Sunday, April 29, 2012

First, a few more photos. . .The one above is from Sacre Coeur overlooking the city. It's really an amazing view. Today was another museum day cos I had a pass. I learned what all good tourists learn: I can only take in so much in one day! The day's highlight was the Rodin Musem and gardens. Once again the environment in which the art is set is as spectacular as the art! Hooray for Parisian landscape designers and gardeners!!! What a deeply peaceful place! Rodin's huge bronzes are scattered among the massive trees, where people are free to not only look at them but touch them. Went back to the Louvre briefly to see the Greek sculptures. . .such grace in the human form and the softness of the draping clothing. . .hard to believe it was carved from stone. Massive Athenas and athletes by Praxiteles, who apparently was the first to sculpt nudes. The Louvre also had the only complete Book of Hours by the Limbourg brothers for the Duc de Berry. Tiny tiny, intricate patterns of leaves, vines and flowers, surrounding richly colored pictures; pages of ; tons of gold leaf. Such fine work. Who has the patience in modern times to create something like this? It was apparently the work of several years. It's beautifully displayed so that I could look at it very closely and enjoy the detail.
The sun was out by mid-day. It felt almost unreal. I think half of Paris was out to greet the blue skies. The parks were jammed. A walk through the Tuileries where I was once again impressed by the enormous chestnut trees in full bloom. The pink white blossoms are kind of like the local cherry blossom festival. The loss of chestnut trees in America is a big one.
Marjolaine returns tomorrow for 2 days. I may go back to Giverny on Wednesday.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

I was too tired to write last night as you may have noticed. This was bound to happen eventually. It stays light here until 9:45 PM so I usually don't get home until 8:30 or even 9. Yesterday had its interesting quirks. My guidebook described the Catacombes as the admin. center for the French Resistance ( as some of you know an area of supreme interest for me) so I had to go to see if it felt familiar, tho this was not a place I would generally visit. The French built a maize of tunnels deep underground (one descends a narrow winding staircase with 183 steep steps to get there)  long ago to serve as a great cemetery and moved the remains of dead Parisians from all over the city here. Long tunnels of walls of bones and skulls and endless twists and turns. And yes, it felt familiar. I was also quite glad to get out of there! I could feel the palpable fear there (not from the dead and not my own).
Then wandered around Montparnasse which was not wonderful. Wanted to eat at the restaurant favored by Hemingway and friends but it had become quite posh. I began to feel my first sense of urban burnout when I found myself in the lush, tree-filled beauty of Luxembourg Gardens and felt completely renewed. I realized I just have to stay away from the main avenues and walk on the side streets which are quiet and full of all kinds of charming buildings. Finished up at Sacre Coeur. Wherever I am, I am always drawn to this high point in the city, as are many I am sure. I sent all my love to the souls of the Resistance, incarnate or otherwise, and prayed they are free of whatever horrible trauma they incurred at that time at the hands of the Germans. I lit a candle for them and felt sweetly complete.
Outside the church, the equivalent of a huge party. Musicians playing at different levels of the steps and people just enjoying Friday night and the forever view from that place.     

I guess I finally got the photo thing figured out. Not too hard after all. This is the only photo of me on my camera, but Marjolaine has some and will send them when she gets home. She has a definitely superior camera.
Today was all magic. Rain rain rain but the light was beauteous. Started off at the Orangerie with more Impressionists plus Matisse and Derain and Redon. It was not too crowded so I could really hang out with each painting and sink into the brushstrokes and color. Bliss for me. The Orangerie has 2 huge water lily paintings donated by Monet. He asked that they be hung in round rooms painted white, to emphasize the relationship between the universal and  nature and create a place of meditation. I was blessed with a beautiful recognition of how his paintings reflect the thin "line" between the realm of Light and the realm of form. His forms are barely there, a soft dream of  Light. Color dissolving into Light and Light dreaming form and color. So wonderful. I was fairly ecstatic when I left! Then across the Seine in the pouring rain, on to lunch in the Left Bank and on to the Cluny, the medieval museum. I fell in love with the building itself as always with its endless sculpted detail, angels and cherubs and vines and flowers and vaulted ceilings. Beautiful tapestries, especially a whole room of unicorn tapestries. The lion and the unicorn as tamed playmates of the lovely lady and all sorts of other animals and birds at her beck and call. And the miraculously fine work from a book of hours. They must have painted and calligraphed with brushes with a single hair, as the Acoma Pueblo people do. 
Still raining so I revisited the Shakespeare bookstore, a decades old bookstore with books in English, where Hemingway, Joyce, Fitzgerald and others hung out, sometimes supported by its owner, Sylvia Beach. Still raining so I made a return visit to Notre Dame, just a few blocks away over the Seine.
Got stopped in my tracks by a place of prayer dedicated to Mary. What a spirit of sweetness was there. Closed my eyes and was present to her Light as it was abundantly there. Such intense sweetness, I had to weep. The service had started in the background with organ music and singing and I was transported through my heart and hers which were one in Light. I was there for quite awhile. I couldn't move. Came home wildy happy.  
Tomorrow more museums cos I have a 2-day museum pass.
Love to all of you, dear friends and my wonderful sister.   

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I continue to love hearing from you and knowing that you are on this journey with me! I thought I just uploaded some photos, but they disappeared. I will try again tomorrow night.
The Paris Metro system is a world unto itself, a maze of tunnels, twisting passage ways and ups and downs. Changing from one train line to another can be quite an adventure and requires full alertness. One goes up and down a large number of stairs regularly. Today was the record for me: 8 long flights to get from the train to the surface. But worth the climb. Visited Parc au Butte Chaumont, another Parisian paradise. The gardeners are my heroes and heroines. Major climbs, awe inspiring view over the city, endless huge trees in full leaf, a waterfall and pond and bridges. A wonderful world. Then off to Jardin des Plantes near the zoo. The highlight here was the Alpine Garden, a relatively small area, intensely landscaped with nooks and crannies and streams and intensely varied groupings of plants. Clearly I am in flower heaven in Paris. I was going to try another park, but sensed that it was going to rain (it did) so I returned to the D'Orsay, the Impressionist museum that I had wanted to revisit. This time, really hanging out with the paintings, soaking in the color and form and lush gorgeousness.
Then another walk that started of to be a short one but got longer and longer. It's great fun to wander through neighborhoods. I love the architecture on the quiet streets and the cafe life on the busy ones.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Today, I am going to complain! Not only did we have tons of rain, but a cold, cold, strong wind. Enough! Tomorrow, there is a promise of no rain and at least some sunshine. Hooray!
When I saw the weather this morning, I took my time getting out and about. This is a vacation after all and slow mornings are allowed!
First stop was the music museum. A Wonderful place that traces the history of music, has many ancient instruments on display and one can listen to recordings of the instruments on earphones as one walks around. So I semi-danced my way through the various exhibits for a couple of hours. There was also a live concert on several of the instruments. Very lovely. Each ancient keyboard instrument was truly a work of art, covered with paintings, murals or fine geometrice patters reminiscent of flowers and vines. The ancient lutes, mandolins, and guitars had soundboars carved with the precise geomteric patterns one finds in the cathedral windows. People took such care in what they made.
Then out into the cold rain. I tried to go to the Eiffel Tower, but the top was closed and one of the elevators was broken and they were advertising a 2 hour wait. So I just wandered. Despite the gusty wind, Paris is such a walking city that I find it hard to stop walking once I start. I wandered and meandered through a gorgeous neighborhood (home to the "1%", no doubt). The building facades were so lovely and fronted by thick green shrubbery and tall, ancient trees. Large windows, wrought iron balconies. . overlooking parks. I cannot walk far without running into another miracle of a park. I walked through the Invalides (where Napoleon is buried) and ended up by the Seine and felt as always that this is home base. How I love to watch the sky and water and the changing light reflected in the water.
Tomorrow will be a multiple park day.
I am going to download my photos and hope to figure out how to include them here. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Despite the chilly weather and grey skies (and occasionally heavy rain) Giverny was perfection. My version of heaven on Earth. Endless arrays of multi-colored flowers, that must change with the weeks. We had a torrent of tulips in yellow, pink, white, purple, peach and on and on. All the groupings of flowers, whether shades of one color or bundles of many colors, were superb and bliss-producing. The gardeners are all remarkable artists. Such effulgence!
The movement of light on the lily ponds was so delicate and soft, reflections of clouds and peeks of blue skies or the array of blossoms and greenery that line the pond. Monet had this to say about himself: "Except for painting and gardening, I am useless." I love that.
Back in Paris (which I think is becoming a kind of addiction) in the evening, we walked along the canal that runs through Paris and which is quite close to where we stay. Tree-lined quays, bridges with wonderful iron grill work criss-crossing the water wherever the locks are, more soft reflections of the changing light on the water. More unique and charming neighborhoods and everywhere Parisians out enjoying their city.
Marjolaine leaves for the south tomorrow to see and old friend in Nimes and a master felter in Lyons.  I will miss her but I also get that it is good to have my own Parisian adventure. Tomorrow's plan depends on the weather!  

Monday, April 23, 2012

Hooray! I am so happy to keep hearing from you, dear friends and my dear sister, and know that reading this is fun for you!
Today, a serious rain day and it remains really cold!!! But, desert dweller that I am, I love the rain. Paris is really quite beautiful in the rain and the rain keeps noone inside. The streets are forever full of people talking and laughing, drinking at the cafes. After work, the city explodes. Everyone is ready to play. I love it. Travelling by the metro always. It feels easy and familiar having grown up in the NY subways. It is a super efficient system and I love people watching just as I did growing up. The young Parisians, especially the men, must have made some kind of generational DNA adaptation becos they are all incredibly tall, averaging it looks like 6-3 or 6-4 and much taller than the older people.
Today we went to the Pompidou and saw some Chagall and Matisse and others, two of my favorities. Once again, I liked the building as much as the art. Then we wandered around Les Halles, and ended up at a store specializing in buttons and ribbons. Marjolaine makes wonderful felted clothing, really beautiful, and she wanted to stock up. I enjoyed it all as well, especially the gorgeous, intensely colored ribbons.  Each neighborhood has a unique feel to it, charming in a different way, even different kinds of cobblestone pavements. Many narrow streets with tiny shops and apartment building with beautiful grillwork and hidden gardens. Then we walked some more and did our laundry, a 2-hour process. Something ran and turned many things grey, alas. Met a neighbor, photographer and chatted quite a bit.
Tomorrow, Giverny, one of the places to which I have looked forward the most.  Love to all.. .    

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Hello! Today was a museum day. We went to the Louvre, did our duty and saw the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo, lots of Egyptian "stuff:" sarcophagi, painted inside and out with detailed journey stories, grave reliquaries, sphinxes, sculptures of gods and pharoahs and queens. A bit overwhelming. Marjolaine and I both have an outside limit for museums of about 2.5-3 hours and then we stop seeing. got really lost trying to find our way out. I was as much impressed by the fabulous building as its contents. Evey wall and ceiling and doorway covered with intricate sculptures, enormous paintings, carvings, etc. The French royalty (probably all royalty) had wildly sumptuous lives. It's hard to imagine the amount of artistry and constuction work that made these places possible.
Then walking in the wonderful air, though quite cold and rainy. Another wonderful meal at a restaurant on a cobblestone street. I love the decor in these places. Each so unique and charming and warm. Small wooden tables, red table cloths, golden walls with artsy posters. Full of French people chatting up a storm. Went to St. Chapelle. . .a miraculous universe of colored glass and every inch that was not a window was painted most beautifully and delicately, vaulted ceilings painted blue with gold stars. It was like a journey into the Book of Hours.
Highlight of the day, the night time boat ride on the Seine. All the great structures lit up and colored lights reflecting on the water. The Eiffel Tower goes off like a Christmas tree with twinkling lights at 10 PM. All exquisite and magical. I am truly in love with the Seine and almost have tohave time there every day, but this night time boat journey was the best.       

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Bonjour, mes amis (et ma soeur), and thanks again for letting me know you are enjoying this. I do have photos but need to get home early enough to have the mental clarity to figure out how to insert them!
In the meantime, I have forgotten to share one of Paris' most special gifts. The food!! Oh la la. Every time I taste French food, I feel like Meryl Streep playing Julia Childs in Julie and Julia, exclaiming in ecstasy. The presentation, the creativity, the freshness and of course the tastes and all so healthy! I almost feel inspired to cook better when I get home, almost. . . And the restaurants themselves, so warm and elegant and asthetically pleasing at the same time. Beautiful dishes. The French cover everything with flowers. And I don't know where they got a reputation for grumpiness. Everyone is extremely cheerful, helpful and fun!
OK! Sunshine again, so we did some parks, starting with a big one, Bois de Bologne on the west side of Paris. Acres and acres of thick thick woods in spring green, two big lakes and flower beds that are like the most beautiful paintings I ever beheld. Nooks and hidden places that some gardener created in a state of ecstasy. A play rehearsal in the Shakespeare Garden. Artists playing music everywhere in Paris on Saturday. . .especially the metro.
Off to L'Eglise Madelaine, dedicated to Mary Magdelene. Apparently in France there is a general, if quiet, understanding that Jesus and Mary Magdelene married and had 2 children. So, the church has a huge sculpture of their wedding ceremony. . .and the scuplture on the main altar is of Mary (not Jesus) surrounded by angels and looking very pregnant. Who would have dreamed of such a wide acceptance of this idea? (I hope I am not offending anyone. . .) It was the first time I have ever walked into an old church/cathedral and been filled with joy immediately, undiluted by all the history in the place. Perhaps because it is filled with the feminine spirit and the spirit of love. As I sat there, I felt that Mary Magdelene was born as Christ's equal, the feminine aspect of Light and that she fled to France after his death not only to protect her children, but to protect the essence of his/their teachings, which was totally about love, the path of the heart, and of course finding the kingdom of heaven within. . . not about dogma
Then off to the Latin Quarter where hundreds (maybe thousands) of people were strolling, filling the cafes, talking and laughing. Then wandered along the Seine (I would be happy to see the river every day forever) as the light changed toward evening. So soft and glowing on the clouds and trees a nd buildings. I have no good words yet for the evening light, but it fills me with quiet joy.     

Friday, April 20, 2012

Big thanks to you my buddies, who have let me know that you are reading this. It encourages me to continue! Today was a special day in the realm of overtly spiritual experiences. If you have been to Chartres, this will not surprise you. When I first walked in, it was just another beautiful cathedral with spectacular architecture and stained glass. Then we went into the crypt and there, I could begin to feel the special power of the place. The first structure was built in about 400 AD on a site long sacred to the Druids. There is a super deep well (round with a square bottom that matches up with the carcinal directions) that draws from a source in a cave where they worshipped. An underground crypt feels much like a cave and going into caves, into the earth has clearly been important to cultures worldwide. I really wished I could meditate there becos the crypt walls were oozing stories and sacred events to which I would have liked to tune in.
Then, a yummy (really yummy) crepe and back to the cathedral. Walking the labyrinthe, felt all kinds of wonderful information pour in. The inward walk really shuts down linear thinking so people can open to the Light. Also, the actual precise twists and turns strongly open the brain and nervous system to experiencing consciouness. The inward walk is such a metaphor for life on Earth. . .perhaps we come here with clarity, but the veil drops and we get lost in the twists and turns of life. We meet people coming in the opposite direction who may push us off the path and children run helter skelter reminding us to take nothing seriously. The path in yields confusion and maybe we feel like giving up, but when we get to the center, the Self, everything lights up. That central point in the labyrinthe is a major vortex that shoots Light through you from above to below, and a cross directly through the heart, front to back and side to side and then many other directions through the heart. It felt like a local equivalent of the birthing cave that tranforms not just the mind but the body into Light. Christ could never have suffered because to Him, all was Light; even the cross was Light. Major infusion/transformation in that spot. Then the journey outward. . .completely different than the inward journey. There was no confusion, just joy, as the Light in my heart guided me without a second thought. We merge with Being and then Being guides us effortlessly through life. The light in our hearts guides us without so much as a thought and we bring that Light/joy consciounsess back into the world to share. What a power spot!
Interestingly, Marjolaine and I ended up in the center at the exact same time and as soon as we stood together there, everyone else left that inner circles. When it was time to leave, organ music started like a song of celebration. We went back a second time after wandering around the very charming town and the same thing happened!
There are intricate carvings all around the front of the church that Marjolaine says contain the entire true story of Jesus and Mary Magdelene. Chartres is central to her life and she has read everything about it. The church is under renovation, so we could not see the carvings.
And, last but not least, another sunny day!     

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The sun came out today. Hooray! What a difference that makes (as well as being fully in this time zone and 2 delicious cups of French coffee!) Marjolaine and I headed right to the Luxembourg Gardens. How deeply peaceful this place is tho right in the middle of the city. Huge ancient chestnut trees (in blossom) everywhere, pools and sculpture and brilliant groupings of flowers. Parisians hanging out in the sun. Everyone must be celebrating. Then went to St. Sulpice. Seem to be averaging one church per day, as the churches are so much a part of Parisian spirit and history. It's a deeply light-filled, feminine version of Catholicism as I experience it, very gentle. Then walking along the river sparkling in the sun and to my first museum: D'Orsay, which houses the impressionists, my favorites. It is really wonderful to see originals of paintings that I have only known as prints for all these years. Their light and richness really jump forward. Especially the Van Goghs.
My French is rehabilitating very quickly and I am starting to think in French. When I forget a word, I ask my buddy Marjolaine. Tomorrow. . .Chartres!    

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Paris, Day 2. It rains and suns. We are getting good at moving through the underground universe of Paris trains just when it is raining hardest and emerging to catch the bits of sunshine. Today, the Seine. Walking along it and a sweet boat ride. It's a beautiful river, full and deep and nourishing. The French have built so many grand monuments, buildings and statues. Glorious architecture everywhere. The detailed beauty of Notre Dame is astounding. How could they carve and create stained glass with such perfection and intricacy at such great heights so long ago?
It all feels as if I had been here forever. I feel perfectly at home in this city and I am not an urban person. I loved the il de cite, village like with trees and flower markets and many small buildings with grillwork and window boxes bright with spring flowers. Everyone seems to be in a state of perpetual celebration, rain or shine. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Paris, Day 1

The journey to Paris passed like a dream (non-sleep type). When Marjolaine and I got to our apartment, we found it locked. . .the landlord/caretaker had forgotten we were coming. After sitting in the hallway for awhile, we were rescued by a wonderful neighbor who let us just hang out in her apartment while she went out. Slept for awhile and studied our maps, and then we entered our apartment, which could not be more perfect, cozy and French. Golden walls, beautiful paintings, big French windows with lace curtains and wood floors. A little kitchen with a French coffee maker. Despite the long delay, we walked to Montmartre through the rain and the freshness that it brings and went to Sacre Coeur, which truly is the heart of Paris. It was the perfect place to start this journey. It was full of angels and the views over the city, as the clouds moved out and the sun set made it clear why this is the City of Light even on a rainy day. Got lost on the way there and on the way home and it was all wonderful. So many people out day and night, so alive.
Time to collapse into the French time zone.