Hanging Out in Paris

Paris – July 15 and 16

In front of Notre Dame after sunset

I’ve been lucky enough to visit Paris quite a few times over the past several decades and I have yet to get tired of it. I love trying to speak French, sticking metro tickets into the little turnstiles and watching them shoot out the other end, waiting for trains in windy, dry stone smelling metro stations, walking along quiet side streets lined with distinctive grey buildings, drinking a cafe with nothing much else to do… the list goes on.

Roses Tremieres by Berthe Morisot

On our first full day in Paris, we had croissants and coffee at the cafe across the street from the hotel and then hopped on the metro to go to the Musee Marmatton, which is near the Bois de Bologne. We were anxious to see the exhibition of Berthe Morisot’s paintings at the  Marmatton. Also, the  Marmatton is one of my favorite museums in Paris. It’s housed in a mansion on the west side of Paris (the posh side) and houses a wonderful collection of Monets along with great special exhibitions. The Morisot exhibition was extremely well done. It traced her development from her early years and showed how much she accomplished. She was one of the few women impressionists. Her loose brush strokes were even more abstract than Monet’s. She did a lot of paintings of her daughter and portraits of various society women. Morisot has been criticized for being a bit on the sentimental side, probably because most of the scenes she painted were domestic. But Morisot was a middle-class woman who painted what she saw around her. It seems a bit sexist to criticize her for being too domestic. Her brush strokes are certainly anything but domestic! We spent a good long time wandering around the exhibition and then stepped out into a light rain shower and took the metro down to the rue du Rivoli area for lunch.

Even a simple lunch in a cramped cafe right under the arcade on the rue du Rivoli was tasty and relatively inexpensive. The people watching was free.

Part of the fountain at the Pomipdou

We wandered through the Tuileries Gardens — one of my favorite places in Paris–and then over one of the bridges and a good long walk back to the apartment.

In the late afternoon, we set off for the Pompidou Center to see a massive exhibition by Gerhard Richter. I didn’t know anything about his work and so I was in for a great surprise. He was incredibly prolific and did some amazing work over the course of his long career. He’s still alive – around 88 I think — and still painting.

One of Richter’s abstracts – stunning!

Few museums can beat the Pompidou in Paris for its sheer wonderfulness! Room after room after room of amazing works demand that you take advantage of the benches to sit a spell. And then there are the views from the top floors over the roof tops of Paris. The mid evening light poured into the exhibits on the fourth floor (the early 20th century rooms) and turned the paintings golden.

Gregg going down the escalator at the Pompidou Centre
Looking out through a screen to Paris from the 4th floor of the Pompidou
Eiffel Tower from the 5th floor of the Pompidou

We stayed at the Pompidou until closing at 9 pm and then wandered over to Ile de Cite for a look at Notre Dame all lit up. A further stroll led us over to the Ile Ste. Louis where we had dinner at the same place we had eaten at in 2010. The food was just as good – steak with Roquefort sauce for me. It was so good that I had to ask the waiter to wrap up what I couldn’t eat so I could have it for lunch the next day. I wasn’t about to leave it. He didn’t seem to mind – I think he got a bit of a kick out of me asking in my bad French. I didn’t know the French for “doggy bag” (sac de chien?) but he got the idea.

After dinner and a gelato at a place by the river, we wandered back over to the left bank and eventually made it back to the apartment.

The big news came a few days later. Gregg received an email from a curator at the Pompidou Center asking to meet with him on August 7. The curator was responding to a package Gregg had sent him from Vancouver detailing information about the exhibition in Portugal. Fortunately, we are still in Europe on August 7 and can easily alter our plans to sweep through Paris. The curator did not specify what he wanted to talk about so we are enjoying endless speculation. Either he wants to talk with Gregg about an international surrealism show that was planned a few years ago and then was temporarily abandoned or he wants to ask about the show currently in Portugal. We don’t want to get our hopes up but…!  Anyway, we shall see. Just going to the Pompidou to meet with a curator is exciting enough. From a modern art perspective, it doesn’t get much better.

Evening over the Seine

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