Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Postcards from Paris 6: Le Shopping

What do I do most when I'm in Paris? I wander and eat pastry, and mostly I window-shop, admiring both the merchandise and French tastes and display skills. I also take scads of photos with my iPhone.

Please excuse the reflected glare in some of these pictures, an unavoidable problem with window-shopping shots.  This turned into a long post, so feel free to yell at me in the comments if it took too long to load. I will try not to do it again.

Here's a shop filled with gorgeous antique musical instruments. I doubt we have anything like this over here:

There's a shop on the main street of the Ile Saint-Louis that always has a few items featuring Harris's perfect little face:

I don't know how this happened; I assume that Harris negotiated the licensing agreement and modeling sessions himself.  This time he was in the front window. Those are vinyl zippered bags, and I have the smaller one. Also an eyeglass case, a tape measure, and a notebook. 

Of course, I'll go into shops if I'm more than mildly interested. One day I was walking along and, voila! Le J. Crew! I had to check it out.

Inside, it was more elegant than any American J. Crew I've seen. I was even a little intimidated, which was ridiculous. I was dressed in J. Crew.

I don't need anything for our kitchen except a rotary cheese grater, but I went to Dehillerin anyway. It's the place for cookware of all kinds and it's heartening to see how unchanged it is from my first visits to Paris in the early '90s.  It probably looked much the same when Julia Child visited in the '50s and '60s. I'm not convinced that some of the basement shelves have been dusted since then. 

I looked everywhere (no one waited on me) and couldn't find a râpe à fromage. Which is too bad, because I was rather proud of myself for figuring out the French for "cheese grater." Check out the copper display:

On the Ile Saint-Louis, Marie-Tournelle is a charming little paper shop brimming with beautiful stationery, cards, wrapping paper and fun little things for children. In the Christmas season they have the best Advent calendars:

Also on the Ile is a very good mineral and fossil shop. I can't re bought something cool that I'll show you later. Their window is full of intriguing things:

In the 2nd Arrondissement, I visited a pair of elegant shops called Sézane, which sell women's clothing and leather goods. I'd seen their pretty shoes online and wanted to try some on. I also wanted to check out their bags. The shoes were uncomfortable — almost all shoes are for me, and the bags weren't quite what I wanted, but everyone there was so friendly and the ambiance was so nice that I was glad I visited:

I had to photograph this Dolce & Gabbana "book bag" in the Galeries Lafayette. It might be available here on Newbury Street but I never go in there:

Paris has several 19th-century covered shopping streets called passages. They are the first shopping malls, designed to protect customers from bad weather and mud. They are still lively places, with cafés, clothing and shoe stores, antique shops, jewelers, booksellers, and toy shops. I visited three one sultry, drizzly morning: good places to pass the time on a rainy day:

Here are some goodies in passage store windows: gorgeous fabric and over-the-top shoes:

Gold-tooled leather bindings in an antiquarian bookseller's window. It was closed, and I got this glare-free shot by sticking my phone through the diamond-shaped metal security gates and pressing the back of my iPhone directly against the glass:

Later that morning, I found a flea market. Brimfield à Français! Like Brimfield, most of the vintage clothing and housewares looked like they'd earned their retirement. But it was fun to browse:

This little tourist was loving the toy soldiers:

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Postcards from Paris 5: People-Watching in Hot Weather

All dressed up and roasting outside one of the fashion houses (can't remember which) on the Right Bank:

Musicians taking a break on the Ile Saint-Louis:

An interesting character in skinny leather pants on the bridge to the Marais:

Stilettos, a cigarette, and two-toned hair in the 2nd Arrondissement:

By the Seine, where one might catch a breeze:

This poor model wore tall leather boots and a camel coat on a sweltering afternoon on the Ile:


Happy Birthday, Possum!

Possum turned 8 yesterday, and the cats celebrated with a roast chicken dinner. Possum is the light of my life and my soul cat, so I wish he'd pay a little more attention to me. He vastly prefers my husband nowadays, and they are always together, napping working. I don't blame him; my husband is a very nice guy and is also much more upholstered comfortable to sleep upon than I — even après too many French pastries.

I think Possum ignores me because he is very jealous of the attention I give the other cats. But what can I do? I won't stoop to his games, and it is my duty to make a big fuss over all of my cats who don't refer to me as Evil Mommy.

Eventually Possy will come around, I hope. We still do have occasional good times together — until he spots my husband and dumps me, or another cat comes too close, and he takes off in a huff.

But I will always love him. He was the greatest kitten ever.

Here's a photo from those days, when he only had eyes for me.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Happy Birthday, Wendy!

Wendy turns 8 years old today. We don't know her actual birthday so we chose this day for her.

Here she is, having her supper tonight. Evil Mommy adjusted her food dish under her chin a couple of times to make life easier for her. As you can see, Possum photobombed us. I love that disgusted expression — she has food, and he doesn't.

Wendy kindly provided us with a list of grievances, as she often does on her birthday or Gotcha Day.

1. Evil Mommy is still alive. Why is that? She is always saying she is, "Dying for a milkshake," "Dying for a piece of chocolate cake," and "Dying for some warm chocolate chip cookies." But she almost never gets those things and she is still alive. It's wrong.

2. Evil Mommy sat on the edge of the bed last night to take off her sandals, and I was lying there having a rest because I was really, really tired from sleeping all day. So I didn't leap off the bed and take off like I usually do. I thought I was Going To Be Killed, but I wasn't Killed; she ignored me. I assume this is because she has plans to Make Me Die later in some more horrible and painful way.

3. There are way too many boy cats around here. The only thing worse than boy cats is girl cats. At least when Evil Mommy is fussing over them, as she does ALL the time, she can't try to Kill Me at the same time. Still, I would like to be the Only Cat around here. 

4. Possum still gets everything he wants. It's disgusting. He squawks at the humans and jumps in their laps, and he even smacks them, and they love it, and he gets treats and everything. Lion just has to meow to get whatever he wants. And Harris is the worst, slinking around their legs and mooshing his disgusting nose into their disgusting necks and ears and armpits. And Toffee just has to look at them and it's like they can read his mind. I'm ignored. I never get anything I want.

5. I wish I knew what I wanted.

6. I really Do Not understand why Evil Mommy is still around. She is really, really, super-old so this just cannot continue for much longer. I can't handle the horrible stress of having her around. You should try living with someone who is always about to Kill You and see how you like it. I Could Die at any moment and someday — just you wait! — I Will.

7. Evil Mommy and Daddy went away many times with suitcases recently, and left us by ourselves with only the cat sitter who came twice a day to feed us, play with us, take photos of us, and give us treats and catnip.  I sort of like her because I am fairly sure she is Not Going To Kill Me since she gets paid to feed me. The rest of the time it was lonely with just four stupid boys, although we had three empty boxes, and a pile of kraft paper to hide under, and that tunnel that makes Harris freak out. We also have about million toys. This went on a really, really long time. And then they came back!

8.  Sometimes I sit on the sofa cushions these days. It's a new adventure for me, and I am a fierce-brave cat. Sometimes, when I decide to sit on the cushions, Evil Mommy is lying on the sofa. And she reaches out and pets me without looking at me. I'm sure she thinks I am one of her stupid boy cats — otherwise she would Cause Me to Die, right? And so I have to sit there and purr, and try to act like a boy cat, and let her keep petting me, and this goes on, and I have to keep purring, and it's really horrible and I can't believe I am Not Dead from it. Living here is Awful.

Postcards from Paris 4: Place des Vosges

I read an interesting piece of advice for repeat visitors in one of my Paris guidebooks: stay in a different arrondissement on each trip, and deeply explore that neighborhood. Since it was too hot to trek long distances during my six-day stay, I took that advice and mostly wandered in the Marais, where we stayed, as well as on the nearby Ile Saint-Louis because we love it there. We have stayed in St. Germain in recent years so this was unfamiliar territory.

The beautiful Place des Vosges is in the Marais, so I went there on my first day. A series of nearly identical, 17th-century stone and brick residential buildings surround a large, grassy square with trees, paths, and fountains.

It's a popular place for both locals and tourists, who can stroll around the square under gracious, arched arcades. At ground level, these building house restaurants, shops, and many art galleries.

In one corner of this arcade, you can step boldly through an open door and find yourself in the shady courtyard of the Hotel de Sully, a very quiet and private-seeming public space: 

The Hôtel de Sully is a historic private mansion, not a public hotel in the modern sense. It was a cool, lovely place to sit and consult whatever guidebook I was carrying. 

On my first visit to the Place des Vosges, I took a circuitous route to get there — I probably wandered for close to an hour — so I thought it was far from our hotel. I soon discovered I was wrong, and then I found a nice shortcut. I left the Sully courtyard by another gate, saw I was on a street near our hotel, and saw some newly familiar landmarks.

A Monoprix department store was right next to our hotel. People rave about Monoprix and its bargains, but I never find anything. (They are similar to Target, another place I usually leave empty-handed.) Also, this Monoprix always smells like stinky cheese, probably because they sell groceries in the basement. 

But it was air-conditioned, and the back entrance was a few feet from our hotel. So I'd walk through it, come out its front doors onto the Rue St. Antoine, and cross the street. The second gate to the Hôtel de Sully's courtyard and the Place des Vosges was right there, almost in my "back yard." That was a nice discovery, almost as nice as finding such a shady oasis in the first place.

Here are some photos of Victor Hugo's apartment, on the second floor of Place des Vosges, beginning with his handsome bust:

A painting of Esmeralda and Quasimodo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame:

The Chinese Lounge, with woodwork and furniture designed by M. Hugo himself. The woodwork has many unusual carvings that had special meaning to him and his mistress, Juliette Drouot. The style is reminiscent of Art Nouveau, although he designed this in the 1860s. As you can see, he collected plates.

The dining room:

Hugo's standing desk and inkwell in his bedroom:

The bedroom, including the bed where he died:

Here's a painting of him in his deathbed:

There's also a sweet portrait of his grandchildren, holding one of his books:

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Postcards from Paris 3: The School

Our hotel room's casement windows overlooked a school, and I enjoyed watching the kids and their parents coming and going. I heard it was their final week before summer vacation, and there was a lot of activity even into the night. The casement windows were well sound-proofed so I never minded the racket.

I was awake and around when the school day began, so I saw mothers and fathers in sleek suits or shorts dropping off their children and kissing them goodbye. In a city filled with tourists, it was nice to watch real Parisians doing something so ordinary but charming.

As you can see, real Parisians wear sneakers, sandals, shorts, untucked shirts, tees — many of the same things Americans wear. They just manage to look hipper than we do.

One mother had a blonde Afro mohawk and a tiger's head on her leggings, as well as a toddler in a stroller and a baby in her arms:

I saw very few mothers dressed up for work; these red heels were unusual, as was the all-black ensemble below:

Another kiss, under an umbrella:

Sometimes kids arrived late and had to ring the bell. Sometimes someone's mother wanted to get in:

I was often around in the afternoons when parents arrived to walk their children home. Notice how all these Parisians are wearing shorts, tees, sneakers, and backpacks, all things that the Americans are not supposed to pack for Paris lest we look like American yokels. And yet these kids and parents look . . . Parisian. Is it their haircuts? I have no idea, but I suspect it is in the details, The backpacks have hipper designs, an ensemble is all-black, the shorts fit just so, the sneakers are fabulous, a little sweater is worn over the tee, and that tee hangs just perfectly. Etc.

I saw all kinds of people in a community centered on their children. And it seemed great.

One afternoon I watched the little girl on the left try to climb the lamp post while her handsome papa paid attention to her brother:

I didn't get the photo of her putting her foot on top of his head for a boost. He remained oblivious.

If I was up late at night, there might still be some action in front of the school. This woman sat smoking and talking on her cell phone for a long time. It didn't seem like the most comfortable spot.

Then Friday came. I had to come home and school was over.