Monday, August 30, 2010

Getting ready to "Re-enter"

This week in Paris is known as "Rentree" (pronounced rahn-TRAY), the week when all the Parisians who have left the city in August come back home. Tanned from their month-long holidays in Marrakech, Morocco or the Cote d'Azur, the natives come back to the city in droves. You can feel the energy of the city change, the pace quicken. Buses are now crowded with people returning to work and the Latin Quarter is packed with students. College students travel in groups and young children getting outfitted for school shop with their mothers and grandmothers, picking over the school supplies.

My own "Reentree" begins today as well. I will board an American Airlines flight back to the U.S.A. around noon, saying good-bye to this little apartment, to the neighborhood I've come to love and to Paris, the city of my dreams. Turning a dream into a reality has had its bumps, of course--I learned that Paris is not just the stuff of fiction and movies but a real live city with problems like any big city. There are the homeless, the street people, just like those in Chicago who work a corner, asking for a hand-out. Paris is known for its strikes although none occurred while I was here. And for the millions of people who are returning to work and to school, Paris isn't an ideal: it's just home.

But what a home! While living here I developed a deeper appreciation for history, motivated by curiosity and a keen desire to know the chronology of events on how Paris came to be. My eyes are now trained to observe the smallest details of beauty. Granted, in Paris beauty is everywhere, from the lampposts to the curlicues and statues embedded in the facades of the apartment buildings. It's in the detail of the hardware on the doors as well as in the magnificent courtyards and gardens that seem to be around each corner. However, I live in Chicago, no stranger to art and architecture. All I have to do is be intentional about finding that beauty and I know it's there.

One of the last books I picked up off the bookshelf of my host's home is a book by Thomas Moore called Care of the Soul. I've been enjoying blasting through novels while I've been here, giving my brain a much-needed break from non-fiction to engage in stories and good literature. But this book called to me and I'm so glad it did. Much of what the author writes about aligns with my journey here. I made these plans to come to Paris a year ago when my mother was dying. With her death came an urgency to fulfill on this dream I've had since I was a girl. Through my sorrow I received the gift of impatience, a drive to "get on with it." So as impractical as it was to take a month off, and fighting my inner demons who whispered "Selfish!", I booked a flight. Thomas Moore would say that I was taking good care of my soul.

I've been nourished by the glory of Paris, the consumption of art on every corner and the rare opportunity to read, write and wander without thoughts of deadlines or time clocks. While it may take me a while to digest what I've learned here--and I relish the opportunity to sort and sift through these memories when I get home--I did have a few epiphanies along the way. While breezing through the last wing of Les Artes Decoratifs, a branch of the Louvre featuring the history of advertising, I was inspired by the work of one of the artists. A graphic designer, he had some early success but then fell on hard times. In spite of it all, he persevered, bought a print shop, kept producing. I heard a whisper that I took to be a gift: "Keep working." And through the joy of writing this blog, of remembering my first love of literature and after visiting the graves of the writers I admire, I heard a louder, more insistent voice: "Keep writing."

My wish for you is that whatever your dream is, you'll have the opportunity to act on it. Fulfilling our dreams isn't without cost: there were mornings when I woke up with a start, wondering "What am I doing here?" I thought about my hiatus from work, the revenue I wasn't producing and the bills that await me when I return. I indulged in some worry and confided in an e-mail to my friend and mentor Kristi Peterson. Her response woke me up: "Anxiety and Paris are not compatible." Duly noted. So I set aside my worries and devoted myself to being present, in the moment. That in and of itself was a valuable lesson. In spite of the cost (and there will be a cost), I hope you'll uncover your own dream and act upon it. As my dad used to say, "There's no time like the present."

And I'm not saying "au revoir" to this gorgeous city. As I board my plane later today I'll use another phrase I learned long ago when I was that young woman studying French, my new-found love, in college. "A bientot." See you soon.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Place for Ex-Pats

Since arriving in Paris back at the end of July, I have found myself drawn again and again to the independent bookstore Shakespeare and Company, situated directly across from Notre Dame on the Left Bank in the Latin Quarter. The bookstore is named after the original Paris bookstore owned by Sylvia Beach, a home base for ex-patriates like Anais Nin, Henry Miller, James Joyce and of course my boyfriend Ernest Hemingway. Owner George Whitman carries on the tradition of a bookstore that caters to English-speaking ex-patriates, offering a lending library on the entire second floor and often serving as a type of hostel for starving artists (mostly writers, I would suppose).

While August is slow in Paris, Shakespeare and Company has held some events this month and we joined a group of book- and music-lovers this past week for a literary salon featuring Alice Shyy from The Notewell for a topic called "Book Music." The concept was intriguing: Alice shared music that has been written about books or music written for or to books, to complement the plot of a book or to be listened to while reading (hard for those of us with ADD). She shared a remarkable playlist with kudos to her housemate Iris for her suggestions, and Alice introduced us to a new band we loved named Magnetic Fields. They wrote a song called "The Book of Love" and you must listen to it ( I think it'll be the newest song in my wedding song repertoire.

I've visited Shakespeare and Company for a variety of reasons throughout the month: to "show it off" to my visitors, to hear the English language spoken and to buy books. I'm bringing home a copy of Pearl Buck's short stories, published in the 1940s, and inside it I found an old Paris Metro ticket stub stuck in the pages as a bookmark. Silly, I know, to buy books while visiting abroad. I'll probably leave some of them in my host's bookshelves as others have done for me.

There's something about the smell of books, the feel and heft of them, the sight of them stacked all the way to the ceiling, that both excites me and calms me. A new book (even a "new" used book) is a new world waiting to be opened. I confess one of the reasons I don't read much fiction is because once I start a book, I usually can't put it down and this wreaks havoc with my schedule. Much of the joy of this visit has been having the time to read novel after novel, like goodies from the chocolatiers. And, as with chocolate, when reading a good book I have very little self-control.

I've thought a lot about the evolution of books with the advent of the Kindle and other hand-held electronic book products. There are folks who swear by these technical miracles that hold hundreds, even thousands of books within its "pages," deeply appreciated by flight attendants and corporate road warriors who no longer have to schlep heavy books with them on their flights. Still, when you're sitting in a corner at Shakespeare and Company, surrounded by stacks and stacks of books and people who love them, it's hard to imagine a world without books.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A word about "Les Femmes Parisiennes"

Just a word about the women in Paris--they're gorgeous. That's a generalization, of course... it's a huge city and not ALL of them are gorgeous. But there's something about the women here. It's not just fashion. Certainly not all of them are wearing "haute couture" (high fashion). I would say that it's more in the way they carry themselves, the way they combine simple things that, when put together, look fabulous. That and good genes.

The other thing I've noticed is that fashion is important to all women, from the very smallest of girls--especially the three-to-four-year-old set--to the elderly women. The little girls slay me. They are all dressed up and wear accessories including darling shoes, something in their hair or a hat and often a small handbag. Many of them are pushing their own strollers accompanied by maman or a nanny. They are more "put together" than most grown women I know. And women in their 60s and 70s still dress with flair, age-appropriate but with special touches like a small gusset at the flare of their trouser or jackets that are cut to flatter. They aren't trying to be trendy: they're setting trends of their own.

And les jeunes filles? The young girls? Quite darling, of course. On their feet they wear very high heels or low ballet flats--nothing in between and nothing that looks remotely practical, yet they manage to carry it off with panache. (Come to think of it, I have seen a lot of podiatrist shops around.) The summer look is lots of linen. Lots of combo looks, as I mentioned... a cute bouffy skirt combined with a lacy chemise layered by a simple top with a sweater or oddly cut jacket and capped off with the ubiquitous scarf which French women seem to come out of the cradle learning to wear. The fabrics are different, the cut of the fabric is different, in short--it's a different look. And it's smashing.

I've also noticed that a girl can be wearing old jeans and a casual top but in her hair she may wear a phony flower or a large bow and it still looks put together. Think Carrie Bradshaw in "Sex and the City."

Lest I neglect the men-folk, the men, too, have their own distinct look. I don't know the exact definition of "Euro trash" but some of the men I've seen might be examples of this: handsome, kind of Johnny Depp-looking... rumpled jackets, a 2-day beard growth, hair unkempt (or styled to look that way) and perhaps some fabulous eyeglasses, the likes of which we can't get in the U.S.A. Taken individually, these qualities typically might add up to a homeless guy. Put it all together and Voila! You have the handsome Frenchman.

There are, of course, exceptions to every rule. But I am bold enough to say (and I'm not the only one saying it) that the French have that certain je ne sais quoi that communicates style, ease, joy and a nonchalance in the way they dress and look. This morning, my friend Leanne and I are off to le Musee National de la Mode et du Textile, part of Les Artes Decoratif (which is all part of the Louvre) to do more research on fashion, style and fabric. I'll be wearing a scarf casually draped around my neck, just so.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood

I came to Paris not just to savor the sights, the arts and the culture (which indeed I have) but also to enjoy just living in Paris--hence the name of this blog, "Quotidian Adventures." A month is long enough to begin to feel like more than a tourist. Trips to the grocery store, the laundromat, the bank--all of these have given me a small sense of belonging. As Mr. Rogers used to sing, "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood..." So here are some descriptions and photos of the street where I live:

To get to the apartment, you come in through a large door, entering the password on a keypad. One of the delights of Paris is the big doors to the courtyards of people's homes and apartments. At 12 Rue Arago, the door is red, right between a men's clothing shop and a podiatrist. The door opens up to a foyer with mailboxes and a winding staircase up to some of the other apartments. Past the foyer is a courtyard with a garden. Then, to the right is the staircase. The French are very "green" so the lightswitches are on timers--hit the lightswitch to the right and up two flights to the apartment.

While the apartment is small (about 270 square feet), it's the perfect "pied-a-terre" for someone who wants to live and experience Paris as something other than a tourist. The neighborhood is in the 13th arrondissement. The numbers of the "arrondissements" begin right smack dab in the center of the city on the Ile de la Cite (sorry, no accent marks) and snail around in a circle all the way to, I believe, the 20th. We're on the "cusp" of the 13th and the 5th, which is walking distance to Notre Dame if you're feeling energetic. Otherwise, the quicker option is to take the bus--the No. 27--and get a view of the streets as well as enjoy hearing people speak French.

The neighborhood is truly that--a neighborhood, not a tourist destination. Daily chores like shopping for groceries or going to the bakery (boulangerie) are a treat, an opportunity to see all the curious products and packaging so different from our own and a chance to practice my halting French (much to the amusement and/or annoyance of the locals). Ordering my morning croissant or baguette at first made me very nervous and I wasn't always able to find the right change. Now I feel more at ease with the ladies in the boulangerie and this morning even called out, "See you tomorrow!" The woman reminded me in rapid-fire French that they are closed on Wednesdays. Oh, yes, I said, and asked a question which had been puzzling me: Why Wednesdays? I think she said that it's something that the "prefecture" ordains by neighborhood. Note to self: research that one.

Another choice experience has been using the laundromat or "Lavorama" (I'm assuming it's Lavorama but the last "a" is missing, so it could be otherwise). Figuring out the directions on these front-loading washing machines and how much money to put in, where to put the soap and how to work the dryer has been part of the adventure. Now it's old hat and I, like the woman sitting next to me, load my clothes in and grab a book and begin to read with a watchful eye on the progress of my wash.

I feel privileged to have an "insider view" of living in Paris this month. My friend Leanne has arrived so we're exploring new sights... she's been here before so we can skip the typical destinations and dig a little deeper to find museums, restaurants and shops that aren't always on the tourist's agenda. I'll let you know what we find.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sunny in Paris

This week was filled with rain and cold--the Parisians all had their jackets and heavy sweaters on. Mon dieu! My Midwestern loved ones are being baked in a Chicago heat wave so I couldn't complain to them... but I confess I spent the early part of the week huddled under a comforter with my fuzzy socks on, reading novels and watching French TV. I didn't bring any foul weather gear and certainly no coat or jacket, so I decided to lay low.

But yesterday (Wednesday) the sun came out and so I ventured forth. The Metro is plastered with advertising for an exhibit for Willy Ronis and I've had that on my list since I arrived. Willy Ronis is the famed French photographer best known (at least in the U.S.) for his photo of an exhuberant little French boy running down the street holding a baguette of bread. I had to do some research because I had never heard of the "museum" where the show is being held--it's at "Monnaie de Paris" which is, essentially, the Paris mint. The building, across the Seine from the Louvre, is part industry, part social conscience and part musuem.

What it isn't is air-conditioned, and the rooms were packed. Thank goodness I have my "Woman of a Certain Age" fan that I whipped out to get through room after room of stifling air. For once, the Parisian women were jealous of ME. The exhibit honored the 100-year mark of M. Ronis' birth--he died last year before he could see this wonderful collection.

His photos capture the labor movement in Paris in the 40s, his travels to Holland, Germany and England, and unforgettable moments in Paris's history right up to 2000. The reflection of light on cobblestones at night, lit by a streetlamp; the creamy softness of a woman's skin; the harshness of factory work with miles and miles of cotten being woven--all these photos gave me nostalgia for a time I never experienced and places I've never seen. And isn't that the role of the artist? To transport us?

This led me to think about the wonder of being an artist. What an honor! And what a joy, to be able to wake up every morning with the "job description" of capturing life as it is, as you see it, as you want others to see it. Whether it's photography or painting or writing, or any other genre, the artist has the responsibility of capturing some kind of truth. But I know that life as an artist is not without its risks. Being an artist takes great courage... and great faith.

And it doesn't hurt to have an agent.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Advertising, Paris-style

French advertising is an art form in itself. The Metro is filled with ads, big ads framed in gilded gold in each of the stations and smaller posters plastered along the walls in the underground labyrinth that connects one station to another. There's a haunting ad sponsored by the Bridgette Bardot Foundation, showing a golden retreiver, healthy and surrounded by two laughing children on one side of the ad while the other side shows a gaunt, starving dog lying listlessly on a vet's table. "Pour lui, l'amor... pour moi, la mort," it says--"For him, love... for me, death," and there's a website address for donations to the Foundation.

And there are, of course, the familiar icons of advertising known around the world. Coca-Cola is everywhere. So is McDonald's--there's one right down the street. I took this photo of the McDonald's on the Champs-Elysses where the golden arch was a curious echo of the larger Arc de Triomphe in the background. You'll see a Starbuck's now and then but they are not nearly as common as they are in the States. And not nearly as crowded.

One of my favorite ads was one I saw in Montmartre when we were tramping up and down the cobblestone streets looking for an art supply store for my husband. This ad was on the outside wall of a pharmacy and it was for a hand sanitizer. You can see by the photo it shows a lovely blonde girl looking askance at the hairy hands of what appears to be a wolfman and the bony hands of a mummy, clinging to the same pole in the car of the Metro. [I'm no germaphobe but I know just how she feels and whenever I get home from riding le Metro, the first thing I do is wash my hands, even if there haven't been any wolfmen on my line.] I laughed out loud and snapped a shot of the ad.

I was thrilled to see an ad for Kenya down in the Metro station, having so recently worked on a project with Heartland International and a group of Kenyan entrepreneurs. I had no idea that Kenya was a destination for French tourists, yet there it is--"Jambo!" it says, with the colorful dress and happy faces of the Maasai people. Then there's the TV ad I heard for Marakech in Morocco as a vacation spot. I immediately started humming the old song from the '60s (or was it the 70s?) "Marakech Express."

Maybe it's because of my years spent in marketing, but I find the advertising both jolting and refreshing. Sounds like an ad.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sex and nudity. Murder and lust. War, madness and mayhem. Conspiracies to overthrow the government. We've got all that, and more, here at the Louvre.

If anyone thinks art is boring, think again. The Louvre is filled with 35,000 pieces of art that encompass everything from Adam and Eve getting thrown out of the Garden of Eden to hundreds of depictions of the crucifixion. There are galleries of primitive sculptures of babies at their mothers' breasts to courtyards filled with marble renditions of Roman conquerers. Rows and rows of crown jewels, looking for all the world like props in a play. Happy families and not-so-happy families caught by the painter's brush in everyday scenes. Beauty and horror. In short, the history of the world.

To try to describe the Louvre is nearly impossible. Think canvases as large as mobile homes. Ceilings as high as any cathedral. Gallery after gallery of art catalogued by artist, by century, by geography. Mind-boggling in its scope, the Louvre reminds us who and where we are: tiny specks, privileged to be part of the human experience captured in time throughout the centuries. And thanks to those who thought ahead to collect this art, put it under one roof (thanks, Napoleon) and catalogue it with captions for those of us who weren't paying close enough attention in history class, we have the opportunity to view it--well, at least some of it--during one exhilarating and exhausting day.

While much of Paris quits to the south of France and the Riviera for the month of August, the rest of Europe and beyond considers it their invitation to visit Paris, specifically the Louvre. The place was packed. English and Germans, Italians and Russians, Japanese and Chinese, Aussies and New Zealanders, even the odd American--we were all there to ogle the art but part of the fun was watching each other. Funny, in spite of language barriers you can tell by the body language what's happening. A fussing infant, a truculent teenager, the "I'm-not-going-to-tell-you-again" speech from a parent to an older sibling bent on disturbing the sleep of his baby sister... watching the family dramas play out in other languages was almost as much fun as observing the art.

The Winged Victory has her own showcase at the top of the first staircase and she draws a crowd. People stop dead in their tracks to take photos, causing a four-person pile-up. Venus de Milo and the Laceworker by Vermeer are two of the other large attractions but the biggest of all is the Mona Lisa. Mona has her own room, her own bullet-proof cover and a couple of guards at both sides to boot. People push to the front of the ropes to get a good view and in spite of the hundreds of warnings not to use flash, the room lights up like the red carpet at a Hollywood opening. To my credit, I followed the rules so many of my photos came out yellow and blurry but as the wife of a former museum curator, I can't help it--rules are rules.

Different cultures have different concepts of personal space so I tried not to take it personally when someone jabbed me with an elbow or pushed past me to see the major pieces. In America I think we have a bigger physical "bubble" around us than most cultures, so this feeling of being pressed in might be unique to us. Still, I was struck by the paradox of being transported by this timeless, priceless art and yet piqued by the lack of consideration of others intent on getting their (flash) photos. Before we got to see all 35,000 pieces, it was time to go and it was with some relief that we headed downstairs for the "sortie" (exit) and a cup of that strong, delicious espresso I've come to love.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Tackling the Louvre

Today we're up bright and early in order to tackle the Louvre. "Tackle the Louvre?" Did I really say that? As if the Louvre was something to be conquered, attacked and vanquished? Well, in a way, it is.

Yesterday we went there and stood in a very long line. Turns out, it was the wrong line. This was the line for the people WITH tickets. The other line, the one we were supposed to be in, wound around the building--and by building I mean acres of palace, which it once was. The lovely woman in front of us caught us before we ducked out of line and recommended we go to the tourist bureau, down the street on Rue de Pyramides, where we could get tickets much more quickly. That we did, and tucked the tickets away for today.

That left us with time to continue our exploration of the City of Light. We'd been to Montmartre the day before, enjoying a picnic lunch at the fountain right below Sacre Coeur, the beautiful church that sits on the highest hill overlooking all of Paris. Yesterday's lunch was in the Tuileries following our aborted trip to the Louvre, and it occurred to me that there were people around us, locals, having their own lunch breaks from work. I wondered, do the Parisians ever tire of all this beauty? Would it ever be routine to be surrounded by plazas, monuments, ancient sculpture and priceless art? I doubt it.

Another destination for the day was Harry's New York Bar & Grill, known as a frequent hang-out of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and the gang. The bar is also allegedly famous for 1) being the origin of the invention of the Bloody Mary by a bartender who was helping his patrons overcome their hangovers and 2) being the place where George Gershwin wrote the melody "An American in Paris." There was an article on the wall from the New York Post validating the origin of the Bloody Mary story but alas, the piano bar downstairs was closed so we couldn't confirm the story about Gershwin. We ordered Bloody Marys and toasted Gershwin anyway.

Earlier in the day on our way to the Tuileries for lunch we walked through the Place Vendome. This is a huge square that boasts high-end shops and the Ritz Carlton, known in the guidebooks as the former home of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and the place where Coco Chanel died. It's also known as the place where Princess Diana was staying with boyfriend Dodi Fayed on that last fateful visit to Paris. I was still ruminating about the loss of Princess Diana when we immediately ran into Woody Allen, coming within two feet of him and his entourage. Mr. Allen looked like he was scoping out the plaza for a movie. His people hustled everyone across the street where I managed to take his photo, then had a sudden, stabbing thought... does that make me paparazzi?

Monday, August 9, 2010

I'd like a side of art with that art

Everywhere you look in Paris, there's art. Maybe it's "kitsch," the kind of art you can buy on the quai (pronouced "kee") where street vendors line the edges of the Seine River selling predictable sketches of the Champs-Elysees or phony oil paintings of the Eiffel Tower. But more than likely, it's the real thing. The real Renoir. The real Monet. The real Picasso.

Today my husband Bill and I went in search of the real Picasso, following the map to the Musee Picasso in Le Marais district--not an easy place to find. Paris streets tend to turn into other streets or run out altogether, so it was a jog right, a jog left and a few windy streets before we found the museum. Much to our dismay, it was closed for renovation, with a sign that said "We hope this doesn't spoil your trip to Paris." Well, for a moment it almost did... but then we stopped and had lunch in a local park, a lunch of turkey and goat cheese on a baguette which Bill had made before we left for our excursion, and we regrouped. Modern art--that's what Bill wanted to see. So after downing our sandwiches we headed for the Centre Georges Pompidou.

If Parisians hated the Eiffel Tower upon its debut, imagine the natives' disdain for this crazy-looking structure, built in 1977 "from the inside out," all pipes and scaffolding and see-through walkways. The view from the 5th level is spectacular--you can see all of Paris. And then, as if that view isn't enough, there's the art. We did, indeed, see Picassos and more. I learned about cubism and the Fauvre movement from my artist husband, who told me that "Fauvre" means "wild beast" because that's what people thought these artists were when they began using wild colors. We saw interactive art, light art, feminist art and furniture art. We saw sculptures, video and pulsing slide shows. Even the coasters in the gift shop looked like art. Thanks to Bill's fine arts education, I learned some new things about modern art and came away with my head stuffed full of new images and ideas.

I admit, my idea of art is more traditional, more... romantic. What appeals to me is the art that's all around us. Everything from the lamp posts' iron work to the faces and sculptures carved into the buildings and the bridges seem designed to please the eye. Everywhere you turn there's something new to see and admire. And the churches--oh, the churches! Built for the glory of God, each one is a museum in itself, filled with paintings, sculptures of the Madonna and Child and frescoes depicting the life of Christ, carvings that told the story because most people couldn't read.

Modern art, Gothic art, street art--perhaps all of it pales next to Flea Market art. Le Marche aux Puces St-Ouen is the weekly flea market (or, as we said in Phoenix, "swap meet") held on the outskirts of Paris each weekend. I couldn't wait to share this with my Bill--after all, we spent most of our brief courtship and our subsequent 32 years of marriage roaming flea markets, swap meets, antique stores and (let's call a spade a spade) junk shops. I'd read about this flea market in an issue of Vogue years ago and had dreams of visiting it again. Sadly, the prices that were once a bargain are no longer to be found. Bill found just what he was looking for--some prints--and I bought a sparkly Paris pin, but only after some bargaining with the vendor. And isn't negotiating the finest art of all?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Dizzy in Paris

Was it the champagne, a gift from my son and his girlfriend to celebrate my birthday? Was it the lights and sounds of this city, everything from the flickering light show of the Eiffel Tower at night to the sound of the accordian being played by a roving musician on le Metro? Or was it the art of Matisse, Renoir, Monet, Manet, Van Gogh and Rodin that had me so dizzy?

This city is like a meal, too good to pass up one single course but there's a cost to gobbling it all up at once. Sensory overload, I think. Ernest Hemingway called it a moveable feast and wrote a book by the same name. Groaning, I am beginning to see what he meant... and it's not just from too many chocolate croissants and fabulous cheese plates. There's too much! Too many amazing statues to ogle, too much art to absorb, too much history to comprehend.

So instead of the Louvre today we tackled only the Musee de l'Orangerie, the small (ish) museum tucked away at the far end of the Jardin des Tuileries. Here you can see two oval rooms filled with murals, the famous waterlilies by Claude Monet, as well as a very select collection of impressionist and post-impressionist art by the likes of Matisse, Picasso, Modigliani and Dernier. I love this museum... it's on a scale I can handle. Yesterday we relished the Musee d'Orsay, a former train station that was converted to a museum in the 1980s, a collection which boasts some famous pieces that you'd recognize--among them the dancers of Degas, the can-can girls of Toulouse Lautrec. No photos allowed in the museum, though.

I can see I'll have to pace myself if I want to make it through the month. Between the elaborate architecture, the priceless art, the crepes sucrees (those are just the ones for dessert) and the wine, I'm in danger of dying of excess. But what a way to go.