Paris Triscuit

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:

P1170571 2

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!

P1170431Yes, 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!

34 Comments, RSS

  1. Laura

    My how the Parisians are evasive around cameras. Thank you for giving us the photo-essay on the camera-shy. You did catch a good picture in Giverny of the lovers in the tulips. I absolutley love the vintage coloring book. Had a child already colored some of the pags?
    Pick me for the triscuit, s’il vous plait!

  2. Another winner! Of course I get up early to have my Friday cuppa while enjoying cats, how to paint, or tours of good stuff. You do it every week.
    Never disappoint. I’ve been reading and writing you for years. I have both your books.

    “Isle of Long”.. cute. Paragraph four.

  3. Deborah

    Soooo, like, did you buy the Redingote? (How much is that in US$?) The only fashion that really appealed to me was the red shoes. Yeah. I’ve owned & worn red shoes. Even had red tennis shoes. Now the purple tulips, those sent my head (& heart) a-spinning!

  4. I’m new here, so please don’t let Top Cat pick me, but I had to say I love your posts! My husband is Belgian & he makes the same dour face if he sees a camera. I believe it is hereditary! Your art & wit are inspiring.

  5. Christine

    I am a faithful reader: can’t wait until Friday to see what you have for us! However, I don’t often leave a comment because what YOU have to say is so much more interesting…. I am grateful for your willingness to share your adventures and your perspective and I enjoy your paintings and your dry wit (and your love of kittys). Please keep going!

  6. I hate having my photo taken……Didn’t used to be like that..But I sure am like that now..
    So I can get the people that look a bit off:)
    If I don’t know I don’t care..but as soon as I
    And funnily enough I love the black ruffle coat..The beautiful dog walker is exquise in her perfect outfit and shoes..I can’t imagine walking in them..But that’s me.
    The redingote..cache -coeur and jupe are wonderful.
    That girl does look sad..:( I feel sorry for her..some people just cannot chose happiness..
    and sometimes.. they could..they used to..and things happen that change life.

    Pauvre jeune fille.

    Your painting is lovely and the book you bought just right..
    I am sure I would love Monets gardens..

  7. Elaine

    Ok, tossing my hat into the triscuit ring… even though on my iPod I can’t see the pictures! Will have to wait till I get home. As always, another good reason to look forward to Friday. Weekend, payday, and Vivian Swift.

  8. Carol

    I adore children’s books! Especially the older ones – I love the colors in the illustrations. Please throw my name in the hat for the triscut drawing!! (But I confess, I am most especially partial to the snapshot of Taffy!)

  9. The tiny vintage watercolor book is very dear. Reminds me in style of Little Nemo, almost.

    “Depression is boring.” Heh. I paraphrase here – when writer Laurie Colwin was asked why she often wrote fiction about wealthy people, she said she had been poor herself and found it boring.

    (Not to trivialize depression and poverty, at all. Monique is right, sometimes one does not have the luxury of a choice.)

  10. Patricia

    Loved your post(s) as I can’t wait each week to read the next one. My sis is one of those people who don’t photograph well … her face freezes into a grimace (somewhere between fear and smiling). Sometimes when I’m trying to take photos on the sly, I hold the camera at waist level and just click away. No aiming. I get a lot of funny slanted photos but every now and then, a gem. And yes, I’d love a triscuit of Paris

  11. SandraK

    I am guilty of lurking here every Friday and not leaving a comment because i have stage fright. ha ha. I really love your point of view and your energy and your curiosity and your nerve…and even if I had to starve to keep up with you I’d follow you around Paris any day.

  12. Siouxie

    You and me both SandraK we lurk. But I tell everyone about your books!!! And I am glad you are here every Friday, doing what you do, showing us the world through your eyes. And if we went to Paris together I’d bring lunch.

    And from now on I will wave whenever I see a camera pointed in my direction.

    Maybe that girl in the blue coat was a poet composing sonnets in her head to take back to her garrett.

  13. Carol

    I have enjoyed all your Paris posts.
    This time I am in love with all the scarves.

    The triscuit painting is lovely.
    Thankfully I have posted! It had been a while, but I always read your posts.

  14. Oh, my — way too much eye candy here! First of all, what I love to the max about this post is that you showed all your “bad” photos in telling the story of the challenge of getting a good one! I laughed as I read along because yes, I have a bunch of baddies in the sometimes futile quest for good (and yes, lots of those from Paris!).

    But how these photos take me back at a time when I would really love to be there! I am coming up on the fourth anniversary of my first trip, and I, too, will have a bit of a champagne toast.

    Giverny, another favorite and these are lovely. It is SO much easier to take splendid photos of things that don’t move! (By the way, that’s aquarelle book — a find!)

  15. Susie

    This was a 2 cups-of-tea post today. The first snort of laughter with tea coming out my nose (I never learned to read your blog sans tea) of that hairy eyeball photo. My younger son (who is 31) always makes that face for the camera, even as a baby he did. And isn’t it France where they think Americans smile too much?

    Dangle the “doll house furniture shop” and then no photos of it! Wouldn’t they let you snap away? Or is that a teaser for later?

    Love all the fashion shots, the way they drape those remnants is really amazing, too.

    And of course, I would love to win the Paris Triscuit.

  16. Bunny

    Thanks for the journey to the streets of Paris where current fashion sets the pace for a lot of the world. Tres chic! I look forward to friday so I can see things, thanks to you, tha I would never notice even if I was with you on that enlightening trip. I really must spend more time at places like the Waldorf Astoria and the Plaza, instead of just going home, and drinking cheap scotch on my linoleum kitchen floor.
    Love the triscuit this week…

  17. Karin

    i look forward to Fridays because your blog is my lunch date. I clock out of the office mentality and escape into Vivianland on my favorite day of the week. I love Fridays!

    I would not have the nerve to face Parisians! But I would put your Paris Triscuit on my desk where I would see it every day. Or the Giverny Triscuit. Will there be a Marrakech Triscuit too?

  18. Linda Ashmore

    How I LOVE your Triscuits! Your blogs are something I log onto every Friday. Your interests are so far-reaching, and your humor–the best! I’m taking watercolor classes now, and my teacher used one of your paintings last week to show me that you don’t leave white showing between things. I I thought it was you who did that, but I was wrong. We are all looking at your paintings in my class, and they are enjoying your blogs too. Keep on blogging–and thanks!

  19. Well I have read but don’t know if I have gotten a comment in with in the time span.. but I did want to say I am happy you posted more on Giverny. If I could only go to one place it would be there.

  20. Maryanne in SC

    Ahh, how lovely your blogs make each Friday.
    (And are more closely re-read on Saturday, because the first read is always more of an avaricious gulp! Thank you, Vivian, and please – more!

  21. Jen A.

    As a Vermonter, I’m pretty certain that none of those fabulous coats would do anything but make me look like I was really effing cold. Wow. Love the gray-ish one with the ruffles that you captured from the back. Love the gauzy skirt with the yellow jacket. The shot of the duck-staring woman is pretty great, too. So many possible stories in a well-timed, well-taken photo. Thanks for piquing my interest.

    Good luck to me for the Paris Triscuit!

  22. betsy angene

    Well, on a day when it was all I could do to not just climb into bed and pull the covers over my head, you made me think about the choice between depression and happiness. even said my little mantra, “Today is a good day to be happy.” But basically it’s a slog through it day. Tomorrow will be better.

  23. Judy Jennings

    Your pictures of Giverny are so nice–can’t wait to see what you do with THAT in your garden book. And Oh! I can only IMAGINE being young again, sitting on a bench in Monet’s own garden, kissing my love. Niiiiice.

  24. Jeannie

    There is a plot afoot. I have seen it here as well. The perfect photo – a girl feeding a squirrel, perhaps. Then as you push the shutter, her mother tell her to move away from the rodent or a dog races in to ruin the scene. It is a secret society to keep us from capturing the random moments. 🙂 Fashion in France – sigh, I would fail miserably! I don’t see a soul in a pair of sweats with cookie crumbs on their chests. Giverny! Wow! Those tulips are gorgeous. The little book is so adorable. I would have grabbed it, too. Have a peaceful weekend.

  25. Megan

    I’m a hopeless commenter but I had to say how gorgeous was Taffy, sheer bliss, lying comfortably in the sun. Bless his little cotton socks.

  26. Tracey

    I have to agree – Taffy has an effortless elegance that none of the Parisians can match. I was a little shocked at all of the neon handbags – just not me. As a New Yorker, I try to stop when people are taking photos, but it happens so much these days that if I really need to get someplace and I’ve stopped at least once, I keep walking and assume the tourist can wait.

    The girl with the duck may have just been dumped at a café and has come to gaze at the duck while remembering happier times.

  27. Eileen

    Love the pictures of Giverny; the green on the house and benches is so perfect. I’m always trying to take pictures without people in them and everyone seems to run to get caught in the snap. Think I left a comment in the last four weeks, so here’s hoping for the Paris picture!

  28. I have concocting my next trip while I wrap up my last art journal and prepare for a workshop to inspire others build one and keep their trip alive. Your blog and books have been an inspiration. Thanks for the pictures of Giverny, reading your book I was afraid it was yet another tourist trap, but it looks fab in these. Thanks for being you!

  29. Deb mattin

    I can’t decide which picture I like best. the photo bombs are funny, but the hairy eye-ball is priceless! been there; got THE LOOK. The picture of the girl in the beret watching the water is beautiful, but I agree, she looks like a jumper!

    I have about 20 shots of Parisienne wearing the most exquisitely tailored jacket-each. One has at least a piece of the jacket -some dang tourist butted into every one.

    would I love and cherish a Paris triscuit ? Mais oui !!

  30. Greetings from Laguna Beach Vivian!
    I enjoy your vivid imagination. I find your easy breezy writing style refreshing and fun, your photos charming and your watercolors are enchanting!
    I too loved the white coat, and the lovely businesswoman with her big wooly scarf and bright yellow jacket and gauzy skirt, and how well she is put together! They are both my style and even more enjoyable to see on every day people on the streets of Paris.
    Gosh, I could go crazy in the remnants department of Reine. This store is going on my to-do list!
    It has been wonderful revisiting Paris with you, thank you for the post!

  31. janet bellusci

    first, I WANT THAT WHITE COAT!!! it is SO jackie O, so sixties, so stunning and beautiful. too bad the wearer wouldn’t cooperate for a photo op!

    next, merci beaucoup for showing giverny in may. i’ve seen it in april and in july, each time so different and still so phenomenal! now i can add may to my list of viewings.

    finally, you make my armchair traveling SO much fun! thank you, vivian!!

  32. Robin

    Dear Vivian: I received your book for my birthday yesterday and I almost stopped my own party so I could sit and read it all the way through. But I waited until the guests had gone home and I poured a glass of wine (yes! Bordeaux!) and went to France with you. I made my first trip to Paris last summer and I really want to go again but until I do I will have your book for repeat armchair journeys. And now your blog! What a wonderful discovery, like a book/vacation that ever ends. Thank you!!

  33. Janet

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who has trouble getting the photos I want. Loved the French coloring book. Sign me up for the latest triscuit masterpiece. Glad to see Paris is still much on your mind.

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