Chasing Matisse: The Book
Chasing Matisse Preview:
Cover and Prologue
Buy The Book
Book Signing Schedule
News & Reviews
James Morgan's Bio
Beth Arnold's Bio
Book's Press Release
Introduction to the Journey
Beth's Travel Diary
Travel Notes and
Recommendations for France, Corsica and Morocco
Chasing Matisse Newsletter
View All Diary Entries Here
December 16, 2002
I'd read it, heard it countless times before, but I didn't get it. Everyone talked about how great the Marais was, and I thought what's the big deal. Now that we've been here two weeks, I'm in the know. We love the Marais! We love our Perche apartment, the building that it's in, even though it took us a week to figure out how to turn on the lights in the hall at night, when we needed to go down the stairs. A neighbor finally showed us. We thought the button was a doorbell. We'd been holding on to the banister, feeling our way in the dark before we bought a tiny mag lite that, when we got home and looked at the receipt, noticed had cost a whopping $18. Bonjour, Monsieur Bubbah and Madame Bubbette.
The streets around us have become familiar. We do most of our grocery shopping on the rue de Bretagne, where the supermarket with the $3 bottles of wine we like resides. At No. 25 on the rue is La Fougasse, where I buy delicious brown cereal bread and little ficelles that are the perfect size for us, from a small dark-haired woman with heart-shaped lips. We've tasted her tartelettes of Provence, pizza, chevre, and Roquefort with mouth-watering success. (There is something about a little round of pastry filled with ingredients savory that locks my eyes to them before my nose or tastebuds have gotten a chance. I can't purchase bread without this miniature pie.) I have showed great muscle by turning my back to the pastries and chocolates.
The Jouannault Maitre Fromager at No. 39, is where Jim whiffed the stinky smell of cheese. We can't go by without laughing. His "something sure stinks around here" line will haunt him forever, so it's perfect that this is the place where we buy our fromage from the magnificent selection. The street is decorated from side to side with silver streams and Christmas stars, which is a helpful landmark for me, since I've lost my sense of direction. (I'm not getting into that now.) We're torn between returning to favored restaurants and discovering new ones, a couple of which we spied last night.
I needed to lose weight before I left home and just couldn't do it. Now each day I get up thinking I will be thinner. Each morning I get up and no luck. Oh, I might have lost a pound or two. I'm not really dieting, but I'm not stuffing my face or eating many sweets (a miracle in itself with all the temptations). I'm semi-watching my cheese and fat intake though not cutting them out. Each night I have wine but not that much and rarely during the day. I'm eating well, though not over-indulging. I hope this reasonable way of eating will work.
We've had two "separated at birth" sightings. One was in the grocery store. One of the customers was the twin of Jim's mother, Pat. We couldn't stop staring at her. And on the metro another day, we saw the double of a friend of ours at home. Jimmy Weisman, there's a darker-skinned you over here. Could there be a parallel universe? I'd love to think so and have a peek at it.
We've gotten to know the BHV very well. I have been busy as a little worker bee organizing Our Stuff to what I'm calling "modular units." It's not that there's any less of it, but the various categories are grouped together in smaller carrying bags and cases. I'm particularly fond of tool boxes. Easier access, packing ability, and less weight are the obsessive/compulsive results (not on the freaky end of the scale). Why does it make me so happy to do this? Jim said I was a little girl playing with her Christmas toys on the floor, while I was finding just the right spot for every little thing.
Still no exercise besides walking, no French lessons but one, and I need them. I'm trying and want to be fluent, but my ability to form sentences has flown right out of my head as well as basic structural words. My mind has been fried for months with our transition, but I think is recovering.
We have had one real day of being out in the city, though we didn't leave our apartment till two o'clock, first going by W3 to check on the printer. I had to be sure it wasn't salvageable. We threw it in the trash can and rode the metro to the rue du Bac, where we feel happy and at home. We stayed at the Hotel Saint-Germain in this neighborhood four years ago, when we were on the last leg of our six-week trip with the girls. We have so many happy memories from that stay. Mother came and joined us, and I have a wonderful picture of our three generations sitting on the sofa in the stylish lobby. There was a white French Boxer that we loved to cluck at and rub. Jim and I paid the hotel a visit, and Daniel was manning the desk as before, but the Boxer had a new pal, a black and white companion.
We slipped in the door of a small gift shop next door. There had been a pair of antique grape scissors Mother kept eyeing, and I lost my mind and bought her something else, when this was obviously the one. She was disappointed which I hated. The only scissors the merchant had this day were new and not as fine. We walked down the handsome rue, enjoying the avenue, and turned right. I had a mission at the Musee Maillol, which is one of my Paris favorites. I'd seen the Frida Kahlo/Diego Riviera show there and bought one of the posters. It was framed at home, and I wanted to bring her. I wanted Frida to travel with me around France, but she couldn't come, so I bought myself another. While we were there, we toured the rather kinky exhibition of Christian Schad, and I do mean exhibiton. (What was in that man's mind?)
Jim had been dying to see the Matisse/Picasso show at the Grand Palais ever since we'd arrived, but we couldn't try until today, plus we didn't have tickets. We rode the metro to the magnificent Place de la Concorde just at twilight. The distant sky was washed in blue and pink, the Eiffel Tower sparkling. We crossed the many streets to the Champs Elysees, and precisely at 5 o'clock the white lights threaded through the trees up and down the street, all lit at once. It was a moment exquisitely delivered and unplanned for us with the Arc de Triomphe framing the twinkling boulevard at its end. Yes, this was Paris.
The Palais was crowded, but we got in. Jim managed it free with his Writer's Guild card and telling the cashier that he was working, and he was. I always prefer Matisse to Picasso, although there were some Picasso's I greatly enjoyed, and of course, Monsieur Matisse's. But what made the show was its set-up, the conversation between the two artists. That's the notion that was so interesting, although it's hard to see any art with people herding through. A crowd like that makes me want to flee, and we did.
That night I actually took time to read for pleasure-My Blue Notebooks by Liane de Pougy, one of the famous Paris courtesans from the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. This was Paris, after all, and it had been a good day in the city.
Once we were in bed and lulling to sleep, Jim coughed his head off. He was hacking and sick.
posted by Beth on December 16, 2002 | View All Diary Entries
View All Diary Entries Here