Thursday, August 25, 2011

Paris together - 6 million souls - Day 3

Day 3 in Paris got off to a slow start. J had his first croque monsieur - liked it - and we headed to the Montparnasse area and the Catacombs.

The line was long, wrapping the entire block. It was a gorgeous day, though, and we decided to wait. And then we had been there long enough and moved far enough that we didn't want to throw that away. And we were entertained by the conversation of 2 Australian globe-hopping couples ahead of us.
The Catacombs are an ossuary. From the late 1700's to the mid-1800's, bodies in cemeteries close to the then edges of the city were thought to be causing/ exacerbating plagues. So the effort began to move bodies from those graveyards to an old limestone quarry "far from town". The only inhabitants buried directly in the Catacombs were the casualties of a specific battle during the Revolution.

We walked the paths with careful respect.

6 million bodies, all told. Their thigh bones and skulls stacked in careful formations along the passageways. With all of those bodies, something supernatural is bound to have been shaken loose, roused, stirred. Did I maybe capture something in the pic below? At the top of the lit area are the heads of those in front of me, but what is that on the lower right? Maybe it's just light on the opposite wall. I think it looks awful face-like.

This was the landmark of the day, but still only half of it. Other things:

  • As we emerged to a main street and were about to cross to find a cafe for a drink and snack, a flash mob of hundreds of roller bladers woooshed past - and kept coming and coming.  They gathered in a square in front of a church, talked a bit, then dispersed.
  • Passed St Germain des Pres and Les Deux Magots (a famous cafe).
  • Visited the apartment of a dead designer chic -the area still had some cool galleries.
  • Toured the Pompidou Centre, starting on the upper floors and descending - we didn't finish.  What was awesome was J's joy and delight at seeing the works he's been studying the last 4 years in the flesh.  There was a painting titled Alice and several paintings by Dado that I found quite creepy.
  • We returned to the Duchess for dinner.  A mistake.  We'll stick to the memories of the first night.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Strange August part II

Last Saturday, Dad called to let us know that Papa Musso (Mom's father) had passed away. He had been in intense pain for quite some time, with the past year being especially rough. A few weeks before, he had moved into a hospice home and it was there that he left us.

I remember Papa as a dabbler. He had several things going most of the time, it seemed. A veteran of the Merchant Marines during the war, he later served as Police Chief in Sodus Point and in a small North Carolina town. When I was growing up, he was Mayor of Sodus Point for some time. His property when I was little had a gas station/ shop that he rented out, and a building full of furniture that he brought up from NC to sell. He also sold used cars. My grandmother said essentially that anything he put his mind to, he could do. He could tinker with and fix many things.

I don't know enough about Papa's childhood. His parents sailed from Palermo, Sicily, after leaving their hometown of Realmonte, around the turn of the century, with their eldest daughter. They had a farm in the Sodus/ Sodus Point area. Papa at one time worked slaughtering turkeys & chickens, although that may have been at another farm. More recently, he was an avid gardener and I think about his garden each time I go out to tend my raised bed.

He had a mischievous spirit. He loved to pick on people and rile them up. This was exceptionally annoying and could seem mean growing up, but I look back on it with fondness for the spirit behind it. He had nicknames for Mom and his brother Robert that they hated. If he said something that made you mad or embarrassed, he'd then say "Ouch" repeatedly.

All in all, though, he loved us. He doted on Mom - he saw how super special she is and talked often about how important she was to him. He took good care of Grammie and watched out for her.

The memorial is tomorrow. His body was donated to science, a wish he had talked about since I was small. His spirit is beyond pain and at rest. Farewell, Papa. Love you - all the time.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Quick break from Paris - strange August part 1

August has distracted me a bit from the Paris posts. I always try to approach the month with a stuck-on positive attitude, as my birthday month. But sometimes you get curve balls.

First, my parent's cat, Yellow (or Yeller), passed away. He was quite old - around 22? - and was in really rough shape, but he was such a sweetie. He never had a loud meow. He would purr if you spit at him, but he was uber-bashful of strangers. He sometimes ate bees. Most of all, he was a good buddy for Mom. Poor guy.

Then Mo got sick. He was puking a lot and acting quite funny. Murphy even noticed and was following him around, keeping careful watch. So we took him to the animal hospital. Turns out he had a fever so high he was risking organ damage. They kept him 2 nights. After getting his temp down, bloodwork showed high liver enzymes, so they did an ultrasound. He had an infection that was inflaming liver, gall bladder, and bile ducts. He's home now and back to normal. Murphy no longer thinks he smells like some alien-pseudo cat and the vet thinks Mo can go back to normal food and should be OK. Phew.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Paris together - The value of lingering - Day 2

Oh, man, I thought I had more of a start on this. OK, here goes.

On our second day in Paris, we hit the Louvre. We didn't do the whole thing. The ancient Persian stuff and the sculpture court, over to the Roman, Greek, and Etruscan stuff. Down to the foundations. Up to the 16th/ 17th century European paintings (where Cranach is, whichever century he's in). Finally, the Egyptians.

One word of recommendation - do not do the Egyptian stuff last! We couldn't find our way out and we were tired and at least I was getting very cranky. There was an exit sign at the foot of a staircase pointing up. Get to the top of the stairs and there's an exit sign, pointing down. Gah!

J and I enjoyed capturing a different perspective on things you may have seemed used to seeing. At the Venus de Milo, for example, I focused close up, J focused on the crowd.

In the Roman section, the ceilings are exquisite. I especially liked when the sculpted characters reach out at you. Chubby cherub arms and feet. Put a cozy pillow under there and gaze for hours....
We stopped at one point for a bite and a drink (the air was soooo dry there) at a cafe on a balcony overlooking the central courtyard and Pei's pyramid.

The cafe was run by Angelina - a swank cafe on the Rue de Rivoli. I started with a pamplemousse presse - fresh squeezed grapefruit juice that was soooo yummy. Then I got a dessert called simply "Fraises" or strawberries. It was a strawberry couli over custard with a bit of toasted brioche. Heaven!

After we finally escaped from the Egyptians, we left the Louvre and hit a carnival in the Tuileries gardens just in front of the museum. The Ferris wheel was big and gave us such awesome views of the city - nearly every landmark was in sight (with the exception being the Opera Bastille and it's crepe-y goodness). We had a blast posing & shooting pics, playing with zoom and Swampy and whatnot.

Walking to Place Vendome to see Napolean's column, we noticed something going on at the Westin. Multiple chics in Bo Peep style costumes - usually accompanied by stern looking guys - were about and made their way into the hotel. Hmmmmm.

Our next stop - crepes. I tell everyone who mentions Paris that I know where the best crepes are. And the dude is still there. They have a bit of crispiness but also a bit of thickness - enough to make them a heavenly carrier for your filling of choice - in my case almost always Nutella. J compared them to his earlier crepe from near Notre Dame and agreed. I melt thinking of them!

One thing that struck home that day was the value of lingering. In cafes, at meals, people watching, absorbing. Taking pleasure in the pause and soaking up whatever the city put in front of you during those moments. The small bites of food that accompanied these moments were so well done that they more than satisfied. Rather than hurrying to get to the next to-do or destination, to get out of where we were, we started to linger, to stay to absorb - and it was just as important to our vacation experience as the sights.

After crepes, we took a brief walk through a bit of the Marais to the Place des Vosges. The lawn was covered with people - singles, couples, families - in typical Parisian style and we sat on the fountain for a bit, enjoying where we were, watching some very chocolatey kids play in the dirt and water.

Next, we stopped at the Musee Carnavalet - a small, free museum that shows what the interior of the homes of the wealthy and royalty would have looked like around the time that Place des Vosges was built.

Dinner was at The Duchess restaurant in a passage near our hotel - the Passage des Panoramas. These are roofed alleyways lined with restaurants and small shops - miniature streets of sorts. The restaurants still put tables "outside" their doors in the limited space.
This was our first French meal. J had duck with lots of butter that he called the French equivalent of fried chicken. I had sole meuniere. We started, though, with some Kir for an aperitif - a blend of casis and bubbly hard cider. mmmmm And we ended with a shared glass of almond Cognac. We loved the people, the place, and the food.

We followed dinner with a little bit more people watching at the Cafe Zephyr. I was chilly in the evening air, so I ordered chocolat chaud. It came, melted chocolate at the bottom of a teacup and a small pitcher of steamed milk. J tasted the chocolate and melted - it was soooooo good. Not always, but quite often even the small things were just so lovely.

My notes for the day mention a puppy riding a suitcase. I vaguely remember seeing that, but it's
not that interesting.