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Friday, 8 January 2016

Kuestions and Kings

12 September 1494 – 31 March 1547

No one ever asks me this, but my favourite King of France is Francis I.  I’m being perfectly up front about this even if I can’t back it up with any particularly good reason. Some people avoid this subject altogether. They have a favourite color, animal, season, food, brand of jeans……but casually ask people “who's your favourite 16th century French Royal?” and they’ll get this bugged-out look and just walk away.   Is it bad manners to ask?  Is it too personal?  It’s only conversation after all.  Aren’t we tired of talking about the weather?

Anyhoo, Francis had an ego the size of Chambord and apparently a nose to match which landed him the rude nickname François au Grand Nez.  He was the first King of France to be called “Your Majesty”. He insisted and who can blame him?  Rude!

More than a Renaissance Man, although he literally was a Renaissance man, Francis was a renovations man.  He was responsible for the work on a lot of the palaces including  FontainebleauChâteau d'Amboise, and Château de Blois. His Majesty had the Château de Chambord built as a hunting lodge and while I don’t approve of hunting, I do approve of the Château.  It’s a jewel in the landscape.  Francis only used it for a few days from what I read but still, the thought was there.  In his way, he did a lot of DIY.  Well, more like YDI (you do it) but the point is, he really knew his property. But this isn’t about the Châteaux of the Loire, it’s about Francis.

The King was a great patron of the arts.  Ah, there's a good reason for me to like him!  He began the collection now housed at the Louvre.  Pretty good.

Francis I at the death of Leonardo da Vinci, painted by Ingres

So that’s what’s been on my brain lately.  I love having deep thoughts even if no one wants to talk about them.

Renaissance Man?

If you were a male living during the Renaissance, would you be considered a Renaissance Man even if you were too stupid to dress yourself?  I guess. 

Chateaux of the Loire
I recommend a visit to Loire valley - the châteaux are spectacular and I need to return!

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Choose Your Scrooge

Scrooge by Ronald Searle

A Christmas Carol has to be the most popular Christmas tale of all time.  I can’t imagine what Christmas would be like without Charles Dickens can you? No Tiny Tim?  No “Bah! Humbug!”?  May as well just forget the whole thing!   

First published December 19, 1843, the story endures and makes us all want to be a little bit better, a little more tolerant, a little more charitable.  If only we could bottle the last few pages and remember the lessons old Scrooge learned.

I don’t know how many film versions of A Christmas Carol have been made, but I can say with confidence, a lot.

To name a few -

If you like to read your movies, there's the 1920 silent version. 
It's only 10 minutes long so the whole story in a nutshell.  

My personal favourite Scrooge
is Albert Finney (1970) 

oh yes, and

With all the troubles the world has had in 2015, let’s hope next year will be safer, kinder and bring us some good news once in a while.

And to quote Tiny Tim, "God bless us, every one!"

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Art, Letters and Books that Travel


I love it when a used book comes with its own personal history.  A book that has travelled, been read, kept safe and now has finally arrived right where it belongs.

Today I went to a book sale.  Not to buy anything of course because I have way too many books for our sagging shelves.  But you know, just to see.

My first stop is always the "Art" table just in case there's something critical that I'm missing.  I'd feel really stupid if there was important information at my fingertips and I just ignored it because some shelving is looking warped!

Two books on Daumier caught my eye.  Do I need them?  (I always ask myself this even though I don't bother answering).

Then, while flipping through the images, a letter fell out.  The books were a gift from the French Ambassador in Ireland to the recipient in Dublin, who, I discovered with a little help from Google, was at one time the Director of the National Gallery in Dublin.

Now I ask you....if two art books can make their way from Ireland to Montréal, hold a letter from the French Ambassador inside, and come into my it fate or what?

The other books I picked up didn't hold any secrets but I like them anyway.  Not many.....just what I could carry without getting a little warped myself.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

With Love to Paris

With the terrible events that took place in Paris on Friday, November 13th, there is very little I can add to the thousands of memorials and words of sympathy pouring in to France from every corner of the world.

Montréal has a special bond with France, not only in language, but in spirit. Our sympathy is genuine.  Our grief, sincere.
Anne Hidalgo (Mayor of Paris) and I know each other and talk all the time. We have 100,000 French from France working and studying here. We have historical links. When they suffer, we suffer. We understand them. We know how they feel," he said.  "In these days of mourning we have to show that Montreal is Paris," he continued.
Montréal Mayor Coderre to CBC

Outside the French Embassy, Montréal
We'll return to Paris soon.  Nothing would keep us from returning to our favourite city, especially not this sort of attack. 

To all our friends in France, our hearts and thoughts are with you. À la prochaine.

He who contemplates the depths of Paris is seized with vertigo.  Nothing is more fantastic.  Nothing is more tragic. Nothing is more sublime.
Victor Hugo

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

New York New York!

Room with a view!

My first introduction to New York was through watching old movies on TV when I was a kid.  I was hooked.
I still think of New York in the same way.  Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Bette Davis, Jimmy Cagney....Broadway, Tiffany's and Audrey Hepburn...these things stay with us.  Of course New York isn't a fairy tale city, but you see what you want to see and I want to see 'The Great White Way', the Rockettes, and Radio City Music Hall. (I'm not totally stuck in the era before I was born - I also love Manhattan and Annie Hall.  I know I know....they're not new either but I have trouble with anything post-Impressionist so I think this is pretty good).

Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night!
The sheer size of New York is enough to make most people gawk. The doormen have doormen, the shops have bouncers, and the taxi drivers are terrifying.  As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure the cabbies are the main reason Coney Island isn't more successful. Why go to Brooklyn for a roller-coaster when you can hail a Yellow Taxi and have a stomach-turning ride without leaving  Manhattan?

There are the guys on the street corners selling hats, scarves and bags. I love that. I appreciate a bit of entrepreneurial effort even if the sellers do look like they're ready to fold up shop and make a run for it. Less bricks and mortar more wheels and cover if you know what I mean. I was up for buying a tote bag - you can never have too many and shopping on the corner at night has a certain 'je ne sais quoi'.  However, the $15.00 cheap bags are now $55.00 cheap bags so I passed. They're forcing me to buy at legit stores and there's no thrill in that.

Macy's escalators.  Cool!
The city has a wonderful mix of old and new. Wood and brass, metal and glass. A good example is Macy's, a gorgeous department store but they keep the wooden escalators.  There's something special about that. This is also where the real Santa goes when not at the North Pole.  If you doubt me just watch 'Miracle on 34th Street' or 'Elf'.

Our main purpose for visiting NY this time was to attend the annual Print Fair at the Park Avenue Armory where we spent our entire day.  If you love prints this is the event to catch  international dealers and publishers displaying the best of the best.  Heaven.

The following day we managed to squeeze in:

The Morgan Library and Museum

Having little time for museums this time we had to be selective on what to see. Although you can't go wrong with The Met, MOMA, Guggenheim etc., the Morgan Library and Museum is stunning and less crowded. We saw two exhibitions - 'Matisse and the Book Arts' and 'Hemingway Between Two Wars'. Both excellent. We also visited  Pierpont Morgan's study and the original library.

Morgan Library
Argosy Book Store
116 E. 59th

The  oldest independent book shop in NY.  Stacks and stacks of books.  And stacks.

Times Square

Excess to beat all excess and it's amazing. There's a buzz from the crowds and the brightest lights you'll ever experience. You really don't have to do anything other than just be there!

We had no plans for restaurants but here's where we ended up:

Applejack  Diner
1725 Broadway at the corner of 55th Street

Who goes to New York and doesn't eat at a diner?  This one is family owned and serves breakfast all day for those of you who sleep in (and I wish I fell into that category)!

Ceci Italian Bar and Restaurant
46 W. 46th

Great food, service and atmosphere.  On top of that, they have a gluten free menu and the GF tastes like real food! Even warm bread! We'll go back.

Ellen's Stardust Diner
1650 Broadway (51st Street)

We just stumbled on this restaurant and stopped in for breakfast.  Who knew you could have live entertainment with bacon and eggs?  The singing waiters and waitresses (waitstaff sounds too weird) are super talented.

Like Paris, New York is a great walking city.  Just walk, look, discover.  I can hardly wait for next time! 

Saturday, 17 October 2015

It'll Be Fun They Said.....You'll Love It They Said.....


Before winter sets in, I have to tell you about the beautiful Saturday we spent a week ago at Parc des Rapids in Montréal.  The Park is about a 15 minute drive from our apartment, but it reeks of "country" so it hasn't been on my 'must go' list having no shops or art galleries.  But......being a gorgeous autumn day, and wanting to do something relatively healthy, we decided to go for it.

Birds and water
The park is known as a refuge for migrating birds, sheltering over 225 species, including the largest heron colony in Québec. These might or might not be them.  But they're birds, that's for sure.

But, here comes the scary part.......

Peace, tranquility, and then........ DANGER...... you're coming to the Lachine Rapids.  RAPIDS.  No more picnic tables and little signs explaining the vegetation and wildlife, but water.  Very very cold, fast water. 

Dream sequence (wavy).  All of a sudden, my mind goes back many many years....not to a previous life but to this life......OMG...the Lachine Rapids White Water Rafting Episode.  I try hard not to remember......but it's stuck in my head......I got in the raft......I was told it was safe and fun.......

Warning for those who understand French.
 .....all was going so well for about the first 15 seconds and then the raft just folded and everyone, even the guide, was tossed into the water.  Everyone except Joe that is. He was in the very front of the raft thinking we were all having such a good time until he looked back and saw he was alone.

I can't swim.  I was wearing a heavy wool sweater, jeans and boots. I sank.  I sank right to the bottom and had no idea which way was up.  The water was moving too fast and I was spinning. The guide had told us that in the unlikely event we ended up in the water, to keep our mouths closed and eventually the force of the rapids would bring us downstream.  Well that was true.  I was tossed and turned and eventually met up with the raft. Someone hauled water logged me out of the water.

All this to say, I learned some very important lessons about life and water.
  • While under the rapids I thought I was going to drown.  Overall, it wasn't that scary.  I just thought "huh, I'm going to die".  Well I didn't so it just wasn't my time.  I'm happy about that because I've had lots of fun since then.
  • Always have the guide demonstrate the life jacket on you especially if you can't swim.
  • Rafts are not boats.  They're rubber.  They should only be used in emergency situations and you shouldn't put yourself in that kind of situation for fun.
  • Outdoor sports are not for everyone.  For the same price, I would rather be sipping Champagne in Galeries Lafayette . Dry, safe, and not much chance of dying. Snubbed maybe, but not dead.
  • Never let anyone tell you "it'll be fun" when you KNOW it won't be fun and you'll be in a bad mood for weeks.
  • Enjoy scenery from the shore.  Yes, much better. Or on Pinterest....yes. 

Beginning of the rapids seen from the shore.  On land.  Good.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

What's Your Poison?

Cézanne's effort to keep the museums of Paris rodent and bug free
I’m not writing about my favourite city these days as apparently I’m "somewhat obsessed by it".  So, I’m giving it a rest for a week or two.  On that note, I’m randomly picking a few things which I think are worth sharing.  You never know when you may need this sort of information for cocktail party conversation.

Paris Green

Paris Green, also called Emerald Green, was a popular paint pigment used by such artists as Turner, Monet, Renoir, Gauguin, Cézanne and Van Gogh.  Emerald Green is an OK name, but I prefer Paris Green.  Apparently it can also be used to kill bugs which is probably why there are no roaches in the Musée d’Orsay.  

As a little extra bit of info, in case the party is getting dull, you might mention that Paris Green was once used to kill rats in Parisian sewers, hence the name. Personally I'm against that sort of thing, but that's just me. 

At the turn of the century, the last century that is, it was also used as an insecticide for produce (blended with lead arsenate) and pretty much burned everything it touched, and Paris Green was heavily sprayed from airplanes in various places to control malaria.  I wonder who even thought of trying these things?  Maybe an artist who had bugs in his atelier and a touch of jaundice.

If you ask me, this is pretty good stuff.  You can paint with it, kill bugs and avoid disease.  It’s an all purpose product and every home should have a can or two. 

I’m also fond of Plaster of Paris.  You never know when you’ll get the urge to sculpt something or mold yourself a cast if necessary.  But that’s another topic for another day.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Not In Paris....Again

Three whole months since I’ve last posted!  This wasn’t intentional but the summer just flew by and here we are….almost at Labour Day.  And, to keep you totally up to date, I’m NOT in Paris and that’s not right because I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to be there.  You know how it is when you’re sure you’re forgetting an appointment?  Well that’s how I feel.  
 Something is off kilter.  Askew, bizarre, weird and strange.

Fine.  No Paris until 2016 because we have a lot going on here and apparently there’s only so much a body can do.  (I don’t believe this for a second but I’m trying to be an adult).

There’s a few events that I’m ticked off about missing this Fall (besides the obvious everything).  For instance, AZNAVOUR will be performing this month.  AZNAVOUR!!  He’ll be looking for me and I won’t be there to cheer him on.  Not only do I feel weird but imagine how Aznavour will feel when I’m not front and center!  He'll think I've been kidnapped or worse!  FNAC better stop sending me emails about his upcoming shows. (By the way, did you know 'FNAC' stands for Fédération Nationale d’Achats des Cadres - National Shopping Federation for Managers?  I didn't).

Then, there’s FIAC, the contemporary art fair being held at the Grand Palais.  What kind of stupid is that?  How can I know what’s going on in the art world if I’m not IN the art world?  HUH?  

The Musée Rodin is reopening November 12 – well, partially anyway.  I have to say it was due for some work and now it’s going to reopen and who won’t be there?  Right.  My only consolation is there's a huge Rodin exhibition going on at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts which is pretty good. Apparently half the exhibition comes from the Rodin Museum in Paris so I guess I can't gripe about that one too much.  

'Metamorphoses features 300 works, half of which are from the Musée Rodin, but which also come from French, Canadian and American public and private collections. The show includes 171 sculptures, sketches, watercolours, as well as a selection of prints from the recently acquired collection of seventy photographs by Eugène Druet, a photographer who worked closely with Rodin.'

I’m going to have to unsubscribe to the zillion Paris sites that send me newsletters because they're driving me crazy.  I’m going to concentrate on other things until the New Year.  Not Paris, not Paris, not Paris…….