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Friday, March 30, 2012

Spring bike rides

We've been waiting all winter to install a bike carrier on the car. The weather was perfect this week so we tested the carrier for transporting the bikes to one of the forest trails outside the city.
The carrier worked great and we had a good ride. However, I think it will be awhile before we're ready for the Tour de France!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

La Défense

Monday was a perfect day for a photo expedition - warm weather and a crystal blue sky. We decided to check out a more modern side of Paris - the area known as La Défense.
The building above is called the Grande Arche. It lies in a continuous line from the Louvre, west through the Tuileries, the Champs Elysées, and the Arc de Triomphe.

Looking west:Looking east - you can see the (tiny) Arc de Triomphe in the very center in the distance.The area has some interesting modern architecture. I call this the flying saucer building:
And some interesting sculpture. . .

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


"Il faut inclure la signature dans la photo." (Be sure to include the signature in your picture.)

The voice startled me as I was crouched low, taking photographs of the street art in the rue Denoyez. I looked up to see a tall, thin man with graying hair tucked into a pony tail. He was standing in the doorway of a shop whose exterior was covered with art such as this:
"C'est un de mes pochoirs" he said. I'm Pedro, and this is my shop."

"Pochoir?" I didn't recognize the word in French. "Stencil" is the English word, he continued. And so we began a 15 minute conversation in English regarding the use of stencils as street art, poetry, and political statement. Pedro invited me into his shop/studio where the walls were covered with hundreds of images of musicians, poets, and historical figures ranging from Obama to Marilyn Monroe and Rosa Parks. I think that Pedro was delighted to practice his English and flattered that someone would be interested in his art. He wouldn't allow me to take any photos of him or the inside of his shop, but did allow me this photo of the process:
I left the shop with a new insights regarding street artists, their cans of spray paint, and their "pochoirs." So what can you do with stencils? Well, you can decorate your trash cans. . .

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Happy Birthday Eric

Today is my son Eric's 34th birthday. Here is a picture of him from last summer.
I found this picture of myself and my sons taken in late 1978. That's Eric in the front pack on my chest and Philippe with his blond curls.
And here are the three of us at Philippe's wedding in 2008. They grow up so quickly!
If you'd like to see more photos of Eric, click here.

Noordwijk aan Zee

After a three museums in one day, (the Kröller-Müller, the Van Gogh in Amsterdam, and the Rijksmuseum) we'd had enough. We spent Friday along the coast of the North Sea. It was sunny and calm, but the water is much too cold for swimming. Here is the view from our hotel room in Noordwijk aan Zee.
Of course, we couldn't leave Holland without at least one photo of a windmill.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Kröller-Müller Museum

One of the highlights of our visit to Benelux was the Kröller-Müller Museum which is located inside the De Hoge Veluwe National Park near Otterlo, Netherlands. The museum owes its existence to Helene Kröller-Müller (1869-1939), the daughter of a German industrialist. Helene was fully aware that she lived in a period of great artistic innovation that witnessed movements such as Expressionism, Cubism, Futurism and De Stijl. In her lifetime she collected almost 11,500 art works - including significant works by Picasso, Seurat, Mondriaan, etc. Helene's favorite artist was Vincent van Gogh. She acquired 91 paintings and approximately 180 works on paper by Van Gogh, amassing the world's largest collection of his works (with the exception of the Van Gogh family collection which we visited in Amsterdam later in the day).

We began our visit by picking up a free bicycle at the park entrance and then pedaling the 2.5 km to the museum.
Once inside the museum, we were entranced by the collection of paintings and sculptures. Here are a few of the highlights.Giacometti's Walking Man

Van Gogh's The Potato Eaters (1885)

Van Gogh's Place du Forum (1888)

The museum also features a sculpture garden of 25 hectares (>60 acres).
There were plenty of school groups taking advantage of the gorgeous weather and national treasures.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Rainy Sunday in the Champs de Mars

Spring is just around the corner

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A jonquil for Curie

A fundraiser for cancer research and some welcome color on a gray day.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Auvers sur l'Oise

We've been very interested in Vincent Van Gogh lately. Last month we visited the Orsay Museum which owns over 200 of Van Gogh's paintings. Last week we visited the town of Auvers sur l'Oise (less than 25 miles north of Paris) which is where Van Gogh spent the final two months of his life. Do you remember his famous painting of the Auvers church?

Van Gogh lived here in the Auberge Ravoux from his arrival on the 20th of May 1890.
He had a tiny room upstairs in the back of the Auberge. He died here on July 29, 1890 two days after shooting himself.
Vincent is buried in Auvers sur l'Oise. His younger brother Theo died six months later and was interred by his side
Next week we will be taking a trip to Belgium and Holland. We'll be visiting the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam and the Kröller-Müller museum in Otterlo. I think that should be enough of Van Gogh for awhile.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Parc de Bagatelle

Finally. A few days of sunshine and warmer weather. Hints of spring in the air. One of my favorite spring visits is the Parc de Bagatelle in the Bois de Boulogne. The Bagatelle is one Paris' four botanical gardens. Although mostly known for its rose garden; the park includes over a million spring bulbs planted directly in the grass - creating a blanket of color from March through early May. Besides, Patrice has never been there, and I continue to introduce him to the sights of Paris that he's never seen.
There are lots of peacocks in the park, but they didn't grace us with a dance.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Berenice Abbott

In hindsight, I wish I had more carefully documented the passage of the organ grinder that I saw earlier this week. A reader reminded me just how rare these sightings are. . .
The careful documentation of a changing city was the theme of a photography exhibition that we attended earlier this week. The Jeu de Paume is presenting a retrospective of the works of Berenice Abbott (1898-1991), an American photographer who spent several years in Paris in the 1920s where she was influenced by the work of Eugene Atget.

Abbott is best known for her series Changing New York (1935-1939) in which she systematically photographed the city. She captured not only NYC architecture, but a way of life that was disappearing - like organ grinders.

Here are a few representative images from the exhibit at the Jeu de Paume:

For more details on the exposition at the Jeu de Paume click here. And the Museum of the City of New York has over 1600 of Abbot's images online here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Organ grinder

I was surprised to hear an unusual sound in the courtyard behind our building yesterday. An organ grinder! (No monkey, though.) When was the last time you heard one of those?

BTW, today's stroll through Wikipedia turned up this photo by Eugene Atget of an organ grinder in 1898.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Lady bikers

Last weekend, an association of women bikers organized a ride through the streets of Paris in honor of International Women's Day. It was a great subject for Sunday's photo expedition. Here are a few of the participants.

Plenty of men showed up to ride in solidarity with the women.

Speaking of motorcycles, Patrice has hung up the keys to his motorscooter. Amazing what one will do for love. . .

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Musée de la Grande Guerre

Patrice is feeling much better and we've resumed our excusions in and around Paris. Yesterday we took a trip backwards in time to WWI. We visited the recently opened Musée de la Grande Guerre (Museum of the Great War) in Meaux, about an hour east of Paris. Here's the entrance to the museum.

The museum presents a multi-sensory experience making ample use of film and sound files. I could imagine life in the trenches with the sounds of boots slogging through the mud against the backdrop of bullets and bombs.
The exhibit featured the usual guns, tanks, and early airplanes but one of the most curious vehicles (for me) was this pigeon-mobile which was used to transport the carrier pigeons vital to communications. Over 100,000 pigeons were deployed during the war with a 95% success rate of getting through to their destination with their message.

Patrice has a personal interest in the war as both of his grandfathers served and survived the war. Here is a photograph of his maternal grandfather, Fernand Laborde:
And his paternal grandfather, René Neger:
Here's the link to the museum for your personal virtual visit.