Chasing Matisse: The Book
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Introduction to the Journey
Beth's Travel Diary
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Recommendations for France, Corsica and Morocco
Chasing Matisse Newsletter
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January 5, 2003
Even in the winter gray, Paris is a vision that both dazzles and charms. I see her as an elegant woman with grand and timeless style. She wears a multitude of petticoats, every layer exquisite in design and detail. Each faultless seam follows a winding rue, each stitch a step sublime. Her cloth is old but fine, her countenance chic and sassy. I'd like to call her mine.
Jim and I crossed the Seine to the Left Bank and wound through the streets according to our fancies. People from small groups to busloads were out in droves, sucking up the deliciousness of Paris. We looked up Shakespeare & Co., which is not Sylvia Beach's store but retains the Lost Generation aura and draws the literary crowd. It was teeming with Lost Generation wannabes-including us. The rue de la Huchette was wall to wall Greek tavernas and kiosks, with the enticing aromas of grilling meats and windows of platters of huge prawns and pigs on turning spits. We were hungry, and like everyone else in this city, we stopped to pick up a snack to munch as we walked along.
After hours and hours of wandering, we ended up at Les Deux Magots, which is always in fashion, even if you're sitting with the other tourists (which you're trying to pretend you're not). A jazz band was playing across the street which added to the fête. We were tired, but that felt good.
After that we ambled around the Left Bank, where we used to stay but had missed this time. All our weeks in Paris we had walked the streets looking in art gallery windows. We had seen a lot of mediocre art-but also had seen, in hotel and restaurant windows, a poster featuring a wonderful painting called "Anemones et grenades" by an artist named Pierre-Humbert. Jim was captured by this painting. That cold, rainy Sunday night as we were exploring the Left Bank, we suddenly turned a corner and I saw it. It was on an easel in the window of Galerie Daniel Besseiche at 33, rue Guenegaud. Jim was beside himself. And I took a picture of him beside the painting that he calls "the best art I've seen in Paris galleries."
The peony I bought keeps unfolding layer upon layer, becoming more lovely, more peony-esque.
The soundtrack to our lives here changes with our moods. We listened to Roseanne Cash's CD Ten Song Demo, which she beautifully wrote in Paris. I've always loved the album, but the music and lyrics are particularly evocative since we've been living here. Eva Cassidy is another favorite. Our friend Bill Whitworth turned us on to this angelic siren, who tragically died a few years ago.
Jim was determined to find the house where Monsieur Matisse lived in Issy-les-Moulineaux. We got on the train, the RER this time and not the local Metro, and actually got there. We felt proud. The first taxi driver we flagged down didn't know the street or what we were trying to tell him in our bad French, Monsieur Bubbah and Madame Bubbette. The second one we tried didn't know the address either but understood what we were saying and was willing to give finding it a try. We found a house with the right number, but we weren't sure this was the right street. Jim said it was hard for him to believe some of the best 20th-century art was created in that little house. We'll give it another go with our handy driver friend, Jacques. See what he can find.
When I told Jacques where our new apartment was located, he said, "The gay street?" Yes, the gay street. That night we decided to go out for a drink after our dinner at home. The first bar we tried was a little hole in the wall called L'oiseau Bariole, cute and funky with aluminum foil and white masks covering the ceiling and walls, not to mention the current Christmas décor of white and silver tree, angel wings, and colored balls. There weren't many other patrons, but it felt cozy sitting in the small booth. Next we walked down the street and around the corner to Amnesia which looked like a good spot. It was packed wall to wall with gay men talking it up with cocktails in their hands. Jim hesitated at the door, but I pushed him in. With the hypnotic music beating in the background, the bartenders shook and poured and danced their way back and forth. We talked to a nice British man here on holiday then sat at the bar. People were still pouring in when we left.
The next day was New Year's Eve. Many restaurants were closed, and lots of drunk people roamed the streets. After another select evening of wandering from the Ile St. Louis to les Halles and back to the Marais, we chose a café on the Place des Vosges for a quiet dinner before a stroll back home. At midnight, a neighbor cranked the music up, while we went to bed.
The New Year had arrived in Paris, and we were dancing around her skirt.
posted by Beth on January 5, 2003 | View All Diary Entries
View All Diary Entries Here