Thursday, June 27

I vist the Musée Marmottan Monet, the Arènes de Lutèce, the open-air market on rue Mouffetard, Montparnasse, and Jardin Marco Polo.

Been here a week now. So far so good! Only 11 weeks left. Classes start one week from today and I'm looking forward to it. It will be a big shift away from tourism to lots of hard work. But that's why I came here, and by then I'll probably be ready for it.

It's raining and cold. Maybe it will clear up and get nicer soon. It's only 8:30 in the morning.

I keep finding odd objects in my apartment left by former tenants. Yesterday I found a great shoulder bag that's useful when I go out shopping. Except on the side in big letters it says "The 17th World Congress on Controversies in Obstetrics, Gynecology & Infertility". I really need to get a more appropriate version of one of these, maybe one that says "La Sorbonne" on it. Or maybe "Je suis américain. Merci de ne me déteste pas." (I'm American. Thanks for not hating me).

I have my own object to leave for future tenants. Yesterday while over in the 2nd at the fromagerie, I finally found an ashtray in a little hardware store of all places. I told the shopkeeper "Je cherche un cendrier depuis une semaine" (I've been looking for an ashtray for a week.) He said "vraiment?" (really?). Yes, really. I couldn't find one in any shops anywhere in my hood, not even at the local "Tabac".

It's so nice to have a towel warmer in the bathroom on a chilly morning like this. I wish I had one in my bathroom back home. Just a little thing, but so nice.

I have decided to go to Musée Marmottan Monet. It's located at the far western edge of Paris in the 16th at 2 rue Louis Boilly, near La Muette métro stop. They have over 300 impressionist and post-impressionist paintings including the world's largest Monet collection, but also works by Degas, Manet, Pissarro, Gaugin, Renoir, and others. Sounds nice, doesn't it?

Checked the forecast. The rain has ended. Only 13 degrees now, but turning sunny and going up to 19 degrees this afternoon. So the decision is made. I'm off to the Marmottan now, then I'll explore the open air market at the southern end of rue Mouffetard and Montparnasse this afternoon.

This is a park I sat in for a few minutes on my short walk from the métro station to the museum. It's called Jardin de Ranelagh. No big deal, just a typical Parisian neighborhood park. Beautiful.

So what's this about? Don't ask me. I accepted the invitation and played the piano. Only one key actually made a sound, and that was horrible.

An interesting statue illustrating the fable "The crow and the fox" by Jean de la Fontaine.

A very cute little kid was having a great time skipping around this statue in circles, over and over again, followed by her patient Mom. I had to wait until they went behind the statue to take the picture.

The sign on the street where the museum is located. The 16 with the little e superscript followed by "Arr" with the underlined t superscript stands for "seizième arrondissement", or 16th district. The street signs in Paris all look like this.

One thing I love about Paris and find most romantic is how so many streets are named after artists, musicians, writers, mathematicians, and philosophers. Louis Boilly was a painter. Some of his paintings are in the museum.

Musée Marmottan Monet was fabulous. Way out in the outskirts. Jeez, took over 30 mins to get there on the métro. What's that about anyway? Very small place but filled with spectacular Monet paintings and others. If I had only a limited time in Paris and had to make choices I think I'd skip the big tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower and go here instead.

There was a school field trip in the museum. The teacher was lecturing very loudly and authoritatively to the kids, who were sitting on the floor in a circle around her listening attentively and patiently.

It has turned into a beautiful day in Paris. So when I got home, after climbing the stairs of my métro station, I turned a few meters to the left and went up into Arènes de Lutèce, my local 1st century Roman amphitheater, and watched these gladiators battle to the death. Wait, those aren't gladiators, those are kids playing! I guess you have to use your imagination.

For lunch I was thinking of buying another one of those yummy ham and brie sandwiches I had yesterday. Then I remembered that I still had half a baguette at home, plus lots of the world's best brie. All I needed was ham. So I stopped in the bucherie and bought some ham. The brie was in the fridge overnight so I'm letting it warm up to room temperature and get all gooey and good before I eat it.

The sandwich was very good, except the baguette I bought yesterday has already gone quite stale. I think they sell mini-baguettes. I'm going to have to try to buy those in the future.

A first: I had a long fluent conversation in French with the butcher. I think I've started to loose my anxiety and nervousness about talking French to the locals. Bonjour! Avez-vous de jambon cuit? (Do you have any cooked ham?) Oui, monsieur. And it went on from there for 10 minutes or so. He was very curious about whether Chicago is a "belle ville". I assured him that although it is not Paris, it is indeed a pretty city, with the lake and the parks. So very nice to do this.

Made a quick trip down rue Mouffetard, which I'm now calling "the mouf", to this vegetable stand to pick up the ingredients for dinner - a tomato and cucumber salad with a vinaigrette.

The marché isn't as big as I had thought it would be. Maybe half a dozen stands. But the produce looked really good and really fresh. I've read that it's trucked in from the farms daily, so it should be. I look forward to my salad tonight.

So am I ever going to actually go out and eat dinner at a nice sit-down restaurant? I suppose so, someday. I really should, you know, this being Paris and all.

Stopped by the wineseller on the way to tell the owner that the wines I bought yesterday were "merveilleux, très agréable," and that I would return (je retournerai). I heard her tell her friend that I was "nice" (gentil) as I left. It's good to make as many friends as you can down there on the Mouf - it can be a rough and tumble sort of place, especially when the tourists descend and won't get out of anyone's way because they're so busy gawking about and taking pictures (oops - that's me).

My purchases at the vegetable stand. This will make a nice salad to go with wine and cheese for dinner.

Now it's off to spend the rest of the afternoon and evening slumming around down in Montparnasse rubbing shoulders with the ghosts of the greats who used to live there - Hemingway, Picasso, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, Andre Breton, Modigliani, Gauguin, Rodin, Giorgio de Chirico, Rainer Maria Rilke, Henri Matisse, Apollonaire, Chagall, and I don't know how many others.

A huge fountain at the southern end of Jardin Marco Polo. Those are turtles around the circumference shooting the streams of water out their mouths. Jardin Marco Polo is directly south of Jardin du Luxumbourg, and that building you see way in the distance in the Palais de Luxembourg.

There was nothing much to see in Montparnasse except yet another pretty Paris neighborhood. The ghosts, if any, are long gone. Even the building where Hemingway lived with Hadley, in an apartment above a sawmill, was torn down long ago and replaced by an apartment building.

But it's a glorious evening and I very much enjoyed the short walk home.

A sad flower bad in Jardin Marco Polo. It's been such a cold spring. But look at the incredibly cute kids at the top of the picture. The park was packed with families and kids. So pleasant. The parks and gardens of Paris are these family's back yards.

A poster for a Chagall exhibition at Musée du Luxembourg at the southern gates of the Jardin du Luxembourg. Another must see!

Blvd. St. Michel, one of the grand boulevards of Paris built by Baron Haussman.

The mairie (village hall) of the 5th arrondissement, right next to the Panthéon. Note one of the beauties of Paris in the lower right corner, with the oh-so-perfectly-tied scarf. All dressed in black and white, with just the scarf for a touch of color. Very Parisian. It's so chilly here that both men and women are still wearing scarves. And notice the red boots on the other woman. Color in footware is also very popular.

It's 8 pm, the dinner hour. So here it is. The tomatoes and cucumbers are very fresh and tasty with the balsamic vinaigrette dressing. I'm saving the cheese for last to have as dessert with a glass of that good Bordeaux. (The champagne is all gone.)

Even the little things here are interesting because of the language and cultural differences. I discovered that there wasn't any salt or pepper in the apartment for my dinner, so I went to the mini-mart on the corner to buy some. This wasn't the bigger Franprix supermarché further down on the mouf, just a tiny hole in the wall shop that sells the essentials that I've found convenient for these kinds of errands.

I found the salt easily enough in a rack of all kinds of different spices, much like you'd see in a grocery store in the states. And I found the section of different kinds of pepper easily enough. There were many different kinds of unground pepper corns, and some shakers of white pepper, but no regular ground black pepper shakers. An older Frenchman joined me at the rack and it turned out he was looking for exactly the same thing. He accosted a clerk and demanded indignantly to know why there wasn't any "poivre noir normal". The clerk gave one of those gallic shrugs and said (I paraphrase) "You're asking me? That's your problem, not mine." So the French gentleman and I began digging around and finally found just two plain black pepper shakers way in the back behind all the others. Voila! Un pour vous, et un pour mois!" All's well that ends well.

Just another little trivial adventure, but interesting and cute nevertheless.