Paris Journal 2006

Saturday, August 19

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Above and below, flowers and water garden in the park at Square Boucicaut, next to Bon Marché in the 7th arrondissement.


Guardien house in the Jardin Catherine Labouré, on rue de Babylone, across from the Hotel Matignon’s garden.  The Hotel Matignon is where one finds the Prime Minister of France, the aristocratic Dominique de Villepin.


Right next to the Grand Épicerie part of Bon Marché is the Chapelle Notre-Dame de la Medaille Miraculeuse.  In this chapel, in 1830, Sister Catherine Labouré is said to have seen the Virgin Mary and to have had three separate conversations with her!

We never did visit the Musée du Quai Branly last Sunday.  When Carol, Ron, Tom and I arrived there, we discovered that the line was so long, it was a 1 hour and forty-five minute wait.  So we crossed the Seine and went to the Maritime Museum instead.  Ron especially seemed to enjoy that, and so did Tom, the former Navy man.


The Musée du Quai Branly is receiving far more visitors than expected.  Many of them are not typical museum-goers.  It seems that this new museum, which some say is a museum of “non-Western” art, is attracting families of immigrants.  For some of them, this will be the only opportunity to see art from their native lands.  The proportion of visitors at the Branly who are tourists is much, much smaller than at other major museums such as the Musée d’Orsay or the Louvre.  Fascinating.


On Thursday evening, we had an absolutely delightful dinner at the apartment of our new friends, François and Patricia.  This young and very smart Parisian couple just recently returned from a vacation in California.  They showed us photos of their charming country home in Burgundy.  We all talked about politics, both French and American, and I must say I learned much more about the French political scene from François.  I am changing my opinion of Nicolas Sarkozy (not for the better) after talking with François, and after reading more of Sarkozy’s new book, Témoinage. 


Earlier that day, we bought flowers at a flower shop next to the Monoprix on rue Linois.  The florist was a cheerful, friendly man who just recently and proudly received his French citizenship.  Originally he was from Egypt, a part of the Coptic Christian community there.  Evidently, his family was not treated very well by the Muslim majority in Egypt.  So, twenty-some years ago, our florist went to England to study.  He received his diploma in English, he said.  That’s quite an accomplishment for a non-native speaker of this difficult language!  He taught drafting for a while, and somewhere along the way he became a florist.  He has now been living in France for six years, and he seems to be a happy man.  He plans to vote for Nicolas Sarkozy for President next Spring.


Our Sanibel friends, J and M, are in Paris now.  M had an emergency appendectomy over a week ago while she and J were visiting Giverny.  After spending nearly a week in the hospital in Vernon, she is now recuperating, and she and J are staying at the Hotel Meurice.  Tom and I went over there to have lunch with them at the Angelina Tea Room, which is next door to the hotel.  After lunch, we took a short walk up to the Place Vendome, over to the Brentano’s American bookstore, down to the Saint Roch church, and back to the Hotel on the rue de Rivoli. 


J chose the Hotel Meurice because it is very comfortable and it offers every service a guest could want.  The hotel staff arranged for a nurse to come in every other day to change M’s bandage.


The hotel is very elegant, and at the moment there seem to be many Muslim families staying there.  Perhaps some are displaced from Lebanon?  We don’t know.  The lobby is often occupied by the men, busily speaking on their cell phones, and the entire first floor (all suites, one level up from the ground floor) is off-limits to everyone except the Muslim women who are staying there.  There are female guards on that floor, and when the women all go shopping, there is one woman assigned the task of holding all of their handbags.  The women wear chadors, but not veils.


J and M gave us a tour of their room and the hotel’s health/fitness center.  J says the hotel has been there for 200 years, under the same name, and I believe it.  I thought I noticed four stars on its emblem by the front entrance, but the hotel’s web site claims it is a five star hotel.  Well, who’s counting . . . .  The leather sofas and chairs in the lobby are comfy.  I like the place, but I’m afraid it is not for the likes of me! 


Tom and I buy books at Brentano’s every summer.  Yesterday he bought a big French grammar book, and I bought the paperback version of  Paul Krugman’s The Great Unravelling.


One year, I bought a dictionnaire gastronomique there that I just loved.  I lost it.  Fortunately, the staff at Brentano’s have ordered more.  Here is a link where you can buy one for yourself.  It is a superb little book.


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