Monday, July 6, 2015

Magical Montmartre

There's a lot to love about Montmartre, that beautiful butte on the Parisian skyline. In fact, if you approach it from the Abbesses metro, you'll soon see the famous "I Love You" installation, with these words written in dozens of languages.


(A diversion: Butte is defined as an isolated hill with steep sides and a flat top. This leads me to wonder if the slang for our posteriors -- butt -- was derived from this French word.)

Our guide to this part of Paris was Peter of Peter's Paris, a site I'd  recommend every Francophile and French tourist for its wonderful history and photo posts. One of the best parts of blogging is meeting people around the world and when Peter learned Rick and I were coming to Paris, he kindly offered to take us to Montmartre. He's highly qualified -- Peter volunteers as a tour guide in the City of Light and as you can see from his blog, knows his stuff well!

I could take you on a virtual tour but I fear it would be far too long a post so let me leave you with a few things I love about this part of Paris. Some may seem silly but together they form a divine picture of a very old part of Paris. Let's start with the views. This is hilly territory. Whether you are looking at the views of Sacre Coeur from Montmartre's streets....

....or looking at Paris from one of the terrific lookout points, you have splendid eye candy. Winding streets, a variation in landscape, it's all there.

Speaking of eye candy, it is a wisteria lover's dream city. How I wish I could do this in my own yard!

There's history in Montmartre, too, and plenty of it. Numerous artists and musicians, particularly from the Impressionist period and the early part of the century, created some of their best work here and joined in grand evenings at the bar Lapin Agile.

Montmartre recognizes some of these with placques, such as Eric Satie. You can learn about others at Montmartre's museums, if you don't have a Peter around to help guide you!

You'll want to stop for a snack or lunch here. Peter knew a wonderful brasserie where we enjoyed champagne and a lovely lunch.

I took the photo below to remind me of the name, but I can't tell in the glare. Peter, if you see this post and can remember, will you please add it in the comments?!

I loved the cemetery here. Parisian cemeteries are like a walk through history and this one is no exception with the gravesites of Jacques Offenbach, Hector Berlioz, guitarist Fernando Sor, and Adolphe Sax, inventor of the saxophone, among countless others.

The graves are beautiful and unique and the setting, a beautiful hillside (of course), was lovely, even on a rainy day.

Although I didn't realize it when I took this photo of a cat hiding out in the rain, our Marmelade Gypsy was making his way to his own end and four months later that cat I would adopt -- Lizzie Cosette -- would look just like this one.

A big thanks to Peter for showing Rick and me this beautiful spot of Paris. For me it was a second visit to Montmartre. I had seen it three years before with my friend Jerry, visiting the Place du Tertre, where artists paint all day, catering to the tourists and where we enjoyed a sunset picnic on the steps of Sacre Coeur. For Rick, it was the first time and for both of us, new discoveries.

This post is part of Paris in July, a wonderful summer blog event hosted by Tamara at Thyme for Tea, where you can find additional posts about the city of light and the books and films it has inspired. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Southern Exposure in Early Summer

Southern Exposure does not offer classes during the summer months but the gardens are open and free of charge to those needing a shot of beauty in their lives! (And to the numerous guests of weddings at the site!)


On my recent trip to Kalamazoo to do some art journaling with Joanne, I stopped in the gardens on my way home.

Although it was late in the day, workers were still about and I could see how these gardens are kept in such immaculate condition. There had been a lot of growth since the daffodil days of early spring!

Of course, I love the vintage cars on the property. It's always a step back in time.

The herb garden has a pretty good start, too! Our schedule of workshops for fall arrived and several involve getting fresh herbs from the garden to include in arrangements.

I couldn't resist the iris, still in bloom! Irises remind me of my dear Aunt Iris and she would have loved these.


Of course, the bird baths are still "in bloom." If I buy one thing for my yard this year other than flowers, it will be a bird bath!


The hostas were huge and the gardens looked lovely. I suspect they are even lovelier now!


Of course, I can't resist the beautiful statuary. This angel particularly touched me.

So, too, did this contemplative madonna, guarding a path.

The color was lively with peonies and impatiens in bushes, wreaths and on garden gates.

There were paths to walk and spots to rest and simply contemplate.

And mostly, I contemplated how lovely it was to have this beautiful spot not all that far from home.

Another visit is due. And soon, fall workshops begin!

Maybe by then I'll have my own bird bath!

(Those interested in learning about the fall workshops can visit Southern Exposure's website. It is located near Battle Creek, Michigan.)

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Paris In July: Four Smaller Museums

There's no shortage of museums in Paris. Many are a brand unto themselves: The Louvre, Musee d'Orsay, Carnavelet, to name several. They attract large numbers and long lines and while their offerings are splendid and perhaps not to be missed, sometimes a smaller, more "doable" museum is just the ticket.

These four examples are all targeted to special interests but even the general tourist might find something new and intriguing during a visit.

Maison de Victor Hugo

One of the most delightful things about the Victor Hugo museum is that it is located in one of my personal favorite of Parisian spots, the Place des Vosges. Pick up your baguette and cheese or some other delightful delicacy from the boulangerie and enjoy a picnic lunch on the grounds before visiting this small and fascinating museum, one of the former homes of Victor Hugo, whose works include "Les Misserables" and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."

The museum combines both the characteristics of a typical museum -- exhibits of letters, paintings and books, all telling a story of the writer -- with his rooms and furnishings. Along the way, with the well-written audio tour, one learns about his personal life as husband, father, lover and statesman.

Certainly the fact that his funeral brought hundreds of thousands of people into the streets indicates his popularity at the time. That popularity has lingered on stages and film screens around the world.

Musée d'Art et d'Histoire du Judaïsme (Museum of Art and of Jewish History)

 This small museum is located in the Marais, about eight blocks north of BHV and Hotel deVille on Rue du Temple, just past Rue Rambuteau. No photos were allowed within, which is a pity because both the exhibition on the day of my visit and the permanent collection were fascinating.

Included you will find not only the scheduled special exhibit but items and artifacts pertaining to the lives of Jews in Paris throughout the city's history and the history of Jewish communities in France, Europe and North Africa. Included is work by Chagall and Modigliani and the archives of the Dreyfus affair. I found particularly poignant an exterior wall of names from those who were victims of the Holocaust.

Bibliothèque-Musée de l'Opéra National de Paris (Opera Garnier)

Many visit the Paris Opera to walk down its grand staircases and see the magnificent auditorium with its Chagall ceiling. Of course, this is a wonderful experience but for the opera and ballet fan, the museum itself is a lovely treat.

This includes the library and archives of the Paris opera along with numerous related museum exhibits and paintings related to the topic. You'll see costumes, scene design models and renderings, books and musical scores. (Check with the library about access to these materials on days when the museum is closed). Special exhibits may highlight a special occasion or composer. (An exhibit about Jules Massinet was featured during our visit.)

Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation

This fourth is not really a museum, but it is a powerful place to visit to those who feel a strong connection to the Holocaust. It is a memorial, a place of contemplation, of memory.

Located behind Notre Dame, underground on the Seine, this is a memorial to the 200,000 people who were deported from Vichy to concentration camps during World War II. Stark, simple, poignant, it is a compelling reminder of the damage to humanity when a dictator or political group feels that a civilization and group of people must be eliminated, simply for who they are and what they believe. (If one is looking at the east end of Ile de la Citie from the Seine, you will see a small, barred window on the point of the island. This is the only light from outside that enters the memorial.)

Narrow and claustrophobic, the memorial includes inscriptions as well as ashes from the crematoriums. The crystal room (you view it from the end) has 200,000 lighted crystals for those deported from France in World War II. It is not everyone's cup of tea. But I found it incredibly moving.

And, given the state of things in the Middle East these days, it may well hit all too close to home.

In General

There are many other small museums in this remarkable city. They highlight specific artists, dolls and toys, arts and crafts, advertising -- there might be a museum for any topic! Check to see if the ones you want to visit are included on the museum pass for discounts and by-passing lines.

This post is part of "Paris In July." For more posts related to books, travel, movies and more from France, visit THIS LINK. 

Tamara may post participants on her sidebar or in the post at the top of her blog which is Thyme for Tea.One way or the other you'll find boatloads of French fun!

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