Monday, July 28: Bonus photos

Today was a regular teaching-and-meetings day, highlighted by the news that on our departure day we have to be ready to get on the bus at 2:45 a.m. TWO. FORTY. FIVE. Even if I write that French-style (2h45), it’s still appalling. So let’s just move on, shall we?

Saturday morning I visited the Musée Marmottan Monet but then didn’t have a chance to post the pictures because other stuff came up. Both the building and the collections were donated to the Academie des Beaux-Arts on the deaths of their former owners, including, in the case of the Monet collection, Claude Monet’s second son, Michel. People go for the Impressionist collections, of course, but there’s also a room full of medieval illuminated manuscripts, and I probably spent the most time looking at those! It’s a little off the beaten track, just off a garden called Ranelagh (a tribute to/imitation of the famous 18C English pleasure garden) via the metro stop La Muette on the #9 line. I did not know the neighborhood at all and thus was utterly flummoxed when a couple asked me if I knew where a grocery store was! They turned out to be German tourists so it was definitely the blind leading the blind. At least I redeemed myself today when someone asked me for directions in the metro. We were waiting for a southbound #4 train at Montparnasse-Bienvenue and a man wanted to know if that train would take him to Gare de l’Est. Having just done it on Saturday, I could confidently tell him that he’d need a northbound #4 to go to Gare de l’Est. I felt like a total Paris expert.

Anyway! Here, belatedly, are a few photos from around the Marmottan–none from inside the museum because they are not allowed. Click through . . .

Dr. Kirk and I have decided that this is La Fontaine

Outside the Marmottan

Another view of the exterior of the Marmottan

One-seater car!

Some great flowers in a Square behind the Marmottan

A tree was planted in memory of writers who died fighting for France.

This is the tree.

Beautiful day, flowers in bloom, Hausmann architecture doing its best as always

Tuesday, July 22: “Que le paix et le salut soient sur Lui”

Today my World Lit. class took its field trip to the Grande Mosquée and the Arènes de Lutèce. The mosque is beautiful with “Hispano-Mauresque” architecture, mosaic tiles, and calligraphy everwhere. We had this very kind tour guide named Yamina who explained what the different rooms in the mosque were used for and at the same time explained a lot of the basics of Islamic beliefs and rituals. For instance, I did not know (or maybe had forgotten) that the 5-pointed star represents the 5 pillars of Islam. I did know that when Muslims say the name of the prophet Muhammad they follow it by saying a little blessing for him, but I did not know how to say it in French. Now I do, for which please see the title of this post. The tour was entirely in French so I was on translator duty. I think I mostly did well! One thing I am learning is that the person being translated also needs to know how to work with a translator. Yamina was very easy to understand but sometimes she’d tell us a LOT of information and I’d have to try to keep it all in my brain and roll it back out in English. In any case, we learned a lot at the mosque and I was happy to have this new experience. We were allowed to take pictures, which I was not sure about going in, so that was exciting as well.

From the mosque we went to the Arènes de Lutèce, which is right around the corner. It’s the other ancient Roman ruins site in Paris in addition to the Thermes de Cluny (now part of the Musée du Moyen-Age). It is an amphitheatre that was built around the first century C.E. and was, as such things frequently are, almost demolished to make way for new construction. To be honest, it isn’t much to look at but for an American it’s exciting just to visit something that survives from so long ago. I wanted the class to be able to say they had been there!

Afterward we returned to the mosque, which has a café adjoining it, and we made a record amount of couscous, lamb, sausage, chicken, and vegetables disappear in a very short while. Memo to my students: now, if someone asks you if you like North African food, you can say yes! And hot mint tea with sugar–that went down very nicely on what felt to Southerners like a slightly chilly day.

This afternoon after we got back I made a run to Gibert Jeune (huge bookstore with a great stationery section as well), grabbed 2 more Pierre Lemaitre books and a used copy of Notre-Dame de Paris (i.e. The Hunchback of Notre Dame), and ran across a question-and-answer book of Paris trivia called Connaissez-Vous Paris? (Do You Know Paris?) so I grabbed that as well. Someone remind me not to buy any more books here. This makes 6!

Photos after the jump!

In the “meeting room,” stained glass and a plaque with the name of one of Muhammad’s successors

Looking through a grate into the garden

The calligraphy on the blue plaque is the Shahadah, the Muslim profession of faith.

Students taking photos in the garden

The minaret, crescent (representing the Islamic lunar calendar), and star

The garden

Another view of the garden

Flowers and mosaic tiles

This Qur’an was given to the mosque by the king of Jordan.

In a small courtyard off a side door

Decorations in the Grand Courtyard

A close-up of the decorations

I love how detailed everything is.

The basin in the center is used for ritual ablutions.

My class at Arènes de Lutèce: Sam, Delaney, Jessie, Lindsey, Shannon, Kira, 
Lauren, Hillary, Michael, Erika, Nathalie, Christina, and Kayla.

I stopped to photograph this beautiful container garden and got caught in the act! 
The owner is shutting the window.

Inside the mosque café

The café’s resident cat–as you can see, he is a celebrity!

Saturday, July 19: Chantilly

Fun language fact: in French, whipped cream is called “Chantilly” (pronounced something like “shawn-tee-yee”) because it was supposedly invented, or at least popularized, at the dairy on the Chantilly estate. If you are not into castles, gardens, horses, art, books, or military history, you should go to Chantilly just to have whipped cream at the source. However, if you are like me and you enjoy at least 4 out of those 6 other things, you can skip the whipped cream and have plenty of other stuff to look at instead. Chantilly is the château-turned-museum that was passed down from Anne de Montmorency to Henri II de Montmorency to the Grand Condé (Louis de Bourbon, Prince of Condé), destroyed in the French Revolution, and ultimately rebuilt and donated to the Institut de France by Henri d’Orléans, duc d’Aumale. The Duke insisted that the artwork remain as he had hung it and not be rearranged within the château, sold, or loaned to other museums. So, for instance, if you want to see Raphael’s “Three Graces,” you have to come to Chantilly.

The château also features a library of thousands of printed books, several hundred incunabula, and about 300 medieval manuscripts including Les très riches heures of the Duc du Berry (sadly, only a facsimile of the latter work is displayed in order to preserve the condition of the original). Chantilly also features the Great Stables (the Grand Condé thought he would be reincarnated as a horse, and built accordingly), a hamlet (faux-rustic village as at Versailles) and a Le Nôtre-designed garden. In short, Chantilly checks all my boxes. My only regret is that I didn’t get to spend more time there: 4 hours including a relaxed café lunch with one of our students. I took a good walk through the château and got lots of pictures inside and out, but did not make it to the hamlet and our tickets did not cover the Great Stables. However, as I’ve been telling our students, you have to believe that you will come back and hold some things in reserve for the next trip.

So . . . who wants to see some photos? Click through! Actually, get a sandwich and then click through. There are a LOT of pictures.

The château as you walk up to it from the entry gate

It was overcast when we arrived.

Anyone who has been to Versailles will recognize Le Nôtre’s work when they see it.

Another view of the garden

This is the side of the château from which visitors enter.

Dog butt!
(Downton Abbey joke, sorry.)
(Not sorry.)

You can tell that the château was used as a hunting lodge.

Arms of the Duc d’Aumale

The Duke’s monogram (H O for Henri d’Orléans) is everywhere.

The library is beautiful!

2 volumes of this polyglot Bible were on display.

Frontispiece to one of the Bible volumes

Page from another Bible volumes showing the 4 languages in which it is printed.

Another view of the library

Will Madam require a reading chair? Yes. Yes, she will.

Mourning stationery–a letter written from Twickenham outside London just after the Duke lost his son. “Believe me, my dear Count, your affectionate H. d’Orléans.”

Chantilly’s “regular” stationery

Selfie-ing in the “Grand Cabinet de Monsieur le Prince.” The Grand Condé was styled “Monsieur le Prince” when he became first prince of the blood after his father died.

Another view of the Grand Cabinet

A fire screen in the “Galerie des Singes”: the walls are painted with images of monkeys acting like people.

A monkey about to fire a gun?

Here is the Grand Condé about to throw his marshal’s baton so his troops will follow it.

The music room

China figurines in the music room

China figurines in the music room

Monsieur le Prince again

Now I am just playing around with the camera

More monkeys!
The Grand Condé himself

The upper level of the library

The books are shelved by format to some extent. These are tiny
the red one at right is probably only 3″ tall.

The card on each chair says “Please don’t sit here.” But surely the monogram conveys that message?
“Is your name Henri d’Orléans? No? Then DON’T SIT HERE.”

The “Hall of Stags,” used as a dining room

Glassware with the Duke’s arms

Facsimile of an 18C dinner menu

Joan of Arc listening to her voices

The princess of Condé says “Mmm, I don’t think so.”

One of the most important art collections in France

A door with the HO monogram

Miniatures from The Book of Hours of Etienne Chevalier

Close-up of one of the miniatures

Raphael’s “Three Graces.”  Had hardly given this painting a thought before today; 
now I am utterly in love with it.

“A good king; happiness” 

Chapel ceiling

“God helps”

“May God protect France” 

In the “Chapel of Hearts” where the hearts of the Condé princes are interred

The chapel altar

Super-elaborate stair railing leading down to the private apartments

Château exterior

More playing with the camera

On the way out . . . 

Au revoir, Chantilly!

Friday, July 18: Cultural experiences are everywhere.

It’s been quiet-ish on this blog this week because I have been busy handling some problems that students were having, and for obvious reasons of privacy I can’t say much about the specifics. But I have been thinking about it and I feel okay saying that I’ve accompanied students to the doctor’s office two days in a row, so now I know what at least one Parisian doctor’s office is like and what at least one Parisian doctor (we’ll call him Dr. Garnier because that’s his name) is like. When students need to go to the doctor, one of us assistant directors always goes with him/her, mostly for translation purposes. It would likely be possible to find an English-speaking doctor but the program has worked with the same cabinet medical for a few years and they have been great about same-day appointments and generally giving good care, so we do this instead.

However, yesterday we could not get an appointment with the regular doctor till late evening–it is summer and everyone, including doctors, is taking vacations. We wanted to be seen sooner if possible so I did some digging and found a cabinet that takes walk-ins. One of the regular doctors there is at least nominally Anglophone but he was (guess what) on vacation, so we saw Dr. Garnier, the replacement. The office was very bare-bones compared to what we are used to at home: no front desk, no receptionist, no nurses, just a waiting room, a couple of exam rooms, and presumably a couple of other spaces. Everything was perfectly clean and nice but not at all fancy. No TV in the waiting room (thank God, says this blogger), no paintings on the exam room walls.

Since it was all walk-ins, Dr. Garnier would escort the previous patient out and stick his head into the waiting room to ask who was next. When it was our turn we went into the exam room and he took the patient’s name and date of birth, then asked about the problem. He asked lots of questions, explained things really well, and probably spent 20-30 minutes with us each time I was there. He did not automatically do the routine things that a nurse or medical assistant does at every single appointment I’ve ever been to back home like take the patient’s weight or blood pressure. I don’t know if that’s because he was flying solo or if it’s always like that. He asked about symptoms and then did only what needed to be done based on what the patient told him.

At the end he printed out a prescription and also gave us a form that we will turn in to our insurance (special coverage that students get as part of the program package, to cover them while abroad) but I think is normally used for something to do with France’s national health care system. The office visit was 23€. Twenty-three euro! At the current exchange rate that’s $31.11. Not much more than a lot of people’s co-pays. I wonder if he still gets paid something by the national system for seeing foreign patients who pay at the time of the visit? Prescriptions were also very inexpensive.

Both students who saw Dr. Garnier said he was very nice, and I agree. He explained the diagnosis and treatment thoroughly and he was conscientious about speaking slowly (and using small words when necessary) so that we could understand him. To be honest I also thought the atmosphere of the office was nice. It was less polished and “professional” than a lot of doctor’s offices but it was quiet and not bustling with a million staff members and phones ringing off the wall. Even as walk-ins we waited less than I’ve often waited for appointments, and there was no fooling around with waiting in the waiting room, then going into an exam room where the nurse takes your blood pressure and then you wait another 15 minutes (especially annoying at the gynecologist, where you wait another 15 minutes while wearing a paper smock).

So, to sum up: A+++, would go to the doctor again except I hope we don’t have to. Everybody wash your hands regularly, eat healthy, and get some sleep!

Tuesday, July 15: Musée du Quai Branly and Paris Opera Ballet (now with 100% fewer strikes!)

Tuesday was a huge day. In the morning I took my class to the Musée du Quai Branly, “the museum where cultures dialogue.” It’s a large museum focused on non-European art and artifacts and some innovative temporary exhibitions. One of the current ones is on tattoos and tattoo artists and that was incredibly cool to see. I did not get to spend enough time at the Quai Branly and would like to go back if time permits. I think the students liked it as well–if nothing else it’s a nice break from marble statues and Impressionism. They came up with smart things to say about the stuff that they saw and the values that multiple cultures seem to have in common. It turns out that everybody is interested in birth, death, marriage, and social standing. Not a surprise but I’m glad they noticed!

In the evening I went with Dr. Kirk’s Music Appreciation class to see Roland Petit’s ballet Notre Dame de Paris at the Opéra Bastille. I hadn’t been to the Bastille before, only the Garnier. If the Garnier is the old world, the Bastille is the new. It reminded me of the Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas. And then the dancing started and I could barely sit still, it was so good. Modern-ballet choreography performed with all the precision and technical expertise the Paris Opera Ballet has to offer. Amandine Albisson danced Esmerelda and of course she was wonderful, strong and light and beautiful (she looks a little like Eva Green to me). It seems like a difficult character to play as she is almost always reacting rather than acting, but her dancing was beautiful and so were her interactions with the other characters. There was a touching moment when Quasimodo (Karl Paquette) is holding her, asleep, across his arms and swings her like a pendulum–recalling the bells of Notre Dame, surely–ever so gently down to the floor. I actually had tears in my eyes! As a bonus, Yves St. Laurent, my current obsession, designed the costumes. I can’t say that this ballet entirely made up for missing Robbins/Ratmansky . . . but it came close.

After the jump, pics from the Quai Branly. No pics from the ballet because they are not allowed. You’ll have to come and see for yourself.

“Slit gongs” from Papua New Guinea

Contemporary aboriginal paintings from Australia. I love these.

Another aboriginal painting.

Chinese traditional clothes

Indian saris–so beautiful!

Can’t remember what these are called but they are the coat/capes that Afghan men wear

Statue from Mali

“Kente cloth” which is properly called something else (I should have taken more notes).

Statues of kings (obviously not realistic/representational)

Early patent for a tattoo machine based on Edison’s automatic writing machine (hello, History of Print!)

Stencil for a 50s-era paratrooper tattoo. Presumably this is the tattoo my dad didn’t get because his mother would have stopped speaking to him. Good call, Dad.

Tattoo design by a current Japanese artist. I think I’d have to be taller . . . 

Monday, July 14: Bastille Day!

Today is France’s national holiday, commemorating the storming of the Bastille in 1789. It is celebrated with a military parade on the Champs-Elysées, which I attended this morning, and with fireworks at the Eiffel Tower, which I am avoiding like the plague this evening.

The parade is not an American parade with floats and bands; it is a formal military parade with tanks and horses. All the same, it is exciting and draws enormous crowd. I took a lot of pictures–in fact, I think I went mostly for the photo opportunities. Click through and see if I did a good job! Don’t forget that you can click the pictures to enlarge them.

Bastille Day selfie

The best of approximately a dozen “flag in the Arc” shots I took

The people atop that building pay astronomical mortgage rates for this view of the parade.

Getting ready for the kickoff

French Republican Guard

Look over the center of the plane’s left wing and you will see François Hollande, 
the President of France, wearing his new glasses.

The crowd was huge.

The flyover is the best moment of the parade.

Plenty of vehicles.
And lots of tanks.
(Camera in the center is framing another person’s camera screen 
in some kind of infinite regression of parade photography)

People were piled up at every side street and taking pictures everywhere.
Once the parade got under way I started walking down the Champs-Elysées to see what I could see.
This lady was pretty excited.

Parade view from Fouquet’s is also a winner.

Republican Guard horses have a checkerboard pattern brushed on their hindquarters.

People are serious about this parade business.

“I can play a tuba on horseback. What are you good at?”
Charles de Gaulle

I passed this gentleman, noticed his paratrooper insignia, and stopped to speak to him. My dad was a paratrooper in the 50s so I’m a fan of guys who jump out of planes. It turns out he is a parachutiste and also a doctor. All that while looking about 16 years old. Props to the French military, by the way, for their infinite patience and good humor at being chatted up and photographed.

At one point I passed what was obviously the holding area for VIP cars. Maybe Daniel was in this car?

I headed toward the Pont Alexandre II . . . 

. . . and ended up walking through a brocante (flea market) where among many other things you could buy “artisanal popcorn according to the Texas tradition.” I’m not sure it was Texan or artisanal, but it was good.

The grandstand at the Place de la Concorde

About 5 guys hanging from a cord attached to a helicopter. This is called la grappe and according to the Frenchman who proudly explained it to me, France is the only country that does it (Draw your own conclusions. Heh.) “C’est beau, la France, non?” he asked me. “Oui,” I agreed, and added, “Et surprenante!”

Buildings dressed up for the holiday

After the parade is “Franciliens Acceuilent leurs Soldats” (Paris Welcomes its Soldiers): members of the military and their vehicles set up in various places around the city to meet and greet the public. This is at the Opéra Garnier.

Presumably the cape gets him tons of women.

“Right. RIGHT! Not your right, my right!”

He claimed that 3 guys can fit in there and it’s amphibious (see the little propeller?).
So that was Bastille Day. I walked way too much and came back to Cité U. tired but pleased. It was a fun experience and I already have some ideas (mostly to do with getting better pictures) next year. Now the “Concert de Paris” is on TV, to be followed later by fireworks, so I’m going to watch while getting ready for bed. Joyeux 14 juillet à tous et à toutes !

Sunday, July 13: Un dimanche à Paris

The idea that there isn’t much going on in Paris on Sundays is only partially true. A lot of stores are closed but a lot of museums are open, the metro runs, and some big businesses or popular locations open their doors (although I think they pay some kind of tax penalty for this privilege). For instance, I was surprised to discover that the Orange (mobile phone) store on the Champs-Elysées is open on Sunday afternoon. But they are clearly making money via people who need some kind of service at that time. I happened to be there right at the opening time (1:00 p.m.) and there were at least a dozen people waiting, with more coming in once the doors opened. I like the idea that not everything has to be open 24/7–it makes you plan your life better and act more patient. There may be some truth to the idea that the French embrace their downtime a little too enthusiastically, but I can attest firsthand to Americans’ culpability in not taking downtime seriously enough. We get less vacation time than most other developed nations and then when we get it, we don’t take it! At minimum it makes for an interesting clash of cultures when the 24/7 Americans meet the 35-hour-work-week French.

Since I was in the neighborhood (sort of) I took the recommendation of an esteemed friend and went to the Musée Jacquemart-André this afternoon. This museum seems much less well known than the others I’ve been to–on a rainy Sunday afternoon, the day before Bastille Day, there was no line and it was not bustling with tourists. It is a 19th-century mansion built by a wealthy banker’s son, Edouard André, to house and display his and his wife’s (Nélie Jacquemart–she was a painter herself) art collection. When he died, the house and its collections were left to the Institut de France and it opened as a museum in 1913. It is a beautiful space: elaborate but not overwhelming. And as an 18th-century specialist, I was in heaven. A lot of the art dates to the 18th century and the styling of the house itself–as it is presented now–recalls that era. The special exhibition on display was focused on the fêtes galantes paintings of Watteau, Fragonard, and other artists who participated in that style: a sort of dressed-up version of the pastoral in which elegant people in beautiful clothes have a lovely (and sometimes slightly risqué) time in a fantastical woodland setting. The more paintings I’m exposed to, the more I enjoy looking at paintings because I often encounter familiar themes or people I recognize  Two of the paintings by Nicolas Lancret that I saw today incorporated La Camargo, a celebrity at the time Lancret was painting. Most of the fête galante paintings don’t depict actual people but the idea of an idyllic party in the country, possibly featuring some shenanigans, certainly reflects things I’m familiar with from eighteenth-century culture. And like many places I’ve been recently, it’s worth going just to see the building. The tour includes 3-4 rooms from the Andrés’ private apartments. I always love seeing how people lived “back then,” though I still can’t quite imagine living in such an elaborate space every day–and with corsets on, at that.

At the end of my tour through the museum I decided to have a coffee in the café and read my roman polar for a while (have learned the difference between a polar, which is more like a noir thriller, and a policier, which is just a regular detective novel). It was only a little more expensive than at a regular café and I got to enjoy being seated next to a gentleman of a certain age and his young Swedish girlfriend, speaking English to each other because that was the language they had in common, and him holding her hand the entire time. To his credit he seemed unable to believe his luck, as well he should have been. Across from me were 2 women, one of whom was wearing several thousand dollars’ worth of accessories (Gucci loafers, Birkin bag, and a watch I couldn’t identify because I’m not fancy enough) and who wouldn’t stop being rude to the server. She was like a caricature brought to life; I didn’t think those types existed. Between the coffee (which was very good), the book, and the other patrons I got my money’s worth out of that museum café.

Got a little lost coming out of the museum and walked too far through the 8th arrondissement in search of a metro. I don’t know what it is about the 8th–maybe just lack of exposure–but I usually get turned around when I go there. Finally I found Gare St. Lazare and made my way back in time for dinner and laundry. Tomorrow is Bastille Day; I’m thinking of going out for the parade but it will all depend on the weather. A little blue sky is peeking through right now, but what will tomorrow bring?

Saturday, July 12: I accidentally went to the Musée Cluny

For today I only had about half a plan at most. There were a couple of stores I wanted to go to (and/or go back to from yesterday) and then I thought I might go to the Treasury at Notre Dame or sit in a café and read or go to a park if the weather would ever clear up . . . or just flâner. My first stop was Muji near St. Sulpice, which I’d heard had a good selection of papeterie. I have decided to go back to using a paper calendar instead of my phone calendar so I thought I’d look there for a nice-looking agenda. No luck, but I did get to see St. Sulpice itself and that was new for me. It struck me as imposing and gloomy, both inside and out, but it was interesting to visit. This is the fountain in the Place St-Sulpice facing the church:

Of course since I wasn’t thinking of going anywhere photo-worthy I did not take the Good Camera; today’s photos are all iPhone pics!
From Muji I went to Gibert Jeune which is a huge bookstore in the Latin Quarter. I found a really nice agenda there at a decent price and bought a roman policier called Alex by Pierre Lemaitre. I’m not big on crime novels in English but I figured it would be at about my reading level in French. It came recommended by one of the employees and the author is a Prix Goncourt winner, so hopefully it’ll be good. I’m already almost to the end of Pierre Bergé’s letters to Yves St. Laurent, which are very sad and full of love. Dr. Kirk is reading The Hunchback of Notre Dame but I wanted something popular rather than canonical.
En route to Gibert Jeune I came out of the metro right at the St. Michel fountain. I stayed in the Latin Quarter on my second trip to Paris in 2006 and I remember being amazed that the fountain is just THERE in the middle of the street:
After lunch (sandwich, drink, dessert, coffee: 8,20€ at Brioche Dorée, which we have in the Atlanta airport for crying out loud. I’ve got to raise my standards) I was just wandering around figuring out my next move and I landed in the garden of the Musée Cluny a.k.a. the Musée du Moyen-Age (Museum of the Middle Ages). The Cluny is a 15th-century hôtel particulier (sort of a . . . city mansion?) built next to/on top of a Roman thermal bath. It houses an important collection of medieval artifacts: pieces in ivory, enamel, stained glass, sculptures, armor, household items like combs and pitchers, and tapestries, most significantly the Lady and the Unicorn set. This last was not on display last summer but it is back now:
All the tapestries are fascinating to look at. The longer you look, the more details you see.
The Cluny (Wikipedia says it is officially called the Musée du Moyen-Age now but I like to say “Cluny”) also has some illuminated manuscripts on display. One minor disappointment was that in several places, works had been removed for “reorganization”) and it seemed like most of the things that were missing were manuscripts! Nevertheless, I did see a few neat things:
It’s a letter B, see?

Italic hand . . . I think. Need my History of Print notes.

A calendar from a Book of Hours. The placard explained that 
“The page presented corresponds to the current month.”
I did not take a lot of pictures because the connection between the objects and the space seems especially important in this case. That is, you have to see it for yourself. Half of the experience is being in this hôtel particulier that is sort of big and small at the same time, with painted wood beams on all the ceilings and depressions worn into the steps of all the staircases. A couple of the rooms are in parts of the former baths, so you can see the medieval walls and the even older Roman walls. Those rooms are full of pieces from cathedrals: you have no idea how big the kings’ heads are around the front doors to Notre Dame until you see one up close! One of the last rooms on the tour is the chapel–the building was originally constructed for the abbots of the Order of Cluny–it’s no bigger than a classroom but with an elaborate “stone lace” ceiling and painted altarpiece like in a chapel of a large cathedral. I think I will go back and try to take more photos although I don’t know how successful they’ll be. In any case I’m very glad I went. The joke is that Europeans think 100 miles is a long way, and Americans think 100 years is a long time. It is awe-inspiring to me to stand in a building that is 600+ years old (much older, in places) and see objects that also date back multiple centuries. There were objects on display from the 6th century. You can’t see those things and continue to believe that the medieval period was “the dark ages.”
When I left the museum I discovered that the sun had finally come out after about 8-9 days of clouds. Here are a couple of pictures from a small park behind the museum:
The plants and trees in the little park–Paris has lots of these small parks called “Squares” (they are never square) always named after a person, e.g. “Square Laura Thomason.”

This is the back of the Cluny. You can see how elaborate it is–like a scaled-down castle. 
Really a neat place to visit.
Finished out the day with a visit to Carrefour (grocery store) where I almost bought more than I could carry. But now I have plenty of nice food for tomorrow and Monday. And a detective novel to read!

Saturday, July 5: Up and down (mostly up) in Montmartre

Today was our long-awaited (in the sense that we signed up for them in May) walking tours in Paris with professional tour guides. The students had 3 choices: le Marais, Montmartre, or Montparnasse (“I forgot which one I signed up for. . . I think it starts with an M?”). Originally I was supposed to go to Montparnasse, which I’d chosen because I’ve never visited there. But no faculty were signed up for Montmartre so I went along with that group instead. Our guide Orane was one of the guides on the visit to the Louvre last year. She recognized me even though we’d only seen each other once or twice before. I made a concerted effort to speak French–something I’m working on more diligently this year–and maintained what I’m pretty sure was a pleasant and intelligent level of small talk during the metro ride from Porte d’Orléans to Blanche. For future reference, when you get out at Blanche you will be directly in front of the Moulin Rouge, and that’s pretty cool. In fact it’s one of my overall favorite things about Paris: the prospect of coming up out of a metro station and finding yourself right next to something beautiful (Aubers station–turn around and you see the Opéra Garnier), famous (Blanche–Moulin Rouge), or important (St. Michel-Notre Dame–right across the street from Notre Dame cathedral).

Orane gave us a great, well-planned tour of Montmartre. The weather was not ideal–it drizzled intermittently–but the heavy rain held off till the tour was over and I was ensconced inside a crêperie. Because Montmartre is one huge hill, touring it is always a strenuous walk. However, there are lots of good places to stop and take a look around: in addition to the Moulin Rouge we saw the Montmartre vineyard, the Lapin Agile (originally the “Lapin à Gilles” because someone named Gilles painted the rabbit on the building–I love a good French pun), the Moulin à la Galette (one of only 2 remaining windmills in Montmartre, of which there used to be 30), and the café from Amelie. I used to turn my nose up at guided tours but I always end up learning something and seeing things I wouldn’t have sought out on my own. So no more guided tour snobbery for me; I’ve been converted.

Montmartre pictures and the rest of my day after the jump.

Moulin Rouge. Why is the exposure so weird? Are the rhinestones they use just that shiny?

Amelie’s café. I peeped inside and it looks just like in the movie.

Moulin de la Galette

Looking down a street in Montmartre.

This sculpture illustrates a famous French story, “Le Passe-Muraille” (The Man Who Walked Through Walls)

In a small park we found St. Denis again. The legend goes that after he was beheaded by the Romans he walked to this fountain to wash his head, then walked another 3-4 miles until he found another Christian. THEN he died. 

The Lapin Agile

Looking down from the Butte Montmartre

Terrible (poorly composed, toothy, recursive) selfie in small crêperie
After the tour and my crêperie lunch, I did a bit of shopping on Avenue du Général Leclerc. It’s not a big shopping street like Rue de Rivoli but it has several stores that I like. This month is les soldes so things are pretty inexpensive, and I came over a little light on clothes so I’m on the hunt. Today I only bought one t-shirt–mildly disappointing but it is a cute t-shirt–and this reusable shopping bag:

A sac is a bag, of course, so it says “I love having my shopping in a bag.”  But I suspect “en sac” is also short for “en sacré” or something similar, so it’s something like saying “I f***ing love shopping.” Can anyone confirm whether I’m on the right track with this idea? Plus it is printed with little Eiffel towers and French flags and the word “Paris” and it was 1,50€. I should go back and get several to give as souvenirs.
Finally this afternoon I did a load of laundry; it’s been warm this week, making it impossible to re-wear clothes without washing. Then a solo dinner while puzzling over an article in L’Express about a one-year intensive prépa course for disadvantaged girls. I understand the overall point but I realized I don’t know about le prépa. Is it before or after le baccalaureat? Does everybody do it? Now I have a research project to work on tomorrow in between grading and scouting out my field trip for Tuesday.

Friday, July 4: En Grève

While America celebrated its birthday, France went quietly about its business (France’s turn comes next Monday), though not without a frisson of excitement for the France-Germany World Cup match scheduled for Friday night. I taught my class and then worked in the office until about 3 p.m. when Dr. Guglielmi and I and our student assistant Caitlyn took a field trip to Tati for paper goods. Tati is a discount store full of clothes and housewares; we go there to get plates, cups, and napkins for our weekly pizza night and charcuterie buffet night. It is impressively cheap–we got 700 plates, cups, and napkins (enough for the whole program’s worth of pizza and charcuterie nights) for 60€. There are several Tati locations but the one we went to is in Italie 2, a mall (centre commerciale) at Place d’Italie in the 13th. It was easier and faster than I thought to get there, buy mass quantities of paper goods, and haul it all back on the metro. We still have to get drinks Monday and that will be a larger undertaking.

Friday night I was supposed to go to a performance of Robbins/Ratmansky by the Paris Opera Ballet at the Opéra Garnier. Prof. Chen got me an inexpensive ticket some time ago. Then it transpired that I needed to give up my ticket so that one of her students could attend (the ballet was a field trip for her class). But then yesterday, another student wanted to sell her ticket, so Prof. Chen bought it and I was back on the roster. I had reconciled myself to not going but when the opportunity re-arose I was very excited! Once the Tati haul was stowed away I had just enough time to freshen up and eat a bowl of cereal while talking to Mr. B. on Skype, then we were off to the ballet. Extra props to Prof. Chen for figuring out a route to the Opéra Garnier that none of the rest of us had thought of: RER B from Cité U to Châtelet-Les Halles (Satan’s own favorite train station), cross the platform and take RER A to Auber, whose exit is directly in front of the opera house. So much easier than doing it on the metro!

So we got there in good time and were greeted by the opera’s immaculate ushers who handed us these flyers:

I’d been hearing about the grève des intermittents de spectacle on the radio without giving it too much thought, but now it was right in our faces. The performance was canceled because of the strike. It’s been a big summer for strikes: air traffic controllers, the RATP (Paris transit authority), and the SNCF (French national railroads) have all been on strike in the last few weeks and we’ve been lucky that none of it has affected our travel. As such things go I’d rather miss a ballet than be unable to come to France at all because there’s no air traffic controller to help guide the plane. But it was still a big disappointment. We were at least able to get our money back–had to wait in a fairly long queue but they did it on the spot and in cash. If I understood correctly what I was overhearing while waiting, it was a one-day national strike agreed upon among multiple unions. Hopefully the action will not affect any other performances that members of our group are supposed to attend. The strike already caused the cancellation of the Avignon film festival, which is a pretty big deal!
In lieu of the ballet we went to dinner at Le Vaudeville, which is always a treat. To be honest, I don’t think the students knew what they were in for when they agreed to a “traditional French dinner.” The food was comprehensible to everyone but the pace of service takes getting used to. We were already tired and maybe not in exactly the right frame of mind to enjoy it. Nevertheless, it was lovely as ever. I had duck foie gras as my starter followed by steamed cod with mashed potatoes and then a lemon crème with red fruit for dessert. I was disappointed that the beef tartare wasn’t on the set menu last night. I’d have ordered it just to see the students’ faces as I ate it. But the fish was good. Every time I come to France I resolve to eat more fish. 
By the time we finished, paid up, and came back on the metro it was after midnight. A short sleep and onward to the next adventure!