in search of Kandinsky’s tombstone

artwork

I returned to the cemetary this afternoon in search of Kandinsky’s grave (see last Saturday’s post) and, like last Saturday, I was the only person there. It was blazing hot. SO HOT that after half an hour I had to leave.  But not without taking a few more photos. In the end, I never did find Kandinsky’s final resting place. But I’ll keep going back until I find it.

I find this man’s optimism, as expressed through his work, supremely uplifting.

Wassily Kandinsky, born in Moscow in December 1866 and died in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France in December 1944, was an influential Russian painter and art theorist. Credited with painting the first purely abstract works, he went on to become the master of abstract expressionism.  His work is hung in museums and public art galleries worldwide.

wassily-kandinsky-upwards  

In 1896 Kandinsky settled in Munich and studied at the Academy of Fine Arts. He returned to Moscow in 1914, after the outbreak of World War I. Kandinsky was unsympathetic to the official theories on art in Communist Moscow, and returned to Germany in 1921. There, he taught at the Bauhaus school of art and architecture from 1922 until the Nazis closed it in 1933. He then moved to France where he lived for the rest of his life, becoming a French citizen in 1939 and producing some of his most prominent art. He died in 1944.

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The optimism just shines through his work here, not to mention his spirit of playfulness and freedom, liberated from the traditional constraints of the past. (This painting is titled Several Circles (1926) and can be found in New York City’s Guggenheim Museum).

Below are random photos of the cemetary – these yellow flowers are ceramic.

Neuilly, Sept 27, 2014 023Neuilly, Sept 27, 2014 031I can’t think of a more touching tribute of a husband’s love for his wife. Evelyne died at the age of 56.  Emiliano, ten years her senior, will be buried beside her when he dies. To my adored wife, love is stronger than death, I will love you for eternity.Neuilly, Sept 27, 2014 032What is CT, I wonder.  Some sort of sect or secret society?Neuilly, Sept 27, 2014 013Neuilly, Sept 27, 2014 025And this is about as colourful as it gets here in autumn, at least in Paris and the outlying burbs.  I miss the dramatic autumn colours of Canada.Neuilly, Sept 27, 2014 034

burgers and fries, the new gastronomie française

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As a North American, I can hardly get excited over a platter of burgers and fries, but that’s exactly what Parisians are doing following the opening of a new burger chain called BIG FERNAND.

A (French) colleague walked into my office this afternoon and asked “Do you eat hamburgers?”

Only since the 1970s, I wanted to say.  Like all North Americans, my entire adolescence revolved principally around cheeseburgers, fries and milkshakes eaten at places with classy names like Big Moe’s, Johnny’s and Burger Shack.

Remember having the munchies and piling in the car with your girlfriends around 11 o’clock on a Friday night to drive off for a burger and fries while singing (loudly) to Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets” playing on the 8-track?  

Sorry, I just had a 1970s flashback moment.  Darn, I miss those days.

“Yes, I do eat hamburgers.” I replied to my colleague’s question, “Why do you ask?”  

“I’ve just had lunch at BIG FERNAND,” she said excitedly, “You know…the new burger place up the road?”

And I’m thinking…..why would that be cause for excitement?  

Everybody’s talking about BIG FERNAND.  According to her, the burgers are amazing – they’re not called hamburgers, but rather hamburgésthey come topped with a variety of French cheeses and a meal with fries, burger and a drink costs around 14 euros.  And not only at Big Fernand, but all over town in cafés, restaurants and bistros, Parisians are heartily tucking into platters of burgers and fries, with maybe a side of slaw and washing it down with a giant Coca-Cola, as if they were in a Shake Shack in the States!

And this is why I wrote, in my August 2014 posts from London, that I found the food scene infinitely more inspiring and innovative in London than here.

Burgers and fries.  The new gastronomie française.  Oy vey.

 

the return of Sarko – Providence man

Nicolas Sarkozy lors du meeting du Trocadéro le 1er mai 2012. (Photo Philippe Wojazer. AFP)

Nicolas Sarkozy lors du meeting du Trocadéro le 1er mai 2012. (Photo Philippe Wojazer. AFP)

Look at him.  Puffed-up like a peacock and self-serving.  It’s as if he’s saying “MOI ! Votre sauveur.  L’homme providentiel.  (ME!  Your saviour.  Man of Providence.)  “I know it’s been an absolute cauchemar (nightmare) without me these past 2 years. And I know that 48.38% of the French electorate who voted for me in 2012 still adore me (well, look at me…how could they not??).”

“So vote for me again in 2017 and together we will bring our great nation back from the brink of Socialist ruin. Together we will restore France’s grandeur and regain the pride of being French.  Together we will make it happen.”  TOUS ENSEMBLE !

Sarko’s back in the game, folks.  And some people ask – did he ever go away?

After months of speculation, Nicolas Sarkozy announced his return on Facebook and then appeared on TV to officially proclaim his comeback.  8 million viewers tuned in.

It shouldn’t be forgotten that Nicolas Sarkozy only served one term.  After performing his presidential duties for 5 years – from 2007 to 2012 – he was voted OUT.  (De Gaulle, Mitterrand and Chirac all served two terms.)

Here’s what the head of the Ecology Party in the National Assemblée, wrote: “Nicolas Sarkozy is not returning to save France…he ruined it. He’s not returning to save the UMP…he ruined it. If he is reinventing himself as the head of the UMP, would it be to save his legal skin?”

Sarkozy is still at the centre of a number of legal investigations.  In July, he was placed under formal investigation on suspicion of seeking to influence judges.  Other inquiries include links with former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and illegal campaign funding in 2012 to the tune of €363,600.

Personally, I’d like to see a woman president of France and here’s a name that’s being whispered in the back corridors of power:  Christine Lagarde.

If you remember, Madame Lagarde replaced Dominique Strauss-Kahn as the head of the IMF after his fall from grace.

Here’s her profile from Wikipedia –

Christine Madeleine Odette Lagarde is a French lawyer and politician who has been the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund since 5 July 2011. Previously, she held various ministerial posts in the French government as Minister of Economic Affairs, Finance and Employment and before that Minister of Agriculture and Fishing and Minister of Trade. 

A noted antitrust and labor lawyer, Lagarde became the first female chairman of the international law firm, Baker & McKenzie. On 16 November 2009, the Financial Times ranked her the best Minister of Finance in the Eurozone and in 2014, Lagarde was ranked the 5th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes magazine.

If Christine Lagarde should run (and some people say she’d never leave her cushy job in Washington to return to France), I’d back her.

640px-Lagarde,_Christine_(official_portrait_2011)

 

French cemetaries

Today is 27°C, very dry, dusty and hot with an elevated and unhealthy pollution index.  I’m sick of pollution – air, noise, water, food.  I want to retire to the high plains of New Mexico and live under an endless, unpolluted, blue sky.  I want to smell the piñon and live in space, clean air and silence (my apartment overlooks a road that is noisy and congested).

I’ve only been to New Mexico twice, but loved it intensely both times.  On both trips there I arrived by train – the first was on the Amtrak Southwest Chief that originated in NYC and passed through Chicago (I was on that train for two days), and the second trip was on the overnight from Los Angeles. I can’t wait to go again.  But I don’t think I’ll take the train; I’ll probably fly into Albuquerque then make my way to Santa Fe.

These photos are not of Santa Fe, but of a cemetary in France –

Neuilly, Sept 27, 2014 009
Neuilly, Sept 27, 2014 022Neuilly, Sept 27, 2014 019cemetary sept 20, 2014 040

In my neighbourhood there are several beautiful parks, not to mention the Seine river at the foot of my street, but I’ve recently discovered a new refuge in which to sit and write my book project undisturbed. The municipal cemetary.  At the end of an alley and past a trio of chubby cherubs is a bench where I can sit in complete silence. And solitude! I was the only person there this afternoon.  That is, me and a thousand souls.  However it became SO HOT, I had to leave.  Some people might find it odd to sit in a cemetary, but I find it peaceful.  Here’s the bench below, under a tree whose name, I’m ashamed to admit, I don’t know. (I’ve been meaning to buy a tree book for 15 years now.)

cemetary sept 20, 2014 017cemetary sept 20, 2014 015cemetary sept 20, 2014 027cemetary sept 20, 2014 030

French cemetaries, with their sepulchrals and family burial vaults, are not like English or North American ones. They are far more ornate, well-tended, regimented, and sacrosanct.  I think I’ve just described the Catholic Church.

cemetary sept 20, 2014 034cemetary sept 20, 2014 037
Neuilly, Sept 27, 2014 030

I’ve just learned that the famous Russian painter, Wassily Kandinsky, master of abstract expressionism is buried here.  I had no idea.  I’ll have to go back and find his plot.

It’s now later in the day, we had a terrific rainstorm and the temperature plunged 8 degrees.

For anyone interested in glamorous train travel, here’s a super article I found (with great photos) recounting the glory days of the THE SUPER CHIEF – “THE TRAIN OF THE STARS” – that ran from Chicago/NYC to Los Angeles throughout the 1930s, 40s, 50s and 60s.

http://www.newyorksocialdiary.com/social-history/2010/the-super-chief-the-train-of-the-stars

Sunday market under a sultry sun

Sept 14, 2014 Neuilly market Sunday 006Sept 14, 2014 Neuilly market Sunday 007Sept 14, 2014 Neuilly market Sunday 039Sept 14, 2014 Neuilly market Sunday 036

It’s too early for Indian Summer, but we’ve been enjoying a week-long spell of glorious sunny weather here, and today is no exception.  25°C, breezy and sunshine. This coming Tuesday is forecast to go up to 29°C.  So I trundled off to my local outdoor market this morning to stock up on fresh fruit and veg. I inquired as to the origin of these mangoes and was told Egypt and Israel. Depending on the season, they’re also imported from Peru, Brazil and the African Ivory Coast.  Delicious! 

Sept 14, 2014 Neuilly market Sunday 027Sept 14, 2014 Neuilly market Sunday 029

Fabulous framboises and a mountain of melons.

Sept 14, 2014 Neuilly market Sunday 037Sept 14, 2014 Neuilly market Sunday 038Sept 14, 2014 Neuilly market Sunday 049Can’t get enough of these tasty tomatoes.  Elles sont extra!Sept 14, 2014 Neuilly market Sunday 046Sept 14, 2014 Neuilly market Sunday 047

I make a simple green salad using only lettuce (fresh lettuce, not bagged) and these tomatoes.  Then I make a vinaigrette. Olive oil mixed with a little walnut oil if you have any, balsamic or any other vinegar, sea salt, good-quality French mustard and a tiny bit of honey to cut the acidity.  Done!  No-one uses bottled salad dressing in France. (Make sure that you’re whisking your vinaigrette with a fork in the bottom of the glass salad bowl, not in a separate bowl.  Grated garlic makes a nice addition.)

Sept 14, 2014 Neuilly market Sunday 061Sept 14, 2014 Neuilly market Sunday 062And look at this selection of freshly-caught fish…..Sept 14, 2014 Neuilly market Sunday 055Sept 14, 2014 Neuilly market Sunday 058Sept 14, 2014 Neuilly market Sunday 060French girl in a tree.Sept 14, 2014 Neuilly market Sunday 063

 

 

giant flea market in Lille

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Rain or shine, the market takes place every year, always on the first weekend of September. The center of Lille turns into a giant pedestrian zone and nearly one million visitors come to buy, sell, barter, stroll, chat with strangers, drink beer and have a good time.  Called La Grande Braderie, (braderie comes from the verb “brader” which means “to dispose of” or “to sell off cheaply”), it’s a festive tradition in this northern city.

LILLE BRADERIE - septembre 2014 009LILLE BRADERIE - septembre 2014 025LILLE BRADERIE - septembre 2014 022The sky was leaden on Saturday and the atmosphere slightly subdued. But the sun came out on Sunday.LILLE BRADERIE - septembre 2014 042LILLE BRADERIE - septembre 2014 010“How much for the dog?”, I asked.  He was sitting on a large postcard collection.LILLE BRADERIE - septembre 2014 057Alpha males.LILLE BRADERIE - septembre 2014 059This is the only item I bought for 8 euros. Its purpose is to drain rinsed strawberries, radishes, grapes, etc.  Not very exciting, I’m afraid.LILLE BRADERIE - septembre 2014 072Here’s Martine Aubry, the Socialist mayor of Lille since 2001, much-loved by the Lillois citizens (in the middle wearing a red jacket.)LILLE BRADERIE - septembre 2014 033And here’s the Socialist Party booth where beer and “moules-frites” are served, a speciality of the region (mussels and fries).  Up until the end of the 1970s, the major industries in Lille were coal, mining and textiles.LILLE BRADERIE - septembre 2014 065LILLE BRADERIE - septembre 2014 066Every year the local Communist Party puts up their booth called La Lutte Ouvrière (The Workers’ Struggle).  An anachronism.  I’m amazed that the party still survives.LILLE BRADERIE - septembre 2014 037

I walked past the booth and took a photograph.  

“Journalist?” a man asked.

“Capitalist!” I replied with a thumbs-up sign, and walked on.