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March 2016

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The Louvre, over easy.

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Last Wednesday, I met a group at the Louvre to go see a new exhibition of paintings by Hubert Robert. Yes, his name rhymes, and in his self-portrait, he bears a striking resemblance to the actor Antonio Banderas, but he’s legit. He’s in the National Gallery (in D.C.) after all! At first glance, his paintings didn’t stir the heart. There was no instant love-painter-connection. But given a second glance, you begin to sense the skillful touch. Robert was known as “Robert des ruines” because he had a thing for old ruins. He lived in Rome for a while, so that does make sense. He practiced what is called, “architectural capriccio or caprice” which means that he painted famous monuments in imaginary landscapes. The canvases were filled with grand sweeps of architectural wonders alongside rivers, mountains, and dogs and buxom ladies doing washing. Our guide said that in painting all those ruins, Robert was “portraying the idea that civilizations are in a constant state of change and that from decay, there is re-birth.” I said, from the laundry, came clean clothes, and that too, was a kind of re-birth.

This past weekend we went with friends to the Chateau – Vaux le Viconte to celebrate Easter. There was the grand Chateau. (Built by King Louis XIV’s finance minister. When Louis saw it, he was madly jealous, so he fired his minister, and based on the Vaux chateau- built Versailles!) There were the formal gardens with ornamental shrubs. There were the reflecting lakes and fountains. And the usual out buildings, stables and such. And dozens and dozens of giant blue eggs atop old stone planters. We sat in canvas loungers and ate sandwiches we had picked up from the Monoprix quick stop. Then the kids followed the Easter trail, knocked eggs down the hill with wooden swords, fished in the stream with nets, and spoke of the 3 foot-high chocolate squirrel that one ticket-holder would win. But how would we get it home, we questioned aloud.

The other night at dinner in Monmartre, we went round the table confessing favorite things about the city. What kept us hooked, what was it that balanced out the sometimes plentiful gripes. Somebody was saying they liked that you could wear absolutely anything, a polka dot pantsuit with a flower pot on your head, and Parisians wouldn’t bat an eye. They would only assume you were heading out in requisite attire to that flower-pot event-y thing… she liked the irony of this level of acceptance in an often conforming society. Someone else liked that people spoke their mind. When Parisians didn’t like something, they told you. Outspoken, prone to outbursts, fits of passion, general strikes…! Yes! I said. Only that morning, I witnessed a man on a motorcycle and a man in a car, after nearly colliding, stop their rides, and literally – taking turns – yell at each other at the top of their lungs for what seemed like 20 minutes. It was actually funny. Like a show. Drama, but over.

Now it was somebody else’s turn and they were saying that they appreciated that riding the metro with a 3 foot-high chocolate squirrel was NOT the stuff of legend. But can you imagine, someone else asked, what could really happen. People making a rush for a piece of that squirrel. It could get crazy.

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Not Wind Food.

If, in the past few weeks, you happened to be in Paris, you’ll have noticed that people seemed nonplussed as they faced the bitter Northern winds, wearily tightening their grips on their dull winter wraps. This past Wednesday, to combat the gloom of yet another cold day, I clad myself in lycra and Nikes at the ridiculous hour of 7am and turned a steely eye toward the top of the hill. Andrew had left a few days earlier on yet another mission, and I was holding down the fort. But the natives were a restless bunch; a good deal of time had been spent subduing heated debates regarding efficacy of school curriculums, homework and housework. There had been conversations like the following: Me – Put your dirty clothes in the hamper. Respondent – Where are these ‘alleged’ dirty clothes. Me – All over your room. Respondent – I don’t see any of those things. Therefore, no action need be taken at present. or, The Accusor – Hey! Who ate my pudding! The Accused – How was I to know it was yours. There was no nametag on it saying, ‘This is hers.’ Therefore, the pudding is free to be eaten. It was like living with 2 lawyers, except not as swanky an apartment.

The Champs Elysee is considered a glamorous locale, but early on a Wednesday morning, the hazy mist of yesterday’s tour bus fumes hanging damp on the trees, the green cleaning trucks spraying down the sidewalks, debris running down the gutter, it was just another hill to climb. I waited at the light at Matignon, eyeing the Metro entrance, the usual route back home, but not today. Today would be different! The walk sign turned green giving pedestrians seconds to scurry across the widest avenue in the world, cars chomping at the bit to go the second the light turned. I dodged across and started a slow jog to the Arc.

It’s longer and steeper than it looks, distances hard to measure on this scale. I panted by windows of well dressed people already congregated in warm cafes. I envied their beautiful lattes. The wind was whipping down the avenue, I was pushing up it. Times like these, it helps to think of other things. Our youngest had told me about a recent school outing to the Louvre. They had walked over to the gardens with a photographer to make their school photo. What a fun idea. But they’d met the same wind. Not so good. The solution they’d said, “to Photoshop out the wild hair.” Hmmm. School photos gotten sophisticated these days. Then they had had lunch. Outside!? Yep! Where? Right there. And a bunch of kids had all packed pasta. What a coincidence! DD had ravioli. Stuart had spaghetti. Jules had lasagna. The teacher had fusilli. Apparently, the spaghetti in the wind was a problem. Like hair, it gets tangled. Not ‘wind food’ the kids said. Photoshop it out. Haha.

By this time, feeling the burn, I’d reached the top, the Triumph to my right, the twelve radiating avenues fanning out, fun to maneuver in a bus. The hardest part was over, and I didn’t really mind the cold now. It’s always good to have something to compare things to. Heading toward rue Victor Hugo, that would be a piece of cake, as it was full of shop windows to look at, plus it had a lot of trees and it was flat.

 

 

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Your Inner Glamour.

Greetings darlings.

Yesterday was the last day of Fashion Week in Paris, so I’m late in blogging because I was out modeling. Yessss. Life is hectic when you’re a writer AND a fashion model. (wink) Write a few sentences, walk the runway.  Back to the next paragraph. Then into the Chanel dress! I mean, the energy it takes for the dress changes alone is enough to make you crave four baguettes with butter. Exhausting, but someone must toil thru. Those 6 inch possum tail boots paired with the cinnamon lace one piece jumper and boxy black jacket in geometric designs don’t sell themselves. If those sweet ladies who sit in workshops and sew all this stuff don’t get paid, we’ll all be guilty. So, get out there and SHOP!

It’s a worthy mission, revealing all the artistic fashion creations to those devoted social media fans who like to imagine what they will be wearing next September. Countless people dream of throwing off the injustice of sweatpants for the lightness of walking around in rose chiffon trousers with hand-sewn metallic beading and platform sequined sneakers. Don’t you?! Your wardrobe makes an important statement about yourself because your wardrobe yells, “This is who I am.” So be the sequined sneaker or leather motorcycle boot you want to be! It takes spirit and spunk to corral your inner glamour, whatever direction it may go in. You can do it! Allow yourself to express your inner flash and jive. We’ve all got it going on and the world needs to see it.

A note of remembrance goes out to Andrew, as his dear mother at 94 years of age, died on Monday. Andrew chatted with her only hours before. She will be well remembered for her eager curiosity of those around her and her liveliness in the arts of the home. She had a great gift of the gab and a keen knowledge of human nature. And definitely, she had the gift of inner glamour. You could see it in her matching pastel pant suits which were immaculate and in the polish and shine of her kitchen floor!

 

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The McQueens head to the Alps. (part 2)

White peaks appeared out the train window a few hours south of Paris, by the third hour plus, we were in the mountains proper and ready to de-bark. Staying near Mount Revard, for the next week we explored the Rhone Alps of the Savoy up to Montreux, Switzerland. We hiked above Vevey, Switzerland, with its high green meadowland dotted with cows, the blue waters of Lake Geneva below, white-peaked Alps surrounding the lake, a bright blue sky on that day. Intensely beautiful.
We hiked around snowy Semnoz and its cosy ski towns, had lunch while viewing Mont Blanc (Mont Blanc is the highest peak in the French Alps – 4,810m or 15,780ft. high) until more snow blew in while we finished our buttery wild mushroom omlettes with bitter salad greens. The girls each tried the local dish, the tartine de reblochon de Savoie and read their books while Andrew and I finished off our meals with the traditional…coffee.
We hiked the meadows between the beautiful alpine villages of Cusy and Gruffy, which gave us innumerable laughs to consider what the villagers there might be called, Gruffards, Gruffys, Gruffonians…
Everywhere we went there were cyclists in bright bike suits climbing the steep passes and flying down the mountains, practicing, Andrew said, for the Tour de France, which traversed this area.
Our chalet house had a balcony opening up to the far peaks of the Savoy Alps, the rooftops of the small village below, and the quietness in the moonlight. Paris, a world away.
Poets are notorious for their carving in words, distillations of moments we’ve all experienced.  When the Romantic poet Percy Shelley wrote “Mont Blanc” he was here and this is what he had to say:
The last stanza of Shelley’s poem:
“Mont Blanc yet gleams on high:—the power is there,
The still and solemn power of many sights,
And many sounds, and much of life and death.
In the calm darkness of the moonless nights,
In the lone glare of day, the snows descend
Upon that Mountain; none beholds them there,
Nor when the flakes burn in the sinking sun,
Or the star-beams dart through them. Winds contend
Silently there, and heap the snow with breath
Rapid and strong, but silently! Its home
The voiceless lightning in these solitudes
Keeps innocently, and like vapour broods
Over the snow. The secret Strength of things
Which governs thought, and to the infinite dome
Of Heaven is as a law, inhabits thee!
And what were thou, and earth, and stars, and sea,
If to the human mind’s imaginings
Silence and solitude were vacancy?”
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