Sunday, October 18, 2009

Walking, walking, and more walking

This was a week of walking!
After walking to and from the painting class at Francine's. That wasn't too strenuous. On Tuesday I really forget what I did except for an appointment in Nogent near the big market in the middle of the afternoon. It really started on Wednesday.

Mary Lynne took us Ile de France Walkers on a wonderful hike along the Bièvre from St. Quentin en Yvelines to Jouy en Josas. It's always such a pleasure to meet up with old friends now and to meet newer arrivals. For once, I didn't feel like I was lagging behind, either, so that was nice. It seemed to me we were all walking at about the same pace. There were almost 30 of us for this walk, which is perhaps a bit too many, but we managed.

Alexander (now almost 9 months old) came along with his mother again. He's now moved to a fantastic back pack I took pictures of to remember what brand it is in case we want to get one as a gift. When I think of the elementary front pack, and then the backpack, we had, I think the design improvements are extraordinary. The only drawback is, for the front packs, more complicated attachments, and for the back pack, added weight.

The Bièvre is a short tributary of the Seine. It runs into the Seine in Paris, not far from Notre Dame. The water, back in Louis XIV's day, was so pure it was used for rinsing fabric and thread dyes. The famous "toile de Jouy" was produced in Jouy en Josas and rinsed in the river's water and the Gobelins tapestrys were set up (still there) in Paris, on Ave. des Gobelins, Paris 13. They rinsed the dyed wool in the river. Apparently, there were also tanneries along the river and that would certainly have polluted the river for the dyers and in conjunction with dyers, the river became too polluted and was covered for most of its distance until recently. Interesting for those who are familiar with Paris, the printer who set up his fabric printing business in Jouy was Oberkampf, so that's where that metro stop got its name. He chose Jouy not only because the water was excellent for the process, but he also had enough land to dry the cloth, and he wasn't far from the court at Versailles to boot.

The walk is not always along the river, but close enough. There are several ponds and we had our lunch in a clearing at a pond. At Buc we also crossed under the aqueduct that was built in the 1680s to carry water from the Saclay plateau to the artificial canals at Versailles. It was still functioning in the 1950s and is still in good condition even if it is no longer used.

About half of the group decided to visit the museum at Jouy en Josas. It's interesting, although I'm not sure I'd go there on purpose just to see the museum. The museum is in the old Oberkampf home; all the other fabric works buildings are gone. I think what struck me is the variety of Jouy designs and colors. I'm so used to seeing the same design in red or black, I thought that was all they did. There are good illustrated explanations of how the fabric was printed, the chemical process and all that. The arrows led us upstairs, but when I tried to open what I thought was the door to the rest of the exhibit, it wouldn't open, so I just assumed it was closed and went back downstairs. I was not alone in doing this and, from what I heard afterwards, we missed about four rooms of samples and upholstered furniture.

We finished with a short walk to the train station, but no trains were operating, so we had to get on a bus. I ended up getting on a bus that went to the Velizy-Chavilles station, but the others took a bus to Versailles Chantier or Massy Paliseau. I should have gone with them. My bus took us meandering around Jouy for a while before heading on to Vélizy-Chavilles. It was a pretty ride, though.
On Thursday, I walked to and from Francine's again and then headed straight back to the RER station to go to Paris to meet up with a group of AAWE friends for a walking tour of the 1st arrondissement -- a chocolate tour. Iris is a young guide, a real professional guide, whom I highly recommend. She started us off at the Louvre, where Marie-Thérèse, Louis XIV's queen established chocolate as the drink of choice. We then went to where the first chocolat maker set up with a royal patent. We stopped at the boulangerie patisserie that supplies the Elysée Palace. There, we had a sample of an "Opéra", a coffee and chocolate pastry that is sold in almost every patisserie in France. This one was especially good as the balance between the chocolate and coffee was perfect. Of course, we only tasted the very finest quality of chocolate on this tour, all made with 100% cocoa butter and no other kind of oil. (Leslie Charbonnel has kindly allowed me to share her pictures with you -- I forgot to take my camera!)
We then made our way through the Palais Royal gardens (where Anne d'Autriche once lived with the royal princes, Louis XIV and his brother) and went on to three different chocolate makers where we tasted different samples. It was a very tasty tour, but it was just samples and not an excessive amount of ingested chocolate. I found where I'm going to get some year-end gifts, though! Unfortunately, this was a slow walk, though, kind of like a museum and my legs and back hate that.

Friday, Paul and I went to the Renoir exhibit at the Grand Palais. Being a Renoir exhibit, it was crowded. Too crowded. If you tried to look closely at a painting or even the sign with the title, you were pushed out of the way; if you stood back to admire, you couldn't see because of the people passing by in front of you. Luckily, I have a carte Sésame and can go back whenever I want. I might try some morning. I was very happy to stop walking when we got home. That walk uphill from the RER seemed interminable.

An then on Saturday was the Money Matters for Women conference in the 7th. I was a volunteer so I had to get there by 11. Paul drove me in. At least I didn't have to walk around too much. There was a lot of going up and down stairs, but that was a pleasant change. I think I attended some good sessions and the day ended with Samina, who led us through a speedy prosperity workshop. Having done a real workshop with her, I can say that one should take the time to think through the answers to the questions, because if you speed through it, you end up with a superficial view. I think everyone understood that the session was just the beginning.

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