Monday, July 30, 2012

Wintry Summer

It's cold and overcast again. I am wearing a wool sweater again. In July. July 30th, to be exact. We've had about 2 weeks of sun. Glorious Sun. But other than that, from May, through June, through July (save those 2 weeks), it's been rain, rain, rain, rain and cold, overcast, windy weather. Huh. ... What a nice change Autumn will be.

Hello Pussy Cat

Women who are in their 60s and wear "skull" t-shirts look ridiculous. I agree with Charlize Theron that adult women who wear "Hello Kitty" clothing/accessories look ridiculous.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Courtney's Summer of Museums: Musee Baccarat

Wednesday, July 25th I went to the Musee Baccarat, which was in fact, very small. There were three rooms and the largest had four cases displaying crystal over the centuries according to a theme, and not chronologically. The museum is housed in Baccarat's headquarters, also home to their three boutiques and the famous Cristal Room restaurant. I visited everything, staring with the Museum. Formerly the private home of Vicountess Maire-Laure de Noailles and her husband Charles, this hotel particular was designed with pomp and tradition, hosting salons and magical parties dedicated to famous painters, writers and musicians (Buneuel, Jean Cocteau, Man Ray).

The first room housed the massive and impressive Tsa Nicholas II candelabra as well as other large-scale crystal works. I was surrounded in the next room by four walls covered in canvas painted by Gerard Garouste. Depicting Earth, Water, Air and Fire, the four elements needed to make crystal, this room had two display cases showing some of the more unique pieces including the famous Simon vases and pieces for various Universal Exhibitions. The next room was the largest with four cases showing works based on exquisite craftsmanship, famous designers, prestigious commissions and commissions from "far away" lands.

After this short visit I peeked in the Cristal Room restaurant, and after looking at the menu, decided to dine there. I had a delicious meal and appreciated the crystal touches throughout the service and the room, which was impressive with its massive black marble walls, gold trim and plush rose pink banquettes. When the last petit-four was popped in my mouth and as I savored the lingering flavors, I headed down to the boutiques and appreciated the vast array of fine tableware, glassware, jewelry and other objets d'art for purchase, all the while sipping some water in a lovely Baccarat glass handed to me as I entered the shop.
2012 Baccarrat Musee

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Courtney's Summer of Museums: Musee Jacquemart-Andre

Brief notes:

  • Built for a bachelor: Edouard Andre, who was from a wealthy Protestant family. He married a "rags-to-riches" noted society painter, Nelie Jacquemart. The Plein Monceau area was put into the grand plan by Haussman. Before it was, like the rest of Paris, a small village on its own. 
  • The wealthy built their homes here to show off along the new Haussman Boulevard. Andre, interested in standing out from the others, built his set-back from the road to make people pause and notice it. It was also unique in that the driveway wound from the front to the back, where the entrance was. Then carriage drivers could continue driving around and exit on the other side of the building, to prevent traffic jams during the balls and popular soirees they held. 
  • The Entrance was the Grand Salon with an adjoining Music room, which had walls that moved down into the floor to make an even bigger reception room for the balls. 
  • Mme Jacquemart's Boudoir bathroom still has the columns and alcove were the bathtub was. I loved the clock--horizontal with two rows of numbers for hours and minutes. She wanted to move closer to her husband and moved her bedroom apartments over to his side of the house. 
  • The Winter Garden was gorgeous: all light and marble and mirrors and ferns and plants. The double-staircase is one of the building's more notable features. Of course the mural on the wall and ceiling were highlighted features as well.
  • The Smoking room was originally for men to smoke after the dinners; while the ladies went into another room. These were traditionally decorated in Chinoiserie style. Nelie bough the English portraits after Edouard died.
  • After going from the Winter Garden staircase to overlooking the Music room from a balcony to...BAM! A complete Italian Museum! Whoa. This was wild. They really made their upper floor a real museum to showcase all their collections from Venice, Florence and other Italian artwork and architectural details. Amazing. 
  • Then another wing was completely redone in modern style to showcase a current exhibit: Eygptian art. Fascinating.

2012: Musee Jacquemart-Andre

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Courtney's Summer of Museums: Musee Nissim de Camondo

For my second week of museum-hopping I made a reservation in advance to the Museum of Nissim de Camondo. I was really excited about visiting this museum as I have been wanting to go there for about three years!

I got to the museum too early so I went to the corner to have a coffee and croissant. Delicious!
    And now, my thoughts on the visit:
  • The house was built between 1912 - 1914, modeled partially after Petit Trianon. Initially it was constructed in the 1800s by Moises de Camondo's father, whose brother also constructed a house right next door, which is now home to JP Morgan. 
The story of this family is so tragic:
Nissim (the grandfather) moved to Paris with his brother, Isaac, to open their very successful Ottoman Empire bank in Paris. Isaac died with no family and thus bequeathed his impressive art collection to Le Louvre museum. This collection included Monets, Manets, Pissaros and other substantial impressionism works.

Nissim had one son, Moises, who had a son (Nissim) and a daughter (Beatrice). Moises did not really work on the family business. He preferred to spend his time studying and acquiring 18th Century art and furniture. His brief marriage to Irene Cahen D'Anvers, a woman from a prominent French family, ended after she left him for an Italian count, Count Sampieri. Moises loved his children dearly and devoted his time to raising them,  spending time with them at their weekend estate pursuing activities like horse-riding and acquiring 18th Century art and furniture.

His son, Nissim, served in WWI as a pilot, but died tragically in a plane crash during active duty. Moises was so devastated he closed the bank and closed himself up in his home, comforting himself with his artwork.

Béatrice, his daughter, became an accomplished horsewoman, married Léon Reinach and had two children: Fanny and Bertrand. They lived in Neuilly, a suburb of Paris, where they could all practice their love of horseback riding. As the Nazi threat intensified in France, she wrongfully believed that considering her brother died for their homeland, and her family’s wealth and position, she would be safe. Unfortunately, she and her whole family were deported to the Drancy concentration camp and subsequently murdered in Auschwitz.

There are no surviving family members of Moise de Camondo. So sad!!!!

sigh. After a respectful pause, here are further comments on the house:
  • Parts of the house were built with specific architectural details consistent with 18th century traditions, and Moises even planned some room dimensions to exactly match some of the objects in his collection.
  • The gallery was beautiful--it was a large spacious landing area and "terminal" between many of the rooms on the main reception floor. Of course there were impressive pictures and sculptures, but I was impressed by the layout of the house.
  • The dining room was nice with one wall all mirrors and the opposite with a large red marble shell fountain. I learned that the dining room didn't really come into being until the reign of Louis XV. Before then, people apparently ate in bedrooms or antechambers. Since the introduction of the dining room, courses could have 50 - 100 dishes!
  • The small study had an actual working clock, ticking away! It was so sweet. Made it really feel like you were in someone's home. Nice touch.
  • The Blue Drawing room was initially Beatrice's bedroom. It was the biggest bedroom in the house and jutted out into the garden. It was so beautiful! I loved the calmness of the room, made possible by the deep turquoisey-blue walls and deep yellow silk curtains and big beige lampshades on the chandeliers and desk lamps. The blue was originally a peacock blue but since they leave the house as-is, light has faded it to be a lighter green-blue. 
  • The library was really nice. Hexagonal. My favorite thing were the semainiers (weeklies), which were leather strips with golden "slots" with the days of the week engraved on them. They were to hold the week's invitations in each day. Like an old-fashioned mail/bill holder. But so elegant!
  • The small passageway between the Library and Moise's bedroom: I love all the "hidden" doors that were for servants to use and/or led to shortcuts/passageways through the house. Even in Versailles I am always really struck by these. It's like another untold history alongside the published narrative.
  • The carpet in Moise's bedroom wasn't as impressive as the history behind it. It was made in 1760 from a Savonnerie manufactory for Louis XV's daughters. And it was only to be used in the chapel at Versailles and on religious days. Whoa. Neat.
  • I also liked the silken cord with tassels, hidden behind the nightstand in Moise's bedroom. Nearly hidden, you could tell this was his communication system to notify staff when he needed something. 
  • The bathroom: it smelled like my Grandmother in there! What a great moment to be enveloped by her sweet, cottony, clean smell. It didn't smell like astringent. It was a soft, cotton, baby powder, woodsy combination.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Cocktails with Courtney ~ July 4 2012

"Happy Independence Day America! And Thank you to my adopted home, France, for helping us!"
Thus started the July 4th "Cocktails with Courtney" festivities at the Tuileries Bar in the Westin Hotel. It was a festive night on many levels--there were the vestiges of a big fashion event spilling out onto the street as we arrived on this usually sunny evening in Paris.

[Most of May and all of June were rainy, rainy, rainy with dark, cold, overcast, drab, grey skies. The rain continued into July but the sun always seems to peek out around 8:30 PM. Just when my son is going to bed!]

This evening we had the prolific and illustrious Joel Dreyfus (formerly Red Herring, Bloomberg and many other notable publications) stop by. Joel is now back in Paris and working on a book colorfully documenting generations of his family's life in Haiti. He and Alain Cartier (vintage jewelry vendeur) spoke some francais while sipping cocktails.

I sampled a refreshing ice-tea with thyme infusion as conversations ranged from engagement ring styles (Kate & Diana's to classic French to lacquered) to the boom (and bust) of apps to the course of political history and dissidents in Haiti!

The repartee from Joy Sparrowhawk, who's with the UK Trade & Investment organization ( and Karen Hunt (Kobojo) added dimension and everyone's input made the conversations flow as smoothly as Joy's wasabi martini!

Fork you

Apparently girls who work in the bakeries do not like how I pronounce the word "fork" in french. It's happened to me two times where they feign incomprehension and then say the word back to me as if I totally mispronounced it.

Courtney's Summer of Museums: Musee de Moyen Age/Hotel de Cluny

Having lived in Paris, France for 4 1/2 years now, I have decided it was high time to visit some of the smaller museums Paris has to offer, and which I had yet to see. Since we have the nanny all day on Wednesdays, each Wednesday in July I'll visit a museum and "pen" my thoughts here.

The first Wednesday, July 4th, I made my way over to the very busy St. Michel/Blvd St. Germain/Rue des Ecoles area and visited the Museum of the Middle Ages/Cluny Hotel. I was well juiced up on my two cups of coffee and a pain au chocolate type pastry.

This was remarkable on two levels. One, of course, is getting to see a vast amount of Middle Ages artwork, architectural details, tapestries and information on the Middle Ages in Europe. The other, of course, are the ancient ruins of the "roman" baths.

Going solo was a real luxury, I spent nearly three hours covering all the museum and lingering where I wanted, taking my time to read all the information panels and cards and even just contemplating particular pieces. I particularly liked the "Lady and the Unicorn" tapestries. These are world famous and, seeing them in person, I can see why.

It was also interesting to see:
- the rooms on daily life
- information on the monks who lived here
- to learn about the Hotel's other residents over the centuries including the art collector and benefactor M. Alexandre du Sommerard
- big fireplaces that almost reached the ceilings, so they could heat large reception and dining rooms
- learn about devotional life, that people would carry religious wooden statues on Palm Sunday processions
- the Book of Hours and the amazing detail; how rich life was even back then; and the devotion toward Christ
- the morbid fascination with death, funerals and the art-of-dying
- the chauffe-mains! What a great idea--especially for back then! I could use something like that today.

As I mentioned, the "Lady and the Unicorn" tapestries just blew me away. I was so fascinated I must've spent at least 30 minutes in the darkened room, just turning from one to the other and back again. I each time I took a new review, I noticed something different.

I got so obsessed at one point I jotted down the placement of the trees and when I came home, put little slips of paper on the table with their names to see if perhaps they were always in the same location but the tapestries were woven from different view points. (The answer is "no.") But if you are curious, the placement for Taste, Sight, and Sound are the same, but from different vantage points. The trees in Smell are criss-crossed and Mon Seul Desir have the same arrangement but flipped vertically.

Of course, Mon Seul Desir does bring up all sorts of speculation and one theory of mine had me going around the room all over again and noting down the colors of her dress, the dress lining and coat to see if it revealed any suggestive under/overtones I was suspecting. (Again, not quite.) I do like the idea that she puts away her worldly riches for earthly love and the tent, it's colors and symbolic designs added to my theory.

In any case, the tapestries were so incredible, on so many levels, I just couldn't seem to bring myself to leave them. But leave them I did, and I went on my way to explore the rest of the museum, and the also incredible Gallo-Roman thermal baths. Whoa. I love being in the presence of these ancient artifacts. It really drives home the fact that our physical life here is so temporary. When I think of the millions and millions and millions of people who lived before's incredible. Thank God these artifacts weren't totally destroyed over the centuries so little people like me could marvel and wonder at them.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Going to get my "recipisse"

Today I went to the Prefecture de Police (police dept) to get my Recipisse to get my Carte de Sejour. The Recipisse (sounds like recipe) is a piece of paper you have as a temporary document between the valid Carte de Sejours, which are 1 year each.

7:45 AM - left the apartment. Metro #9 to Miromesnil, change to Metro #13 to Place de Clichy. Walk 10 mins.

8:16 AM - arrive at the Prefecture where there are already well over 60 people.
Someone tells me, "you just arrived? you have to sign up on the list. Go see the woman in blue."
I see an older woman in a blue dress who when she sees me approaching, waves a ragged piece of checkerboard paper at me. (Standard French note paper isn't lined like American paper, it has a small checkerboard pattern.) I am already #57 on the list.

8:37 AM - people start milling towards the front so everyone gets anxious and also start standing up, lining up. One younger man in a purple shirt and black sweater says, "there is a list! there is a list!" So another man begins organizing and calling out names. People wait patiently as their name is called and generally fall into place accordingly. (We are in France after all, where "line" is a general concept; and we are dealing with people from many other cultures as well.)

9:08 AM - a young female cop comes out and announces, "THERE IS NO LIST! Every day I come here and there is a list. I am sick and tired each time I come here! There is no list!"

9:09 AM - we begin moving!

9:15 AM - the cop comes outside on her telephone and leaves. She comes back with boxes of crackers and cookies. I guess the waiting room is at capacity so we must wait outside.

10:13 AM - four more people get in, including a man who cuts-the-line! :( He shuffled past a few peple behind me and then me. A man behind me says several times, "what would you like? there is a line. " He ignores him and continues shuffling to the front, hoping we will forget about him and that he'll just blend in with the rest of us. arghhhh.

10:30 AM - A woman comes up to the front a few times and peers into the Exit door. Then she comes back up with her daughter. She stands right in front of the Exit door. A man in a wheelchair is exiting and she grabs her stroller with two hands and pushes in through the exit into the waiting area. She SNEAKS in past the cop. She gets her ticket. The few of us at the door look at each other shaking our heads and sighing.

10:35 AM - I finally get inside! I push the button on the "distributor" to get my ticket ("take a number") and find a seat. I glare with disapproving looks at the woman-line-cutter, and when I can find him, the man-line-cutter. (so there!) I am "R16."

[The numbers go 0xx for new Carte de Sejour and Rxx for Renouvelement (renewing) Carte de Sejour. It is at 022 and R13 when I arrive.]

10:52 AM - a man who was before me taps me on the shoulder and asks me what my number is. I tell him. He gives me his #ticket because he took his in error. Bonus! I am next!

11:06 AM - Me! I go upstairs to find "Guichet 11" (ticket window/office 11). The woman doesn't like that I have waited so long to get my Recipisse. oops. And I don't have a "facture" (bill) as recent as she would like. I take a deep breath and remember that I will get my Recipisse today. She cannot deny me the Recipisse. I just need to stay calm and it will all work out. It does. I get my Recipisse.

11:18 AM - I leave the Prefecture de Police Centre des Etrangers. [Before I left I went to tell the cop that there was no more toilette paper in the bathroom. (She was the only person there other than the cashier, who was busy.) She looks at me and says, "so?" So I look back and just said, "Good bye" and then she said, "Oh" and started calling someone to fix the situation. [Man-oh-man! She could care less. And so could I as I was leaving. I guess she didn't think it was her problem, until she realized it probably would become her problem later.]

12:15 PM - Back at home to my darling husband and adorable son. We had lunch.