sábado, julio 29, 2006
Fortunately, the temperatures that managed to establish Franceâ€™s hottest July on record accomplished their goal and Paris has cooled down to its seasonal norm. Strolling around has not been uncomfortable on the shady side of the street. Stuffy museums stay stuffy. The HÃ´tel de Cluny while it contained exquisite pieces was tomblike, lacking any form of ventilation. They were extraordinarily proud of their Unicorn tapestries but I promise you, the next time you are in New York, visit the Cloisters on the northern tip of Manhattan Island (our Unicorn is better than your Unicorn.)
This afternoon, I visited the Museum of Jewish Art and History, here in the Marais. There were beautiful liturgical pieces, scrolls, candelabra and torahs along with elements of daily life from the Middle Ages â€“ Jews were expelled from France in the 13th Century - and a copy of the declaration giving them full citizenship at the beginning of the 19th Century was on exhibit. But, of course, hovering in the background and in the end, underlying all of the history and the art were the events of the holocaust. I was most affected by the color portraits of contemporary French Jews and their comments about their French-Jewish identity.
I wended my way to the Centre Pompidou, where I discovered they had wireless Internet. I had my laptop with me and sat in relative comfort in the mezzanine cafÃ©, having purchased a tiny Dixie cup of Hagen Dazs ice cream.
This evening, I took a stroll in my immediate area. I headed into the XI e arrondissement, just across the Boulevard du Temple â€“ my street. I discovered many Asian restaurants including a very pleasant looking Thai place â€“ an eminently suitable place for my final Paris dinner. Paris is far from an exclusively French city. On any simple trip across town or anywhere in between, the number of Africans, Asians and Moslems is striking. As I no doubt wrote, that on the train from the airport, I was so reminded of similar trips in New York, but I think that Paris is far more cosmopolitan. My city is more cosmopolitan than your city.
French television â€“ amazingly similar to our own. Iâ€™m watching a fake reality show â€“ survival on a tropical island. But, a few nights ago there was a fantastic competition. Groups, primarily of young people, created theatrical illusions. The strip tease of the invisible man â€“ so cleverly carried out in front of a black curtain. But, the prize winner, and I was totally in agreement, was an apparent ping-pong game in which the players flew into the air to return serves and then gradually the perspective changed and the table and players were seen from above and gradually the perspective returned back to a more usual view. There were at least 11 members of the team, mostly dressed in black, supporting the upper bodies of the players and their fake legs and, of course, lifting and turning the table. How fantastic, a competition which focused on imagination and creativity.
For some reason - blogger is not letting me upload any more photographs - perhaps I have reached my capacity. Here are two recent albums, curtesy of Yahoo:
jueves, julio 27, 2006
miércoles, julio 26, 2006
Steve in the Archives
Jardins de Luxembourg
Tomorrow, I plan to visit the Archives of the Ministry of External Affairs. It is dimly possible that they may have some records of the Eiffel and Companyâ€™s activities in Peru, Chile and Bolivia. I also have to look at South American history. I believe that when Eiffel was working there in the early 1870s, Arica belonged to Bolivia. LeliÃ¨vre, Eiffelâ€™s agent in
Follow-up â€“ the Ministry requires a 2 week prior registration before accessing their archives. Iâ€™ll follow that trail some other year. Meanwhile, this morning I tried to locate Eiffelâ€™s factory. As expected, the neighborhood had changed considerably â€“ now full of 1960s apartments. But, I found a park and shopping mall named after the great man, possibly on the site of his factory â€“ street names had changed.
Pavarotti dans le Metro
After dinner, I decided to explore the Left Bank. I took the Metro to Monparnasse and started strolling to the Quartier Latin. I now know where there is a concentration of movie houses (near the Gare Montparnasse), a possible escape on a hot afternoon later on in the week. I wandered down some small streets and found myself at a back entrance of the Jardins de Luxembourg, just as the gendarmes were ushering strollers out â€“ the park closes at sundown. The light was beautiful and I took many more pictures than I have included here.
Eventually, I strolled down the Boulevard St-Michelle toward the Rue St-Jacques â€“ Cluny Metro station. On the way, I availed myself of one of the new high-tech self-cleaning and free public WCs. In fact, I was reminded of the green pissoirs of my first trip to Paris, in 1962. For my younger readers, these were circular metal open-air constructions that enabled men to urinate with some privacy. I donâ€™t know what facilities were offered women. The new unit comes with sanitary paper, a sink, etc. and once you leave, it is out of commission while it is scrubbed and dried ready for the next user.
I needed several changes of Metro lines from Boule-Miche to the Place de la Republique, the stop closest to my apartment. There were several musicians who boarded the trains offering unwelcome performances. But on the final train, I looked up and there was a black curtain strung between two uprights and a Pavarotti puppet started singing La Dame e Mobile from Rigoletto and mopped his brow with a handkerchief â€“ how brilliant!!!
lunes, julio 24, 2006
Mes chers amis,
You will laugh at me. In looking for a quiet air-conditioned place to eat and read, I entered a Parisian department store â€“ Bon MarchÃ© and found their cafÃ©. A small pastry and an elegant bottle of Norwegian water later â€“ I spent 8.8Euro or $13 for the privilege. Iâ€™m too aware of prices which cramp my style butâ€¦ meanwhile, I can sit here and write this letter to you and they canâ€™t chase me away. I am resting my, oh so tired, feet and gather my strength.
I spent most of the day in the Louvre. The I. M. Pei pyramid and its circulation system manages the crowds very nicely. The distances are enormous and my feet â€“ and everybody elseâ€™s â€“ become a focus competing with the paintings. (I was particularly drawn to the big smooth marble and granite feet on Egyptian, Greek and Roman sculptures.) I fell asleep in one of the lower back supporting couches. Iâ€™ve been in
Last night I dined at a guidebook recommended restaurant, Lâ€™Encrier, near the Gare de Lyon. I selected a complete meal and it was way too much food. Of course, I consumed it anyhow. But, it was the first and only carefully prepared dinner I have had. The main course was, as I was surprised to discover, calfâ€™s liver in a sauce which perfectly complemented its flavor. And then I walked home and had the best nightâ€™s rest.
Today is the final of the Tour de France. Instead of standing along the Champs-ElysÃ©es, I visited the MusÃ©e de Quay Branly, near the Tour Eiffel. It just opened and contains a collection of materials from non-Western cultures.
The building, designed by Jean Nouvel (the architect of the monstrous Opera Bastille) is sited along the
After a Â¾ hour weight â€“ the attendants promised an hour-and-a-half, perhaps their way of reducing the crowd - I bought my ticket and entered a white volume with a white ramp that passed through a dark passage and I was in the exhibition volume itself. The collection is magnificent and well displayed â€“ although there were some strange amorphous leather-like forms dividing exhibits and guide circulation and which morph into seats with their associated video monitors. An important feature of the faÃ§ade is a group of volumes projecting out toward the
Actually, the relation between volumes, textures and landscape is quite satisfying and Nouvel displays tremendous resourcefulness in handling forms at this scale. Perhaps, two or three clear organizing elements in the interior of the exhibition space could have supplied a stronger sense of orientation. Once in the exhibition volume, floors continued to slope â€“ I could never figure out to what purpose other than as another distraction. Last night, I walked past the Opera Bastille on my way back from dinner. There, I expect the interiors were very carefully worked out. Here, I feel itâ€™s quite the reverse.
I must be crazy or Iâ€™m getting used to this
Tomorrow is Saturday and the archives are closed until Monday. I was thinking of a trip to
viernes, julio 21, 2006
Figaro et lâ€™aventure de mes pantalons
This morning I did my laundry.
I accidentally placed my clothes in a machine already occupied.
I left the Laundromat to sit on a shady bench.
When I returned, a frantic Canadian thought that his clothes were stolen.
While waiting for the wash and dry we chatted.
I learned he was staying at the Hotel Beaumarchais
And was departing at noon for Iceland, on his way back home.
When I folded my things, I realized that I had not brought my khakis.
But they were not in the room.
Off to find the Hotel Beaumarchais
And avoid buying new slacks
The receptionist had not heard of any Canadian traveling with his mother
But I decided to wait anyway.
A few minutes later
The Canadian and (certainly not his mother) emerged from the elevator
My pants restored and neatly folded.
Actually, itâ€™s really a rather pleasant place. I go through a not-for-the-public access, around the corner on the Seine side from the main lobby. A staff member takes my passport and gives me an orange badge to wear and I take an elevator up to the 4th floor. After a few false turns, I eventually make my way to a large room with big tables and windows overlooking the Louvre. Fabrice Golec had assembled all the materials I had requested on Tuesday and I started plowing through them.
A few blurry, carbon copy resumÃ©es, some handwritten speeches and finally the letters. The problem with Eiffel research is the great man himself. Everything is Eiffel-oriented and one has to look past him to get some kind of a glimpse at the world that surrounded him and, in my case, at the Latin American activities which occurred despite (or because of) Eiffelâ€™s participation.
Through family letters, I have begun to know M. LeliÃ¨vre, Eiffelâ€™s agent, an old and faithful member of Eiffelâ€™s company and a dear family friend. I stopped (or was stopped because it was 5 pm) at the point that LeliÃ¨vre has arrived with his family in Lima. Tomorrow, I will learn that he died from some tropical disease. One becomes attached to these people â€“ their handwriting, terms of endearment, discussions of wedding arrangements, and business worries. There is something so intimate about reading the actual letters.
It rained last night and the tall windows in my apartment are either open or closed. So, Iâ€™m afraid I did let some rain inside â€“ otherwise there would have been even less air. I had lunch near the Boule Miche â€“ this tiny little stand where the guy toasted panini and made crepes so smoothly and efficiently that even the Camilia Grillâ€™s short-order cooks would have been envious. A tasty toasty panini and a coke for 3 Euros. The best deal in town.
Tomorrow morning I will do laundry and go to the archives in the afternoon. If Iâ€™m lucky I should finish up there and move on to the Archives National â€“ a much more chancy proposition.
Les Archives Nationals
L'As du Fallafel
jueves, julio 20, 2006
I donâ€™t remember a
We all suffer together
Parisians and tourists alike
And humble researchers
Maybe itâ€™s me
I do feel my age
My feet are killing me
Ankles and blisters
And yet every day, I walk miles and miles
The maze of Marais now familiar
I choose routes
And observe changing light and activity
M. Fabrice Golec, at the dâ€™OrsÃ©e Archives is friendly and helpful. The Catalogue sommaire illustrÃ©, a book they published in 1989 allowed me to make a list of potentially useful documents. Unfortunately, this morning there was a previously scheduled event in the graphics archives. Tomorrow, I will start reading letters, speeches and other records of Eiffelâ€™s practice. The kinds of business letters I had hoped to find are not here. But, lets see what might be hidden behind the documents I do have access to.
As a consolation prize, I was given access to the MusÃ©e itself and spent most of the day in blessed air-conditioning. A very well organized exhibit fully exploiting the old railroad station. The big space was divided to provide expansive exhibit spaces without loosing the huge vaulted volume. There was an extraordinary sectional model of the Paris Opera (totally unexpected), showing all of the stage machinery and the spatial sequences. And the Pizarros and Corots â€“ and I found a strong influence of Spanish painting in Manet â€“ especially El Greco.
It's hard to get used to the French keyboard. Touch-typing is out of the question.
A successful morning in the archives - if I am lucky, I may be able to finish up there this afternoon - then it's the Archives National - a short walk from my apartment.