Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Lerwick Day or I Could Live Here

at Da Knab looking across the bay
If you read The Hostess earlier today, her walk along McNeil Bay would be similar to the walk that I took around Da Knab yesterday with my mum's cousin. The mountains are not as high, there are no trees but the islands and the volcanic rock formations remind of the West Coast of Canada.

My parents loved to walk here when they visited Shetland and they had a plaque outside their home in Canada that said "Da Knab" Mum was telling me on Skype yesterday that once someone came to the door and asked if she was "Mrs. da Knab!!!"

I am enjoying the visit to a place where almost everyone is my family. Cousin Johnny is pointing to the man cutting the grass, the man walking his dog, the woman in the garden……He knows them all! I visited my cousin's shop in Lerwick and bought some Sea Salt scarves. I wish that we had this line at home because it would be ideal for our coastal life style. I would really like one of the tin cloth rain jackets for walking. As many of the people here are related, the sizes in the shops reflect a certain homogeneity. As a plump, slightly under 5'4" woman,  I would have no trouble shopping on the main street of Lerwick.  Alas, Madame has too many clothes at home and a jacket could probably be Fedexed at a different time.
a house by the harbour
Along the waterside are many stone houses. Boats can be easily lifted up and apparently there used to be some smuggling carried on. We're very close to Norway. In fact, we were pawned to raise a dowry by a King of Norway in the 15th century but  were never redeemed.
sign in the harbour
As I walk towards the harbour past the dormitory ships for the gas plant workers, I pass the sign that welcomes travellers to the islands. Shetland is such a welcoming place! As you can walk to visit kin, there is a lot of tea drinking. It seems that every Shetlander can be identified by their island of family origin. I'm a Whalsay woman! In Canada, I have lived on the same island for 50 years and do not feel as much at home as I do here! We live in a metropolitan area while the town of Lerwick has fewer than 7,000 inhabitants.

There is a lot of pride in Shetland history, culture and dialect. 2014 is the Year of Dialect and poetry is everywhere on the island. Even in the  public toilet cubicles!
Can you read this?
Having spent 25 years teaching emergent writers and ESL students, I pick up language easily and enjoy reading the poetry. So much to see and to learn, so little time! 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Eshaness and a Tale of Two Watches

near Eshaness
Yesterday, I drove with my cousins up to the Northwest of Shetland to Eshaness. This is Shetland's volcanic area. The roads are winding and we often had to stop for sheep. There are lots of lambs right now and the daffodils are in bloom.

north of 60 degrees latitude!!!
It has been exceptional weather throughout my travels but 22 degrees C is amazing for Shetland in April! The mist rolls in and out depending on where you are but yesterday I visited the place where the Atlantic and the North Sea meet and it was clear. They actually have a sign to be careful of otters crossing the road but this might be a bit fanciful.
sheep at Eshaness
I feel completely at home in Shetland just as if I were one of the cousins who live here. At the beginning of the twentieth century, more men left Shetland than stayed because land was divided among family and the crofts  could not sustain the the large families of the time.  Most Shetland men joined the Merchant Navy or went to the whaling.
my grandfather's old watch

Last night, my mother's cousin came over to where I was having tea and brought me a mysterious package. It was a very old watch that had somehow made its way back here probably to my great-grandmother and had been kept by my grandfather's sister until she passed it to her daughter.
 My grandfather had written on the back of the warranty paper inside the watch. We can not figure out what a merchant seaman was doing in Philadelphia!!! Obviously, my grandfather got around. I'm taking the watch back home to my mother who does not have his ship papers so does not know exactly where her father was during his twenties.

Why did the Laird's watch return to Whalsay via Vancouver?
There is a second mystery or synchronicity. While I was in Whalsay, the island where my family originated (sort of because Vikings, Hanseatic traders et al visited the island), I visited the Heritage centre in Symbister.

The Heritage Centre is located in the former home of the Laird of Whalsay.  The Scottish lairds of the island kept the Whalsay people in a feudal state until the 1880's. The fishing catch and boats belonged to the laird and only a small amount could be kept back for the family. Until the 1880's, young men who left Whalsay to go to the whaling or the gold rush were banished from the island and could not return. Families who harboured outcasts would also be banished.

Although my great-grandmother had the same surname of Bruce as did the laird's family, we were definitely fish-gutters, stocking knitters and fishers. But!!! now to the second watch story. The last Laird of Whalsay almost bankrupted himself building Symbister House. The family had no children so the Laird's line ended and the house was later a school and then a museum.

 In that museum,there is a display of the Laird's belongings that were donated by family members no longer living on the island. When my eyes fell upon the watch, I was astonished!!! Not only had the watch been returned from Vancouver but it was in a box from a jewellery store to which I have a family connection.

My first husband was related to the Grassie family who started a jewellery store in Vancouver in 1886. In my first engagement ring, was a diamond from the family and my darling daughter is connected through her father's family with the blue box that had somehow travelled from British Columbia back to the tiny isle of Whalsay!

It is said that we are all connected and never has it seemed more true to me than during this hamefaring.
land near Eshaness







Saturday, April 26, 2014

An Island in the North Sea

Whalsay 
Since I left Paris, my luggage has been lost and found again and I have met more than 30 relatives in the Shetland Islands. My grandfather left these islands 97 years ago and yet my mother's cousins are keen to see me and to have me visit their homes.

This is part of a cozy project to feature different patterns of Shetland knitting.
The first day that I was here, after my bag was delivered in a taxi, I visited The Shetland Museum.
The museum was well-organized and explained every aspect of Shetland from its geological history to
the future of the oil industry. I spent more than two hours learning about the islands and I may go back for another visit.
Much depends on boats and ferries.

The Shetland Islands are a group of islands located at 60 degrees North latitude in the North Sea. I have noticed that it is light at 5:00 a.m. In the summer, it is hardly dark at all. About 7,000 people live in the main city, Lerwick, but their numbers have been increased by workers brought in to work on a gas plant. The workers live on barges in the harbour.


Sheep and knitting are traditionally important to Shetland life. Historical records show that many of my female relatives were stocking knitters. These women would have been paid by the knit piece. They would have knit while doing their other work which included cutting the peat to heat the water that they fetched from the loch to wash the clothes. While the men were at sea, the women looked after the animals and the growing of the food. They also worked as fish-gutters when there was a herring catch. Since everything had to be brought in by boat, almost impossible during the World Wars and too expensive in earlier times, fish, lamb, potatoes, carrots, and turnips were the dietary staples.  On the island of Whalsay, where I am staying at present, there is a general store but no restaurants. It is now possible to buy all sorts of imported and packaged food but haddock is still a favourite.

The Shetland men worked at sea as merchant sailors, fishermen and whalers. As the land was passed to the eldest, younger sons usually went to sea at an early age. Some, like my grandfather, emigrated to Australia, New Zealand or Canada. During the World Wars, the seafaring skills of these men were put to the test. Two of my mother's uncles were involved in torpedo incidents and my grandfather was at Scapa Flow where the German naval fleet was scuttled after World War One. Today, I am going to visit the The Whalsay Heritage Centre  which is preparing a exhibition on the role of the Island in World War One.

German traders came to buy fish in the 16th century
The Hanseatic booth where the traders visited to buy fish at Whalsay.
While English is spoken in Shetland, the dialect is a mixture of Germanic and Norse with a wee touch of French(???). We are as close to Norway as to Scotland. In fact, during World War Two, The Shetland Bus, a covert naval operation, used fish boats to transport agents in and out of occupied Norway.

My days in Shetland are such a contrast to my solitary days in Paris. Without exaggeration, I have met more than thirty relatives in three days. The Shetland families are closely-knit (no pun intended) and generations live beside each other. Although there is community care, elders and bairns are also cared for by family.

I still have a lot of people to see and places to go during my Shetland time. I have learned a lot about the resourcefulness and hard work that characterize traditional Shetland life. As a young child, I lived beside my grandparents and my grandfather kept to many of the Shetland ways. His workshop in Canada with its smell of wood and wood fire stove and his habit of collecting seaweed as a fertilizer for his garden were links to his Shetland past that I remember.
My grandfather's home on Whalsay has a new roof and skylights.  It housed 8 people.
Family history and culture have always been important to me. I am fortunate that my parents chose to visit and to maintain these connections so that I can visit and learn and feel accepted as "one of the family"





Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Rive Gauche or Rive Droite?

La Place des Vosges
After spending four and a half weeks in the Marais, I am weighing the pros and cons of this location. I have enjoyed the activity of the area:sounds of Parisiens enjoying the evening, of musicians playing under the archways and even of early morning deliveries. In years past, my bedrooms on the Rive Gauche have opened onto courtyards and I enjoyed the cooing of pigeons. If I wake, I quickly fall back to sleep so for me night sounds aren't a problem.
One could easily miss the synagogue.
It has been Passover while I have been here and I have seen so many Jewish men walking by. I looked for the synagogue but is is tucked away with only a simple sign. One day, the door was open and I could see in and as I passed one evening I could hear singing. The Rue des Rosiers is a great place to sample falafel.

When I was staying in the Latin Quarter, I enjoyed browsing in bookstores. As a student, I was amazed at the floors of Gibert Joseph where one can find any French title imaginable. Around La Place des Vosges, there are many small galleries with paintings, sculpture and mixed medium works of all sorts.
It is pleasant to stroll under the arches and to look in the windows.
I liked this acrylic of les bouquinistes.
Wherever you stay in Paris, there is the neighbourhood restaurant. This year, my local is Café Hugo.
Place des Vosges is the neighbourhood of V.H. but he actually lived in Notre-Dame des Champs on the other side of Seine as well. 

Victor Hugo was one of the greats of the 19th century.
I have sampled different neighbourhoods on my visits but I really believe that each quartier has its own  charm and that I could be happy anywhere in Paris in the springtime.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Packing up

It doesn't seem like a month since Janet and I arrived in Paris sans mon valise! The apartment feels like home, I have a friendly grocer and a favourite table at Café Hugo. But time does have a way of marching on and I am packing up for my next adventure. This morning, I read You May be Wandering
and really enjoyed the Louis Vuitton ad campaign video.

Fortunately, I am not travelling with as many bags as these two young ladies but luggage is a challenge for a 62 year old solo traveller. Twenty years ago, I travelled across Spain with a friend on buses and trains. We had no reservations, no wheels on our suitcases and no itinerary. We always found comfortable, inexpensive lodging and had lots of adventures. Unfortunately, times do change and my travel does require more planning and lighter bags.

One of my travel challenges is that I have a tendency to fall which is made worse by fatigue or anxiety.
This is not a new problem for me but as I age, the consequences become more painful. I require a free hand to hold a railing and to manage train stations. Stepping down onto a station platform fills me with dread. As my travel for the next few weeks involves small planes, trains and buses, I  decided to purchase the lightest luggage that I could find in Paris.

Sue at Une Femme d'un Certain Age wrote about the Lipault weekender a few weeks back so I decided to look at Lipault Plume at Bazaar Hôtel de Ville.  The Plume is indeed featherweight because it is constructed almost  solely of heavy-duty nylon. BHV had a -20% off and an additional 12% non-EU discount so I decided on the 72cm Plume and the week-end bag. I expect to save the money back on overweight charges on my Shetland flights. I am flying Flybe and will be checked in at different stop-overs by Air France, Flybe and LoganAir. I have found that smaller European carriers enforce baggage limits inconsistently. My Lipault weekender will be my one personal item on board.
The Plume is featherweight.
Since I arrived in Europe on March 8, the weather has been fantastic. Not a day of rain! A sprinkle lasts
about the duration of a glass of wine. (Sip it!) The temperatures have been between 15C and 22C. I have seldom needed a coat, hat, gloves or and umbrella. This could change as I head up to Lerwick which is very close to Norway.

It  is only 18 months since I entered the blogging world. When I was studying in Paris, blogs seemed like letters from friends from all over the globe. As I began to participate and to exchange comments with other women, I have learned so much, especially about travel and wardrobe planning. I'm hoping that there is wifi in Shetland so that I can share my experiences in this little visited area.

Time is indeed marching on and I have a few organizational tasks to complete today: recording confirmation numbers as I have no printer or Smartphone, reconfirming airport transportation…..
It was so much simpler in 1994!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Sunday

On my street is a lovely shop called Peterhof.
Each Easter Sunday that I spend in Europe is a little different. Two years ago, I travelled with my daughter to London for a week-end break from classes and last year, my friend Janet and I were both   ill in our Montmartre apartment after having eaten some delicious Asian take-away food. This year, I am attending a performance of Cyrano de Bergerac at a neighbourhood theatre and buying my last bunch of Paris flowers. I will probably buy lilacs, one of my springtime favourites.
Lilacs bloom everywhere in Paris.
Lilacs seem to be special to Paris. Romany sell them in the streets, there is a Porte des Lilas near Gambetta and I used to pass the Closerie des Lilas in Montparnasse. There was an old French saying that you should plant your potatoes when the lilacs are in bloom.

In this gallery there is a sculpture of a man with missing parts in the actual window that reflects the arches of the Place des Vosges. Blossoms frame a mixed media open window that is hanging on the wall. 
It's another sunny day and the people of the Marais are once again basking on the lawns of the Place des Vosges. The special at Café Hugo is roast lamb with roasted potatoes. Délicieux! I won't need to eat again before attending the play. Sunday really is a wonderful day in Paris! Sunshine, flowers, and a little magic!

I couldn't resist a bit of Easter self-indulgence! It's called sortilège which means a kind of magic.

After all my thought of lilacs, I decided on a small bouquet of roses, peony and hydrangea!


Saturday, April 19, 2014

My Paris Face/Using Youtube Videos

With greying hair, I am wearing some different colours.
In my neighbourhood, on La Rue des Francs Bourgeois, there are many shops that sell makeup and skincare products:Bobbi Brown, Claudalie, MAC, Kiehl's, Guerlain and so many that I have not heard of! Ever since I was a young teen, I have been interested in makeup and skincare. Even "bookish" girls can enjoy reading magazines. In the 1980's, when my hair was very dark and my skin medium/fair, I had my colours "done" and was told that I was a "winter". That worked for me in the eighties with fuchsia, cobalt and black being important elements in my wardrobe.
I have more grey at 62 than my grandma did at 82.
As my hair started to turn grey, I chose reddish tresses as my own dark hair would have been much too harsh for my 40-something face. I had my colours "done" by a personal stylist a few years ago and was told that I was an "autumn". I have a personal palette of colour swatches and I have favoured browns and oranges for the last few years. I never wear black next to my face without a scarf to add a little softness.
I was modelling jewellery. This was my last hair colour at the beginning of November.
As I have now been 6 months without hair colour, I am wondering about my wardrobe and my colours.   At this stage, my weight is fluctuating (losing a little but I will do WW when I go home) so I don't want  to buy anything new. I have too many clothes so I will definitely be recycling some of my items. I have been tempted to visit my Paris neighbours for a "relooking" but it really is not within my budget.



So, I turned to Youtube to get some ideas. I would use my own products, (Chanel blusher, Clarin's
tinted moisturizer, Bourjois Paris liner and mascara, Almay shadow, and Chanel lipstick.) I followed a couple of Bobbi's videos. I was able to do my face in about 5 minutes which is good because I am impatient.
Photobooth smoky eyes
My question is now what colours am I "supposed " to wear? I have chosen to travel with grey, black and blue for this trip but as Janet noticed (from a reflection in a photo) I couldn't resist a red moto style jacket. It is a cooler red than I am used to and I added a teal scarf over my grey sweater. 

I had fun with the Bobbi Brown videos and they prevented me from going out and making any unneeded purchases. There are many resources on the Internet that have been created for une femme d'un certain âge and the best part is that they are free!



Friday, April 18, 2014

La Vie en Rose or In the Pink

a gallery window on Rue des Tournelles
Thursday, I walked in a different direction in the Footsteps of the Donkey (Rue du Pas de la Mule) towards La Rue des Tournelles, a quiet street of galleries, a couple of brasseries and (as I later discovered) some residences of historical importance. The street originated in 1400 and was a popular
address for influential courtiers of the 17th century. The interior ironwork of the Synagogue de Rue des Tournelles was designed by Gustave Eiffel. Now I understand the procession of Sephardic Jewish people past my window. I wonder if I can get a peek inside before I leave.

I continued to wend my way through quiet, narrow streets, occasionally stopping to read a plaque or to photograph a window. It's almost Easter, so pink seemed to be everywhere. A Paris visitor with a sweet tooth could be challenged by the window displays at this time of year.
Des bonbons???
Fortunately, I do not have a sweet tooth!!! My taste runs to le vin et les amuse-bouches salés (savoury).
However!! I have just a week left in Paris and and I live across the street from Gérard Mulot. Two years ago, Janet and I took a gourmet food tour and were introduced to some of Paris's most lovely culinary establishments. Our tour guide, Carine Beauvisage (what a lovely name!) was excellent. We took the Gourmet Tour and tasted so many different Parisian delicacies. Consequently, I am obliged to buy a pâtisserie from my neighbour. Which one will it be?
I chose the Amaryllis because it has some fresh fruit and a pistachio macaron filled with some custard and cake.
I love the pink box and I ate nothing else for dinner and drank only San Pellegrino. What deprivations for the sake of cultural experience!

My apartment is between le Café Hugo and a couturier Alexis Paris. Each time that I leave home, I can watch as the designer (Alexis?) drapes tulle or other lovely fabric over a mannequin (not live). Such beautiful confections in that window too!!!
Almost every day, a different dress
As I will soon be leaving, I now feel a teensy bit of pressure. I am loathe to admit this but I do. I am going to see a play next week A quoi ça sert l'amour?  based on the music of Edith Piaf. I don't often go out alone in the evening but I really wanted a couple of French theatrical experiences.

Bon vendredi saint à tous!  Je vois vraiment la vie en rose!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sight-seeing or Sight-thinking?


If you have ever taken a guided sight-seeing tour, you will recall that sometimes at the end of the day it is difficult to remember exactly what you have seen. With the cost of travel and the brevity of vacation time, sometimes a guided tour is the best possible option. However, as a retired person, time is a luxury
that I am able to enjoy.

My Paris days, which will soon come to an end, have taken on a very relaxed pattern. My sleeping area is hidden behind stained glass doors and the curtains are heavy. Every night, there are different noises: revellers, early morning deliveries, street cleaners or heavy-footed neighbours. It doesn't bother me at all. If I am awake, I listen to the BBC radio and I am able to stay in bed if I please.

What a strange revelation! I have always been the earliest lark in a family of early-birds. I have taken great pride in this…The early bird catches the worm….Early to bed, early to rise….BUT, there is no worm to catch and I'm as healthy, wealthy and wise as I'm ever going to be. That's an epiphany of retirement and of age. Striving is no longer necessary.
I found a stone angel in a garden. It made me think of a book that I read long ago.
In the morning, I eat some yogurt and fruit, shower, do laundry, edit photos, read and write. I spend quite a lot of time thinking about what I have seen or done and some time planning for my next destination. As I am alone, I am free to live in the moment but flights do need to be booked and reservations made.

I often carry my book to the same table at the same corner café to eat my salad or fish for the day. Life is easy when there are few decisions to be made. A glass of Sancerre (chablis has become too expensive) and a café expresso mean that I can read a few pages. I am savouring Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald, a book recommended by Materfamilias. I am not rushing through the novel as it is enigmatic, rich with descriptions and meant to be read reflectively.

There will always be new sights to see in Paris. The expositions at the museums change frequently, the gardens bloom with new plantings, each café offers different culinary treats and shop windows are frequently en cours. For me, I know that I don't have to rush or make too many decisions about my day because wherever I go, whatever I see will be perfect.
a giant Easter egg painted by a Croatian artist
One of my May destinations is a 10 day walking visit in Devon and Cornwall so it is important that I walk for at least 2 hours each day. Walking is my daily afternoon activity. Although I must admit that I stop frequently to explore courtyards and small parks, I am now able to climb my stairs without stopping to take a breath.

The sun has been shining in Paris for the whole time that I have been here. Not a day when my quilted coat has been necessary! I am so joyful to be able to be here that even the sound of the street sweeper outside my window seems like music. My wish for today is that every person find his/her own spot that
feels perfect!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Stories Beneath

When I was a young girl, I loved stories more than pretty much anything else. Not one to climb trees or jump ditches, I wrote poetry and created lyrics for my Toronto Royal Conservatory music. I used my mother's ancient Underwood typewriter to publish some of my works.  Once, I was brave enough to submit one of my poems to a magazine. It was not published but I had not yet learned the skills of revision and perseverance.

In the 1950's, books were special gifts to be bestowed on birthdays and on Christmas. Consequently, I read the books of my mother's girlhood library and of our small but friendly library branch. One of the reasons that I love Paris so much is that it is like the palimpsest where old stories are erased to make way for newer ones. However, if one looks very closely, the remnants of the past remain.

Yesterday marked the beginning of Passover. On my street was a procession of Jewish men wearing tall black hats with one man wearing an impressive hat of fur. I don't take pictures of people in the street unless they are performing and I have asked their permission so I do not have a photo.

I decided to visit La Rue des Rosiers again to learn more about le quartier. France has the largest Jewish population in Europe and the third largest in the world after Israel and the United States. There have been Jewish people living in France since Roman times. Throughout French history, there have been periods of acceptance and periods of expulsion and persecution.
The main square is called the Pletz (little place)
I was disappointed that many of the shops were closed but found some interesting signs and windows.


A miniature Seder table.


Most of the Jewish population in Paris were deported to camps. Three hundred school children were sent away from the Fourth Arrondissement. The Museum of the Shoah and Le Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation are interesting centres to visit to learn more about the Shoah.

This young Resistance fighter was killed. There are many such plaques around Paris.

There are so many stories in these few streets of the Marais that I wonder if I will make it to any other areas in the week that remains to me. I am, however, going to visit the Yiddish traiteur, Florence Kahn to pick up some authentic Passover fare.

Two years ago, when I was studying at CCFS, I prepared an oral presentation on L'Affaire Dreyfus, a controversy that split the French nation in two. Last night, I listened to a BBC 4 In Our Time history broadcast on the affair. If French history is an interest, you might find this discussion informative.

Personally, I think that I am missing the academic life a bit and wonder where that road will take me.



"I do like a road, because you can be always wondering what is at the end of it," once said Sara Stanley, also known as the Story Girl.
From The Story Girl  by L.M. Montgomery (one of Maman's girlhood books)


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Monday Meandering

I have seen this on four different walls.

 There are days when I meander through the streets of Paris with absolutely no purpose. It is pleasant to notice something colourful or something previously unnoticed or something thought-provoking. As many shops and museums are closed on Monday, the streets are quiet.

The colours call to me as I explore mews and tiny neighbourhood green spaces.
Down a side street was this pink building, lovely with its ivy and lilacs.
In a little park, the gardien yelled at me for opening a gate in order to take a close-up of a peony. There was no lock or sign, just a man who yelled, "non!"
No peony but I did get a photo of an armless lady.
In an apartment courtyard, flowers and a bicycle make wonder about the resident. Monsieur and I have been caring for our geraniums for three years now. They seem the hardiest of plants for the apartment dweller.
Who lives here? Where does she go on her bicycle?
Street names intrigue me! La Rue des Rosiers! The street of rose bushes! It's hard to imagine that this street lined with falafel stands and delicatessens was once a fleury way. La Rue des Rosiers is one of the principal streets of the Jewish quarter. Plaques record the numbers of residents who were killed during the Shoah. In 1982, a Jewish restaurant was bombed and 6 people died.
The street writer was here.
 So many sights, so many lives, so many happy and sad moments within a few blocks.

Et je me comparais aux palimpsestes ; je goûtais la joie du savant, qui, sous les écritures plus récentes, découvre, sur un même papier, un texte très ancien infiniment plus précieux” André Gide

Basically, the streets of Paris are like a sort of Magic Slate. When you lift the cover, there are so many stories that wait to be told.



On a much lighter note: it is a glorious springtime in Paris. In my neighbourhood, both Passover and la Semaine Sainte are being celebrated and I'm off to hear some wonderful music this week.

Quel oeuf!

C'est très mignon.
I wonder who the mystery writer is.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Time Flies ou Le temps passe vite!

This Paris week has passed in a flurry of activity. On Monday, I met my former professor from Le cours de civilisation de la Sorbonne. I was anxious because Madame is an award-winning teacher who is an expert in sociolinguistics and 19th century French poetry. I have not been taking courses since we met last year and was feeling unprepared. I worked very hard the term that I spent in Paris and do not maintain my French at home.

I walked all the way from Place des Vosges to Boulevard Raspail in inexpensive new "comfort shoes"
that I bought to wear while my other shoes were being repaired. Beware of cheap shoes! Madame suggested that we meet at the new site of the cours (CCFS) and that she would give me a tour of the building that now houses all of the facilities (classrooms, study rooms, library, conference rooms) all with SMARTBOARDS and beautiful views of the Paris rooftops. She is deservedly proud of her new workplace and introduced her visiting former student to her colleagues.

Madame had invited me to lunch Au Gymnase which is not a cafeteria in the gymnasium but
a friendly restaurant on Raspail. Simone de Beauvoir was born in an apartment on Boulevard Raspail and Mavis Gallant wrote at Le Dôme on the corner of Raspail and Montparnasse, To lunch with a world-class scholar on the street of my Paris heroines, quel rêve. Madame and I spoke of her new grand baby, current expositions in Paris and her anticipated retirement. Just two women of a certain age having lunch together. Kisses planted on both cheeks, adieus bade, I began to hobble on my newly blistered feet back to the Marais. Eventually, I hailed a cab and was comforted by a man from  Guinée Equatoriale who assured me that no Paris woman would ever walk that far and that he liked a strong, healthy woman.
I started out early before the chairs were out.
The next day, I started out early (for my Paris self) to meet my youngest brother at the gardens of the Cluny museum. For anyone who is visiting this year, Le Musée Cluny has been transformed and according to Madame is worth revisiting. For those who have never visited, the Cluny is a beautiful museum of the Middle Ages which houses six tapestries which recount the story of The Lady and the Unicorn. I read the novel by Tracy Chevalier and quite enjoyed it.

We walked back to my brother's hotel in the 15th  to pick up my sister-in-law for a day of sight-seeing.
As she had a sore knee and I was still "breaking in my feet" (you never "break in shoes"), I suggested a taxi to the Batobus which is one of Paris's sight-seeing bargains. It's not a tour but hop-on-off boat that travels along both banks of the Seine from Le Jardin des Plantes to the Eiffel Tour, stopping a Notre-Dame, Louvre, D'Orsay and St. Michel. It costs 16 euros for 1 day or 18 for 2 days for unlimited use.

We hopped off to give my sister-in-law her first view of the Eiffel Tower and spent some time people-watching in the surrounding parks. Then we headed to Rue Cler for lunch at Le Café du Marché. I have always enjoyed Rue Cler and stayed at the nearby Hôtel du Champs de Mars a few years ago.
However, the area is one of Rick Steves's favourites and you may find yourself seated among a lot of North Americans.

After lunch, we took another of Paris's sight-seeing bargains #69 bus which runs all the way from Champs de Mars/Invalides to Gambetta (Père Lachaise Cemetery) for less than 2 euros. Buy tickets at a tabac or machine because you do not get a transfer (correspondence) on the bus. Drivers carry change so bus riding is not stressful.

I disembarked at my street corner, leaving le couple to travel to Père Lachaise. We spent Wednesday evening and Thursday enjoying Paris together and now I am back to my solo life. It seems impossible but I have only 10 days here before I leave for more family time in Shetland.

It's yet another sunny Saturday in Paris. A little tidy-up and I'm off to buy fresh flowers!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Le Week-End

Place des Vosges Sunday morning
I love Paris on the week-end when les parisiens take to the streets and parks and restaurants. People lounge on the grass, kick a soccer ball or read on a bench. My backyard aka. la Place des Vosges is perfect for enjoying le beau temps, for people watching or listening to music.

From the bottles on the ground, I know that the runners have past.
I wander down to Rue St. Antoine and I discover that it is the Paris Marathon. Maybe one day Materfamilias will run in this one. The sounds of cheers and music lead me to Bastille where the 3hour 15 minute group are passing. There are flags from all over the world and people cheering as I walk for a while beside the course.
The man in brown is cheering for everyone.
I find myself near the Pont Sully but decide not to cross as I am going over to la Rive Gauche on Monday to have lunch with my former professor from the Sorbonne. My camera battery needs charging
so I decide to buy the fresh flowers that I enjoy and to head home for a bit.

I chose inexpensive pink tulips.
My seating area is bright and pretty with my flowers and the book of poetry and art that I bought in a gallery under the arches of La Place des Vosges.
The book is called Ouvrir m'app Porte by artist Deborah Chock.

Batteries recharged, I head out across la place and onto la Rue des Francs Bourgeois which is jammed with Sunday afternoon browsers. The musicians outside the Musée Carnavalet have the most interesting gogo granny!
This band is very good.
I keep different hours in Paris than I do at home. If I wake in the night, I listen to BBC Radio documentaries. They either put me to sleep or I learn something new so it's a good use of my nighttime 
hours. The other night, I heard an interview with The Very Old Grandmother. If you have never read this blog, you might find it interesting. Maman and I had just spoken (we talk regularly on my free phone line) about feeling invisible and unheard.
not invisible dancer.
This lady was evidently part of the group and she was having a great time. The BBC documentary addressed the problem of isolation of the elderly and how technology was actually alleviating the problem with Skype and blogging. I didn't fall asleep during this documentary.


By this time, it is mid-afternoon and I am hungry. Most of the Franc Bourgeois restaurants look very busy so I follow a side street towards St. Antoine where I find Le Bouquet St. Paul (85 rue St Antoine)
and order La Plancha de la Mar.
Oh! C'est délicieux avec du Chablis!
What healthy meal with really fresh vegetables. I couldn't finish my dorado but it was all very tasty.

The week-end in Paris is really a feast for the hungry flâneuse. Perhaps that is hat Hemingway meant when he called the city "A Moveable Feast".