Saturday, March 31, 2012

More Matisse

We saw some great Matisses at the Grand Palais last November, but we're lucky to have another great exhibition at Beaubourg, the Georges Pompidou Center, called "Matisse, Pairs and Sets."

Matisse was a perfectionist and had a tendency to repaint the same subject over and over again till he was satisfied with it. Through a selection of masterpieces, the exhibition shows the exploration of the same subject, repeatedly. This was fun for the kids because it allowed them to compare similar pieces of artwork and pick their favorite.

We met with some friends at the museum, and after the exhibition we strolled over to Place Stravinsky for some coffee and crêpes.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Berthillon via Rue François Miron

We had another beautiful and warm weekend, so we decided to get ice cream at Berthillon, on the Ile Saint Louis, probably the most famous of Parisian glaciers, who make the best ice cream in the world. Or at least in Paris.

Our trip started across the river, behind the Hotel de Ville, at the place Saint Gervais, a quiet square with the quaint Saint Gervais-Saint Protais church in the back. Its facade has all three types of columns: Doric on the ground floor, Ionic on the second floor, Corinthian one the third floor. Or so I read.

We then walked down Rue François Miron, where on the corner of the tiny Rue Cloche Percé two of the oldest medieval houses of Paris survive, at #11 and #13. Both date back to the 16th century and with their exposed beams and studs after their renovation have regained their medieval appearance. Across the street is a toy store that seemed more interesting to some members of the family.

From there we turned right on Rue Geoffroy l'Asnier, where we passed the portal of the Hôtel Châlon-Luxembourg, which dates back to the 17th century and was donated to the City of Paris by its last owner but whose condition is not the best. Just across the street is the Memorial de la Shoah, dedicated to Jewish history during the Second World War and the teaching of the Holocaust. We are in The Marais after all. Once we reached the Seine we crossed over to the Ile Saint Louis for our much deserved Berthillon ice cream, which we all love, and whose wonderful selection of flavors never disappoints us.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Anciens combattants at the Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe is one of the most famous monuments in Paris. It stands in the center of Place Charles de Gaulle (also known as L'Etoile) at the western end of the Champs Elysées.

It was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 because he was not satisfied with the much smaller, "mesquin," Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, which stands east of the Jardin des Tuileries. It honors all those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner surfaces. There are four main sculptures on the outer sides of the columns, Le Départ de 1792 (or La Marseillaise), Le Triomphe de 1810, La Résistance de 1814, and La Paix de 1815, shown here.

Napoleon was definitely exiled in 1815 and did not live to see the Arc de Triomphe completed. Its construction stopped during the Bourbon Restoration and it was finally unveiled in 1836 by the last king of France, Louis Philippe. But in 1840 Napoleon's remains did pass under it on their way from Saint Helena to his final resting place at the Invalides.

Beneath the Arc's vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as well as the Eternal Flame, a flame of remembrance that commemorates the memory of the fallen soldiers and that's rekindled every evening at 6:30 PM by associations of veterans and victims of war.

This year was the 50th anniversary of the cease-fire that ended the war in Algiers. Even though the Government said there would be no national commemoration of the cease-fire, hundreds of veterans gathered as they do every year on March 19th at the National Memorial of the War of Algeria at Quai Branly and then marched up to the Arc de Triomphe and revived the flame on the tomb of the unknown soldier at 6:30.

All this was irrelevant to the kids, who just seemed to enjoy being able to play in the momentarily car-free streets around the Arc. We also enjoyed the view of the sun setting on La Defense, the business park west of Paris, where a new arch, the Grande Arche de la Défense, was built in 1982 to complete the line of monuments that forms Paris's Axe Historique: the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, the Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile, and the Grande Arche de la Défense.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


My brother and his wife, who were on their way from Colombia to Singapore on a business trip, had a 12-hour layover in Charles de Gaulle Airport. That gave them plenty of time to come into Paris and spend the afternoon with us. We had a great lunch at our local brasserie, where my niece later joined us, went to Parc Monceau with the kids after school, and enjoyed a very French petit goûter at home.

It was great to see them and to share a bit of our little corner of Paris with them on such a beautiful spring day.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Beautiful sunset over Paris

Spring is definitely here and after doing our favorite Sunday brunch at Le Hoche we ended up in the Jardin des Tuileries, where we had not been since last October. The days are getting longer and brighter and we were able to catch the sunset before they closed the park. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Spring has sprung

Spring is officially here, judging by the amount of people who hit the sidewalk cafes today. It was nice to see so many people out in the streets enjoying the sun. Let's hope this nice weather we're having marks the end of winter.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Musée Nissim de Camondo

We finally visited one of the mansions on Parc Monceau. It's now the Nissim de Camondo Museum, which opened as a museum in 1935. The mansion was built in 1911 by the Comte Moïse de Camondo, a prominent Jewish banker, in order to house his collection of 18th century French furniture and artwork. Its design was modeled on the Petit Trianon at Versailles. Both the house and the collection were donated to the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in honor of his only son, Nissim de Camondo, who fought and died for France in World War I.

More tragedy followed in 1943. During the German occupation during World War II, Camondo's only daughter, Béatrice, believed her wealth and influential position in Parisian society would shield her from being deported by the Nazis. But in 1943 she, her ex-husband, composer Léon Reinach, and their two children were forced out of their home and taken to the Drancy deportation camp north of Paris, and from there they were deported to Auschwitz where they were all killed.

In the museum is a letter from Béatrice's ex-husband urging her to leave Paris with their children, which she disregarded. Other highlights of the museum are the Grand Salon, the Grand Bureau, the library, the dining room, and the French silver service. The woodwork of the mansion also is extraordinary.