We noticed a new type of entrepreneur on le Champ de Mars recently. Instead of flogging bottles of cold water or little Eiffel Towers, he had a couple of selfie sticks to rent out to people who do not carry their own and whose arms are not long enough to snap a picture of themselves in front of la tour, a practice that is becoming more and more common…

selfie Tour Eiffel selfie Jardin du Luxembourg
>> at la tour Eiffel and overlooking the pond in le Jardin du Luxembourg,
Pont des Arts: getting rid of the locks at last? selfie selfie parvue of Notre Dame de Paris
>> on le Pont des Arts and in front of Notre Dame de Paris,
Jardin du Carrousel: selfie another selfie: Place des Vosges
>> by l’Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel and in Place desVosges.

Fondation Louis Vuitton: inadvertant selfie: G&K in the middle
>> Immunity to selfies is difficult. Here we are smack dab in the middle of this shot of the facade of the new Fondation Louis Vuitton adjacent to le Jardin d’Acclimatation at the north end of le Bois de Boulogne.

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>> The practice has entered marketing culture: “Rent your camera and give yourself a meal.” Or wear a description.

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>> The more things change, the more they are the same.

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Stations of the Cross

Many religions accept a continuum of three realms of existence: earth, humanity, and heaven.  In the human state we lose sight of the connection between the three realms. The religious historian Mircea Eliade proposed “sacred spaces” as those special sites where we are reminded of that connection, and he suggested that all societies have organized themselves around sacred spaces, e.g., cathedrals, sacred groves, Stonehenge. If important religious figures are known, or believed, to have set foot in those spaces, the connection between realms becomes even more intense, and the desire to visit and retrace the “path of the blessed” becomes stronger.  The ritual of the Stations of the Cross is grounded in this pilgrim’s impulse.

Following the via dolorosa, i.e., the events of Jesus’s final hours in Jerusalem, became a primary object of pilgrimage for early Christians and remains so to this day. However, the long trek from Europe to the Holy Land was dangerous, and not even the presence of a Christian Emperor such as Constantine could guarantee a pilgrim’s safety after the collapse of the Roman Empire. As an alternative, corresponding Stations of the Cross were established in Europe, first as outdoor pilgrimage sites, but later within individual churches. If unable to undertake the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the faithful could follow the via dolorosa in spirit. “This tradition began most prominently with St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) and spread to other churches in the medieval period. It is also observed by a growing number of Anglicans, Methodists, and Lutherans. It is most commonly done during Lent, especially on Good Friday.” (Wikipedia)

There are at least three different versions of the Stations of the Cross. The earliest version followed traditional history, but included several Stations that are not mentioned in the scriptures, so in 1991 Pope John Paul II introduced the Scriptural Way of the Cross, aligning Stations with the Bible. Lastly, Filipino Catholics have a version different from either the classic or the scriptural.

In Paris churches, the sequence and descriptions reflect the oldest, traditional version. Here is a sampling of images from 14 different churches.*

Église Notre Dame de l'Assomption SOTC1 Église St Germain des Près SOTC2
>> I – Jesus is condemned to death (Église Notre Dame de l’Assomption)
>> II – Jesus is burdened with the cross (Abbaye de St Germain des Près)
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>> III – Jesus falls under the weight of the cross (Église St Nicolas du Chardonnet)
>> IV – Jesus encounters his mother (Paroisse Ste Anne de la Butte-aux-Cailles)
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>> V – Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross (Paroisse Notre-Dame-des-Champs)
>> VI – Veronica wipes the face of Jesus (Église St Joseph des Épinettes)
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>> VII – Jesus falls the second time (Paroisse Notre Dame de Grâce de Passy – chapelle)
>> VIII – Jesus consoles the daughters of Jerusalem (Église St Laurent)
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>> IX – Jesus falls the third time (Église St Jacques du Haut-Pas)
>> X – Jesus is stripped of garments (Paroisse Notre Dame d’Auteuil, Chapelle Ste Bernadette)
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>> XI – Jesus is nailed to the cross (Église St-Jean-Baptiste de Belleville)
>> XII – Jesus dies on the cross (Paroisse St Médard)
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>> XIII – Jesus is taken down from the cross (Église St François Xavier de Paris)
>> XIV – Jesus is laid in the tomb (Église Notre Dame de Grâce de Passy)

* The Stations are usually well above eye level, so it is not always possible to get an image that I want, especially if a window or other light source is beside or behind it. I use a tiny Nikon Coolpix and never use flash, not only because I think it is disrespectful to any believers who happen to be present, but because flash often washes out colour or creates extra reflections. The iPhoto program allows me to adjust exposure after I download images to the computer, but sharpness is sometimes lost.

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Le Petit Palais

We always encourage visitors to go to le Petit Palais. It is easily accessed, across from le Grand Palais, between le Pont Alexandre III and le Métro Champs Élysées Clemenceau. It is a beautiful Belle Époque building, which was constructed for the 1900 Exposition Internationale; the plan was to demolish it after the fair, but fortunately both it and le Grand Palais were spared. This temporary building was made of stone and marble, with mosaic floors,  painted ceilings, wrought iron railings, and gilded gates. There is a lovely water garden in its interior courtyard.
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>> Stairs.
>> Ceiling of the courtyard arcade.
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>> The courtyard, looking toward the café.
>> Mosaic pool in the courtyard.

Le Petit Palais is one of the excellent, free (for the permanent collection) museums of the city of Paris. It is worth visiting just to look at the building itself. Its permanent  collection is sort of like a miniature, accessible Louvre, with a wide range of items, from Greek drinking cups, through medieval icons and renaissance paintings, to art nouveau and art deco pieces. There is almost never a line-up to get into the permanent collection. (We have also seen several wonderful temporary expositions. We would have had to wait in line for some of those if I had not bought a city museums pass for me and a guest.)
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>> Terra cotta ram’s head drinking cup, Athens, c. 470-460 bce.
>> Faïence plate with a portrait of Charlemagne, c.1870-1875, by Albert Anker (1831-1910) and Théodore Deck (1823-1891).
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>> Woman at easel, 2nd half 17th c., attributed to Jan Miense Molenaer (c.1610-1668) of his wife Judith Leyster (1609-1660) also a painter. Oil on canvas.
>> Marquetry chiffonnière made c.1755-1761 by Michel Bary (c.1690-1761) of bois de rose, amarante, bronze doré.
>> Psyché sous l’empire du mystère, before 1897, by Hélène Bertaux (1825-1904) of bronze forged by Thiébaut frères.
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>> This massive painting called Les Halles would more than fill our living room wall. It was painted in 1895 by Léon Lhermitte (1844-1925) in oil on canvas.
>> Students at atelier Gleyre were required to paint portraits of one another. These 43 were painted in oil on canvas 1860-1868.

One of the pleasures of going to le Petit Palais is having lunch in the garden café, either under the arcade or looking out from the dining room.
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>> Chicken, guacamole, and greens on curry bread, with salad. Winter squash soup.
>> Quiche and salad.

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Treasures of the earth

We went to la Galerie de Minéralogie et de Géologie in le Jardin des Plantes* to see Trésors de la terreWow!  There are great hunks of stone in the adjacent rose garden and by the entrance. Slightly smaller and more obviously interesting (and fragile or vulnerable) rocks and crystals are inside, including a halved geode lined with purple quartz and big enough to hide an adult (curled up). There are dull looking hunks of iron, silver, and platinum; solid and filigree pieces of gold; opalescent and fluorescent stones; geodes and pieces of meteor; gemstones and jewelry; decorative pieces; and two spectacular table tops.

Information panels and interactive stations explain (in French only, alas) about the formation, composition, distribution, mining, uses, cutting, and polishing of the earth’s minerals.

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>>  The display case in the lobby catches attention and piques interest. It includes a slice of rhodonite with dendrites dioxides de manganèse** from Madagascar that looks like a forest on fire and a slice of quartz agate called “Little Phantom” from Brazil that is reminiscent of a famous painting by Edvard Munch.

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>> This microcline amazonite was found in Brazil. It weighs 410kg (902#) and is a good height for sitting on.
>> The puff of mésolite on a hunk of stilbite, habitus fibre-radié was found in India. The mésolite is larger than a baseball, smaller than a softball.

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>> Five examples of fluorite found in France. Other colours are also displayed. Their structures are the same, but their hues are determined by proximity to other substances or elements.*** The colours of the opaque piece of fluorite on the left are determined by rare earths, which might mean that beauties like this are being ground up to make super-strong little magnets and communication devices such as cell phones. Another case displayed translucent rocks that change colour depending on the angle of light.

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>> A sample of a dinosaur bone that was slowly fossilized until all the organic animal matter was replaced by agate, the whole being encased in quartz. It was found in Utah.
>> Most of the samples of meteorites are grey. This fancy slab, found in Chile in 1822, is part of one composed of imilac.

>> The collection includes jewels and decorative pieces such as cups and bowls. One of the most spectacular is a table top (±1x2m, ±3×6′) made in Florence during the 17th century of black marble from the Ardennes region of France, inlaid with myriad pieces of a dozen types of carefully selected and cut stone, including lapis-lazuli, cornaline, agate, jaspe, améthyste, ammonite, and coral. It is as fine and intricate as a Dutch still life.

While we have no plans to add to the three pretty little rocks in our cabinet in Vancouver, I can certainly see how collecting could become an obsession. The range of structure and colour is fascinating.

* No hurry for this one: it is on until 31 December 2018. The gallery is near the entrance across rue Geoffroy St-Hilaire from the Mosque, where you can sit in the garden courtyard and drink sweet mint tea (2€) or coffee (2€) and eat middle eastern pastries (2€). Meals and Turkish baths are also available in the Mosque complex.
** I’m not sure of English names, so have left descriptions in French.
*** My photo of the information panel did not turn out, and I had managed to get only the wispiest gist of the explanation… not that I could have paraphrased even an English language version.

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Café chairs in the 7th arrondissement

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L’Ourcine again

We have found that dining out in Paris differs in several ways from dining out in the USofA or Canada. The ambience is different. If there is music, it is very much in the background; diners do not have to compete with musicians and singers. Consequently, the audio level of conversation is low. I cannot speak to the intellectual level, since most of it is in French. Servers do not introduce themselves. Neither do they interrupt conversations to ask how we are enjoying the meal (and then flit off without listening to any serious answer one might give). The bill is presented only after it is requested by the diner: catch a staff person’s eye, raise your eyebrows, “write”on your palm, or if he is passing by say, “L’addition, s’il vous plait.” Taxes and tip are included in the price; if you are especially pleased with the service, a few coins are sufficient.

And then there is the food. We walked to L’Ourcine for another meal, this time with our Vancouver friend Maddie, who was staying with us for 12 days before continuing her post-high-school “gap year” travels in Europe.
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>> A menu is always posted outside restaurants, so you know what to expect as to selection and price. At L’Ourcine they offer only un menu of three courses for a set price* (not including beverages). Usually we can decipher the menu pretty well, despite the French penmanship (which is remarkably consistent throughout the country), but there were several unfamiliar words on this one. Luckily, Madame speaks some English and was able to translate for us.
>> After we finally decided what we would eat, a “mouth amuser” was served: fennel-absinthe mousse with chives and croutons.**

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>> Gordon chose rémoulade de bulots au curry et pomme Granny Smith (whelks in curry mayonnaise with Granny Smith apple, salad, and squid ink) for his entrée.
>> Maddie enjoyed pressé de kakoo et foie gras, chips de compagne, mesclun breton (a slice of cold meats with a core of duck or goose liver, crispy potato, and salad, with a pickled pepper).
I liked the velouté crémeux de petits pois, croûtons et ciboulette (creamy green pea soup with croutons and chives) so much the last time that I was delighted to see it on the menu again. See picture in blog “Another dinner” posted 28 April 2015.

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>> My épaule d’agneau de 7H relevée au cumin, poêlée minute, gratin de blettes (lamb with cumin cooked 7 hours, served with the gratin of chard pictured below) garnished with little carrot halves, half a tiny turnip, and a couple of oven-dried tomato slices.
>> Maddie’s magret de canard rôti au miel de fleur et grains de coriandre, petits pois frais au lard (roasted duck breast with flower honey and coriander seeds; fresh peas with bacon shown below) garnished with roasted garlic and a little tomato.
Gordon chose the côte première de cochon fermier rôti à l’ail confit, polenta crémeuse (farm pork roasted with garlic, served with creamy polenta shown below) garnished with little carrots and oven-dried tomato slices. See picture in blog “Another dinner” posted 28 April 2015.

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>> The sides come on the side: creamy polenta; chard gratin; garden peas and radishes with bacon; and a few slices of bread, of course.
>> Maddie topped off her meal with ganache au chocolat Guanaja, crémeux mascarpone vanillée, crunch ivoir et amber (a scoop of creamy chocolate with vanilla mascarpone sauce and something crunchy on top).
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>> I chose a “light” dessert of crémeuse de citron jaune servi dans son biscuit croquant (lemon cream in a thin, crisp cookie rim, topped with meringue and candied citrus peel).
>> Gordon went for the nage rafraichie de rhubarbe et framboise, sorbet à la fraise (cloud of rhubarb and raspberries with strawberry sorbet and a crispy cookie).

We shared a bottle of sparkling water from Corsica and a half carafe of red wine, and Gordon and Maddie finished with espresso. Two and a half hours after being seated we bid farewell and stepped out into a surprise misty rain, glad that we had only a three-minute walk to get home.

* Choose one item from each category. Or you can splash out and, for an additional cost, choose something from the supplementary board, e.g., pigeon, rare wild mushrooms, tiny forest strawberries…
** I have left adjectives out of the descriptions, because how many positive words are there to describe a meal? As usual, everything was perfectly prepared, beautifully presented, and delicious.

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The other museum that occupies the vast building that houses le Louvre is Les Arts Décoratifs. It has a large and wonderful collection of decorative art objects (i.e., things that might have a practical use). In addition, many temporary expositions  are staged every year.*  There is way too much to see in a single visit, so one of the mysteries of our stay in Paris is why I did not return to the museum until almost the end.

The main draw for me was the show called Déboutonner la Mode (Unbuttoning Style).** An entire exposition about buttons!?! Well, not exactly, because buttons have a purpose, almost exclusively having to do with fastening and decorating various items of apparel, from the skin out and from top to bottom.

According to the English language brochure: “For the first time, the “Déboutonner la mode” exhibition is unveiling a collection of over 3,000 buttons unique in the world, and also featuring a selection of more than 100 female and male garments and accessories by emblematic couturiers such as Paul Poiret, Elsa Schiaparelli, Christian Dior, Jean Paul Gaultier and Patrick Kelly.
“Acquired in 2012, this collection was classified as a work of major heritage interest by the consultative commission on national treasures. Although small in size, the priceless materials and skills involved in making these pieces dating from the 18th  to the 20th Century can make them fully-fledged objets d’art.
“Produced by artisans ranging from embroiderers, soft furnishers, glassmakers and ceramicists to jewellers and silversmiths, they crystallize the history and evolution of these skills. The button has also fascinated famous painters, sculptors and creators of jewellery, inspiring them to produce unique miniature creations for the great couture houses.”

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>> In the 18th c. the height of men’s fashion was l’habit à la française, a vest, coat (habit), and breeches. Embroidery was done on the fabric before cutting. Buttons, functional or not, were arranged by a strict code indicating status. Their manufacture was also strictly controlled, divided among guilds according to materials and techniques, e.g., patenôtriers (rosary makers) made bone buttons, and only silversmiths could use precious metals. By the end of the century a man’s coat typically had 10 buttons down the front, 2 on each cuff, 2 at waist level at the back, and 2 hidden in the fold of the tails. Only 2 or 3 at breast level had buttonholes.
>> Meanwhile, women’s clothing almost completely lacked buttons, until English fashions became popular, and women’s clothing became inspired by men’s. One of the earliest examples was the redingote, reserved for riding in England, but worn as a full length day dress over a thin linen skirt in France, where the button code was followed. [I could not get a good photo of an old redingote; this is a reprise by Jacques Heim, spring/summer 1938, with fewer buttons.]
>> During the 19th c. men’s fashions became increasingly sober, without embroidery or fancy buttons. George “Beau” Brummell set the style. Buttons still played a role: vest styles changed frequently, and little buttons emphasized their lines. Occasionally, gold buttons were allowed.

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>> The Montgolfier brothers’ 1783 ascent in a hot air balloon inspired la ballomania. Paintings, fans, cups, chairs, and many more items featured balloons. These 6 buttons are made from a variety of materials.
>> Stamped metal buttons made in the late 19th c.
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>> Art Nouveau buttons made around 1900.
>> A selection of buttons from Yves St Laurent.

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>> By the late 1800s buttons had migrated from men’s to women’s garments. They were usually placed straight down the front, lending a balance and symmetry. On the left: button boots and button hook, button cards, and long gloves on the pillar; cape, coat and dress behind.
>> A sheer vest/blouse with decorative, though restrained, buttons, early 20th c.
>> A crêpe, tulle, and silk satin dress with machine made lace and artificial flowers. The front buttons are decorative; a series of hooks and small buttons is used to fasten it.

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>> Summer dress by Paul Poiret, 1920, of ottoman, gold lamé, and passepoil satin; conical buttons of paste glass.
>> Pant suit made by Elso Schiaparelli, winter 1937, for Marlène Dietrich, of silk cloqué with metal buttons.
>> Cocktail dress by Hubert de Givenchy, c.1953, of machine embroidered tulle and satin, with satin-covered buttons. I think the closures of top and skirt are by zipper.

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>> Dress, fall/winter 2011-2012, by Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel. It follows the letter of Coco Chanel’s mandate (“No buttons without buttonholes!”) but I’m not sure she would agree that the spirit of the law has been followed.
>> Two samples of artists and artisans inspired to make buttons: silver by silversmith Georg Jenson in the middle, ceramic by Dada and surreal artist Jean Arp on the right.

This posting barely skims the surface of the show. All of the information panels (but not the individual descriptions) are in French and English. The display of buttons in different materials matches the material with another object, e.g., a leather shoe with the leather buttons, a porcelain vase with porcelain ones, etc. Techniques are explained. Panels about couturiers discuss how they used/use buttons. The final room looks at artists and artisans and the buttons they make.

*In the fall of 2013 I saw a fascinating exposition all about the underpinnings of what we wear: the cinchers and padders that make us look thinner, more curvaceous, wider here, narrower there…
** Until 19 July 2015

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