Saturday, September 18, 2010

Visits from classmates

Been trying to figure out how to write this post for a couple of weeks. I keep putting it off because there's always something coming up that I'll want to add and I figure I want to get it all in one letter. This probably comes from the old reflex of trying to pack everything into a single aerogramme and save on postage plus just plain laziness.
I've spoken about making acquaintance with my high school classmates (Girls High, 212) before. There was a walk with Sylvia (, a day with Rachel, and several short visits with Candace, who comes through Paris on business. Well this month, it's a long visit from Jackie and her husband. They are not staying with us; they rented an apartment in St. Germain des Près, in the center of left-back Parisian life. It's a perfect location for anyone coming to Paris.
We met up for a coffee a day or so after their arrival, when they weren't too jet-lagged and had a nice, long, catching up chat. We've gotten to know a bit about each other through facebook updates and, more intensively, through an e-mail list group. Those classmates of us that are on this list write about anything and everything without any PC. On facebook, one tends to censor oneself; well, I do, and I know others do, too, because it's so public. In fact, I don't say much at all on facebook; I stay away from political comments, from judgmental things. The e-mail list does not. We are free to say what we think and have those who might not agree discuss it. I must admit that, for the most part, we seem to agree on most things political. There is wonderful perspective on things racial. There's great warmth and understanding and commiseration on things familial, like in-laws, aging parents, separation, children, grandchildren, illness....
Back to this visit. On Monday, the 6th, the four of us (Jackie, me and husbands) went to Giverny and Rouen. Here we are standing on "the" bridge at "the" lily pond at Giverny. It was a cloudy day and the lilies were shut tight, so it was not as spectacular as I've seen it on other days. Each time I return to the Monet house, though, I see the Japanese prints he collected in more detail and like them more and more. More on Monet's house and gardens at Giverny
I guess it's because the weather was not so gorgeous that we more or less sped through the gardens and finished up earlier than I thought we would. We did not wait around to have lunch at the hotel up the street. We headed for Rouen.
Rouen is not far from Giverny. Giverny, itself is about an hour and a half from Paris, but can take longer if you spend an hour just getting out of Paris! Rouen is a city-museum all by itself. It is, or perhaps was, a major port, where goods were transferred to and from barges for travel further up the Seine. There are still lots of buildings from the 15th and 16th century, with their visible wood structure -- corresponds to Tudor style. There is still a street named Rue des Juifs, harking back to the Jewish ghetto. Rouen is where Joan of Arc was tried and burned at the stake. There's lots of history, here. There's also lots of war damage. The allies bombed the center of Rouenpreparation for D-Day. So next to an old tudor-style building, you'll find a 1950ish cement block of public housing. The Palais de Justice, still has bullet holes and artillery damage wherever it did not affect the structure. All the structural damage has been repaired, of course. We walked around the center a bit, had lunch and then headed on to the Musée des Beaux Arts.
The museum was the reason we were in Rouen. This year has been the year of Impressionism in Rouen and this particular exhibit is of Rouen as the subject of Impressionist art. Bridges, countryside, and, of course, Monet's Cathedral impressions. We remarked that of those paintings of the cathdral, there are only two points of view and all the paintings from each point of view seem to be done from sketches that were identical. I asked Francine about this and she said that of course they used copy methods and he would have had his canvasses all prepared with the main sketch and ready for paint. Jackie's husband has an especially good eye for detail and it was fun. It seemed we all share a distinct irreverence for art exhibits and feel free to comment.
Instead of taking the autoroute back to Paris, we took country roads and saw cows and horses -- but mostly cows.
A week ago, I met up with Jackie and Ed at the flea market, the Marché aux Puces. Originally, the idea was to meet up with Candace, who was supposed to have been at the dubbing studio nearby, but she ended up having to go straight elsewhere and skipping the Paris stop. So, the three of us window-shopped. The objective was to find a wedding gift. And we did! And we had lots of fun looking for it! They are very knowledgeable about Art Nouveau and Art Deco and we were immediately attracted to some very nice silver, which unfortunately was not quite right for the wedding gift, but was just beautiful to contemplate. That reminds me to send them the link to Roger's site; he makes beautiful Art Deco-inspired furniture and sculptures.
Let me now go back to before they arrived! Claire et al came through on their way back to England after a week at Pierre and Gillette's. Too short a visit! Barely enough time to celebrate both Gwen's and Aurelia's birthdays!
More photos: Ellen's album for August
The frosting is so much better than that candle!

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