Date night, July, Manhattan:
Last Friday evening Top Cat swept me off to the Big City.
Fun Time Wedding Shower Takes to the Streets: The Bachelorette-of-Honor posing with New York’s Finest.
It was a beautiful time of day to be in the East Village.
I remember when I had a boyfriend who in the East Village it was a dump…now it’s almost as chic as the Upper West Side:
There’s even a touch of New Orleans in the neighborhood!:
But this I remember from the ’80s — traffic light art installations:
The guy on the left, with the bulging pants pockets: NOW I get why they call them CARGO PANTS!!
I love Manhattan. People live out loud in Manhattan — right on the streets:
I love the flow of humanity, at all hours:
Skateboarders in the flow of traffic:
And this warmed my heart — a young girl reading a book, a real BOOK, while on the go:
Top Cat took me to a sidewalk cafe for a glass (two) of wine, and then we hoofed down to 6th Street for a wonderful Indian dinner.
Scene in an Indian Restaurant, July 26, 2013
Couple in their late 30s, an empty bottle of wine between them. He is going on and on about the injustice of the US government’s persecution of NSA-leaker Edward Snowden. She, who seems to have drunk the greater part of that bottle of wine, has had enough when she lifts her empty wine glass and waves it in front of her, merrily announcing: “And you say J’accuse!”
At 8:30 on a heartbreakingly beautiful Sumer evening we made our way to Webster Hall:
I don’t know if you can read the marquee, but that’s PAUL WELLER! My sweet Top Cat tok me to see my Punk Rock crush!! (I haven’t been to a rock concert (excluding Paul Weller in New York three times, Los Angeles once, London twice) in, oh…ten years. And it’s still as exciting as the first time — Stephen Stills and Manassas at the Philadelphia Spectrum in 1971.)
Oh, lordy, I loves me Paul Weller. It was standing room only in Webster Hall, so I insinuated myself to the front lines:
You remember Paul Weller, right? He’s huge in the UK but known as a “cult” figure here in America so he does very few gigs in the States — six sows in NY, boston, and D.C. this time ’round.
I screamed, and po-go’ed, and hollered the words when he did That’s Entertainment and completely lost it when he did a hard-rock version of my favorite song of all time , My Ever-Changing Moods. I could hardly move or speak when it was over. Good times.
I respect Paul Weller for still rocking the same Mod look that he had when he fronted the Jam in 1979, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE him for rocking the grey hair.
I’ve never been a Stones fan because Mick Jagger makes my skin crawl, all the more so when I see his 70-year old brunette locks. Grey hair is so hard core!
Top Cat loves my grey hair and I love that Top Cat surprises me with tickets to go see Paul Weller’s silver locks. My husband gets me, and my rock and roll crushes. In return, he has my permission to go for it if Nicole Kidman ever requests a late-night back rub from the one and only T.C.
The other exciting news this week is that I got my Majorelle Bleu paint:
I had to get a shot of it in daylight on the glass-topped patio table with my new lanterns.
(Tea bag for scale.) This is the quantity you can order (250 mlk) for $48. It comes from Switzerland, and for all I know the good people at the Majorelle Garden in Marrakech order it from the same factory whenever they have to re-paint the landmarks this distinctive, saturated, intense color:
Just to remind you why it’s called “Majorelle Bleu” — photo taken on my visit to the garden in Marrakech May 2013.
Just for comparison, here are color swatches from my bluest Grumbacher paints (in the little pan-thingy) and my Windsor Newton Artists’s watercolors (in the tube):
I used the tube watercolors straight, no diluting with water.
And then I went outside and photographed the colors in the full sunlight at 3 o’clock Wednesday afternoon for you:
Majorelle Triscuit winner, Bev, has been waiting for this moment. I wanted to dab on the true Majorelle Bleu before I sent her the Tirscuit she won:
I just put this Triscuit in the mail today so Bev, thank you for your patience and I love going to the post office to mail Triscuits to AUSTRALIA!!!
And now, as promised, off we go to my Writing Room.
Truth to tell, it’s not so much a “room” as a corner of a really big den. Yes, that’s a wheel chair. When I had knee surgery last Fall I got a wheelchair and it’s the most comfortable writing chair I’ve ever owned…so I’m still using it.
The floor of our den is black slate, so the wheelchair’s wheels don’t mark it up like the old desk chairs all did. I hardly even think of it as a wheel chair these days; it’s just my writing chair with the handy foot rests.
I have a trash can propping open the door and to my right is a small table with the manuscript on it, where I can lay out pages and measure each for text (see: last week’s post re: what the manuscript of a professional illustrated travel memoirist looks like.).
This is my desk top:
A long time ago I read that it’s best to write facing a blank wall (Annie Dillard says so), so yes, that’s a blank wall in front of me. And that’s a Spode tea cup that is a permanent fixture…
….because it’s where I unload the Smarties, this writer’s preferred Brain Food (duh). Smartie’s are imported from Canada, so they’re gourmet. (Thank you, GG, for the Turkish tile photo to inspire me with another shade of blue!)
Behind me are three windows, the biggest of which is the picture window that lets me keep an eye on the backyard situation, meaning the five outdoor cats who habitate the premises:
However, it’s the indoor cats who are the main, uh, facilitators of my writing life. First there’s Cindy:
And then there’s Penelope:
However, the most dangerous cat in the whole herd is a certain indoor/outdoor cat, who was born feral but has discovered that with a cute face like his a cat can get unlimited door service at our house, giving him free access to all the comforts of home-living while maintaining his independence and his fierce, wild, savage ways. I’m just telling you, so you know what I’m dealing with, that Lickety is one scary, ferocious, desperado.
Don’t be fooled by the beached-whale pose. Lickety is gangsta.
So you can see how frightening it is when Lickety decides to supervise the writing process, up close and personal:
And the way he just makes himself at home…
…sometimes even getting his reprobate brother Taffy in on it…
…oh, the horror.
My June travels included a trip to Brooklyn, to the Museum of Art in that fair borough. Imagine my surprise when a tour bus pulled up to the entrance…Brooklyn? A tourist attraction? I’m so 1980s in my thinking, when I kew Brooklyn as an outer borough, home to the dreaded bridge and tunnel crowd. Now it’s so hip that tour buses schlepp through its streets.
I had to take a picture of the Brooklynite who stuck a pose in front of the tourists and stood there giving them a right royal Windsor Wave the whole ten minutes the tour bus was idling in front of one of the world’s greatest museums that hardly anybody goes to. I must say, as a royal watcher from way back, that her form was spot-on: extra points for degree of difficulty (it was hot out there).
And then I went inside to keep a date with John Singer Sargent watercolors.
John Singer Sargent took his watercolor paints on his vacations and he dashed off pictures as keepsakes meant just for himself, not for sale. Sargent painted supremely tasteful oil paintings and would never have considered laundry a worthy subject for a painting, but on vacation it looks like he was intrigued by the patterns of shadows on white cloth and the haphazard zig-zag of clothesline that makes a quite jaunty composition:
The pictures are almost all about the same size, 14″ x 20″ (35cm x 50 cm). And yes, you are allowed to photograph as long as you don’t use flash.
I probably shouldn’t show them to you because this work makes all other watercolor, especially mine, look pathetic. You can tell that Sargent worked quickly because you can see how the paint seems to retain the gesture of the painter as he sweeps his brush to and fro and comes up with THIS:
Of course I was very interested in Sargent’s garden pictures:
In this Italian garden (below) I see that Sargent laid down an area of light green paint, on the left side of the picture and then painted dark green over it, painting the background over the foreground to make a small lemon tree:
His bold use of a heavy, opaque blue in this picture below is breathtaking:
There were a number of boat pictures too:
Again you can see how slap-dash his brush strokes are, and yet with all that rigging and roping Sargent never makes a single wrong slap or dash, and us, the viewers, are never confused or bothered by the busyness — it all makes perfect sense. Even the way he paints water, with those slashes of color, makes exquisite sense.
There is a 12 minute film shown at the exhibit of a painter named Monika de Vries Gohlke who narrates on Sargent’s use of color and brushstrokes as she copies his painting of a melon boat (below):
I thought it was the wrong choice of painting, in that it is almost abstract and it’s not that much fun to watch someone re-paint an abstract picture, so what she talks about is mostly how Sargent blends color, either on the paper or on his brush or by layering. She doesn’t tell why she chose this particular painting, maybe because she didn’t want to have to deal with the masterful structure or the awesome figures Sargent is capable of rendering with minimum amount of paint, but I admire her nerve (I would NEVER let someone film me trying to copy a Sargent!). If you are interested in seeing the film, click on this link here.
Venice is also a big subject in these watercolors. I liked this one (below) – even though half of this picture is filled with a large, brownish-grey form the total effect is deliciously delicate and atmospheric. How does he do it???
When he does complicated architecture, all he needs are a few pencil lines to indicate perspective and then he drops in the palest, lightest amount of color and voila:
This painting of the Alps (below) is mind-boggling. It’s a few swipes of blue and then some jumbled green washing into more blue and the result is genius:
There were 93 watercolors in all on exhibit, all from a 1909 show of watercolors that Sargent allowed to be shown in New York. He refused to sell them piece-meal; he wanted them sold as a collection. the Brooklyn Museum bought 83 painting for a little over $20,000, and the Boston Museum of Fine Art bought 45 for just over $10,000. In today’s money that equals about $750,000. This is the first time that these two institutions have collaborated on a joint exhibit. I’m glad Sargent got rich from his art. He deserved every penny.
I probably shouldn’t show you these pictures, either, because they are unbearably cute…but Top Cat was doing yard work last month and he left his shovel out by the shed. For some reason, Oscar (the Mayor of the backyard cats, having been keeping things in order on this block for 16 years, becoming part of our herd when his original people next door moved away three years ago) well, Oscar took a liking to this shovel:
These photos were taken over a three-week period:
And this is the last picture I took of Oscar and his friend, Mr. Shovel, on July 9th:
Sixteen years is a good run, and when Oscar’s liver began to go wrong I am happy to say that he did not suffer through a long illness and we were able to make him comfortable in his last days, and for the first time in the ten years I’ve known him he let me hug him. Oscar passed away last Saturday, July 13, in the vet’s office with me scratching his head and saying his name and telling him that he was one of the best kitties ever. We buried his ashes under that bush, in the photo above, where he liked to snooze and keep an eye on garden tools.
I know that a lot of you reading this have been through the same thing with your own dear sweet kittens. That’s why I’m recommending a book written by a cat lover , the title of which is pretty much the theme of anyone who loves their furry friends:
I first read this book in 2001, when it came out, and loved it. It’s not morbid at all, but it is the story of finding meaning and healing in the heartbreak of loving these sweet critters, who we know we will outlive, but who we adore while knowing that we will have to be there for them when their time comes, knowing that we want to be there for them…it’s a strange thing we humans do to ourselves, isn’t it?, when we share our lives with companion animals. How brave, how noble, how foolish it is to make ourselves vulnerable to such hurt, over and over. In the end, it’s not too high a price to pay.
But you know that I can’t leave you on that note. Because Stacy Horn has a new book out, which I heard about four times so far on NPR, all about how to achieve psychological and physiological well being:
It’s a personal story as well as the story of the history and science of choral singing and why people need — crave — music in their lives. The book is getting rave reviews from the Wall Street Journal (!?) and People magazine and is a hot topic on NPR and other press that you can read on Amazon. Readers, I’d be interested to hear what you think of these books when we’ve all read them.
Stacy also has a blog where she posts pictures of her cats and in-depth digressions on the latest news in singing science, Sex and the City filming in her Greenwich Village neighborhood, and other oddball and wonderful happenings in New York City. You can catch up with her blog by clicking onto this link here.
Before I go, I have to tell you that this Venice watercolor by John Singer Sargent was sold at Christie’s auction house in November 2011:
The price was $842,500.
For my next Triscuit, dear reader Joan in Nevada wants me to copy this Sargent painting:
This is his famous Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose. It’s a very large oil painting, property of the Tate Gallery in London. (Sargent was a bachelor — those girls are daughters of an artist friend of his.) I’m considering it…
But I leave you today with a tribute to our dear Oscar, with some of the herd he so ably watched over when he was Top Cat Emeritus in our backyard:
Have a great weekend.
This is a special LOVE edition of VivianSwiftBlog today because it was NINE YEARS ago today that Top Cat and I said I DO.
It was midnight in Las Vegas and Blue Suede Jumpsuit Elvis married us husband and wife. If I had known then what I know now, I would have asked Top Cat to marry me on our second date.
Little did I know, nine years ago, that on my ninth wedding anniversary I’d be blogging about my trip to Tameslouht, Morocco…life is strange.
Tameslouht, according to people who have luxury villas to rent, is a village of extraordinary serenity just 20km from the hustle and bustle of Marrakech.
Professional PR photo.
With views of the majestic Atlas mountains, Tameslouht is a place to refresh the soul and contemplate life’s magnificence whilst gazing upon a killer sunset.
Another professional PR photo.
Blah blah blah…
Yet another professional PR photo.
…and more blah blah blah plus Rin Tin Tin:
This is the weirdest professional PR photo of them all.
Tameslouht just might be all that and a box of Cracker Jack, but the day I went there (May 16, 2013) there was nary a ray of golden sunshine in sight:
It was cool and rainy and the village looked to be deserted:
This is my perfect May 16 place to be because May 16 is the day on which I, every year since 1975, throw myself a Pity Party. Everybody should have one day a year that they devote to a bout of constructive self-loathing and mine is May 16. May 16, 1975 is the day that I left America for my first solo hitch hiking journey in France; I was gone for four months and I was the happiest I’d ever been in all my previous 19 years of life. And every May 16 since then, if I am not on some wonderful, strange, life-altering journey on that day, then I throw myself a Pity Party and wonder why the hell aren’t I on some wonderful, strange, life-altering journey for chrissake.
This year on May 16 I was in Tameslouht. Tameslouht, dear readers, is not a beautiful village. But it beats the crap out of being on Long Island (on May 16) so I was only half-pitiful this year.
Let’s go look at some doors in Tameslouht seeing as how there is not a whole lot else to do in Tameslouht…
…whose name I wish I knew the meaning of because that would be the perfect thing to put here right now.
By the way, “Tameslouht” is pronounced exactly how it’s spelled.
Having seen a fair amount of Tameslouht, I would say that Tameslouht looks very much like itself:
And I say that because this (see below) is the part of Tameslouht…
…that reminds some people of Persia…
…namely the good people at Disney who made the 2010 movie Prince of Persia:
The movie was based on a video game of the same name.
That’s Tameslouht in the background!
No wonder it flopped. I mean, come on: a video game?? It only made $90 million world wide and these days, that’s a flop. If a book makes one-ten-thousdandths of $90 million it is a New York Times No. 1 bestseller. Not for the first time do I realize I am in the wrong line of business.
Everything I know about Tameslouht I owe to the delightful Sara Quinn…
…Peace Corps volunteer extraordinaire who guided me thru the rues of her adopted hometown. In addition to her duties as a teacher of English, Sara and her fiancé, Tameslouht-native Mustafa Ezzarghani put together a marvelous meeting between leaders and members of the Moslem, Christian, and Jewish communities in Morocco:
You can read the article that Mustafa wrote about the conference for the Morocco World News website here and you can read all about life as a Peace Corps Volunteer/Morroco in Sara’s blog here. Sara and Mustafa went to the Majorelle Garden too!! Read all about their visit here.
I love reading Sara’s blog because it reminds me of my own Peace Corps Volunteer days, except for the bits where she actually goes out and accomplishes things, and is beloved by her community, and makes important contributions to the cultural and economic advancement of her adopted country…other than that yeah, my Peace Corps experience was exactly like Sara’s.
Because this is a special LOVE edition of VivianSwiftBlog I have to show you this photo from Sara’s blog of April 5, 2013:
Because this is Mustafa proposing to Sara in a cafe overlooking the Jemaa El Fan in Marrakech:
Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww. I hope Sara and Mustafa will be as happy as Top Cat and I, nine times nine years.
This is Sara and Mustafa when I met them in Tameslouht:
I am in the salon of Madame the President of the Tameslouht women’s crafts cooperative, called Creation Tameslouht.
Creation Tameslouht has a Facebook page:
Madame the President…
…kindly arranged to give me a private showing in her own home:
The beautiful hand-embroidered duvet covers…
…are immaculately sewn with traditional motifs:
The machine embroidery is very fanciful:
And I loved the pockets on this traditional robe:
Which as you can see from these street photos (from Marrakech) are totally authentically Moroccan:
And the hats!!! The ones with the large sequins are heavy, but the one with the crazy cute tassels was feather light:
This cute clutch is only 70 dirham ($9.00), all made my hand:
And this spiffy beach bag is only 80 dirham and is sooooooo cooooool:
This is the gorgeous drape/curtain tie-back that I bought for 100 dirham:
And then there are the scarves:
I’ve never seen scarves like this, all woven by hand, that shimmer:
Or, you can design your own scarf and have it embroidered:
I bought a scarf with colors that reminded me of blue jays and peacocks and when I went back to Paris I wore it with my Seattle fleece and I was ever so a la mode :
There’s nothing like going back to Paris after a 48-hour adventure in Morocco…
…I doubt I would have even noticed, if not for having just been there, this billboard the Paris metro, shouting Become a LANDOWNER in MOROCCO!! Apartments from 24,000 euros, villas from 100,000 Euros. I guess that Morocco is to Parisians as Tempe AZ is to Detroiters.
After Morocco, all there was left to do in Paris except to make the long good-bye …
…to a style of living that you can only find in Paris…
I knew I was going to miss it terribly….
…but every lighted window of Paris…
…just made me feel too far away from home…
Happy Bastille Day, everyone! I hope nobody’s having a Pity Party on July 14 — go get a bottle of champagne and toast your favorite memories of Paris! And if you don’t have a memory of Paris, feel free to borrow any of mine.
And of course we cannot call our visit to Morocco complete without announcing the winner of the Majorelle Triscuit:
Top Cat has chosen his random winner and it is:
Congratulations, Bev, and please email me your snail mail digits at vivianswift at yahoo, before our next get-together next Friday.
Marrakech in five words: Not My Cup of Tea.
I had some trepidations about going to Morocco, alone, having had some previous experience traveling in African and Moslem countries which, being female and an animal lover, did not bode well for this trip. So that’s why I only gave myself 48 hours in Marrakech. It was more than enough.
I had previously arranged to be picked up at the airport (by the way, GORGEOUS airport!!) by the riad, the traditional-style Moroccan villa where I’d be staying, in the kasbah of Marrakech (meaning that I stayed within the walls of the old city):
Well, as you can see, some of the alleys are too narrow for vehicular traffic so we parked the SUV and walked about three blocks to the doorstep. The only luggage I had was a shoulder bag packed with my iPad and extra undies. Marrakech Travel Tip No. 1: No matter how crappy the place looks on the outside, it could be AMAZING on the inside:
Yes, those are rose petals on the bed and on the bathroom sink.
The riad was wonderful, about $120 per night, and having come from cold, rainy Paris it was a delight to see and feel the sun! I went to the rooftop and snooped (I stuck my camera over the five-foot-walls on the rooftop) to see what the neighbors were like:
And then I had dinner and a quick walk around the kasbah in the twilight. Of course I got lost — all the alleys look the same — until a little boy called out to me, Hey Lady! Vous churchez votre riad? Yes, it was that obvious that I was lost but I didn’t really want this kid’s help (I know I would have found my way sooner or later) but he led me to my doorstep anyway and then asked for money. I didn’t have any diram on me and I also had no intention of paying him away. Kids should not be begging strangers for money and I don’t care if it IS the third world. I thanked him, told him he was a very nice boy, and locked myself in my room.
The next morning I discovered that I’d forgotten to pack clean socks. Ew. And it was cold and rainy.
I wandered around the kasbah, looking for my way out. At one point some creep walked up beside me and said, “Bonjour Madame! Remember me? I made you your crepes at the riad!” Of course I did not have crepes at my riad. And he keeps talking to me, about how he can take me to a spice market (You want spices? I show you best spices!).
He went on to tell me that it is a holiday today and all the Berbers were coming down from the mountains to sell their rugs (You want rug? I take you to my friend to see Berber rug!). He was very annoying but I did need to get out of the kasbah so I asked him where I could find a taxi. Where you go?, he asked, and when I said the Jardin Majorelle he said, Oh madame, the jardin is closed today because of holiday, come, we go see Berbers! I hate to admit it, but for an instant I believed him. I had not thought of checking the holiday schedule in Morocco and, having been caught in two bank holidays in Paris the previous week, I thought that it was entirely possible that I’d stumbled into another jour de fete.
Then I remembered that I was talking to a professional bullshitter so I told him that I was going to the Majorelle anyway and he, catching on that I was not perhaps as dumb as I looked, finally pushed off and I at last found a taxi. I argued the fare down from 100 driam to 30 before I got in the car. This is not my first rodeo. But I was weary of Marrakech already. There is something about walking around rainy streets in dirty socks with a creep yabbering away at you and having a taxi driver try to charge you three times the fair fare that I find very dispiriting.
I had only come to Morocco to visit the Jardin Majorelle and Yay! I was at last on my way! So the closer I got to it, the more beautiful and wondrous Marrakech got! I love Marrakech! Vicious mood swings: part and parcel of travel.
LOVE the itty bitty Morris column!
Heart. Be. Still. Here’s the entrance to the Majorelle!!
And now I am IN the Majorelle!!!
There’s only a 50 diram entrance fee, about 5 euros/ 8 dollars, which to me is a bargain.
I was early enough to have beaten the tour buses so, for all intents, I had the place to myself for a half hour or so.
The Majorelle Garden is the home of a mid-century (active 1920 – 1960) French painter, Jacques Majorelle, whose property was in almost ruin when it was bought by Yves Saint-Laurent in 1980 and restored to its full glory.
The garden is famous for being, you know, beautiful and unique in Marrakech, but mostly for this shade of blue that Majorelle invented and patented as Majorelle Bleu. It is, as you can see, intensely vivid. Is that redundant?
The official RGB values of Majorelle Bleu are — Red: 96, Green: 80, Bleu: 220.
It had actually stopped raining when I took these photos and the ground crew was mopping up the the walkways. I like to photograph gardens in the rain — cloud cover brings out the color and form of plants and architecture. If it had been a hot sunny day I don’t know if I’d have noticed this neighboring villa outside the garden walls…
…I wonder what it’s like to have the Majorelle Garden on view from your terrace?
YSL did a fabulous job as the protector of the Majorelle…
…although the garden was rarely depicted in the annual Christmas card that YSL designed and sent to his amis each year, a collection which is now exhibited in the “Love” museum on the site…
…and I’m sure he’d keel over if he saw that the Majorelle gift shop was hawking one of his collages…
…in the form of a hidiously ugly caftan for about $1800:
Right after I took this picture the shop assistant almost tackled me and told me photography was forbidden and she asked me to delete my photos from my camera. “Sure,” I said, giving her me ”I am as dumb as I look” smile and made my Lumix camera do a few gratuitous beeps and all was forgiven.
If I had any interest in plants I’m sure I would have found the various plans that were scattered through out the garden helpful:
Does this (below) look like the plan, above? I read that the gardeners at Majorelle rake the gravel into those little saucer-shaped circles in the ground to catch all available rainfall for each plant:
Yves Saint Laurent is buried at Majorelle:
I have read that the garden is ten acres, but that can’t be true. Unless it includes the estate next door, the very private home where YSL actually lived, that is off limits to us peons. My guess is that the garden is about four acres, five tops.
When the tourists started to arrive by the bus load, I began to snap photos of them. This poor German girl was almost blue with cold, shivering in her little Summer dress in this cool, wet un-Morocco morn:
By the way, Spanish people from Spain are LOUD. I think they are louder, even, than Americans. Jesus. It seemed like they had to talk to each other at the top of their lungs, but then, they were mostly youngsters in their 20s and I guess they were hollering at each other WHO THE HELL HAD THE BRIGHT IDEA TO COME HERE??? When I was in my 20s, I would not have been caught dead touring a garden.
I think I got the better angle here (see below) than the one these two lovely Italian visitors got (boring straight-on). I like to put my subjects in a setting that makes the most OF THE SETTING. Right?
I was in Majorelle-world for approx. 90 minutes. By the time I left the place was hopping:
At the entrance kiosk, 11-ish.
This guy, above, had good-looking horses…but further down the avenue I saw a man viciously yanking on the bridle of his horses to make their heads snap back (and they were “parked”, not even moving) so I to scream at him. I couldn’t help myself. I can scream OK in French but I’d rather use the “F” bomb in English when I do my “crazy lady” act. I was back to hating Marrakech again, and henceforth I had to just shut my eyes whenever I saw horses coming into view because I can’t go around Marrakech screaming at people like a crazy lady. It’s so, how you say…ungracious.
The story of the excellent adventure that I had after I left the Majorelle will have to wait for another day (please vote in the Comments: do you want to see what the creations of an all-women’s crafts co-operative in a Moroccan village 20 kms outside of Marrakech looks like??).
But after that unpleasantness about the horses you, dear readers, deserve a great cat story. And here it is:
This story comes to you under the auspices of the delightful Sara Quinn, of Peace Corps Morocco/Tameslouht, who guided me through the souk of Marrakech the next day.
I really didn’t have any great curiosity about the souk — if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all and I’ve already seen the ones in Tunis, Niamey, and the Palestinian side of Jerusalem — but Sara included a spin in the souk in her extensive tour of Marrakech and I gladly followed in her wake.
There are a lot of cats, footloose and fancy, in Marrakech:
And when Sara and I came across this kitty in the souk…
…my heart melted. This guy in the white coat was selling chopped up meat (I did not look closely to see what kind of meat, but it was probably sheep or goat) and I asked Sara if she thought it would be OK if I bought some meat to feed the cat. I asked because she knows the culture and I didn’t know if buying people food for a stray cat was gauche or not and whenever I am not screaming at assholes who beat horses I try to be culturally appropriate. So Sara walks over to the guy and asks him in fluent Moroccan Arabic (known as Darija) if it was OK if her dopey American friend could buy meat for the cat.
And this dear man answers NO! Turns out that I can’t buy meat because he keeps cat food with him in the stall! And he reaches into a big bag behind his counter and he gives me a handful of cat food so I can feed the cat!
He was smiling and chatting away with Sara about how he likes the market cats and I took this picture so I will always remember this nice guy who is kind to cats. I am back to thinking that Marrakech is an OK place after all.
The day before, on a tour of her “home” town of Tameslouht,, Sara had assured me that Moroccans in general like cats but, well, I had to see it with my own eyes. And I do have to say that on my solo rambles in the medina, whenever I stopped to take a photo of a cat, people around me yelled for other people to get out of the way, the lady wants to take a picture of the cat!
So, all in all, Marrakech might not be my cup of tea, but I rate it highly as probably the best place to be a cat in North Africa. (P.S. I met a German traveler in Tameslouht who told me that if I like cats, I have to go to the Moroccan sea side town of Essaouria; the cats there are the fattest he’s ever seen. Has anybody reading this ever been to Essaouria? Have you seen the tubby moggies there???).
As I write this, I’m thinking that I might have to give Marakech another try. This is my way of telling you, dear readers, that my heart was full of love when I painted my Marrakech Triscuit, a portrait of the lily pond at the Majorelle Garden:
I still get emails asking me what a “Triscuit” is, so here’s a shot of a “Triscuit” by another name:
Maybe I should have called my itty bitty watercolor pictures “Tea Bags” from the start. Oh well. Too late now.
You can own this Majorelle Triscuit by leaving a Comment to this post before the blog “closes” on midnight Tuesday and as usual, Top Cat will chose a Comment at random and the winner will be announced next week.
Oh, by the way, I have an announcement on the Monet Triscuit that I gave away two weeks ago:
This Triscuit was not claimed (WTF?) so……the new winner of this Triscuit is:
Joan in NV!
Joan, please send me your mailing address to vivianswift at yahoo before next Friday!
Yes, we will be painting together in this post just like olde tymes. But first: YAAAAAA-HOOOOOOOO!!!!! No More Damn DOMA!!!! Slowly, slowly, this country will be dragged, kicking and screaming, into Enlightenment. And to the Christian lady from Philadelphia on NPR who said that the Bible says that marriage is between a man and a woman and truth doesn’t change...
This is my first try at painting the Chelsea Physic Garden deep in the heart of London. Yeah, it stinks. Those buildings do NOT look like multi-million dollar Victorian townhouses that comprise one of the UK’s most posh neighborhoods.
…um, didn’t the “truth” change in that very same Bible, with a so-called “new” testament? I’m just asking.
This is attempt No. 2, where you can see how I tried to be more “impressionistic” with the buildings in the background. Yeah, this stinks too. But I was hoping the flowers in the foreground would save me. They didn’t.
The truth is that “truth” changes all the time and if we hold on to “truth” then we’d all still believe that the Sun revolves around the Earth and that cancer is caused by demons. Let’s get with it! Let’s commit to never searching for the real truth! And let’s get enlightened!
There. I got that out of my system. Now, where were we? I believe we were headed towards Paris…
Here we are on the Pont des Arts, in 2005, before it became the trashy “Love Lock” bridge. I am so very lucky to have known this bridge when its elegant lines were free of tourist clutter. Sigh.
I admit, I am slow. It wasn’t until I had completely disgusted myself with my first two attempts to portray London architecture that I REMEMBERED that I have already faced this challenge before. Since I am not gifted in understanding buildings I paint around that shortcoming by doing what I AM good at: linear drawing, like I did here, for my book Le Road Trip (this, above, is the publisher’s proof of pages 190 – 191 for those reading along). All I have to do is paint the buildings in silhouette. Problem solved.
In fact, I suddenly remembered that I’d already solved this problem once before in my ow Damn Garden Book:
This is the title page for the Edinburgh chapter. Note the city skyline in the background. Duh.
So I sketched out the buildings that surround the Chelsea Physic Garden in London…
…and all I have to do is keep it away from my helper kitties who love nothing more than getting their paws on my works-in-progress…
The next several pictures will be of my renewed attempt to paint the Chelsea Physic Garden but I’ll tell you right now (spoiler alert) that it doesn’t turn out right:
I like the white space here. I’m going to work with this look later.
I call this Failure No. 3
Unfortunately, this (see above) is not how the Chelsea Physic Garden is laid out. Those of you who have been to this lovely 4-acre walled garden founded in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries as a teaching garden where medicinal plants were cultivated will know that I’m trying to paint the quadrant known as the Systematic Order Beds, which actually look more like this:
I call this Failure No. 4
There still isn’t something quite right. So let’s have one more go at it:
This is IT.
I finally got the Chelsea Physic Garden that I wanted. This picture only took about four hours to paint, not counting the four previous attempts that cost me about 20 hours of my life. Fact is, I’m a better miniaturist when it comes to painting gardens…
I prefer to tell visual stories in little bits at a time…
I write the same way I paint. I keep at it, hacking away again and again and again until I finally manage to say what I’ve been trying to say all along. The same way that I tend to re-paint, I don’t write as much as I re-write. I finally ditched the Pages word processing program that I bought for my new Apple computer last Summer and installed good old Microsft Word last month and I AN IM HEAVEN! I have been happily, happily re-writing everything I wrote on Pages and after a year and a half I have, at last, a first chapter that I’m actually going to let Top Cat read. Nine more chapters and I have the book DONE!
Writing and painting are similar in that to get anything done, you have to be very sensitive to your shortcomings and avoid any picture or paragraph that lets those shortcomings hang out. By painting or writing to your strong points, you develop a style that is uniquely your own. The next series of pictures is of me painting a typical London view, but painting it in a way that highlights my strong points (and hides my weaknesses). Notice how I work front-to-back in this one:
By the way, I later added people walking on the sidewalk to give a sense of scale. This is the actual view from my friend Wendy’s brother’s flat in Knightsbridge:
Since I already know that I can’t paint architecture, I’m going to leave those buildings white. Voila: a style.
This tactic seems to work well for London…I wonder how it will work for Giverny? Because I have my heart set on painting this view:
Ahhhh…the “paintbox” flower beds.
It might even be my nest Triscuit. Which reminds me! We have a Triscuit to give away!!
WOW! I had to ask Top Cat to pick a number between 1 and 56…56!!! Your Comments were just great last week and I’m still re-reading them (a Van Gogh Triscuit must be in my future) so thank you, thank you, thank you to all who left a word or two. And just to show you how unpredictable Top Cat can be, when I asked him to chose that number of which he had 56 to choose from, he chose…Number One. So this Monet Triscuit goes to Carol Wall of Vancouver! (Carol please send me your mailing info to vivianswift at yahoo before this Comment section closes at midnight Tuesday, July 2/3!!)
Next week, we head out on another road trip. We’re going to see this garden:
It’s time to go to Marrakech!
As we all know, there’s the fantasy of Giverny…
…and then there’s the reality:
New Yorker magazine cover of June 5, 2000 by the great illustrator Ian Falconer.
From April to October Monet’s garden at Giverny is open seven days a week and half a million “culture tourists” make the pilgrimage to this tiny village to see the famous Japanese bridge:
When I was there last month the wisteria on what is called the “superstructure” of the bridge was just starting to bloom…
…but the famous water lilies don’t blossom until late July. Since except for bullfrogs calling to each other there was nothing of interest going on in the water, I spent my time watching people take in The Most Famous Japanese Bridge in France:
And then I went exploring in Giverny. I took a walk down the main drag of the village (pop. 505) called, of course, Rue Claude Monet. At the far end of the long wall that keeps Monet’s houses secluded on Rue Claude Monet there is a big green door…
…which is Monet’s old garage door, where he used to pull in his Panhard Lavassor that he bought in 1900. I know! I can’t picture Monet driving a car either! As you continue your mosey thorugh the village on the Rue Claude Monet you pass picturesque houses…
…and the tourist information center and the Impressionist Museum of Giverny that used to be called The Museum of American Art in honor of all the Americans who flocked to this village to paint with the Master from 1880 – 1926:
Nice restaurant, very nice gardens, bijoux collection.
And then you get to the main hub of social life in Giverny the Baudy Hotel…
…where all Monet’s American acolytes used to hang out in olden times and where they are still doing a bang-up business serving lunch and diner and tea.
In the Petit Galerie Baudy, right there at the Baudy Hotel, there is a storefront where Monsieur Frederic Desessard works, a miniaturist after my own heart:
He very kindly let me photograph him painting his latest tableaux (he does not usually allow photographs of him at work):
And he then showed me how he paints with a toothpick:
Here he’s putting the finishing touches on his copy of one of the rare Monet paintings of his flower garden ( if you want to see the original it’s in the Musee d’Orsay in Paris) and has finished one of the 18 similar views of the Japanese bridge that Monet painted between 1899 and 1900 (see: the top of this post). The portrait of Camille Monet that M. Desessard has beautifully reproduced is in the National Gallery in Washington D.C.
I asked to buy one of these miniatures but M. Desessard told me that he doesn’t sell his paintings, he uses them for the tiny 3D tableaux he makes and sells in his shop.
Photo by Jean-Michel Peers — to see more follow the link below — read on!
Hmmmmm…I think I just got my inspiration for my Giverny Triscuit...
You can find the finished Triscuit at the end of this post.
Anyhoo, If you are going to Giverny, you can’t miss M. Desessard…
Photo by Jean-Michel Peers.
…right on the main drag, at 81 Rue Claude Monet. The French photographer Jean-Michel Peers has graciously permitted me to show you his photos of M. Desessard at work on his miniatures — click onto this link here to see more, and to check out Jean-Michel’s portfolio of wonderful historical photos of Giverny and of Monet’s garden too.
But we, you and me, dear readers, have not finished out our wanderings there. We are going to go further down Rue Claude Monet to the 15th century church of Sainte Radegonde…
…to pay respects to the seven WWII British airmen who are fondly remembered by the people of Giverny; their Lancaster bomber crashed nearby in 1944 and the village honors them with this grave:
British visitors to Giverny leave English coins here.
We will take a walk around the churchyard to the side area where we’ll will find the beautiful grave of Gerald Van der Kemp, the man responsible for restoring Monet’s gardens:
Mr. Van der Kemp lies next to the Monet family grave, the resting place of the Master himself (along with various family members):
Few of the day trippers who come to Giverny bother to make the walk up to Eglise Sainte Radegonde…and it’s not even “off the beaten track”! To really get Off The Beaten Track, you have two choices. You can get out of town on the D5:
Yes, we are going to walk 4 km to Vernon!
In which case you will walk along the banks of the River Epte…
…on the path takes you past the secluded studio where the American artist (and Monet’s next door neighbor in Giverny) Frederick Carl Frieseke got the privacy he needed to paint his favorite subject, naked ladies sunbathing. The house used to be home to a community of monks who bred fish to stock the local rivers…
…but do not go fishing in the Epte or the Ru unless you’ve paid your 89 euro license fee :
This is the Epte, which flows into the Seine. The River Ru is a branch of the Epte and it’s the Ru that flows into Monet’s pond in his water garden.
That red signposted on that tree announces that this area is under the control of the Fédération de l’Eure pour la Pêche et la Protection du Milieu Aquatique. You can look them up. France has strict fishing protections on all its streams, brooks, creeks, and rivers.
Other sights along the D5:
- Does anyone know what this is? Monique — can you explain your people’s strange foreign ways?
And that’s how you get to Vernon as the lone pedestrian on the D5.
Your other choice of getting Off The Beaten Path is to take Rue Claude Monet alllllllllll the way to the end of town…
…and find the bike path….
…that is easier to walk on than the D5 and “busier” (this is where all those people who rent bikes at the Vernon train station go, but it’s still pretty deserted) and nearly quite as scenic…
…and when you get to Vernon on this route…
…there is this:
The sign says: Attention au chat. You don’t see the chat? He’s there! He’s right there:
Now, if you really want to get Off The Beaten Track in Giverny…
…all you have to do is take the foot path that starts where the Rue du Chateau d’Eau ends and climb…
…until you find the perfect picnic spot…
Looks like a Plebicula dorylas to me. My guide to French butterflies calls this color “sky blue”. I thought it was a wildflower at first, then I saw it was an elegant French insect.
…where you can sit and plan your next visit to Giverny (maybe walk that highway all the way to Sainte-Genevieve-les-Gasny?):
I thought I would be finished with Giverny with this post, having told as many stories about my visit as my dear readers have the patience for…but no, I have one more piece of business. I have a Giverny Triscuit to give away!
Seeing M. Desessard’s copies of famous Monet paintings gave me the urge to do something I’ve never done before: COPY. So here it is, My Monet:
And that’s why we call it a Triscuit.
If you would like to give a home to this original watercolor Giverny Triscuit, please leave a Comment below before the Comments close on midnight June 26 and, as usual, Top Cat will pick a winner totally at random, to be announced when we all get together again next Friday.
This was fun, copying one of the most iconographic works of art of the 20th century. I think I’d like to do it again. Anybody got any suggestions for another Masterpiece Triscuit???
I promised Top Cat that I WOULD NOT DIGRESS while I take you to Monet’s famous garden in Giverny (Normandy, France).
I promise to Keep It Short since my previous reports (last week and the week before) on my recent visit to France have been rather wordy and some readers [Top Cat] say I make it toooooo looooong toooo reeeeeeed. So I’m cutting my three-day exploration of All Things Monet in Giverny down to this one post, probably. But pardon me while I set the scene:
For my first two nights I stayed at a marvelous B&B called Le Coin des Artists, which used to be a cafe/grocery in Monet’s day:
The Breakfast part of the B&B was quite wonderful (see: below… those are the same chairs that you’ll find in Monet’s dining room at Giverny and there was always Katie Melua on the CD player. I highly recommend starting your Giverny days hearing Katie Melua sing “Closest Thing to Crazy” and eavesdropping on the Belgian couple talking about the high price of French toll roads compared to the ones in Belgium but I’m not telling you that story because I Will Not Digress).
And ahhhhhh!! The Bed part of this B&B was heavenly! I really missed my Top Cat when I saw my room because nothing is more romantic than a fauteuil, n’est-ce pas?
Fauteuil only means “armchair” even tho it sounds kind of dirty.
The windows of my room looked out into the courtyard:
In the evening in this same courtyard the delightful hostess at Le Coin des Artistes, Madame Laurence Pain, serves chilled Loire Valley wine with the resident chow (see below: those orange protuberances at the end of the table are chow ears):
I could tell stories about the dogs of Giverny, who seem unable to contain their curiosity and excitement to be in the company of such world travelers as moi...
…or the cats of Giverny ,who don’t…
…except for this little girl (below) who must be part Siamese for all the talking she did here in Giverny’s “Medieval Quarter”, which consists of one rue…called Rue aux Juifs (Street of Jews) if you can believe it…
…but I will not digress!!! Neither can I tell you about the many stone walls I had to climb to snoop into courtyards that are hidden from the street, such as this one (below) where they hide Monet’s so-called “Blue House” where he used to grow his vegetables…
…but Non! Non! I will not digress! We are here today to visit the Monet’s garden at Giverny, so let’s get to it:
This is the map (above) at the entrance to the garden — they do not sell or give away maps of the garden when you pay your 9 euro ($12.50) to get into the garden, which I was telling the young Canadian couple on line with me, who were on the second day of their 6-week driving tour of France (so they took an iPad photo of this wall map to take with them) and then the guy, whose hobby is geology, wondered what kind of rocks this was in the wall because to a rock hound the world is one big rock puzzle, to whom I said well, if you like rocks and you have a car you should go see one of the Wonders of the World (rock-wise) at Mont St-Michel close by here in Normandy and they said “Mont What?” etc. but I Will Not Digress…
…although you see the guy with the dog (above) on the typically looooooong line to buy entrance tickets: Yeah, me too, I asked myself, “What kind of nincompoop brings a dog to Monet’s garden???” but I saw him later outside the garden sitting with the dog and I offered to watch the pup while he went inside but he said no thank you, it’s his wife who wanted to see the garden — they have been here before as they often sail their boat from England and moor it on the Seine in Vernon (closest town to Giverny on the Seine ) which goes to show you that people have the most surprising stories if you take the time to chat… but I Will Not Digress… Let’s get to the GARDEN!!!
This is what you see after you enter the garden through the gift shop and pass the lavatories:
Those are espalier’d apple trees IN BLOSSOM!!! and the sign that points to “House” is of course pointing to Monet’s famous pink house:
I timed my visit to the garden so that I’d get there at 3 o’clock in the afternoon and yes, it was still plenty crowded.
But I like crowds. In case you haven’t guessed, I like talking to people when I travel because, well, I’m a professional travel writer and in order to write about travel I need stories. What better way to get them than to get people to tell me theirs? Like this mother/daughter pair (below) I helped because they didn’t speak French and the ladies working in the gift shop are, excuse me for saying, kind of snotty, but I Will Not Digress:
And I LOVE Chinese tourists because they wear the best hats:
And for the most part, even tho it’s crowded, people are aware of other people trying to get a Monet Garden picture and do not walk right into your shot…
…but not always. And then, if you’re me, you hope that someone with an outrageously fab Monet-Garden-Visiting-Outfit steps into view…
How the gardeners work amidst such teeming humanity I don’t know…
…although I trailed two women gardeners who were pulling off the dead tulip heads with such a delicate manouvre that I was entranced by their gentle touch but I Will Not Digress…
But let us rejoice that some people, even in the madding crowd, are able find their private moments…
…which I, as your typical Nosey Parker…
…am only too happy to butt in on. But here’s my redeeming feature: I am the person who, when I see young couples taking “selflies” in places like Monet’s garden, I walk up and I ask “Would you like me to take your picture?” and then I art-direct them so that I get great shots of them in situ (I’m great at setting a scene and getting informative background) and I even tell them “Go on, kiss!” and they DO because I have that kind of trustful face and all.
Monet Garden at Giverny Travel Tip No. 1: If you hang around past 5 o’clock, all the day trippers leave and the place becomes very empty and even the guards are so happy that the day is almost over that they relax their eagle eyes and go MIA so there is no one to yell at you for taking pictures of the rooms…
…so you can stand in Monet’s bed chamber and snap away all you want (photos of furniture are forbidden!)…
…and there isn’t the usual looong line to get the permitted photo out of Monet’s window…
…so you can take in the view that Monet himself woke up to. I usually try to get people in my photos of landscape so you can gauge the scale so…Merci, straggler tourists who are in my picture of the overcast skies of Giverny at 5:30 May 10, 2013:
I want to live like Alice Monet and see a garden like this when I walk out of my kitchen.
This (below) is Monet’s other bedroom window seen from the ground (the house is very narrow) , part of a series of pictures that I took of all the edges all around his garden property because you never see that part of his garden but I Will Not Digress:
I like this picture because it catches the wind that blew in from the depths of Normandy all through Giverny, fluttering the tulips and the tourists:
So. Here I am, the next day, enjoying a lunch of hard boiled egg and baguette sandwich (which I made from breakfast items at the B&B) after trudging to the top of the hill that looms high above Giverny…
…when through the telephoto lens of my camera I peer unto the Jardin de Monet in the valley below…
…and I see that the D5 (a local highway that in this bend in the road is grandly called Chemin du Roy – King’s Way ) runs right past Monet’s garden. This road is built on the old railway line that bi-sects Monet’s property — his famous Water Garden is on the far side of the D5 there. And I think to myself This I gotta see but I have nine hours of DIGRESSION to achieve before I check out this Chemin du Roy from ground level:
It’s 8 o’clock in the evening and I am the only soul walking along this stretch of highway…
…where you can see the paradise that is Monet’s garden, big as you please! Without paying 9 euro!
The only barrier here is a spike fence and some scraggly shrubs:
All you have to do is walk up to the fence and stick your camera between the fence railings and you get the most beautiful scenes of an empty garden…
…and vistas that are just not available to you when you are actually IN the garden with the hoards of tourists :
I loved being here, in this silent and lonely twilight…
…taking photos of the landscape that really makes much more sense from this perspective:
These are the famous “paintbox” beds of flowers that oh! Made me tremble with pleasure seeing them like this (as compared to seeing them from inside):
You can not get a better shot of the alley than this, from outside the garden walls:
It helps that Normandy is so far north…
…that you still get the gentle evening twilight…
…that best illuminates the spritely colors of flowers…
…so much better than daytime sunlight:
Monet Garden at Giverny Travel Tip No. 2: Walk along the D5 after closing hours in Giverny and have this impossibly beautiful garden all to yourself. I did not see another soul the whole time I lurked here. This last picture, you can see, is blurry, which told me that I was losing the light…
…so I walked back into town, to Rue Claude Monet, the main drag of Giverny…
…and I wished I weren’t so far from home…
…and went to bed with sweet dreams of my Top Cat and the pictures I would paint of “my” Giverny.
The next day I paid my last visit to Monet’s garden. (I also moved to the town’s only hotel which I did not like so I Will Not Digress further.) It was sunny, which is not so great for photographing flowers so I will only show you this picture (below), which shows the hill on which I sat when I got my bird’s eye view of dear Giverny (that white boxy thing in the background is a pumping station that you will pass half-way on your climb to the top):
This is the last photo that I took of the garden…Farewell, Giverny:
I know that we did not get to the famous lily pond in Monet’s famous Water Garden in this post so I’ll have to show that to you next week…
when I’ll have a Giverny Triscuit for you, which I did not paint this week because I have been busy painting another wondrous garden, the one that I visited in April in New Orleans:
And I’ve been very busy making sure that the backyard cats aren’t dead :
That’s only Bibs, who looks dead but he’s just snoozing under Oscar’s watch.
And keeping an eye out so that the indoor cats don’t kill each other is a full time job:
That’s Cindy, glaring up at Taffy who is hogging her chair.
But we still have the Paris Triscuit to give away!
And the Triscuit goes to…Jen A.!!! Congratulations to a long time reader of this blog who recently sent me hummingbird feathers to add to my collection — you have never seen feathers soooooo small and so sparkly as hummingbird feathers but I Will Not Digress, no sir, not me. That’s for next week!
See you next time under the wisteria!
Paris is not Nashville.
In Nashville, when people see you point a camera in their direction they do this:
I miss you, Nashville!
In Paris, when they see you point a camera in their directon, they do this:
Yeah, that’s a hairy eyeball.
And at my house, when you point a camera in the backyard, you get this:
That’s Taffy, inspecting the airing-out of the patio chair cushions. Good job, Taffs.
Yes, we had a few days of sunshine here on the Isle of Long but have no fear! This is still the crappiest Spring ever — we’re getting the blow-back from Tropical Storm Andrea this weekend so yay! More rain! (Maybe that’s what’s keeping the cicadas at bay? So far, we haven’t heard a peep from the little monsters yet. So I say, Rain On!)
I hope you all had a peaceful and grateful D-Day yesterday. Top Cat and I raised a glass of French champagne in homage to our WWII heroes: We Will Never Forget.
Anyhoo. Back to the story of the day, which is how hard it is to take reference photos in Paris…it almost makes me want to turn into a pleine aire painter.
It’s not just Parisians’ stern sense of privacy in public places that makes photographing them so hard. It’s also their No-Se’em policy towards anybody who might look like a tourist (including middle aged ladies in tennis shoes holding a camera a/k/a moi). See here (below) how I almost had a great shot of a bunch of Parisian teens being all European (smoking and drinking coffee in a cafe), except for the un-seeing pedestrian who ruined it:
For those of you who can’t stand these loooong posts, skip to the end to find the Paris Triscuit!
Well, I REALLY wanted this picture so I gave it another try:
I hate to say that I took this shot two more times and never got what I wanted. Oh well, when you only have a split second to get the picture you gagne some and you rate some. (Both those words have grave accents on the end, which I can’t find on this keyboard, merde.)
On the street, some people just plain move in on your shot AND WILL NOT GO AWAY:
I almost got a picture of these ladies counting out change to pay the tab for their afternoon glass of wine. It could have been a cute shot.
Really? You didn’t see me standing here with a camera up to my face before you stepped in front of me you twit?
Often, people (even little old ladies using canes) are just too fast for me to catch:
Or they seem to be holding a pose for ever so long, only to stick up an elbow just when I click the shutter:
Taking photos from behind just isn’t my thing:
No, when Paris street fashion catches my eye I aim for full frontal. Last month it was c-o-l-d in Paris in May so women were wearing wonderful coats; it seemed that in Paris everyone has a coat that made a statement about style, wealth, taste, self-image, etc…not warmth. I loved this white coat that I saw getting up from the sidewalk at my daily cafe — white, with two big buttons on top and cut-away to show the outfit underneath with slash pockets and wide sleeves, but I couldn’t get her to show it off! I kept snapping away, but all I ever got was a profile:
Another day, another cafe and this coat had audacious ruffles at the collar and the hem but I couldn’t get to my camera fast enough and just as I clicked the shutter, she turned to leave the cafe.
I’m so glad that I got this beauty! Now, THIS is a fashion statement:
I followed this lovely businesswoman, who was walking her dog one morning, for 15 minutes all the way through the Place Dauphine and this is the best picture I got of her big wooly scarf and bright yellow jacket and gauzy skirt, but you can still se how well she is put together:
Nice red shoes:
This lady passed me on one side of the street and I noticed her intricately knotted scarf so I ran around and scurried up on the other side of the sidewalk to get ahead of her and try to catch her unawares but I think she saw me coming:
I took this picture through the window of a boulangerie, just trying to catch people in their normal bread-buying habitat:
I was just passing through the Canal St-Martin neighborhood when I saw this little duck, paddling all by herself in the wide water, and I wondered if she was lonely:
Then I noticed the girl in the raspberry-colored beret with the faintly Russian-looking overcoat, who was standing on the edge of the canal, staring at the lone duck just as I was:
Then the duck swam out of sight but she kept standing there, staring into the water and I wondered if she was depressed and thinking about doing an Anna Karenina so I followed her when she strolled up to the famous foot bridge over the canal and sat down with her feet dangling close to the cold water. I kept my eye on her for about ten minutes, ten long minutes (time drags when you’re on stake out) and then I decided that I wasn’t going to say anything to her (“Hello there, are you going to kill yourself? “) so I might as well mosey on.
I have a philosophy about depression. Depression is boring. People get depressed over the same predictable things, often for good reason. Happiness, however, is so unusual and so counter-intuitive that it is fascinating. So when I’m faced with a choice between the two, I go for happiness. So I went in search of funner stuff. Crossing off items on my looooong To Do list for Paris made me happy, so I went off to find the store in the 9th Arrondissement that is famous for its doll house furniture.
Along the way I came across this fetching coat in the 6th Arr. Shop windows!! So easy!!!
Can you believe that I found a Redingote for sale??
Also, I had never heard of a cache-coeur (hide-the-heart) so this piqued my interest. It’s a real thing. You can read about it here.
Yes, it’s easy to find great fashion in Paris…
…in all the chic neighborhoods…
…Rue de Rivoli, St-Germaine des Pres, Avenue Wagram…
…Monmartre. Yes, MONMARTRE! All these dresses are from my favorite fabric store, Reine — specifically, the remnants department!
Yes, all these fabulous frocks were made simply by draping fabric remnants (coupons in French). Wonderful texture juxtapositions, frolicsome pattern match-ups, surprising color combinations…I have so much to learn about style, and Paris has so much to teach me.
Which reminds me: I bought one book in Paris about that other thing I have so much to learn about:
It’s a vintage childrens’ bookcalled Studies of Drawing and Watercolor and I bought it because I also have a lot to learn about aquarelle, n’est-ce pas? This book is like a coloring book for watercolors — fun, eh?
And you know why this book is so perfect for me? Guess!
Right: it’s Triscuit sized!
So naturally I was inspired to do a special Paris Triscuit for my dear readers (see above). Yes, dear ones, you can win this original hand-painted Paris Triscuit:
All you have to do is leave a Comment to this post before next Wednesday (when the Comments section will close) and Top Cat will pick a number at random and I’ll announce the winner next week.
Oh, just one little thing. In order to be eligible for this original, hand-painted Paris Triscuit you must have left a Comment for me in this blog within the last four weeks (while I was traveling, when my true blue readers kept in touch!! Thank you!!! Comments are the only way I will ever ask you to pay for anything on this blog. Yay for me!).
And for those who are new to this blog: I still haven’t taken you (in this blog) to Monet’s garden at Giverny yet…
…soooooo you don’t know that there isn’t a Giverny Triscuit in the future, and you definitely want to throw in a Comment to get your eligibility for that. Right?
You never know what I’ll be painting next…
…so you don’t want to miss it!
I’m almost certain that most of you, dear readers, would hate to have me as a traveling companion.
I am not a “foodie” (a word I actually despise) so that means that if we were traveling together in Paris we would only drop into boulangeries for the moment or two in order to take reference photos of bread…
…so that if there is a Damn Paris Book in my future I’ll be able to paint a baguette…
…or a quiche or a Croque-Monsieur topped with a quail egg over easy…
…or some dessert mille feuilles. We would not be buying anything for taste tests, because I have no interest in this stuff — none of it actually appeals to me, except visually.
I have so little personal interest in food that I would often forget to eat during my long expeditions in Paris, unless I put it on my To Do list. That’s how I ended up at Chez Janou, near the Place des Vosges.
I found Chez Janou on French Yelp. It was rated the top restaurant in the 3rd arrondissement. For complicated reasons having to do with French holidays and unscheduled closings of the Carnavalet Museum, I needed something to do in the 3rd arrondissement for my 20-arrondissement Treasure Hunt of Paris (which was the theme for my visit) so I decided to get a traditional French lunch at Chez Janou.
I got there at the stroke of noon to have the place to myself for five minutes so I could take many reference photos of the famed decor. My cute waiter set the ardois (slate) on my table and oh! Lucky me! A homemade tomato-basil soup is the perfect starter on a cold and rainy day in Paris!
This is my cute waiter bringing me my veloute:
The white wine was from Bordeaux and chilled to Goldilocks standard (just right). The soup was filling but nothing I’m going to remember, not the way I remember a home made tomato soup that I had in Edinburgh in 2006. Now that was a great tomato soup.
I don’t eat meat (except for pate NOT FOIS GRAS when I’m in Paris) so neither the duck nor the salmon main course was tempting so I moved directly to dessert.
I expected more from the cake with the salty caramel sauce. It was just OK, sweet with a hint of salt, but mostly bland, with no heft of a real caramel sauce (heavy with butter, carmelized sugar). I have a rule that if the dessert isn’t fabulous I don’t need the calories, so I left half of it on the plate. I actually got bored with it half-way through so I put down my spoon and concentrated on eavesdropping on the Americans sitting next to me.
These Americans had their Rick Steves’ Guide to Paris on the table, which is how I guess they found Chez Janou because these two seemed pretty clueless (they couldn’t read the menu and then started discussing art: “Chagall has a lot of goats”…they were middle aged but not wearing wedding rings and their conversation seemed so painful, so groping for something to say, that I’m guessing they were still newly dating and this was their first big get-away together and boy, Paris was the wrong choice. I took notes. You can’t make up conversation like this. ). If we were traveling together, dear readers, I’m almost certain that my habit of eavesdropping and judging people would get pretty annoying, almost as annoying as me dragging you out of Chez Janou to go down the Rue des Tournelles just a bit…
…so I could stop in at the Union Nationale de L’Apiculture Francaise, the French National Honey Makers Union. I had read that the UNAF sells honey from its members, including the honey from hives at the Opera and the Grand Palais, and from hives from famous gardens like the Tuileries and the Luxembourg, and this I wanted to see. Well, it turns out that last year was such a bad year for honey that there was nothing to buy at the UNAF but I was referred to many orther shops that sell a wide variety of honey (see above, Famille Mary on the Rue Cler). Let me say, shopping for honey in Paris is a kick. I bought a jar of lemony honey from hives in Anjou (Loire Valley).
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the UNAF, and my talk with the young man there who told me all about honey making in France while I’m sure that you, dear reader, would have been bored out of your mind. After all, the Union Nationale de L’Apiculture Francaise is not listed in Rick Steves’ Guide to Paris.
But if you thought the Union Nationale de L’Apiculture Francaise was a hoot, then you will LOVE what I have in store for you next! We’re going to Montmartre! (18th arrondissement, for those keeping track.) We are going to the most famous fabric store in Paris!
That’s it, on the right, Reine, the Queen of fabric stores, at 5 Place Saint-Pierre (across the street from the second-most famous fabric store in Paris, Marche Saint-Pierre). And the reason this is a MUST on my To Do list is because…
…while the fabrics at Reine are wonderful…
…there is something else about Reine…
…that I HAD to see with my own eyes…
…and it’s those DOLLS:
These dolls are 30 inches tall and wear beautifully made clothes that show off the fabrics on sale.
I have read that some shoppers find these dolls creepy, but I just loved them. You have to see for yourself how beautifully made these doll clothes are, how the person who made them is as talented a couturier as YSL, to make fashion for 30-inch bodies. What do they do with the old dresses? Is there a museum or archive? Is it a full time job, designing and sewing these marvels? I am intrigued by everything about Reine.
But here’s the thing about Reine: while it’s OK to take your dog shopping with you at the most famous fabric store in Paris…
…it is NOT OK to take photos in the store. I was told to put away my camera after I’d been snapping for fifteen minutes so I can’t complain.
So let’s go some place where photography is encouraged. Let’s head to the 10th arrondissement, to the Boulevard de Strasbourg, near the Porte Saint-Denis:
To the unmarked blue door…
…and up the dark stairs in a residential building…
…to the third floor (fourth floor, for those counting American style)…
…to arrive at the Musee de Eventail. What is an evantail?, you ask, and why does it have its own museum?
Eventail is French for fan:
The Museum of the Fan is all about the history and the making of fans and was high, high on my To Do list.
The gracious Mme. Anne Hoguet owns and runs this private museum, and you can read more about her (in French) here.
You don’t have to be interested in fans to love the looks of this museum, housed in a very old Paris apartment.
Fans from all over the world, from pre-history to the 21st century, are on exhibit. But really, it’s the rooms that thrilled me. It is like visiting a character out of Proust, or maybe Dickens, to wander around the richly paneled rooms with the fabric-lined walls and ornate ceilings.
So this is what is must have been like to be haute bourgeoisie in 19th century Paris.
Every detail of this place represents the fan-obsession of Mme. Hoguet.
And you can even help yourself to the atelier, the workroom where Mme. Hoguet and her assistant still make fans by hand, mostly for French couture houses.
Wouldn’t you know it, the assistant was called away just as I wanted to get her photo, but she left her work in progress…
…so while she sorted out things with her checking account, I was free to snoop into the innards of a fan-making studio.
Both Mme. Hoguet and her assistant are pleased to have visitors who show an interest in their life work, so you will find yourself very welcomed here at the Musee de Eventail, 2 Boulevard de Strasbourg, Mon-Tues-Wed 2 – 6pm, 6 euro entrance fee. And there’s a gift shop.
And this is only the 3rd, 18th, and 10th arrondissements! I have not yet dragged you to the 6th:
(Square Gabriel Pierne, to see those park benches shaped like books!), or the 20th:
(“Tree House” on Place Martin Nadaud, above), or the super-elegant 17th:
(to walk in the heavenly perfume of the gardens along the Boulevard Pereire, which turns into a flea market on Saturday on its eastern end), or the delightful 13th:
(one of many charming hidden back streets in the Butte aux Cailles), or the all-important 14th…
(to see the last pissoir in Paris…
…by the walls of the Sante prison on Boulevard Arago). Yes, stick with me and I’ll cart you off to the 7th:
To see the amazing vertical garden at the brand new Musee des Arts Premiers on the Quai Branley:
Which I thought was going to be another architectural stunt, like the Pompidou Center, but is in fact a marvelously fun idea!
Truly in keeping with the spirit of Paris!
You can even get a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower!
But, since we started with food let’s end with food:
In Paris you can buy cat food in your local grocery just the same as you’d find in Home Town USA, some chicken and fish stew, some salmon dinner, some rabbit meatloaf.
Well, to be fair, you can also buy terrine au rabbit for yourself:
As well as every kind of cassoulet possible:
Next week I’ll have one last, long look at Paris before I get back to bidniss, which is boring you with work-in-progress on the Damn Garden Book. I want to report to you from the Streets of Paris:
Which includes Fabulous Street Fashion and Other Fabulous Stuff I Caught on the Boulevards and Rues of Paris:
See you next Friday!