Homeward bound: Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited and Empire Builder

Train travel is not for anyone who just wants to get there. The journey itself is part of the pleasure, and it is helpful if you can allow some flexibility in case of unforeseen delays. On our 3-day, eastbound trip in 2013 we allowed an extra day before the Queen Mary 2 sailed. Amtrak was on time. We spent two nights at the Sterling B&B in Brooklyn, where we visited the excellent museum (twice). We also had time to share dinner with Jill and Jerry, whom we had not seen in 40 years. Westbound, we knew that the QM2 would arrive in New York on time, so we booked the train to Chicago for the same day.

If the Lake Shore Limited had been our first experience of traveling by Amtrak, we might not be such enthusiasts. Having traveled west to east in 2013, we knew that there would be problems: the ride is sometimes so jerky that it is difficult to read or write. Some people like having a toilet and sink in each tiny roomette. I grant that it is handy in the middle of the night, but I still prefer them down the hall, because they sit, unenclosed, next to the bed, and there are some things I do not want to share. The water pressure in the sink was so strong that water sprayed everywhere. Track work is underway on part of the route. One hopes that conditions will improve.

Despite the general conditions, a dysfunctional and unforthcoming crew, and late arrival in Chicago, we had a fairly pleasant journey, due to the dining car crew (though not the kitchen crew); the volunteer National Park Service Rangers (who pointed out interesting wildlife and some geographic, economic, and cultural features of the landscape as we traveled through the Hudson River Valley); and re-connection with Sandy and Sam, a couple we had met on the eastbound journey. We enjoyed another dinner with them.

The 19-hour trip took nearly 23 hours, which was stressful for the many passengers who were making connections or being met, especially since we were not kept informed of reasons for delays or given estimated arrival times. The dining room was closed, because the train should have arrived in Chicago well before lunch. We were hungry, and dinner was several hours away. We checked into the waiting room in Chicago and asked if there was time to grab a take-out sandwich at the deli in the station: “If you hustle!” We did, and made it back with minutes to spare. Craig, our car attendant, was standing by the open door holding a big sign with the car number. His consideration was an indication of things to come.

The Empire Builder that runs between Chicago and Seattle or Portland (it splits at Spokane) is a double-decker. There are several separate toilets with sinks, as well as a shower+dressing room, in each car (coach and sleeper; larger sleeper rooms have their own enclosed toilet/sink/shower). The train has an observation car, as well as the dining car, but, unlike the Coast Starlight (Seattle to Los Angeles) it does not have a parlour car for sleeper-car passengers. The Coast Starlight is also the only train with WiFi.  However, our Chicago-Seattle crew was efficient, pleasant, friendly, and cohesive. We were kept informed about delays, with worst-case estimates: psychologically, it is better to be pessimistic and be able to deliver better service than expected than to continually announce additional delays. Passenger trains in the U.S.A. still take a back seat to freight trains, so we sometimes had to wait on side lines. The two-day trip was about three hours late arriving in Seattle, which for us just meant a shorter wait for the 1:45 p.m. Amtrak bus to Vancouver.

During the journey another pair of volunteer Rangers kept passengers in the observation car amused and informed about Minnesota and Wisconsin as we passed through. The latter is the nation’s top producer of cranberries. Several children participated in the information sessions and were installed as Junior Rangers, to the applause of the passengers.

The same food is served as on the Lake Shore Limited, but it was noticeably better prepared. Breakfast and lunch are always first-come-first-served, but one must make reservations for dinner. We chose the 7:30 p.m. slot. Tables for all meals are assigned as passengers arrive: if there are fewer than four in your party, you are seated with others. So far, we have never had a complete dud for a table-mate, and most conversations have been pleasant, amusing, and/or stimulating.

This trip we shared tables with several different people, including Harry, who was re-tracing a journey he had made with his father from upstate New York to San Diego more than 50 years before, and Elle, who had recently been retired (for health reasons, alas) after 14 years in the armed forces, during which she served in more than a dozen countries. For two other meals we sat with Cherie and Chris, nomads who have been on the road together for nine years, progressing from a Teardrop trailer pulled by a Prius to a 35’ converted Greyhound bus pulling a Mini-Cooper. How do they do it? Check out www.technomadia.com.

North America is vast. About half the trip from Chicago to Seattle was spent in North Dakota and Montana; there is a reason the latter is called Big Sky Country! Delays meant that we went through Glacier National Park in the dark, but we saw a lot of beautiful and interesting country, including the Cascades, during daylight hours. The final leg of the train ride was along Puget Sound. The entire coast appears to be open to the public, with many parks full of people on a sunny Saturday. Passengers were startled by a glimpse of sun worshippers (no tan lines on those guys!) waving to us from one of the beaches.
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>> The Great Plains. Montana: east of Glacier National Park …
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>> … taking on water in Havre … endlessly fascinating clouds.
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>> Washington: adding another engine before tackling the Cascades … boat harbour on Puget Sound.

We had only a few minutes to retrieve our checked luggage and board the bus for Vancouver. One of the suitcases did not appear, but Gordon quickly filled in a claim form, and we had one less item to haul off and on the bus for customs at the border. The bag was delivered to the station in Vancouver the next day.

We had talked with my sister Susan before leaving Paris and told her we would get a cab for the short ride from the station, since we could not be sure when we would arrive. However, we also had sent postcards to several friends announcing our imminent return, and our neighbor Steve was waiting for us. He and Anita invited us to dinner, but Susan and Dick were expecting us for a traditional Kelso repast: tamale pie and a big green salad, followed by plum (from their tree) crumble. The next evening we ate lamb burgers with Anita and Steve. A couple of days later we had early aperitifs with Pat and Bruce and dinner with them the next night. A couple of days later we met Danielle at The Bean. Next evening, barbecued chicken with Carol and Sandy, then Pam came to dinner, Gordon met Julie for coffee, I went to the Westcoast pre-staff-meeting potluck lunch… You can see a trend here. We are home!
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Note: Amtrak truly appreciates feedback. Gordon wrote a calm and reasoned e-mail describing our experience on the Lake Shore Limited, comparing it to the Empire Builder. Amtrak’s response included thanks and a $250 travel voucher good for one year. Portland, here we come!

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QM2 carpets

Although there is general continuity throughout the ship, each restaurant, pub, lounge, casino, recreation area, etc., has its own ambience and decor. Here are some of the different carpets found on board:

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Homeward bound: QM2

About four hours after we pulled shut our Paris apartment’s door for the final time, Cunard employees met us as at London’s St Pancras Station and guided us to shuttle buses, where we made sure our suitcases got into the baggage bins. The ride to Southampton and the Queen Mary 2, much of it through green and pleasant countryside, took about as long as the train journey from Paris to London. England looks different from France. It’s something about the architecture and the cemeteries and the parks. And they drive on the opposite side of the road.

A Cunard ship generally arrives in port in the morning and departs with a mostly new set of passengers in mid-afternoon. Meanwhile, it is fueled and provisioned, waste is removed (nothing is jettisoned at sea), and staterooms are prepared. Maintenance is on-going throughout the voyage.

When our bus arrived in Southampton, our rolling luggage was handled by crew and delivered to our stateroom door within a couple of hours… except for the one that had been opened at security in Paris. For reasons undisclosed, but probably those pesky kitchen utensils, it did not arrive until after dinner the second day, much to Gordon’s relief, as it contained his dress shoes, and he did not fancy wearing his tuxedo with his walking shoes even though they are solid black. We always find “security” a bit strange. A pocket knife might be confiscated,* but sharp-enough knives are readily available in the dining rooms, and the water glasses in the staterooms could be broken to make dandy weapons.

The first order of business on any crossing is the emergency procedures drill. When the signal and announcement came, all passengers returned to their staterooms if necessary, gathered up their flotation device, warm clothing, and any medications they require, then made their way, via stairs, to a designated station on Deck 7 (ours was in the Winter Garden). That taken care of, we were free to enjoy ourselves during the seven days and nights at sea. Unusually placid waters made it very pleasant indeed.
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>> Awaiting departure from Southampton. A morning walk around Deck 7.
>> Lounge chairs (Yes, we are still at the dock). Life rafts.

I did not keep a journal during the voyage. We were never bored.

We conversed with many delightful people, including our dinner-mates Penny & Perry from Kentucky and Jacquetta & Bill from Maine; our various Trivia partners; and several Australian couples who were on the third leg of a “Queens” cruise, having already spent a week in the Mediterranean on the Queen Victoria and a week around the Baltic and England on the Queen Elizabeth. The three ships had met in the Mersey River at Liverpool and performed a pirouette to celebrate the 175th anniversary of Cunard. The QM2 is so agile that she slips into berths without the aid of tugs, parallel parking with more finesse than many car drivers I have seen.

We ate delicious snacks and meals. It would have been easy to pig out (many people did). I pretty much limited piggishness to the platters of lox.
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>> Plates ready to be grilled at the buffet; our meals in the Britannia Room were considerably less flamboyant, though very good. Have some smoked salmon?

We walked around the decks (3x around Deck 7 = 1.1 mile) and gazed out to sea, where we spotted a school of dolphins one afternoon. Several people reported whale sightings.

A large, well-equipped exercise room is available at no extra charge, as are indoor and outdoor swimming and relaxation pools. Both Penny and Jacquetta enjoyed the pools, but we never got around to using them. Instead, we indulged ourselves in the steam room, saunas, hot-tub, bubbling/jetting waters, and relaxation room of the Canyon Ranch Spa (6-day pass = $105, 3-day pass = $75). Our backs said, “Thank you!”
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>> The indoor pool on Deck 12 (use included in the price of passage).

We listened to a string quartet, a harpist, and several pianists playing throughout the ship and attended two piano concerts by Dominic John. I enjoyed a recital by tenor Benjamin Makisi and singer-comedian Mike Doyle, as well as condensed versions of “Pride and Prejudice” and “Romeo and Juliette” performed by the six members of RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts). I went to an enthusiastic and very loud review by the Royal Cunard Singers & Dancers. We attended a short show (“Search for life”) in the planetarium and a couple of lectures: “The Blitz” by Joshua Levine and “Gateway to the world: the great port of New York” by Bill Miller. In hindsight, we regretted having missed their other lectures, as well as those by Robert Neal Marshall, John Mariani, and air pilot David Henderson. We played a lot of Trivia** and even tied for top score three times; the first two times we blew the tie-breaker question, but the third time both teams simply shared the glory (19 out of 20).
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>> The Sunrise String Quartet in the Chart Room and Harpist Fiona McGee in the Grand Lobby.***

We did not learn or play bridge or take watercolour or flower-arranging or scarf-tying or napkin-folding lessons or attend lectures about the art and jewelry on display and for sale or participate in the Transatlantic Olympic Games or play darts or bingo or gamble in the casino or dance all night (or at all) in the disco or learn to line- or ballroom dance. Nor did we attend the fruit and vegetable carving demo, though we enjoyed seeing the results at the buffet. We did not go to screenings of “Roald Dahl’s Esio Trot” or “The Theory of Everything” or ”Black Sea” or “Mr. Turner” or “Still Alice” or “Into the Woods,” but I did watch a 3-D version of a stage production of Puccini’s “Madam Butterfly” (and found the special effect pointless and distracting, though the music was a delight). We missed several other RADA workshops and performances.

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>> Panels throughout the ship highlight the history of Cunard Lines, 1840 to the present. Many famous people have crossed the seas on its liners. Several of its liners were requisitioned during wars, stripped of all their finery for the duration. The Carpathia was the first to respond to the Titanic’s SOS. The development of technology is traced, and all the various crew positions are discussed. Philip cheerfully kept our room clean and tidy; he turned our beds down at night, with properly folded night clothes and two pieces of chocolate.

All in all, it was a most pleasant way to cross the Atlantic.****

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>> Traversing the Grand Banks. Entering New York City, with France’s gift to the U.S.A. welcoming us.

Something we hope to remember if we ever take the QM2 again is to roll our own suitcases off at the end of the voyage, a matter of merely trundling them on and off an elevator and down the zig-zag gangway. We could have debarked at least 90 minutes sooner and would not have had to search for our widely spaced bags in the huge hall before going through customs. By the time we secured a taxi into New York, we had to give up our plan of checking bags at Penn Station before meeting our friends Jill and Jerry for lunch.
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>> Jill and Jerry.

Fortunately, staff at the Standard Grill were very helpful about storing six bags while we enjoyed a delicious meal and lively conversation. Jerry directed the next cabbie to the correct entrance to Penn Station: ticket verification kiosks and baggage checking were at the bottom of the escalator, and we easily checked our rolling bags in preparation for the train journey across the northern states.

Oh, yes, the picture you have all been eagerly awaiting…
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——————–
* We met a couple who had been staying in self-catering accommodations during their travels. They checked bags containing good knives on the flight over, but mailed them home rather than risk having them confiscated on the ocean liner. A “left-luggage” service would be a boon: Check those knives when boarding, pick them up after debarking, but before going through processing at the other end.
** We now know that the orange in Orange Pekoe tea is bergamot (i.e., the essential oil of the bitter bergamot orange; I thought bergamot was a flower), that the Daiquiri was invented in Cuba, and that Napoléon Bonaparte designed the Italian flag (even though Italy did not come into existence as a unified country until decades after his death).
*** Our inside stateroom overlooked the Grand Lobby. Although the window did not open, the (artificial) light prevented the  room from seeming like a cell.  We did not feel cramped. There was plenty of closet and drawer space, and even our largest suitcase fit under the bed.
**** For more information about traveling on the QM2 see any number of web sites and YouTubes. Our favourite is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxOSoQFzSjk.

 

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Homeward bound: good-bye Paris

A month ago, after a careful survey, we pulled the door of our Paris apartment closed for the final time. Our keys were inside, and the new tenant had the spare. There was no going back; without a key, only a locksmith or a thief could get in. We trundled our four roller suitcases and four slung-about-our-bodies bags to the taxi stand at the corner of av des Gobelins and bd St Marcel, where we loaded them into a cab for the ride to Gare du Nord. Our driver delivered us in plenty of time to board l’Eurostar bound for St Pancras Station in London.
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>> Good-bye, 25 bd Arago: our apartment was to the right of the tree, second from the top. The tower with the gym and pools is to the left.
>>  Gare du Nord. Eurostar trains leave from the far left tracks.

Although l’Eurostar leaves from the same level as domestic trains, one must ascend to the next level to go through security and customs.* One of our bags was pulled aside and opened by security after passing through the x-ray machine. The main culprit was a bubble-wrapped bundle of peeler, corer, and melon baller, abetted by the bubble-wrapped, macaron-shaped kitchen timer and the almost-full, bubble-wrapped bottle of delicious argan oil. The Opinal paring knife and the three little cans of foie gras were ignored. Nothing was confiscated.

Every day between 06h43 and 21h13 more than 30 trains depart Paris for London’s St Pancras Station. When ours was announced, about 15 minutes before departure, we guided our suitcases down a long ramp, found our voiture, shoved the suitcases into the small storage area, found our seats, stowed soft bags in the overheads, and settled in for the ride, which lasts ±160 minutes, ±20 of which are under the English Channel (la Manche).

We were on our way and could finally say definitively that we had survived two years of wandering the streets and riding the transit system of Paris without being pick-pocketed and without once stepping in dog poop.** What else had we left undone? Although we took the fascinating tour of le Palais Garnier opera house, we never attended a performance there or at the newer Opéra Bastille. Musée Henner (the Alsatian artist’s works) and the wonderful Musée de la Poste (history of communication) were both closed for renovations. We did not join the masses on le Champ de Mars for celebrations of 14 juillet (which the French do not call Bastille Day), though we did watch the 2013 fireworks from the excellent vantage point of Caroline and Guy’s building. We once again did not go to le Château de Versailles. I forgot to buy a stinky-cheese storage container.

More surprisingly, since our original plan was to travel throughout Europe during our second year, we spent little more than a month total outside la Ville de Paris: an overnight trip to Baden-Baden (our sole foray outside France), a week in Antibes flanked by visits to friends in Pignans and Toulon, three days in Normandy, a day in Chartres, another six days in Antibes, and day trips within or just outside l’Île-de-France.

More to the point, of course, is what we did do for two years. Residing in a place is different from visiting a place. Because we would be living there for a year (original plan), we chose an apartment in a neighbourhood of the 13th arrondissement, rather than near popular tourist areas.*** We wanted to become a part of the community. We also hoped that relatives and friends would take advantage of our guest room. They did:
In 2013: Laura & Brian (BC), Linda & Chris (Oregon), Alice & Phil (Oregon), Dorothy (BC), Connie (Nova Scotia), Graham & Klever (Canada & Central America), Estelle & Grégoire & Clémentine (France);
In 2014: Diana & David (Ontario), Lynne & Peter (BC), Susan & Dick (BC), Colleen & Brian & Erin & Nathan (Calif.), Pam & Brad & Al (BC), Ivana (BC), Astrid & Mike (Ontario) & Anne (Turkey), Anita & Steve (BC), Danielle (BC);
In 2015: Diana & David (Ontario) again, Tom & Jeanne (Calif.), Jillian (Alberta), Anne (Turkey) again, Maddie (BC), Nancy (Calif.).
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>> David & Diana, Jeanne & Tom, Jillian.
>> Anne, Maddie, Nancy. (Note that most — we failed to capture some on camera — 2013 and 2014 guests are pictured in Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année! posted 22 December 2014.)

In addition, several people dropped in for drinks or a meal (and sometimes a swim); we did not always remember to take a photo: Avery (Calif.), Lynell & husband & daughter & son-in-law (BC), Katy & Eric (France), Miriam (BC), Caroline & Guy & Clara (France). Valérie came to our apartment almost weekly to try to improve our French language. We occasionally chatted with our across-the-landing neighbours Andrée & Michel and enjoyed two delicious dinners in their home. I came upon Rita & Stan (BC) in le Marais one September day, and Gordon met Huyen (BC) for coffee two days before our departure.
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>> Eric & Katy, Miriam, Guy & Caroline.
>> Valérie invited us twice to lunch in her tiny apartment. Andrée & Michel with grandson Léopold.

I wandered throughout the city, sometimes with our guests, taking myriad photographs. I love digital! One of its advantages is being able to quickly capture information about a painting, an upcoming event, or the variety and display of merchandise (including prices) instead of having to make cryptic notes that turn out to be missing some key bit of information. As time passed, my blog entries became more and more like photo-essays. Since the blogs are there to see, there is no point in listing the topics here, except to say that they range from museums to signs to transit to cemeteries to hair to kitchen appliances to dogs to friends to language to pastries to…

Meanwhile, inclination and uncooperative ankles and knees kept Gordon closer to home, including time on the stationery bike and in the swimming pool at the top of our complex’s tower. He did almost all of the planning, shopping for, and preparation of meals. He also kept up with world events and stayed in e-mail and telephone contact with family and friends. He met weekly with Nicolas and less regularly with Émilie, helping them understand the technical English language of their businesses while they helped him with his everyday French. (I met occasionally with Nicolas’s wife Clarysse for pleasant, but somewhat muddled, conversation.) Gordon got us started on the blog, though I ended up writing more than 90% of it. His writing efforts centered mainly on academic issues: he has registered for classes again at SFU and will be teaching a short course in its Seniors’ program (non-credit, no homework or exams) in September: Plato and Aristotle for beginners.
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>> Nicolas, Émilie, Clarysse.

A few months after our arrival, about the time we decided to spend the entire two years in Paris, we started volunteering at the American Library in Paris, an amazing institution that got its start with thousands of books sent to France for the edification and pleasure of American soldiers during the Great War. At one time it had branches in several cities, but its huge collection is now crammed into a building on rue du Général Camou, steps from la Tour Eiffel in the 7th arrondissement. We spent every Thursday afternoon comparing donations to shelf copies, bundling newspapers for the archives, laminating magazines and children’s books, removing duplicates, shelf reading, re-shelving books and DVDs, and doing whatever else we could to help out. Of course, we always borrowed a bag full of English language books to fill in any spare moments during the week. Check out http://www.americanlibraryinparis.org/

What will we miss, aside from the museums, the art and architecture, our friends, the pastries, the wine, the outdoor markets, the parks, the public transportation…? Stay tuned…

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* Note: When taking roller bags on an escalator, do not push one ahead, as it will cause a traffic jam as you try to get off, due to the little dip in the interface between the stairs and the floor. Instead, step on and pull the bag(s) behind you; they will find their own stair and (unless faulty) will docilely trundle off behind you.
** Alas, I was not completely poop-free, having been blind-sided by a large, fresh mound smack-dab in the middle of the train station in Menton. After nearly falling, shrieking an appropriate word, and shuddering for a few seconds, I reported it to the clerk in the convenience shop, who directed me to SNCF staff, who did not seem particularly concerned, though someone eventually did mark the spot with a little “Attention” sandwich board… which was still in place several hours later when we passed through to our return train. I sensed a strong feeling of “It’s not my job.” On another trip I saw a toddler at CDG airport barf copiously over her father’s shoulder as she was being carried to les toilettes. Everyone, including a woman with a cleaning cart headed for a boutique, merely skirted around the mess.
*** “Near” is a relative concept. We were a 4-minute walk followed by a 10-minute Métro ride from le Louvre and 20-minute walks from le Jardin du Luxembourg and le Jardin des Plantes.

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Lace

[I intended to post this blog before we left Paris, but things got a bit overwhelming at the end. There might be a few more postings about our time in Paris, but the next ones will be about leaving and the journey home.]

While it does not prevent a determined peeker from seeing an interior, lace can make a remarkably effective privacy screen, even when a room is lighted. At the same time, it adds interest and charm to a window. Our favourite sighting of lace curtains was in 2006, when we saw it in gendarmeries (police stations) in the town of Thiers and in a couple of villages.

Parisians also make use of lace, both in businesses and in homes:

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Sometimes the lace is strictly decorative, as on the wire fence in front of UFBJOP Union française de la Bijouterie, Joaillerie, Orfèvrerie, des Pierres et Perles (French union of jewellers, jewelry, gold smithing, stones and beads/pearls) on rue du Louvre:
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Homeward bound…

It hardly seems possible that we have been in Paris for a week shy of two years. However, it is true, and we must depart. Our bags are packed: the same ones we came with, though the contents vary somewhat.

Normally, we would walk to the Port Royal RER station (about 15 minutes) to take the commuter train to la Gare du Nord, but there is extensive sidewalk disruption due to electrical upgrading between our apartment and there, and hauling four suitcases (maximum weight 20kg/44# on the ship), a suit bag, a tapestry briefcase-type shoulder bag, and my MEC purse might be problematic, so we have decided to take a taxi to Gare du Nord, where we will be delivered directly to the Grandes Lignes level, instead of several flights down. From there we embark on the Eurostar to St Pancras in London, where we will be met by the shuttle to Southampton and the QM2. Zip, zip, no overnight in London.

During the crossing, we will not avail ourselves of internet service, which has been described as excruciatingly slow and exorbitantly expensive. Neither will we be blogging from the train across the U.S.ofA. This is the last blog we are sending from Paris. However, there are still many photographs and ideas waiting for their turn, so you might receive some posts from Vancouver.

Meanwhile, thank you to all of our friends and family who read the blog (or at least looked at the pictures) and especially those who sent comments. We know our audience, so here are a few pictures to tide you over:

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>> Somewhere in the 9th arrondissement and somewhere in the 16th.
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>> Yes, cupcakes are making inroads, though they are still usually found only in specialty shops; these are at the well-named Sugar Daze.
>> On rue Montorgueil.

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Guimet: 2000 years of Asian theatre

Once again we went to le Musée Guimet and burned out before we could do justice to the permanent collection, which is varied and extensive, comprising art in many forms from across Asia. The current exposition is titled Du Nô à Mata Hari: 2000 ans de théâtre en Asie (From Noh to Mata Hari: 2000 years of theatre in Asia). An associated exposition is called Japon, images d’acteurs: estampes du Kabuki au 18e siècle (Japan, images of actors: prints of the Kabuki of the 18th century).*

Here are a few samples of what is in the temporary show.

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>> A selection of masks used in South Asian performances.
>> Indian cinema draws on the same epics depicted in traditional theatre. This is a portable projector that could be set up to show movies in even the smallest and most remote villages: 20th c., wood, metal, glass, paint.
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>> Costumes made of wood, textiles, mirrors, paper, and feathers, Kerala, India, 1970, for productions about Ravana, the demon with 10 heads, king of Lanka, and about Hanuman, the general of the army of monkeys.
>> This is a detail of a cloth made in Bali at the turn of the 19-20th c., depicting Le Barattage de la Mer de Lait (The Churning of the Sea of Milk), a scene from the Mahabharata. I wonder if it turned into ghee, rather than butter.
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>> Make-up on a kathakali actor, Kerala, India, 1971. A special seed is rubbed on the whites of the eyes to make them red: how’s that for dedication to one’s art?! [The large photograph by Suzanne Held is beautifully sharp and clear.]
>> Krishna driving the chariot of Arjuna to the battle of Kurukshetra, where he sees family and friends on both sides, making him reluctant to join in the fighting. Krishna points out that Arjuna has no choice: he must follow his destiny. Terra cotta, wood, and wire, c.1930.
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>> Female Wyang guluk rod puppets from Java, Indonesia, 20th c.: wood, paint, cotton cloth.
>> Indonesian shadow puppets displayed in the library.
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>> Peking Opera costume, early 19th c.
>> This Peking Opera costume with a pheasant feather headdress was made before 1966. Both somehow survived the Cultural Revolution.
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>> Two Japanese Bunraku puppets, ±75cm/30″ high.
>> Small, painted wood sculpture of a Japanese Noh actor, carved during the Momoyama period (1573-1603).
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>> Kimonos by Itchiku Kubota (1917-2003). They form both the costumes and the scenery and are especially well suited to Noh dramas. At age 20, Kubota found a fragment of a 16th c. kimono made in the Tsujigahana technique, which used tie and dye, stitching, and painting. He devoted his career to developing a modern version of the technique, shown in detail on the right. The dots of colour are little puffs.
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>> Margaretha Geertruida “Grietje” Zelle (1876-1917) was a beautiful and graceful Dutch dancer and courtesan. In 1905 Émile Guimet invited her to his mansion, where she mesmerized a group of distinguished orientalists with her erotic Brahmin dances, performed in the round library, which had been converted into a “Hindu temple” for the occasion. M. Guimet suggested that she change her name to Mata Hari. She played up the mystique, scandalizing and fascinating many people for more than 10 years. There is some question as to whether she simply got carried away with her image of herself as femme fatale or if she did in fact act as a spy against France, the crime for which she was executed by firing squad in 1917. In this 1905 photo she is admiring the same shadow puppets as are shown above.
>> Photos were not allowed of the Kabuki prints, so I can include only the poster of it.

(For more information, search “guimet paris.”)

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*The former is on until 31 August 2015, the latter only until 6 July 2015.

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