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Posts Tagged ‘Paris’

1-Touluse-Lautrec-and-Stars

Recently, Mike and I went to the exhibit “Toulouse-Lautrec and the Stars of Paris” at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and it didn’t disappoint. The posters of Toulouse-Lautrec, legendary for their depiction of the nightlife, cafes, cabarets  and celebrities of 19th century Paris, illustrated life in Paris and Montmartre during its bohemian heyday. Also included in the exhibit were other notable artists of the time, such as Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas and John Singer Sargent. The exhibit’s astoundingly vivid visual world of Paris’ social scene transported me back in time.

2-Jane-Avril

Through Toulouse-Lautrec’s art, I learned about can-can dancer Jane Avril, who was a lifelong friend of Toulouse-Lautrec and commissioned the poster above to advertise her cabaret show at the Jardin de Paris. I especially like “Divan Japonaise,” (pictured below) which shows Jane Avril enjoying herself at the club.

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Toulouse-Lautrec’s depiction of May Belfort, an Irish singer who performed in Parisian nightclubs with her ever-present black cat, can be seen in this promotional poster.

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Mary Belfort

The exhibit also included several images of Aristide Bruant, French singer and nightclub owner, in his famous red scarf and black cape.

3-Aristide-Bruant-in-His-Ca

I loved Le Chat Noir (“The Black Cat”), poster by Théophile Steinlen which advertised the cabaret located in the Montmatre section of Paris in the early 1880’s. It reminded me of our last trip to Paris, when we had purchased a group of souvenir posters from one of the many bouquinistas lining the Seine.

7-Collection-du-Chat-Noir

The “Toulouse-Lautrec and the Stars of Paris” will be at the MFA until August 4, 2019. If you have a chance to see it, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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1-eiffel-tower

While we have thoroughly enjoyed vacationing in other European countries as well as the United States, our first trip to Paris in 2012 exceeded our expectations and we made plans to return “some day.” Well that day came last month and we spent 2 weeks enjoying everything the City of Lights had to offer, including its museums, churches and gardens. But when we planned this year’s trip, we kept our daily itinerary to one major attraction, making sure to give ourselves enough flexibility to add or subtract places to see and plenty of time to explore the parts of Paris that weren’t in any guide books.

2-angelinasWe enjoyed revisiting the Louvre and D’Orsay Museums, as well as the restaurant “Angelina’s” which shares my name and has the best hot chocolate we’ve ever tasted. Traveling by train to Versailles and Chartres were adventures we enjoyed and visiting the Bagatelle Rose Garden in the western part of Paris was high on our list. (Stay tuned for upcoming blogs.)  But what added to the enjoyment of this trip was the free time we built in to wander the neighborhoods and stroll the gardens to see how Parisians lived in what we find to be one of the most exciting and vibrant cities in the world.

9-le-sixWe returned to the Hotel Le Six, a small boutique hotel in the 6th arrondissement in the Montparnasse section on the Left Bank. It’s centrally located, less than a block away from the Boulevard Montparnasse which offers a wide choice of restaurants, bistros and cafes. Plus it was only a few minutes walk from several metro stops, bus stops and even a train station which made getting around Paris easy. We used the Paris Visite pass which allowed unlimited use of transportation and after a few days we were using the metro system to quickly travel from one part of Paris to another.

3-invictus

Since there is no shortage of restaurants in Paris, we decided not to eat in the same place twice. We broke that promise only once and returned to Invictus for our final night because our first meal there was so memorable. Invictus, a small restaurant with 12 tables, is owned by Christophe Chabanel, a former rugby player who played in South Africa for a number of years before returning to Paris, hence the name of the restaurant. He greets his guests, explains the menu in English or French, suggests wines and makes everyone feel welcome. He also assured us that he could adjust any of his meals to be gluten free. I ordered the lamb chops which were the best I have ever tasted and Mike enjoyed his entrecote steak followed by creme brulee for dessert. After sampling creme brulee  in various restaurants Mike declared Invictus’ was the best.

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Lamb Chops at Invictus

There were other memorable French restaurants and we did not have a bad meal anywhere. Paris is full of small, intimate restaurants like Invictus, located discreetly on side streets, with limited menus featuring excellent food. Night after night we feasted on entrees like crispy boneless duck, tender veal stew and chateaubriand, all accompanied by an array of French red wine.

5-creperies

“Crepe Alley”

For evenings after we had indulged in late lunches, we took advantage of the creperies on Rue Montparnasse, a narrow street that we refer to as “Crepe Alley” a few blocks away from our hotel.  Creperies line both sides of the street and, to our surprise, in addition to wheat crepes all offered galettes  — gluten free crepes made of buckwheat that could be filled with a wide array of ingredients. Mike especially liked the one with ham, cheese and egg.

One place that I just had to go to was Les Deux Magot, a cafe frequented in the 20’s by Ernest Hemingway and other well-known writers and artists. It was doing a brisk business when we arrived at 2 PM but we were seated at one of the small round tables along the sidewalk and I ordered my favorite Parisian lunch: a jambon et fromage baguette (ham and cheese). We sat and people-watched imagining what it was like back in Hemingway’s day.

10-les-deux-magot

While we enjoyed our dining experiences in Paris as well as visits to various museums, churches and gardens, what we enjoyed just as much was meandering around the city in order to savor the flavor of this fascinating city. Several times we took the Metro to the Ile de la Cité area, where Notre Dame Cathedral is located, and strolled along the Seine, stopping at the bouquinistes who have their stalls set up along each side of the river. Bouquinistes are licensed vendors and are allocated a pre-determined amount of space for their green painted boxes. These green boxes open up to display shelves with their merchandise and when closed the green boxes are folded up and locked. We had fun perusing the old posters and books (in French) that were mixed in with the countless souvenirs as well as some original art. We took long walks along the Seine and over the bridges that connect the Left and Right Banks, stopping to watch the tour boats taking tourists along the river to see the many sights, including the Eiffel Tower.

9-river-seine

Boats on the River Seine

8-luxumbourg-gardens-chessOn one of our free days, a Saturday, we strolled through Luxembourg Gardens to find the park filled with Parisians, both young and old. There were men and women playing serious bocce, a couple of tables of men gathered around a very lively game of chess, children playing soccer, as well as people basking in the sunshine or reading under the trees that surrounded flower gardens. Parisians love their parks and gardens in the city because they don’t have backyards where they can otherwise enjoy outside activities.

7-edith-piaf

Edith Piaf’s Tomb

Another day we chose to go to the Père-Lachaise Cemetery, a very old cemetery in Paris. The Père-Lachaise is the resting place for well-known celebrities such as Edith Piaf, Chopin, Gertrude Stein, Oscar Wilde, and even Jim Morrison. It was impressive and a little eerie with over 100 acres of tombs and monuments so close together, there was hardly room to walk between one and the other. There was also an area with monuments honoring the French who had died in the WW II French Resistance and powerful remembrances of Nazi Concentration camps.

4-boulangerieWhen we made our way back to the hotel late in the afternoon after a day of sightseeing, we detoured onto side streets and found small shops and markets. We shopped like Parisians — got cheese at the fromagerie, bread at the boulangerie, and wine at the local wine shop. We’d take our purchases home (back to Le Six which had become our home away from home) and be greeted by the staff  who always asked about our day. After chatting for a while and getting recommendations for dinner, we’d return to our room where we would slice the cheese, pour some wine, put up our feet, and come to the conclusion that this was the life.

Now that we’re home, we ask ourselves what was the best part of our trip to Paris. It’s hard to pinpoint just one part. We’ve come to realize that a really good trip is more than the sum of its parts — it’s the whole experience melded together into an incredible adventure and the memories only get better with time.

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Now that we’ve finally had our first real snowfall of the winter, it seems like the perfect time to sit back and review plans for the upcoming 2012 Rose Season. While our rose gardens are sleepy and peaceful under a pristine layer of snow, inside Mike and I are busy contemplating future rose programs on our 2012 lecture schedule as well as planning the itinerary for our much anticipated trip to Paris.

We’ve developed two new Power Point programs for 2012. The first focuses on pesticides and garden safety. As certified American Rose Society Consulting Rosarians, we created this program to address the concerns of rose gardeners in dealing with rose garden pests. Gardeners have choices available to them regarding insects and diseases in their gardens. One choice is Integrated Pest Management – the method we follow – when deciding whether, when and how to treat garden insects and diseases. Along with IPM we also have chosen to plant sustainable rose varieties which can remain healthy and attractive without the use of pesticides at all. But we feel that gardeners should know the pros and cons of all choices available to them including the use of pesticides as well as precautions that need to be taken when using them. For instance, just because a product is labeled organic, doesn’t mean it is harmless to people or animals. So we have designed a new program called “Pesticides and Garden Safety” which we will debut at the RI Rose Society’s February meeting. This meeting is free, open to the public and all are welcome. For more information go to www.rirs.org

Our second new Power Point Program will be introduced at both the 2012 Rhode Island and Boston Flower Shows. It’s called “Anatomy of a Sustainable Rose Garden” and describes how to build a rose garden from scratch. This program provides a practical blueprint for anyone who wants a rose garden and includes everything from choosing a site, design choices, plant selection, the value of water and nutrients, proper soil, selecting the right rose varieties as well as suggestions for companion plants. This program will address the multitude of questions gardeners have when planning a rose garden. “Anatomy of a Sustainable Rose Garden” will be presented on Thursday, February 23 at 1 pm at the RI Flower Show and Saturday March 17 at 1:30 at the Boston Flower Show.

Eiffel Tower at Philadelphia Flower Show

Meanwhile, while fine tuning our new rose programs and deciding which new rose varieties to plant next season, we’ve been planning our trip to Paris! Ever since we went to the Philadelphia Flower Show last year and saw the Eiffel Tower, the gargoyles of the famous French cathedrals, and all the other famous Parisian venues, we’ve been eager to explore the City of Light for ourselves. On top of our agenda is a visit to the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay and a stroll or two down the Champs-Elysees. We’ve also planned day trips to Versailles and to Giverney – Monet’s garden. Then a river cruise on the Seine as well as a visit to Notre Dame Cathedral to admire the extraordinary stained glass Rose Window.  

 

The Louvre

We had imagined that the once-fabulous gardens at Malmaison, home of Empress Josephine, Napoleon’s wife, would be a magical must-see side trip. But after reading a few reviews, we discovered that the gardens that were once so magnificent have fallen on hard times. Fortunately, the famous Roseraie de l’Hay, only 8 km south of Paris, is in tip-top shape and till worth seeing so we’ve added that to our schedule.  We realize that we won’t be able to see everything in Paris, but if you have any suggestions for gardens or other cool places we should see, please leave a comment.

Meanwhile, we look forward to meeting many of you at our upcoming programs this year.

The Louvre Photo Courtesy of http://www.world-city-photos.org

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