Sunday Morning

UFO for blog-0570A typical Sunday morning:  Never a dull moment.

We woke up to the sound of drums, that familiar beat of encouragement for yet another Paris marathon that always wraps itself around the Place de la Bastille.  And that is a good excuse for breakfast out, camera in hand . . . This was a different troupe of drummers, composed of more ages than most and maybe less nubile than the last bunch.UFO for blog-0581

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Continuing on our walk to the Aligre market we heard the music of a different generation, performed by a quartet perhaps less energetic but no less passionate, no less ambitious and maybe even more appreciated than the drummers were. 

UFO for blog-1800Finally, back to the boat before lunch, we watched as the entries in the yearly UFO at the Arsenal were nearing full readiness. This crazy Arsenal event, called Unidentifiable Floating Objects, designed by and for kids(of all ages), has seen the creation of some pretty strange, and hopefully floating, vessels.  Using barrels, bicycles, surf boards and other motley objects, ragtag floats propelled by human power have been taking shape for several days on the stone quai across the canal where we have a bird’s eye view from our back deck.

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Not looking good . . . but it didn’t sink!

The wind was at their backs, the sun on their faces and the life jackets cinched on.  There was a rescue boat at the ready, but only one young captain was seen getting swept overboard – but maybe he really jumped in and loved every minute of it!

and then it was time to get on with the rest of the day . . .

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Tudors and Marionettes!

What do they have in common?  Suspension of reality . . .

Henry the 8th

Henry the 8th

First, a fabulous exhibit of at the Musee de Luxembourg… The Tudor Dynasty, with its five monarchs, from Henri VII, who crowned himself in 1485, to Elizabeth I the last rulingTudor from 1558 to 1603, changed their world during their reigns.  Change began with Henri VII’s defeat of Richard III thus ending the 30 year War of the Roses and finished with the Virgin Queen Elizabeth I restoring the Church of England and creating a powerful navy to set the scene for world future colonization. 

Anne Bolelyn

Anne Boleyn

The lives of these legendary figures became the stuff of literature, theater and art. In this exhibition, their power is put on display.  The details of the paintings is amazing.

The Virgin Queen

The Virgin Queen

In between the first and the last, Henri VIII who, according to the French ambassador at the time was “…so covetous that all the riches in the world would not satisfy him.” ; the short reigns of young Edward VI who died at 15; and the “diplomatic pawn” Queen Mary I who restored Catholicism as the first woman to govern England. 

Sketcher in the Luxembourg Park

Sketcher in the Luxembourg Park

The Tudors were of another world, another planet.  Maybe because we have never been ruled by such an ostentatious lot, I could almost not even believe 16th century reality was accurately portrayed in the Tudor exhibit. Over the top!  And really beautiful . . . 

Diving in . . . Also of another world, Diego Stirman provided us with a different kind of break from reality.  Set in a tiny theater in Belleville, Stirman enchanted his audience of children and adults with the antics of his marionettes. 

We forgot about our hard backless benches, forgot that we were listening to French with a crazy Spanish accent  and simply engaged with the suspension of reality.  It was wonderful.

Marionettes-33  Theater buff

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This guy is everywhere!

This guy is everywhere!

The Oldest city wall

Key to hisory

Key to hisory

A history walk following the oldest city wall in Paris took us from the right bank to the left and back again walking miles on a beautiful morning tracing the oldest city wall created during the time of King Phillip II. Before he left for the Third Crusade in 1189, the king ordered a wall to be built to protect the city, including the early Louvre, his 12th-century fortress.  Nearly 1000 years ago he left with his old enemy, King Henry of England who became his new pal to drive the Moslems out of the Holy Land.  They succeeded in that crusade, but what would they think of that success if they could see the world today?

The wall changed over the centuries as the city spread out.  Later kings built new protective walls but did not destroy all of this first one in the process so a search for its remnants was illuminating and also sometimes very dark: A part of the wall of Philip Augustus in the parking Mazarine, rue de l’Ancienne-Comédie.

More obvious incorporation of the old wall into newer city plans can be seen along the route where the street level changes dramatically, often with a staircase or short wall between the roadway and the shops and sidewalks.  Many streets are called Rue de Fossee de … Which indicates where the ditch of the old wall was.

The walk through the Marais lead us to the longest section of the wall where children play with the church St Paul’s at their back and the Seine just across the quai.

One fascinating feature of the modern cityscape is the orientation of rooftop chimneys . . . where the wall existed, the chimneys slant to follow the direction of the wall, as in the bottom building.

We found an occassional tower, preserved and protected by a courtyard, or a crumbling stone wall jutting into the walkway, plaques marking the wall’s location through closed doors, and graffitti and caryatids who have nothing to do with the middle ages but add to the history tour of the streets too.

The walk wasn’t always in site of King Phillip’s city wall, but it was always providing other interesting details along the way . . .

Once we peered into a window from the street, past the room inside and through a far window to see the 1000 year old wall of the garden beyond.  With our noses pressed to the glass, a gentle lady also on the street asked if we would like to come inside!  She unlocked the door and took us through the house to this lovely serene garden.  The house is part of a religious residence.  What a gift that we were right in front of her door as she returned from the market!

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There are so many other little details of an historic walk, I could walk on and on!

Cavaliers et Chevaux

Alexander Bridge

Alexander Bridge

Walks in and around Paris are always a delight to the senses.  But this one, a real history lesson, began with a not unexpected assault to our olfactory senses.  We are moored just a couple blocks from the barracks of the Calvary of the Guarde Republicaine.  Though we cannot see or hear the horses, if the breeze is just right one can easily imagine being in a very active stable in the countryside.   This scented start put us in the right mood to discover some of the many sculptures of horses and their riders between Notre Dame and The Grand Palais.



The first being this portrait.  Astride his bronze horse on the lead of his much mustachioed men, this Charlemagne waited for 26 years in plaster before the city of Paris had the acquisition funds for the foundry to bring the sculpture to life.  Today, and until the end of time, they wait near Notre Dame, but not in a long line as others do . . .

Etienne Marcel

Etienne Marcel

On a Sunday when there are only feet, (rollers may be attached), bikes, baby carriages and canes for traffic, we had this view of Etienne Marcel

Created by the sculptor Idrac who was inspired by the powerful models of the Italian Renaissance,  Etienne Marcel looks out across the Quai de la Hotel de Ville to the Seine.  Sitting high above the street and just in front of the rose garden now in full and fragrant bloom, this scupture represents an honor bestowed upon Marcel for his strong opposition to Henry V and the abuses of power by the royals.  Times were changing…  Left, on a Sunday when there are only feet, (rollers may be attached), bikes, baby carriages and canes for traffic, we had this great view of Etienne Marcel.

The gardens along the way provided serenity and near silence despite their nearness to the busy streets bustling with the noise of city living.

All of the gates into the grounds of the Palais du Louvre are impressive,

and this one at the central entrance into the arcade with La Gloire, is no exception. Created like an ancient medalion high above the arched opening, Glory, with her 2 genies driving the chariot, has the spoils of war at her feet.

Louis XIV

Louis XIV

And shown above of course, Louis the 14th:  this lead reproduction of the original Bernini is magnificent in the Napoleon Court at the Louvre.

Louis XIV

Louis XIV

In many ways it is more interesting to see the reproduction here, with the blue sky above, than to seek out and admire the original which is somewhere inside!  Like many of the horse sculptures on this wander, seeing them from all sides, up close, and from an unobstructed distance adds to my appreciation.  They are all so powerful.  The victorious soldiers, regal royals, myths brought to life in bronze . . .

Pegasus and the Genie of the Arts

Pegasus and the Genie of the Arts

Horses walk-19    Horses walk-18

You would miss this spectacular gate into the Louvre (shown above) if you didn’t look up.  There may have been a representation of Napoleon 3rd in this arch – but after the terrible defeat he suffered at Sedan a movement got underway to remove all his glorifications . . . So today, high above the street and facing the river, the genie of the arts sits awkwardly on Pegasus, waving to those crossing from the left bank to the right.

“Peace” riding towards the Louvre from the Tuileries

A tableau of “Peace”(above), driving a triumphal chariot, tops the gateway from the Louvre into the Jardins des Tuileries.  Created as a monument to glorify the Grande Armee in a classic Italian style, the design was borrowed from the arch of Septime-Severe in Rome, and reminds me also of the chariot crowning the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. This is an impressive Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel in gold, verdigris with pink marble – beautiful.  But triumphal monuments seem to be a thing of the past.  Win or lose, there is no glory in war.  As Jeanne d’Arc shown below would find out . . .

Jeanne d'Arc

Jeanne d’Arc

We walked further on to the Place des Pyramids, where stands the statue portraying the young girl Joan of Arc, her fragile figure perched on the powerful work horse.  The artist purposely created these contrasts which caused lively criticism for some reason in 1874. During her glory days in Paris, she was wounded nearby where her statue is placement. Today this is one of my favorites, Joan, in the middle of a busy crossroad, unafraid, determined and mighty.  She could take their criticism  . . .

Leaving the Tuileries

Leaving the peaceful Tuileries behind, the Place de a Concorde is always bustling and a visual feast with the Eiffel tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the pyramid of the Louvre, the Alexander bridge and of course the obelisk right before your eyes – well, at a distance.

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Add to that the herd of goats trimming the grass, pedicabs, the mobs of tourists, and all the statues, gold tipped fences and cacophony of traffic – Paris!

Mars, symbol of War

Mars, symbol of War

Renommee, symbol of Peace

Renommee, symbol of Peace

As we  approached the Place de la Concorde, Mercury and Renommee a symbol of war and a symbol peace, and of course both on horseback, ride on each high side at the end of the Tuileries. But which was which?  In 1984 the originals were added to the interior collection of the Louvre.

Pollution in Paris is a terrible force to deal with and is so destructive – buildings are continuously being cleaned.  This may be why the originals were moved.  (As an aside, we learned recently that the city of Paris mandates that property owners must keep their own buildings clean and face fines if they do not comply.)



The Cours la Reine is a quiet lovely pedestrian alley between the place de la Concorde and the Alexander Bridge.

The following 3 riders on horseback are a tribute to the greatness of the men portrayed.  They were all created in the 1930’s, at a time when the horse was becoming an obsolete part of the world’s war machines. They are among the last portrayed in this way.  What symbol will replace the horse for the heroic figure to magnify a general’s prowess in war or a politician’s selfless sacrifices for the greater good?

Albert, well loved King of Belgium

Albert, well loved King of Belgium

In the Cours la Reine, there is a shady path on each side of a lush lawn.  The green carpet was laid for the the king of Belgium, Albert the 1st, who bravely refused to allow the German army to march through his country.   When Albert died in a mysterious accident, the French raised funds to erect a monument in his honor and to express their sorrow and gratitude.  Mosaic coats of arms of important Belgian cities encircle the pedestal and on one side of the pedestal is a frieze of Albert enlisting his son into the army.

Further down the path a magnificent statue of LaFayette stands in the middle of the Cours la Reine.  It was funded in part by the efforts of students of the American school in Paris, where I was a student many years ago!

Horses walk-48Finally, on the Cour la Reine, Latin Americans offered to build a monument to their liberator, Simon Bolivar, on the 100th anniversary of his death.

At the end of this shady oasis we walked back into the hubbub to see more horses practically flying off the Grand Palais.  The exposition universelle of 1900 is responsible for many extraordinary things, including this Palais.  Walking by an open delivery door the grillwork of the space is visible.  And across the street is the beautiful golden gate into the petite Palais.

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Flying horses

Flying horses

The walk was more than just horses . . .  Secret gardens, the sky changing dramatically throughout the walk, gorgeous cross river views, identifiable tour groups, cafe stops, a bowl of soup for lunch and a modern chariot, our metro, home! 

Family portrait on the Cour du Reine

Family portrait on the Cour la Reine

“Nuit des Musees” the European Night of Museums

Nuit des Musee-35All over Europe one extraordinary night is devoted to exciting the populace with the opportunity to enter the museums for free all eventing until midnight. Since 2005 yearly this event has pushed open the doors of culture, encouraging people to get out and visit their city museums.  Many of the museums have special events for everyone to enjoy which are especially enticing to children, and also available at other normal opening times – like the light dancing wildly through the gardens of the Musee Branly and hands-on writing with light at the Arts and Metier. The night is a real family affaire.  Paris weather was perfect for a promenade and that alone was something to get out and enjoy!

We tried not to be too ambitious but still managed to stay out until the wee hours, just after midnight.  At that time the Eiffel Tower sparkled on the hour and spread its beacon across the city; on the bridges sleepy children were rolled to the metro for the late ride home and raucous revelers joined the crowds having a last call or two in the crowded sidewalk cafes.  It was like a vernal New Year’s eve, with happy, warmish, lively fun.

The Curies

The Curies

Our first stop was the small, fascinating Curie Museum, the old “Radium Institute” in the Latin Quarter.  So much daring work was done in this humble little lab with beautiful hand made tools and equipment. Their innovative work and discoveries would change the world in startling ways and garner the Curie family, over their lifetimes, 5 Nobel Prizes for their work.  And for Marie and her illustrious daughter, Irene, would cause their deaths.

This work below was the most amazing, beautiful and easiest to relate it to the science.  Cells with stuff inside all bouncing around, bumping into each other and multiplying.  Very understandable.

Nuit des Musee-7“At night, unaware of the peril, they admired the fruit of their work as it lay on a pine table: tubes of radium fragments that exuded a pretty bluish “fairy-like glow,” in Marie’s words.  Even today, the notebooks in which they recorded their work from 1897-1900 are so radioactive that any scholar who wishes to consult them at France’s National Library has to sign a certificate that he or she is doing so at their own risk.”

In the small garden in the back yard behind the old laboratory is an exhibit of how artists view what scientists see through their microscopes.  The scientists posed the question: What can we learn from this vision?  Not sure they have an answer yet . . .


All life under the glass domes

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Next stop was a bizarre exhibit at La Monnaie . . . all about eagles, a “Museum of Modern Art – Department of Eagles”.  The artist, Marcel Broodthaers, is something other than an artist it seems to me.   His idea is supposed to be “a reflection on the imaginary museum as institution, fixed idea, principle of order or temple of artists.”   The exhibit contains many objects, all of which relate somehow to the eagle and some to money which the artist considered inseparable from art.

Nuit des Musee-43 Nuit des Musee-42

Nuit des Musee-5

According to the literature “Exploring the mind of an iconoclastic artist, this exhibition is the gigantic achievement of an aesthetic and spiritual fantasy “. Stranger things have been called art but one feature throughout this exhibit is a sign beside each object, written in German, French or English that states “This is not art”. Strange.

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Nuit des Musee-41After a walk across the Pont Neuf and a quick metro ride, we arrived at our last venue: the Musee des Arts et Metier. Placed high in the deconsecrated Saint-Martin-des-Champs church, the 1909 Bleriot XI plane, just 8 meters long, seems to float in the vaulted ceiling.  Starting with that plane, when it crossed the English channel, England would no longer by an isle unto itself, and would be linked more easily, if not more completely, to the continent.  Arts et metieres

Below that plane, a symbol of such daring technology a century ago, would-be graffiti artists had a chance to “paint” with water and light, using new technology of today, the uses of which are somewhere out there in an exciting future dream.

The queue was long to try one’s hand, but it was fun to watch while waiting . . .

And finally, about midnight, another bridge…another metro ride and very tired, we’re back to the boat!

Portes Ouvertes

Portes Ouvertes-27Once a year in the 20th arrondisement 42 of the artists who work and often live in the tiny ateliers behind closed doors or garden gates open their studios to visitors.  Christophe, a man generous with his time, knowledge and love of historic Paris, organized a group of interested people to take a long walk through the neighborhoods to meet the artists and to discover their work.

Portes Ouvertes-61This day, a Sunday, was one of those beautiful blue sky days after too many dreary ones so our enthusiasm and hunger for the light made the 5 hour walk fly by.

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Portes Ouvertes-4

Delicate, rather abstract wire flowers

From inside the passage . .

From inside the passage . .

We followed a serpentine route past the cemetery Pere-Lachaise, once part of a thriving agricultural domain and vineyard on one of the 7 hills of Paris; we wandered into community gardens and entered secret passages between rows of private gardens in full bloom with clematis, irises and roses.

Portes Ouvertes-55

This gallery was eyes, only eyes. Beautiful, old, young and mostly happy eyes.

Portes Ouvertes-13

Paper rolling artist telling us tales of perfect paper rolling procedures . . .

The artist were all present, and happy to discuss their work.  Everything was for sale during the Portes Ouvertes but during regular days most of these studios are closed to the public. The artists sell their work in galleries, not only around Paris but all over the world – even Detroit!!

Portes Ouvertes-3

Perfectly rolled Paper Piece

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Community Garden wall mural

Garden Ladies

Garden Ladies

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4:00 Time to wander home . . .

High Water on the Seine


The Arsenal lock doors are closed against the level of the river – which is nearly the same as the canal level!

At the gateway from the Seine into the Canal St Martin and the Port-Arsenal, boats pass through a lock which raises them from the lower river level to the higher level of the canal, maybe as much as 3 meters. During the spring floods this can dramatically change.

Seeking higher ground

Seeking higher ground


This sculpture, usually on very dry land, is deep into the water

It is a wild time on the waterway now.  The Seine and many of the well traveled rivers are rushing about seeking freedom from their banks.  Running away in a sluice through the countryside, sneaking over their brims without warning, the spate put a stop to safe navigation. 


Never got this high but he is ready . . .

Suddenly the Seine was wild, roiling and rushing from it’s source, filled with two weeks of rain and the melt from higher altitudes that finds its way into the valleys and rivers.  The boats that left the Arsenal a week ago were the last to go until this torrent subsided. Even the commercial traffic was sparse.  At least for a few days.

Waves over the bank

Waves over the bank

Seine-84Muddy river and murky sky, the only boats going out were emergency vessels, police and firemen.  Tour boats, commercial barges, pleasure cruisers – they would wait for another day.  Oh, and the occasional water taxi was poised for action … but unless you’re a duck, how to get to it??

Seine-75There are big old barges moored on the river – private homes, restaurants and jazz barges.  They all have a challenge just getting on an off during this period.

Just as suddenly as it started the high water subsided, the banks were revealed again, the stoney paths around the river were back in pedestrian business.  Life would get back to normal  and the exodus from the port could continue.


Chasing the flood . . .

And now back to normal??  Seine-100  Ah, Paris!