Friday, April 8, 2016

The Streets of Paris..

Walking the streets of Paris if you think of  Charlie Hebdo or the Cafe shootings or train bombings,  your brain will get you feeling a bit uneasy. 
The unreality is: we look at the news on a small screen filled with tight images over and over and those images seem larger than life.  The reality is there are over 2.5 million people living in Paris proper and you just don't think about it until you see a Jesuie Charlie sticker or grafitti spray in one of a million places.  
Walking in Paris is much like any other European city until you turn a corner and run into something historic. The writer of Les Miserables Victor Hugo's home is around one of those corners and  if you've never seen Owen Wilson in "Midnight in Paris", it is a fantastic visual of every persons fantasy of Paris.  You do walk the streets at night on cobblestone. You're voice echos and you look into the windows of every cafe' and think you might see someone famous or from the past.
(Now I love taking photos when I travel. No longer with real cameras but only an I-phone but none the less I work pretty hard to find interesting shots and angles and form. I hope you enjoy some of the views.) If you only had four senses and sight was missing, you could walk and smell and probably figure out that you were in Paris. The amount of perfume shops, and crepe' shops and the sounds of street musicians and African street vendors every 50ft and a beggar from supposedly Syria on their knees with a cup every corner speaking bad french would let you know.  

There is this mashed potato cheese thing sold on the streets.
Oh, it's amazingly good. this guy just continually mixes it up and puts it in
"to go" containers and sells them all day long as you see people standing or sitting on a corner eating this no calorie snack. I mean this kind of reminds me of Americans stopping and buying a bag of  chips to snack on while walking but the French buy fresh, hot mashed potatoes mixed with a smooth fresh gruyere cheese.
Ok, perhaps French snobbery works in this case :)  I'm all in with swapping chips for this...

 Form this little cafe' where stopped for lunch on the Champs Elysees (in the background).  The paris marathon was going on and we viewed the runners from multiple locations that day as well as people the next day wearing large medallions around their necks with great pride. Us, we had walked at least 10 miles and i had no pity for the runners since our legs, hips and feet were in full out burn mode. Nothing a tureen of Foi Grais and a premier Cru Chablis couldn't fix in an hour. 
Now Foi Grais.. I know it's a nasty fight going on with the PETA folks.  

Me, I'm very concerned for these ducks. I think they need reparations and better health benefits.  Really?  Infact i'm feeling so bad, I'm going to crack a can tonight and make it the 1st course in my dinner plans for our house guests.  If you've never had seared Foi Grais  with a port or Sauterne' or ceviche'd (omg) , or even cold from a tureen with toast points, you must experience this if you love food.  I'm not kidding here.  It is truly the best fat in the world to taste with mild liver overtones. You can't explain it, you have to taste it and it needs to be cooked properly.  And no, I can't have you all over for dinner. :)

Now from tureen it looks much like liver pate' and yes, that i guess is really what it is except any brownsweigert from the yellow plastic tube i ever ate growing up,  tasted like roadkill compared to this..

I can't go down this food road right now or i'll have to stop writing and go eat. Wait, my bride just brought me yogurt with blueberrys, peanutbutter toast, espresso and 9 pills... so i continue...
One of my favorite things about Italy is that they only cook what is local.  If you are on the coast it's all seafood. If you are inland it's vegetables, beef, pork, lamb and chickens with no fresh fish on menus.. I kinda love that thought in a world of "Supermarkets with Everything for the rich and famous, or middle class with a desire to eat like the wealthy".  In Paris, there are outdoor markets selling fresh fish and shellfish.  This stand I walked by 5 six times in a week on the way to dinner or a train. I never was able to stop and eat there and Ohhhh, i wanted to. I' mean click on this picture (it will enlarge).  Now look to the left. Fresh Scallops in the shell. I mean, I've wanted to eat fresh scallops from the shell raw my whole life.  I thought this might be the first time, but no. arggg the museums were waiting for this newbie.
I guess If I ever get to London, I'll go to Herod's and buy "one" fresh scallop in the shell and eat it there.. yup that is a bucket lister for a foodie :)
 If you walk the Champs Elysees (a long walk), there are gardens and park like grass walking areas on the sides. Here you can stop and sit and have a bottle of wine and baguette and cheese with fruit as many do on their blankets. Yes this is very "Paris" and leads to the romantic feeling you get there. It was cold and raining much of our week but there were signs of spring and a few things blooming a few of the days we were out marathon walking.

   From the river you can cruise and see Paris in a wholly different way. An hour cruise will get you from the Eiffel Tower down past Notre Dame and back along the other side or the islands and back.  The bridge work is incredible like it is in Venice. There are still Wooden bridges in play along with some of the most ornate Eiffel style iron works I've ever seen.
There is a whole new side of Paris like the new Vegas, but I have no desire to go there.

Here where the Tour d' France ends, you are reminded you are only one place...

From outside the walk along a pool and museum.

Under the Champs Elysees looking back to old town.

Last blog will be dedicated to some of the art and buildings.. They are truly "Paris". From The King's palaces ,NotreDame and the Opera House to the 3 main museums, I'll post a host of some of my favorite picks with less talk and alot more photos... :)  

Till next time,  consider my servant Job... 

Ok, can't help myself, here's a bit of the music under the city as you rush from train to train. :)


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Paris: The World of the Beautifully Complex

We all have moments when things take our breath away. Or perhaps slowly something will overtake our emotions as the brevity and the beauty or the history of something settles in.  I felt it the first time i thought I was in love. The first time I saw the Rocky Mountains, caught a trout on a fly I had tied. First time I heard a live orchestra, broadway production,  or held my children, or lay on the dirt and stared at a billion stars on a moonless night. The list goes on and on for everyone differently. And again, as I took this picture of Mona Lisa above, it was another of those moments.

So i've traveled a bit of Europe, Asia, entertained a summer in Germany at a 4 star, but I've never done Paris.., till this week.
As an american, i've always felt (because of what I've read and seen) that the French are arrogant, snobby and terrible to travel around...  unless you speak French.  Like this unknown French painter of a rich aristocrat with attitude, you get the feeling you're being laughed at as "less than French", and well, ok, this all may be true.  But then, with just a few words of French spoken, most will open up and speak English enough to help you leave their presence and that's ok with me, i'm a visitor..

  Considering America now prides itself in trying to help anyone who doesn't speak our language, and most our global neighbors are generally "not" French in their desire to try to help you, much of my first statement is actually true in my experience. But, it's no reason to run from beauty, and a visit doesn't mean we have to become best friends.. There is much to enjoy in Paris while enduring the Parisian.

Now look at these legs in this picture below. The stockings and robe and shoes. Not especially attractive legs mind you,  but well adorned to be sure.  Why the French are so fashion conscious, I've yet to figure out, but, I have figured out that at best, they have a rich "history" there to be viewed and enjoyed.
Most would say,  Louis the XIV was a clinical narcissist.
Yes, Germany had King Ludwig to create Neuschwanstein and a few other castles, but Louis?  This mix of Brian May hair and RuePaul flair, had the wealth to build his vision of style. I mean you gotta be pretty secure to let yourself be painted in those shoes and stockings, pulling your robe up like a Can Can dancer to show your legs..  The buildings, designs and decorations he assembled during his time,  are simply the most beautifully feminine of all time. No wonder it remains copied in so many ways still today.
I mean Hennessy named it's top XO cognac and bottle  "Louis the XIII". 

In the Louvre I found one of Louis' early bottles that was the precursor of the most expensive Cognac in the world today for public sale. Louis' Black Pearl at $27,000. a 750ml .  And hey, when your bottles empty, you can ship it back to France and get it refilled for a discount... Now does it seem a bit funny to anyone else  that if you can afford a $27,000. bottle of Cognac, you would need a discount for a refill?

 Really?  That's like selling a million dollar Ferrari with free oil changes for a year. Laugh with me please.

  Back to Paris now.

 I remember my wife walking me up from the underground train. Telling me not to look up until I turned a corner and then,  Volia' there was the Eiffel Tower as I opened my eyes.   Cue the Mancini theme from "Charades" with Carry Grant and Audrey Hepburn. Stand motionless for a moment now. Inhale slowly and hold it for 20 seconds. Now exhale. You've just experienced another one of those moments that won't ever happen again.

This is life. Only a memory, with photos to help you remember..   And it's fleeting, and really, the beauty is for that moment only.   And so, it's to be shared, so that others can hopefully go have their own "moment". 

 Like love, you wish for everyone you know to experience it.
Like faith, you pray for everyone to embrace it.
Like hope, you have to just keep believing the best.

For beauty is such a relevant thing. And what each mortal finds beautiful, is so uniquely different.
Our five senses are affected in combinations that can only be understood by God and hopefully each of us as we grow.  From a visual sense, the Louvre, the d'Orsay & Orangerie museums give you a chance to see art in a way you just can't see in the same way or depth anywhere else in the world, period..

If you've not really had the chance to see famous original art - but only photos, I'd say you must plan a trip to do so just once.  The size of paintings is so deceptive in books and the brush strokes on real canvas changes the total feel like live music is to recordings..
There are so many paintings that are 20, 30 40 feet tall and 50, 60 feet wide. You see the photos without the frames or people for reference and you just have no idea how large they are.

This fantastic painting of a woman doing what women have always done "knock it off boys", is so detailed for such a large painting. You can sit for long periods and stare and study if you had time This painting is over 20ft. tall.....

Now Renoir has been a favorite painter of Jane and I's forever. His studies of his two daughters have been printed as much or more than any other painters in time. Such feminine and soft strokes and colors. His daughters were not really beautiful in many paintings of head shots, but his paintings of the two of them in fields and at the piano and in the gardens have been hung in thousands of  homes.  We have a canvas oil copy of "girls in the field" above the piano in our home in a hundred year old swedish built gold frame. An antique frame that used to be a knick knack two shelfed boxed frame with a glass back in my house growing up.  A frame that fell and broke the box and glass and was put in an attic.  Well, 30 years ago, I found it and asked if I could have it restored. It had gold spray paint on it.  The restoration society in Nashville called me and said under the paint was 24k gold leafing and a very old mahogany solid frame.  They suggested I blow the wad and have it stripped of the paint and hand brush reapply another coat of 24k leaf on it again.  Yea, well those were the days when I thought money was just for fun, so the frame was re-guilded and no one really knows the difference but me..  Now my  my mother in law, she has had the Renoir  "girls at the piano" painting above the piano in her house all these years as well.  And so our children will live on with an unknowing love for Renoir... This is how we pass it on unknowingly.

Most of the marble sculptures in Paris are of body studies or famous people of the day.  Some massively large and others to scale.  Circumcision was not sculpted,  but in some cherubs. Personally, marble sculpture is on the top of the art list for me.  It has no place for sex or erotica.  If that were it's purpose they could have sculpted many an orgy or position in play,  like the chinese had done in their ancient etchings and carvings. No my friends, nude individual bodies are meant to be stared at for all their beauty. Male and Female alike.  If that turns you on then you best stay away from the internet. If that makes you uneasy, you best go stand in the mirror naked with the morning light shining in and look at the unique beauty of you, until you can find beauty in it. Age will change it at certain angles :) but the beauty of form always remains. Stand tall, walk proud, God made you specially... you :) And if you're out of shape.. well, that's 90% of us so hopefully it will inspire us to take better care of what God made in the first place.  Guilty as charged..

Now next blog I'll talk about whatever came up on the ...

I began today with the picture of the Mona Lisa I took. I'll end today with another of the Mona Lisa.
Well, here you have it. This is really what you have to deal with 24/7 when trying to make your way to see the most famous painting in the world..

C'est La Vie