Amelie

Amelie

We took our photos for our Navigo passes at the Photomaton, thinking of Amelie’s scrapbook of discarded souvenir photos from this machine. On the way up Rue Lepic Monmarte to the Basilique du Sacre Coeur and the Eglise St-Pierre de Montmarte, we stopped at the Cafe des Deux Moulins, the restaurant featured in the film Amelie.

I think of Amelie’s efforts to improve other people’s lives as I consider Amelie’s breakfast on the menu.

From Versailles to the Moulin Rouge

From Versailles to the Moulin Rouge

In some ways going from Versailles to the Moulin Rouge is a sharp contrast: the verdant, placid countryside and the bustling, grimy city. At the same time, they both represent extravagance, and both had important gardens that served as gathering places for their constituents.

Home of the can can, the Moulin Rouge has attracted a Vegas-like scene: porno shops and adult movie theaters (a couple can view a film for 10E), and intoxicated, obnoxious party-seekers.

A subway exhaust portal, creates a Marilyn Monroe moment when women in short skirts stand over the breeze. Small crowds assemble to watch this free show.

“…but now we must cultivate our garden,” from Candide by Voltaire

I woke under the heat of the tardy French sun. Disoriented for a moment, I observed the square trees, the swans and rowboats in the Grand Canal. I listened as children spotted fish (poison) or ran through grass chasing a ball. A picnic and a nap should be a part of every day—especially in surroundings like this.

The view from the Palace to the Grand Canal gives some idea of the breadth of the grounds, but there is so much more here. Labyrinthine as a whole, Versailles’s gardens also feature labyrinths and fountains depicting animals from Aesop’s fables (to entertain the children in the past).

Bees and birds (and cats and rats, but not as many) thrive here even as tourists swarm. Two-hundred and ten thousand flowers (and nearly as many trees) seduce us to trek deeper into these colossal woods in search of the Belvedere, the Grotto, and the Temple of Love.

Let Them Eat Cake

Let Them Eat Cake

Having visited many museums in the past couple of weeks, Versailles, at first, was not as impressive until I reminded myself that we were hiking through a golden residence brimming with treasures, and we were only able to view two of the floors of the Palace and a fraction of the rest of the compound.

Fortunately, some of the paintings and scale models of the grounds helped us get an understanding of what we’d seen as well as how much of the collection we were missing.

The ornate furniture, the enormous portraits, and the gold tips outlining the frames and architecture are monuments to the Sun King’s (Louis XIV) obsession for excess.

Joana Vasconcelos Versailles

Joana Vasconcelos Versailles

Joana Vasconcelos has created a collection that fits in Versailles. Her attention to the details of this space are impressive. Take the marble lions, Guards, she has upholstered with perfect (doily!) covers or the ostrich feather and Swarovski crystal embellished helicopter she has landed in the midst of a gallery.

For the garden, she has created an enormous teapot and vase. She has two pendant hearts; one black, one red. On the way out the door, she offers her own version of stained glass. And, her enormous high heels, composed of pots (and their lids) and titled Marilyn, remind us that this exhibition is both pleasing and meaningful.

To meet Vasconcelos and get a taste of her work, go to: http://www.vasconcelos-versailles.com.

Lost

Lost

On the busy street it is difficult to hear the metal fall to the ground (or maybe it was in his hand the whole time), then he fakes finding a gold ring, shows it to you to confirm that it is indeed precious. You have found something together. His fingers are too big (or he is forbidden from wearing jewelry by religious custom or he’s willing forgo his share of the discovery – for a fee).

You are probably carrying a camera; your attire betrays you, or maybe it’s the fear on your face that pleads, “I don’t know a lot of French—yet.” You’re in the Grand Boulevard area of Paris, on your way to the Musee D’Orsay.

You’re wondering if you’ll be able to differentiate Manet from Monet, whether Renoir is as impressive in person as the print you remember from your in-laws’ bedroom. You have no idea that you cannot distinguish this man from the hordes of pickpockets who’ve had their sights on you.

Amour

Amour

French: Il n’y a qu’un bonheur dans la vie, c’est d’aimer et d’être aimé.

English: There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved.

–George Sand

In addition to stilling the swans and rowboats in Bois de Boulogne, the smoking moped riders and women with toy dogs, the startling architecture and art, M is cataloguing Paris’s various lovers in hot embraces and unusual intertwining. They are all around us, and they have no concern they are being documented.

When one man heard we had never visited Paris before, he said, “Welcome to your second honeymoon.” People seem to be honeymooning everywhere. In fact, we have seen six brides posing across from the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, the Louvre, and on various bridges in a variety of scintillating dresses and towering shoes. A photographer and his helper (and the groom!) trail each like paparazzi to fold her into a variety of poses and further into the depths of her dress.

The railings of the Pont des Arts (a bridge that crosses from the left bank to the Louvre), above the Seine, contain thousands and thousands of padlocks, cadenas d’amour. Lovers go to the bridge, fasten the lock (adorned with names, dates, messages), and toss the key into the river to symbolize everlasting love.

This evening a fifteen-member ska band appeared on the lovers’ bridge, their brass reflecting the setting sun, their playing better than their singing, their love for this art form filling the almost autumn sky.