September 5, 2001
Maurice had to go to work at a site outside of Paris that was near a chateau called Vaux le Vicomte, so I hitched a ride and went to see it. It has an interesting history in that it was built by a financial secretary to Louis XIV named Fouquet using money from the treasury in some high finance probably not unlike Trump. He was very good at making money, but made enemies at the same time. When he finished his masterpiece, he had a huge party and invited the King who was instantly jealous of what he saw, and angry at the money used from his treasury. Foquet eventually ended up in prison where he died 20 years later. Because the King like what he saw so much, he used the same people to redo Versailles, which made it the masterpiece it is today, both the architecture and the gardens.
The front view as you enter the grounds
Vaux Le Vicomte hasn't been taken care of as well as Versailles but it is still interesting to do the tour. The entry hall is massive and gives a view of the garden behind. There is the first round dome, which was the first in France, without support being seen. Lots of elegant rooms.
The dining room
The grounds are really beautiful. They are in that style in which mother nature is whipped into shape with little boxwood hedges cut into intricate shapes and fountains everywhere. Only a few of the fountains have been restored and work. I think I read that there were 80 that sill didn't work. There was also a sign warning not to walk in the surrounding woods because in December, 1999, there was a horrible wind storm and over 8000 trees had been destroyed and there was still danger of falling branches. They expected to be done with the cleanup in 2002.
Where Louis XIV got his idea for Versailles.
It was great to walk around the grounds. It was a beautiful cool day with the temperatures in 60's.
September 7, 2001
Today I went to the Orsay Museum, know for it's display of Impressionists. The building has been converted from an old railroad station and is a work of art itself. The main entry hall is huge and I could picture trains in there, loading passengers, waiting to leave.
The huge clock over the entry hall
The first statue I saw in the hall looked like it was made out of silver or stainless steel, but turned out to be molded out of brass.
Looks like stainless steel.
I went directly to the top floor to look at the famous paintings of Degas, Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh. It's always a shock to see a painting that you are familiar with, and I saw many. Here is my favorite of Van Gogh's, mainly because of the blue sky.
I love this shade of blue.
Then I saw one by, I think, Monet. It was a neat moment when I recognized the landscape as one I had recently seen at Etretate, with the arch arching into the ocean.
My picture of the arch on a sunny day.
It was nice seeing this museum again. It's one of my favorites.
September 10, 2001
Today I went to a meeting to set up a French class that starts tomorrow. It came as no surprise to me that I was put in the beginning class. I've been here since May but don't seem to be making in progress in the language. I sat next to a girl named Ana who was Filipino who had also married a Frenchman. She met him when she was a singer in Japan and she gave up her career for him because he was jealous of men who came to hear her. She is cute. She's been here since January and is about in the same place I am, so I don't feel quite as bad. So every morning for 2 hours we will have class and speak nothing but French. I hope this helps.
Afterwards I took a walk around the neighborhood the class is in, which is a beautiful one. The Luxembourg Gardens are right around the corner so I took a look around. It was a beautiful day with blue skies and the temperatures in the 50's. I think Autumn is definitely here. The leaves on the trees are starting to turn and chestnuts are getting ripe and ready to fall. Maurice says seeing chestnuts on the ground always fills him with a sense of melancholy because when he saw them as a child it was time to start school, which for him meant boarding school starting at age 9.
The park is fenced in and can't be entered at night. Hemingway came here during his starving artist days and caught pigeons for dinner.It has a luxurious and pampered air with fountains, huge pots of trees, carefully tended flower beds, and statues everywhere.
A view of some manicured trees
A necklace of vines by a fountain
This lady looks very cranky
I assume this is the god of drink
He looks happy
It was a great park to stroll around. I understand there is a carousel here for children where they can catch a brass ring as they go around. I'll have to locate that on my next visit.
I came home yesterday after my French class and Maurice called me and told me that something was going on in NYC. I turned on CNN and couldn't believe my eyes. An airplane flew into the 2nd World Trade Tower while I watched. I sat, like the rest of America, watching the horror unfold. I'm sure the attack on Pearl Harbor was similar, in that it was unexpected, but seeing everything happened live adds to the shock.
I find it hard to get motivated to go out and look at Paris right now. I keep thinking what land mark will I look at that could be blown up tomorrow by any lunatic with a grudge? Someday someone may fly a plane into the Eiffel Tower or the Arch du Triumph. I guess attacks like the one in NYC make me feel vulnerable. Life is so fragile and it can end so quickly.
I made myself go grocery shopping this morning just to give my day a little normalcy. Both of my sons warned me about not singling myself out as an American here in Paris as someone could, I guess, attack me. While I was standing in line at Monoprix to check out I wanted to tell the people around me that I was an American. I'm sure they are horrified, too, but until it's in your own country it doesn't seem as real. I've thought of getting a French passport. Yesterday's events are making me rethink doing that. But, a terrorist could strike anywhere. I imagine the many nuclear plants here in France could be targets.
Life goes on. I'll go to my French class tomorrow, but with a heavy heart.
Trying to get back into the swing of things. I had French class this morning. I come home exhausted as we can only speak French during class and I have to work really hard to listen and try to understand what the teacher is saying, and even harder if I have to speak. I am the only American in the class of 12, and we are all women. All but 4 of us are married to Frenchmen. There are so many countries represented here: the Philippines, Hungary, Iraq, Iran, Japan, Hong Kong, Venezuela, Poland, Russia, and Australia. The teacher won't let me sit next to the Australian as I guess she has experience with English speakers sitting together. Actually, most of the women in the class speak English.
When I went back to class the day after the bombing, the first people to tell me how sorry they were about what happened were the women from Iraq and Iran. Which goes to show you how the hatred that we think is rampid in the Middle East is not true. The average person is not thinking like the extremists there.I think most people are in their homes appalled at what has happened.
Below are two pictures of facades I took near the building where the French class is held, a nice area near the Luxembourg Gardens.
I have no idea why this sheep is on the building
September 20, 2002
I had a friend from Austin visit me for 2 days and we were busy shopping and eating. I didn't study for my French class and need to get back in the groove. I have some more friends coming tomorrow that I have met via the internet, so I am going to have to be disciplined and make my French a priority.
I'm getting to know the ladies in my French class better as time goes on and am surprised at how much women give up to follow their husbands. A lady from Australia gave up a great job and left her 16 year old son with relatives to come with her husband to Paris because he had a life long dream to live here. There is a beautiful young woman from Russia who left St Petersburg which she loved and an interesting job to marry a French man. I think a lot of us have given up something to our husbands when we moved to France.
Yesterday we went to a trendy area of Paris for dinner at an old, well-known restaurant called L'Escargot, famous for their snails, which I didn't have. It's right near a church called St Eutache which has organ recitals every Sunday evening which we will have to catch. It's a beautiful cathedral.
A strange carving inside, I guess for Les Halles, an old market area
The exterior of the restaurant
I have met two ladies over the internet who are now in Paris. They are Dezi and Peg. After my French class we met and took a bus to the Rue Cler area, a popular street to visit with all sort of interesting shops selling linens and candy and also some great fruit stands. Here is a picture of a "grape tree" as Dezi called it.
Then we had a great lunch at Champs du Mars. The people are really nice who work there. We even had a waiter who was half American, although he had never lived in the States. He was brought up in Ibiza and Amsterdam. I had a great salad with fois grois and duck which was heavenly.
Afterwards we walked to see yet another internet friend, Chris, who had just arrived. It was an absolutely beautiful walk with crisp air, sunshine, and the blue of the skies only seen in Autumn.
Maurice and I made a trip to buy a CD burner on Daumesnil, a street with a lot of interesting buildings. We pass a great square on the way with a fountain in the middle that I love. The water isn't usually running, but it was today and the sun slanted through it in a wonderful way.
I have been so busy with my class and some new friends from both my French class and that I have met on the internet, that I have neglected my site a little. After class I either have coffee with friends from class or I wander around and take pictures. I especially love Autumn and I like to walk in the Luxembourg Gardens and see how the leaves have changed.
Here you can see the leaves
Right now the garden is having an exhibition called L'Autumn in an orangerie that is filled with bonsai and topiaries. There were squares hanging from the ceiling covered in mums and figures of every sort covered either in leaves or succulents.
Dancing hippo covered with succulent plants
Me and Minnie Mouse
One of the young, pretty girls in my French class got married on Friday and a few of us went to the wedding. She looked so beautiful and had a wonderful gown with a long veil. I hope, if she ever reads this, that she will excuse me for using one picture of the wedding.
September 30, 2001
Maurice did a run today from the Eiffel Tower to Versailles, a distance of about 10 miles. This is the 10th time he has done it. We both have colds and I didn't think he could finish it, but he did. I spent the time in Versailles with Dezi, an internet friend walking around Versailles. It's rather like the Louvre in that it is so huge it can be overwhelming. We were there early but it was already packed with tourists, most of whom seemed to be Japanese. We walked through in about an hours. It's known for the hall of mirrors which seems to go on forever and the floor to ceiling mirrors are illuminated by large chandeliers and windows across the hall. It was full of people but I think this is how it must have been back in the days of Louis XIV when people were either waiting to meet with the king or at a party of some sort.
A view of one wall and part of the ceiling
A view of the grounds
We didn't walk through the huge gardens. They were a larger model of the gardens and fountains I saw at Vaux le Vincompte which the king copied after he saw them in an even more grandiose way.
Afterwards we went to a little town for lunch called Montfort l'Amaury where they were having a huge flea market in the streets. It looked mostly like junk to me, along the lines of yard sales in Texas. We had a good lunch at a little place called Chez Nous.
It was a nice day to be out and about. It was nice to get home, too, and put our feet up.