Category Archives: City Walks

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

Nuit des Musee-14

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.

                Nuit des Musee-43

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.

Portes Ouvertes-67

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

Portes Ouvertes-2

Community Garden wall mural

Garden Ladies

Garden Ladies

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4:00 Time to wander home . . .

Friends Coming and Friends Going

Peridot Leaving 2015-24When spring arrives and if the river is not in flood, the boats in the port start to put their cruising plans in place. Sometimes they depart one by one, sometimes in something like a flotilla. Lovely Peridot, pictured here passing under the passerelle, was first to leave the port in April for the Canal de Bourgogne.  The month preceeding the exodus finds us all tending to the necessary final preparations for a safe journey through the summer – cleaning, repairing, maintaining, replacing the bits and bobs – and just messing about on our boats.

Peridot Leaving 2015-13           Peridot Leaving 2015-26

From the biggest to the smallest, each has its own special elegance, each is different, each carries a happy captain and a willing crew – well, mostly willing as long as it isn’t raining too hard.


Peridot Leaving-50

Les amis du port turn out at the lock to say goodbye to boaters departing, until finally the last boat will leave with no fanfare!

When the boats are out of sight, we all can easily picture these friends underway, finding a new mooring, visiting a new village – we share the fun, the frustrations, the wonder, the problems that our experiences have in common. So, out of sight does not usually mean out of mind. The world may separate us for long periods or short,  but the lost time will disappear in a flash when together again as we sit on the back deck sharing cruising stories. . . .It’s the same for friends “back home”…I can picture my friend on her porch in Annapolis looking out over her garden, or practicing the piano surrounded by family pictures, or walking the lovely dog, Sophie, into the Big Goose Park on the creek at the end of the street.  But could she picture me?  No, not really!  Having any visitor from home is a gift but I don’t usually include posts about our visitors. I make an exception here because there was so much pleasure for me in these few days together . . . not so much by the events or the destinations but by simply being together.   Seeing my friend arrive, looking for River Pipit, peering down at the boats from the top of the steps above the port made my heart sing, it was such a treat!  Her visit was sort of on a whim, so an especially good surprise.  She had come a long way, and I knew she would be beat, but I wanted to show her everything and we didn’t have much time!

Route to my atelier

Route to my atelier

After a nice light lunch on board which was all ready for her  – hot chestnut soup and a delicious salad – and after a little catching up, we three took a walk to her hotel, the 3 Gares, the closest one to the Arsenal. Once settled in, she and I took my familiar walk through the arches of Avenue Daumesnil to the little studio I use in the Passage de Chantier –  I wanted her to be able to visualize my little part of Paris, and the studio (where I am learning who knows what!) and I think now she can. 

The daily routines: Crossing the passerelle where, dead ahead from the center, the genie atop the Colonne de Julliet at the Bastille waves victoriously. Walking back to the boat from the studio, or the market, or from any of our daily paths in Paris – I think she can picture us now.  Paris Walks

Cherry trees bordering the park along the canal, all in bud, were just a few weeks away from bursting out of their maroon jackets in an explosion of pink heralding the arrival of a beautiful April in Paris.

YvesChance meetings on the street with friends like Yves, seeing the sky so blue above the boats in the St Martin canal that is the port, crossing the bridges with some ever present view beckoning one to walk to it . . . this is Paris and we love it.Arsenal-5

Arsenal passerelle

The passerelle

In addition to just a little wandering, I used some of her interests to organize our days:  She is a terrific cook, so we had a little culinary experience; she is a music and opera buff so a concert and a guided visit to the beautiful Garnier Opera house fit; loving architecture, the new Louis Vuiton Fondation was a must; and of course art – at the Orangerie.

Wednesday, her first full day here we had a big day planned – breakfast on the boat then a walk through the Marais to the National Archives to attend lunch time concert.  We had to wait outside for a bit but were lucky – no rain yet – and we got just about the last seats in the elegant chamber hall. 

Playing Teleman

Playing Teleman

Many more people had to go into the next room to listen from a distance! Boat friends and Bill came also – he got the last seat. It was packed!   The musicians gave sort of a recital of music on ancient instruments, all compositions of George Friedrich Teleman.  (To me it all sounded the same in the end and if I never hear Teleman again that will be fine by me!) Archive concert

When it was over, we left Bill to bicycle back to the boat while we took a quick walk to the Quai de la Hotel de Ville where the cooking school Cuisine de Paris is located.  Macaron Class awaited us!  First though, a coffee in the cafe next door watching Paris drizzle from the enclosed porch while we awaited the start of our 2:30 class.  That was the fastest 2-3 hours – it zoomed by, we wisked, folded, sprinkled, kneaded, squished and squeezed as instructed by a very energetic chef on the fine art of this French confection. 

IMG_0752She revealed the magic of the best macarons to us and we created them.  It was hard work –  my poor hands were aching wrecks for days after, barely able to lift a coupe to my lips.  But the results were amazing.  There were 8 in the class from all over the world, and we worked in pairs.  How one could make these deceivingly simple little devils alone or without the go-go-go coaching of the chef is a mystery to me.  All of us left with a box full of colorful macarons, with perfect “feet” (who knew macarons had feet?!) and amazing cream fillings.  Our side of the kitchen made an Earl Gray/ milk chocolate cream, the other side made a raspberry cream.  For the top and bottom of the macarons, we mixed an outrageous orange color, there was also a lovely lilac, gorgeous green and peony petal pink.  The color has no taste but makes a delectable  presentation.  The last instruction was the hardest – let them sit for 24 hours!  We did taste quite a few when they were just cool enough, just to make sure they tasted “ok”… But we did not open our boxes until the next night, as instructed.

Seine-79After class, tired and hungry, we took a leisurely long walk back to the boat across the Ile St Louis …

Thursday, another busy day starting with a walk to the unique boutique “Merci” for breakfast.  We sat in the “library”, one of my favorite breakfast stops, delicious and comfortable.  Merci was on her list prompted by a NYTimes article so I was glad that worked into the plan.  We took a metro from Merci to Place de la Concorde, for a sunny walk to L’Orangerie, that little oasis of calm before the busy Place at the end of the Tuilleries, arriving just as the rains began yet again.  The museum was closed for renovations the last time she was in Paris, so that was our choice of the moment rather than the newly opened Picasso.  The Orangerie has so very much to see but is not an overwhelming, large venue. 

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The Monet waterlilies are of course the crown jewels here but they are by no means all that there is to enjoy. 

I like this Chef by Chaïm Soutine:



 I invited boat friends to River Pipit for  an apero worthy of the dinner meal so they could meet my Annapolis friend. Though no world problems were solved despite our wordy efforts, good  fun for all, especially ending the meal with the delicious macarons of the day before!  I gave two macarons to each on their way out the door.  Mostly so we wouldn’t just gobble them all up.

Just the reflection!

Just the reflection!

Before our very special Friday date at 2:00 at the Louis Vuitton Fondation/museum in the Bois de Bologne (which has it’s own post), we visited another Annapolis friend who moved to Paris 20 years ago intending to stay just 2 or 3 years.  That’s what Paris can do to you!

IMG_2875Part of our nearly daily routine while living in Paris is to go to the Aligre market, the oldest and best daily market in all of Paris. So she had to see it . . . Following our custom, I bought pastries for us and we sat outside drinking tea and coffee, then wandered through both the market and the brocante.   It had to be a quick trip through the noisy, always bustling market because we had a tour of the Garnier Opera coming up as the last event of this very short and sweet visit.

Opera feetCostumeThe Garnier is very impressive, a symbol of Paris along with the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame  – and adorned with so much gold! But the guided tour was just ok, not as wonderful as I had hoped. There were TOO many people in the opera on a Saturday! But the space is lovely, tapestries are gorgeous and it was well worth going to.

Paris Walks-8Departure day:  The taxi was ordered, boarding passes were printed, wake up time was insured to not be screwed up by French daylight savings time.  But I didn’t change the one clock I look at in the morning so I got to her hotel an hour after I planned to and she was already gone. . . .  so sad!

Through our starboard window

IMG_2198                                                     The empty passarrelle…..


Promenade plantée2015 was mostly a mild winter for Parisians, making it easier for them to exercise their love of outdoor time. Sundays when the road on the banks of the Seine is closed to vehicles, families roller bade, bike and wander around the river’s edge, hoping for and occasionally catching whatever ray of sunshine may break through the felted gray winter sky.  But when Spring arrives with the blush of cherry blossoms in the parks, and the showy spectacle of daffodils and tulips rising bright out of the russet earth, Parisians are out giving praise to the sun gods from early morning until long after the sun has moved along its way.  Stowing the down coats, donning light jackets, walking in the sunshine doing what we all love to do and what the Italians express so perfectly as “la dolce far niente”… the sweetness of doing nothing.

The Promenade Plantée is a perfect place for a walk high above the street level which follows the route of an old railway line for miles. The disused railway line became a derelict ruin until it was rebuilt as part of the big projects, including the Opera, taking place around the Bastille in1988.  It starts near the Place de la Bastille on l’avenue Daumesnil and continues to the Parc de Vincennes by the beltway around Paris.  It is a long garden of calm above the bustling streets below. Other cities have followed this example to create green space where it seemed impossible.

The fellow above was interesting . . . I watched him from a little distance for awhile.  He really seemed to be deep in conversation with the statue he is sitting with.  So I went closer and we chatted. He said this was the most beautiful statue in all of France but she would not answer him no matter how he tried to engage her . . . . he was still at it as I left, and his beer was empty.

Promenade plantée                                             Not everyone needs to talk though.

Promenade plantée

Promenade Plantee apr2015-5                                                      The sweetness of doing nothing . . .