We don’t often find ourselves in Paris on a sunny Sunday in August without our bikes, so after a leisurely lunch on the balcony, testing a new vinho verde, we went for a walk along Berges de Seine from the Orsay Museum to the Floating Gardens. I have to say we were a little disappointed compared with last year, perhaps because there was nothing new. But the sky was amazing.
A meeting with some Australian friends on a sunny day took me to my favourite café in the Tuileries – Chez Diane. On the way back, I went to see my favourite rose in the Palais Royal gardens. I don’t know what it’s called but it has the most amazing fragrance. We’re going to have another try at growing it from a cutting in August.
I often take photos that simply don’t fit into a post but that I want to share so I thought I might alternate Wednesday’s Bloggers Round-up with Photo of the Week. Those who follow me on Facebook or Instagram may have already seen them.
Saturday was set aside to do my professional tax declaration, never something I enjoy and I expected it to take all day as there is inevitably something that I haven’t done according to the book despite the fact that I use accounting software and do my VAT (GST) declaration once a month. As it turned out, it didn’t take as long as we expected and by 4 o’clock we were ready to do something more interesting.
My first idea was to go and see the cherry blossoms in Parc de Sceaux, but it was cold and overcast which made the venture a little risky. I suggested instead that we walk down to the Orangerie Museum near Concorde and if there was no queue, we could visit the permanent exhibition. The museum was completely remodelled a couple of years ago and we hadn’t been there since.
Probably because it was about 4.30 pm by the time we got there and the museum closes at 6 pm, the queue was very short. L’Orangerie used to be one of my favourite museum, particularly the two oval rooms with Monet’s nympheas, but it also has large collections of paintings by Renoir, Matisse and Derain, with smaller collections of Cézanne, Rousseau, Modigliani, Laurencin, Picasso, Utrillo and Soutine.
I was somewhat disappointed with the renovations, very stark, with lots of steel and concrete, which I found unappealing when compared with the beautiful 19th century rooms that used to contain most of the paintings. However, there is more space now and the Picasso, Utrillo and Derain collections, in particular, are much bigger. Also, perhaps because I have seen them so often over the years, the oval rooms didn’t have their usual effect on me. I remember the first time I saw them nearly 40 years ago, I wanted to lie down on the floor and go to sleep!
However, I did learn the story behind the collections in the Orangerie this time. Paul Guillaume started his working life in a garage and eventually became a wealthy art dealer and collector, quickly becoming a respected figure in artistic and literary circles in the 1920s. He died in 1934 while still in his forties. His wife completed and modified the collection which was donated to the Louvre in 1959.
As we were leaving, we noticed a temporary exhibition called Les Macchiaioli. As soon as I walked in, I fell in love with everything I saw. I loved the extraordinary light that emanated from all of the paintings, the precision of the lines, the subjects, the colours, the detail.
The Macchiaioli date from 1850 to 1874 and are sometimes referred to as the Italian impressionists. They were a small group of artists from Tuscany, many of them revolutionaries, who used to meet in a café called Michelangiolo. They were the first painters in Italy to break with the traditional academic style of painting.
Much of their work was done outdoors to capture natural light, shade and colour. The most prominent artists, represented in the exhibition, are Odoardo Borrani, Guiseppe Abbati, Giovanni Boldini, Odoardo Borrani, Vincenzo Cabianca, Giovanni Fattori, Silvestro Lega and Telemaco Signorini.
Macchiaioli was originally a derogatory term invented by a art critic in 1862. Macchia not only means patch or spot but also sketch or sketchy. Macchia denotes a forest as well, in reference to the fact that the artists painted outdoors. In any case, the idea of patches or spots, denoting areas of light and shadow, corresponds well to what they believed was the essential component of a work of art.
Jean Michel noticed that in two of the portraits the eyes followed you, no matter where you stood: Antonio Puccinelli’s Portrait of Nerina Badioli and Odorardo Borrani’s Portrait of a Young Man. We were both particularly taken with a large light-filled portrait of three women: Silvestro Lega’s Il canto di uno stornello.
It’s definitely one of the best exhibitions I’ve seen in many years. It has just started and will be on until 22nd July 2013 in Paris, then in Madrid at the Mapfre Foundation from 20th September 2013 to 5th January 2014. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. I know I’ll be going back to see it again.
Jean Michel and I have just had lunch at Café Diane in the Tuileries Gardens for the first time this year. It was wonderful sitting under the trees on the edge of the duck pond lined with sweet-smelling pink hyacinths and vibrant red tulips.
Spring has been a long time coming this year, but I’m sure it makes us appreciate it even more. It was even warm enough at 20°C to take off my sweat shirt. Our Australian friends Redfern and Saint Vincent are visiting Versailles today, experiencing sun and warmth at last.
On Monday, I went powerwalking in the Tuileries around 5 pm. The first thing I noticed were the chestnut trees which are one of the earliest to sprout new leaves, along with the linden trees.
There were enormous beds of multi-coloured tulips and purple hyacinths. The ice-cream vendors had appeared around the fountains, but surprisingly, no sailing boats for the kids.
I saw several photo shoots of bridal parties all speaking foreign languages. Getting married in Paris in the spring is definitely romantic!
On Monday, I noticed a sign indicating the Paris-Saint Petersburg 2013 chess championship in the Carré des Sangliers from 21st to 25th April, so after lunch, we wandered down towards the Orangerie to a temporary pavilion to see what it was all about.
It’s the same spot where the Ahae photographic exhibition was held last year that I loved so much. We went through a lobby first where we were asked to turn off our phones, then into a second room with two commentators but no players. An usher came over and took us into a small dark corridor where we were given headsets and sent into the next room.
About six tables with chess boards were lined up on a podium, five of which had only one player. I don’t know where the others were. Our headsets meant we could hear the commentators next door and a screen above the players showed a projection of each board. It was all very hush-hush.
We didn’t stay long, first because we’re not chess players and second because it seemed criminal to be inside when there was so much sun outdoors!
As we strolled back up the gardens, we saw a very sophisticated-looking lawn-cutting machine that rolls the grass at the same time. Nothing like the basic electric model I use to mow the grass at Closerie Falaiseau in Blois!
And now Jean Michel is back at work and I’m about to attack my professional tax declaration which means finishing off the accounts first. Not one of my favourite activities at the best of times and definitely not on a perfect spring day. Sigh.
I’ve already talked about the sunset in Paris but my very favourite spot is in the Tuileries Gardens. I don’t usually post this many photos at a time but I happened to be there recently when the sun and the sky were just perfect! They’re not of the sunset itself but of the changing light over the surrounding buildings and fountains. So come with me as I walk from the Concorde end of the gardens down to the Louvre and then we’ll have a drink at Café Marly!
I love the Tuileries Gardens in the late afternoon in summer. The crowds have died down and if it’s a fine day, the sunset will turn the Louvre a lovely shade of pink. There are four fountains, each with a different view. Just pick a chair and take it all in! But first, make sure you go to the free Ahae exhibition in a temporary installation on the Concorde end, just before the Orangery.
I’ve now been twice and each time, the effect when I leave the exhibition is the same – a wonderful feeling of lightness and serenity. Ahae is a Korean photographer who took 2 million photos over a period of three years from the SAME WINDOW. Not just any window, of course. He looks out onto a pond, maple trees and mountains. And not just any photographer either. His high-tech equipment includes a 1200 mm lens. The stunning result is often more like an impressionist painting than a photograph.
I particularly like his photos of birds in trees or in flight, although the dragonflies perched on reeds in the middle of the pond are not bad either!
When we left the exhibition, Relationnel suggested we take a walk through the fun fair on the other side. Not really my scene but it was actually quite amusing. The first attraction, for small children, consists of a series of large plastic see-through balls floating on water. Each blown-up ball has a zipper. The operator pulls the ball up onto the landing stage and opens the zipper. The child crawls in, the zipper is closed and the operator sends in a blast of air to fill it again. He then pushes the ball into the water. The children all seemed to be having a whale of a time crawling on the bottom of the ball and making it turn around.
However, when I saw the getting-in process, I couldn’t possibly imagine Black Cat at 3 or even 6 for that matter, being zippered into a plastic ball, having air blasted at her, then being thrown into the water in a ball she couldn’t get out of. I watched the next child come along and was not surprised to hear her scream as soon as the air was fed in. The operator undid the zip and she got out, sobbing. However, another little girl, who had just finished her ride, asked if she could go instead, so I guess it’s something you get used to.
Maybe it’s all in preparation for the most horrendous (adult) ride of all – a large arm with an 8-person swing on each end – that had everyone goggling. Relationnel was fascinated watching the riders’ faces. I couldn’t even look at it without feeling ill! He said they all looked as though they’d had enough after one round, but it then starts turning in the opposite direction. Strong sensations are not my thing, I’m afraid.
Even the traditional ferris wheel is not within my possibilities but it’s much more attractive, particularly in the late afternoon!
The Ahae exhibition is open every day from 10 am to 10 pm and the Tuileries Gardens from 7 am to 11 pm. Until 19th August.
Au mois d’avril ne te découvre pas d’un fil,
En mai fais ce qu’il te plaît.
(In April, don’t remove a stitch,
In May, do as you please.)
It’s 19°C today with bright sun and blue sky and I just powerwalked up to Concorde and back. And there they were, the poor little kids, all rugged up in their thick coats and boots and even hats. The luckier ones were bareheaded and some had even taken off their coats – but they were probably foreigners anyway!
I’ve heard this saying many times since I arrived in France in 1975 and not just in the north. It seems that the slightest little breeze will bring on immediate coughs and colds. In the metro, the kids must be so hot in the winter. I can’t bear keeping my coat on for any length of time and I certainly wouldn’t be able to put up with wearing a balaclava or a hood with a thick scarf around my neck in a train.
Our flat is totally overheated even though we turn the radiators off but if the heating is adjusted so that we have the regulatory 19°C on the fourth floor, the people on the ground floor will only have 16°C. It’s the hot water going through the pipes that heats our place. The trouble is, you get used to having 23°C all the time. When we move to Blois, I suspect that I’ll have to invest in some warmer clothes!
But spring is well on its way, with daffodils and hyacinths and magnolias out in the Palais Royal Gardens. I swear I can see my bulbs growing in the window boxes. Yesterday, there was only one crocus out and today there’s a whole crowd of them. Not easy to take a photo though. Our balcony is actually just a gutter but it’s just wide enough to fit a small table and two chairs if one person sits down first and pulls the table forward to let the other squeeze in.
The people are milling around the fountain soaking up the sun. I must say that Parisians are real sun lovers. I guess if you’re starved for it the rest of the time it’s understandable. It’s actually surprising weather for March when you’re supposed to be getting “giboulées” which means a sudden burst of rain, sometimes accompanied by wind, hail or even snow, and often followed by bright sunshine. Not my scene!