Today is All Saint's Day here in France. Tomorrow is called Fete de la Mort, day of the dead, but nothing happens as far as Maurice knows. Today is the day many people go to cemeteries to put flowers on the graves of loved ones. We started the day by going to Pere LaChaise which was packed with people, both tourists and those with relative there. We just wandered around. There were yellow chrysanthemums everywhere, which I understand is the main flower used at this time. We found Chopin's grave which was covered in flowers and there were candles lit in front of it. I didn't really look for any more well-known graves, but took my usual picture of the grave below Chopin's of the weeping lady seen to the left here. For some reason, that's my favorite one. I love the way her skirt falls in folds and just the quiet sorrow it shows.
One of the graves with flowers brought by loved ones
Later in the afternoon we went to another graveyard to leave flowers on the grave of Maurice's mother. There was a major traffic jam of people driving into the cemetery to do what we were doing. A lot of people we saw were groups of families taking a family outing, probably going out to lunch afterwards. We got the grave site tidied up and left our own yellow chrysanthemums.
Today I went with a friend to the town of Dijon. We took the fast train called the TGV. It's known for, of course, mustard, Burgundy wine, and Beef Bourguignon. We arrived shortly before lunch and had a great meal. Dijon is a wonderful little city full of interesting buildings and churches. They have their own little arch de triumph. The cathedral that we saw has a really ancient crypt where a saint was supposedly once buried. It was built in the 11th century.
The crypt. I liked the blue lights
It was really interesting to walk around the town. A lot of the buildings had interesting tiles on the roofs.
I have no idea how this region came up with these roofs
We also toured a little museum which was packed with a great selection of art from sculpture, to French painting to modern art. I especially like the area where the tombs of several Burgundy nobles were buried. They had very ornate carving in the support area and were just great to look at.
One of the nobles with angels
I'm glad we went. We bought the famous Maille Mustard and just generally had a great time. This whole area is supposed to be great to explore, which I hope to do with Maurice.
Chris, a friend of mine who lives in Paris, and I had a great lunch at a bistro that was full of dark wood and stained glass and then walked to the Tulleries Gardens, passing by the Louvre. We have had a cold front move into Paris, and it is now like winter, but, when the sun is shining, the light is spectacular. I love the angle of light at this time of year. The pyramid in front of the Louvre glowed like a diamond and the castle housing the Louvre artwork was golden in the sunlight. I took dozens of pictures of the last of the yellow and russet leaves on the trees.
Here's one with the Eiffel Tower in the background
Not many people out with the cool temperatures
I have been having some problems with my neck and back-isn't getting old wonderful-and a doctor sent me to a kinesthologist here in Paris. It's a little exercise is a warm swimming pool, sitting in a Jacuzzi, and then lying on a table for 10 minutes with a warm mud pack on my back and neck. It all feels very good and I hope it works. It did work with Maurice and his bout of sciatica. It's in a very old building with quaint stalls to change clothes in, and, of course, few words of English are spoken. I have found, thanks to my French class, that I can follow most of what is spoken to me. Maurice was with me off and on to help translate, but basically, I didn't need him. I didn't understand everything the therapist said to me, but she would show me with body movement what to do.
Thanksgiving is next week. I am not going to buy a turkey as it is just the two of us and I believe turkeys are hard to find, and expensive when they are. There are rows of peasants strung up in the boucheries with their feathers still on with one wing of each spread out in an artistic fashion, but I think I will just get a chicken. Thanksgiving night I get to go to a big shindig which is a dinner with American and French-an association of some type-and the American Ambassador might be there. I have nothing suitable to wear, and have no idea what I should wear, so must go shopping. I don't think I will go the red, white, and blue route. But it will be exciting. An artist that I got to interview, O. Catte, will be there and an auction will be held for one of his paintings of NYC, the proceeds going to victims of Sept. 11th.
November llth was Beaujolais Nouveau day, a day in which the new wine is tasted. It used to be sort of a preview of what the wine would taste like when it had aged but has now become a reason to party. I was in an area called Place dÁligre and bought a bottle at a place which claims to be the last bar in Paris to sell wine out of an oak cask. Here is a picture of Olivier decanting it for me.
Last Sunday we went to what they call the Grand Magasins, namely Printemps and Galleries Lafayette, two big department stores here. They already have their Christmas decorations up and running and it must be alot of what they do in NYC. There are little shows in every window of different Christmas scenes and moving figures of Santa, or elves, or mice and cats. There were hundreds of children there looking at the windows. The trees outside the stores lining the streets have all been wrapped in red and it looks fabulous.
When it got darker
We also walked over to the Champs Elysees to see if the lights were done there, too, but they weren't up yet. We had a drink at a fun bar called Costes, and I took some pictures of the Arch de Triumph.
Turkeys aren't found very easily here, so Maurice and I are going to have a chicken. I'm going to make stuffing, although I had to throw out my cornbread as it tasted awful, so it will just be bread stuffing. I'm hoping my pumpkin pie comes out all right. It's the first time I've made it with an actual pumpkin and pureed it myself. I'm not having a lot of luck with my American dishes here. The ingredients are different. The brown sugar I bought wasn't moist and packable like in the States, but pourable like regular sugar.
Yesterday I went with my friend Chris to explore a little bit. We went to a small museum similar to a lot of those found in Paris, made from a former residence and furnished as it was by an owner. This one was called Nissim de Camondo and the Camondo family built the mansion reminiscent of the Petit Trianon at Versailles. It is full of the family's art work, china, and furniture, especially furniture from the 18th century. There is a splendid staircase when you first walk in the front door.
Just a simple little stairway
Humble little sitting room
Afterwards with walked through the nearby park called Parc Monceau, very nicely laid out with leaves still yellow on the trees, well-dressed children walking with their parents, and even some ponies. Like other parks in Paris it has a fence and gates so the park so it can be closed at night.
The elegant gate to the park.
Since it's Thanksgiving, I am sitting here counting my blessings. I keep thinking of other Thanksgivings when I was eating with my family, and I do miss that. I miss not having a turkey. But as a friend said, "Who cares if you have a turkey? You're in Paris!" And she's right. How lucky I am to be here. I am enjoying my life here so much. So Maurice and I will have a quiet Thanksgiving here in Paris. Not to shabby.
We made a trip out to Fontainebleau today with Katherine, a friend from my French class. It's a beautiful chateau but not a s visited as Versailles, as I guess it's further away and the grounds aren't as magnificent. I think I liked Fontainebleau better, though. It seems less bare with more gold leaf, paintings, etc. A little more intimate, if you can use that word with a chateau. Napoleon spent a lot of time here and there are big N's here and there. It was built by Louis XIV and Francis I added a lot. There is a huge forest surrounding the chateau and an area of huge boulders where climbing is done.
A view as you enter the grounds
A great window inside
The famous stairs where Napoleon said good-by to his troops
A little gazebo out on a lake in the back
It was a gray, overcast day with a lot of fog around which I loved while being outside with yellow trees against gray skies and fog. I couldn't get many good photos inside the chateau, though, without sunlight coming in through the windows. The area around Fontainebleau is interesting, too. We saw a little private castle and went to a town where there is a 500 year old covered market still in operation. We had a good lunch there. It was a great day.