a visit and found there was much more here than just woven cloth. The museum used to be thermal baths so the architecture alone of the building was beautiful.
And I do have to say, the tapestry, The Lady with the Unicorn, was pretty impressive. They use the same background in 6 different panels with each one depicting a different sense. As far as cloth goes, this one ranks up there, but can't quite compare to the largest tapestry I saw earlier in the year in Bayeux. Who knew I'd ever have commentary, let alone ranking, on tapestry?
Don't yell, but I must admit to making my first visit to Musee de L'Orangerie this week. I know! Actually, if I had known how much I'd like it, it would have been my 10th visit. Les Nymphéas are magnificent. This is Monet's depiction of his Water Lilies at Giverny. He has painted them at different times of day and they are displayed floor to ceiling throughout two large, oval rooms. Silence overtakes the space, even if people don't see the quiet sign. No pictures are allowed, so you'll have to come and (re)visit the masterpiece for yourself.
As if the museum needs anything more than that, there's also a solid collection of Impressionist paintings that they threw in the basement for kicks. I do love me some Renoir and they also had some nice Picasso and Matisse pieces.
All of these museums have brought my desire for Parisian art to a fever pitch. I've wanted a quintessential Paris piece since before I arrived here. I've been looking for the last year and a half, but nothing fit the bill. Some scenes are just a bit too cliche, or too dark - yes, I know Paris is dark most of the year, but it's bright in my heart. So with less than a week to go, I've been making the gallery rounds. I've been passing and admiring a quaint studio on Ile St. Louis since the day I arrived, and for some reason, I've always been intimidated to enter, until this week.
A sweet old man right out of a French painting himself greeted me. Of course he spoke no English, but he very patiently endured my French, and told me he's owned the gallery for over 30 years. I stood staring at a Paris cafe scene that I've admired in the window for months. He said it was his favorite one as well because of the beautiful light and brightness. It's a picture of a cafe on the end of the Ile St. Louis, and one that I've enjoyed many a glass of wine on a warm day. We talked about it, I fell in love (with the painting, not the man), and then somehow did some negotiation, and voila, I bought my perfect French painting, complete with free shipping!
As he was taking my details, I was telling him how excited I was to finally find "the" painting and he was so excited that his favorite piece was going to a good home. I went to shake his hand goodbye, and he took and kissed it. Then he handed me roses (from where I don't know) and wished me a wonderful life back in the US and hopeful soon return to the City of Light. And now the painting means that much more to me and will remind me of my wonderful Parisian memories.