Chartier

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There’s something supremely relaxing about sitting in a spacious, half-empty restaurant at 4:30 pm on a Monday, sipping a fizzy cocktail and waiting for your roast chicken to arrive at your table.  And what made the experience doubly satisfying is that I’m usually at work at 4:30 pm on a Monday.  But today was my RTT day (basically, one day off a month).  And the weather was so beautiful that I spent most of the day outdoors (a) exploring my old neighbourhood in the 9th arrondissement, (b) popping into Drouot auction house, (c) strolling the picturesque Passages, (d) stopping off at La Marelle vintage boutique and buying a pair of fab Carel boots, and (e) ending up, like I always do, in my most favourite spot in all of Paris.  But all that in my next post.  For now, let me tell you about Chartier.

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Here’s what Courtney Traub wrote on her Go Paris website – First opened in 1896 as “Le Bouillon Chartier”, a cantine for the working classes serving up simple hot dishes comprised of meat and vegetables, Chartier is now a much-coveted address for inexpensive French fare in a gorgeous setting. The restaurant, set near the bustling Grands Boulevards neighborhood, is housed in an imposing turn-of-the-century hall decked out on all sides with large mirrors, wooden panelling and globe lamps. Chartier is as famous for its inexpensive, basic dishes as it is for its congenial, teasing servers wearing traditional black waistcoats and white aprons, who scrawl your orders out on the white paper tablecloths in front of your eyes.

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Pros:
•Simple, classic French fare for very reasonable prices
•Unbeatable Belle-Epoque setting
•Friendly, vivacious service and warm ambiance abounds
•Nonstop service all day long, including weekends
•Central location: in close reach of several right-bank attractions and interesting neighborhoods

Cons:
•Reservations not accepted; long lines outside often await
•Quality of food is often rather mediocre
•Not ideal for intimate tete a tetes: tables are often shared with other patrons
•Very few vegetarian and vegan options

OK, so you don’t come here for superlative food, although I must say that everything I ate and drank was delicious.  You go for fun, ambiance and low prices.  It’s what my mother would call “cheap and cheerful.”  It gets very crowded at night, especially on weekends.  I went today because it’s in my old neighbourhood and I hadn’t stepped foot in the place for 12 years.  And at 4:30 pm it was quiet, a perfect setting to sit, look around and relax. (hours are non-stop from 11:30 am to midnight, seven days a week)

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So go.  Drink wine.  Eat chicken.  Chat with your neighbours (some tables are shared.)  Enjoy life.

http://www.bouillon-chartier.com/en/

two new art exhibitions in Paris – Florentine portraits from the Court of the Medici and Prostitution in 19th century Paris

Art Exhibition at the Musée Jacquemart-André on the boulevard Haussmann, Paris

 11 Sept. 2015 to 25 Jan. 2016

Judith and her Maidservant, 1613–14, Oil on canvas, Palazzo Pitti, Florence

Judith and her Maidservant, 1613–14, Oil on canvas, Palazzo Pitti, Florence

This exhibition is huge.  It’s imperative that you buy your tickets in advance.  You should also anticipate long lines and crowds.  If you’re wondering whose head is in the basket pictured above, it’s Holofernes, an Assyrian general who was about to destroy Judith’s home of Bethulia, a fictitious Israelite town.

The small and intimate Jacquemart-André museum is located in central Paris on the leafy Haussmann Boulevard in the 8th arrondissement.  There’s a gorgeous restaurant and tea salon on the premises.  But it might be packed, so be forewarned.

The route through the exhibition will be split into five sections built around a thematic history of portraiture in Florence in the golden age of the Medici (1512-1599).

This exhibition has benefited from an extraordinary partnership with the Museums of Florence. Other renowned international museum institutions and exceptional collections such as the Royal Collection (London), the Louvre (Paris) and even the Städel Museum (Frankfurt) are also supporting this event with remarkable loans.

Great painters such as Rosso Fiorentino, Andrea del Sarto, Alessandro Allori, Francesco Salviati, Pontormo and Bronzino will be the emblematic figures of this history of the portrait through some forty paintings.

Here below is a dazzling portrait painted by one of my favourite Florentine artists, Alessandro Allori (1535– 1607).  The subject is Maria de Medici, sixth daughter of Francesco I de Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany and Archduchess Joanna of Austria. 

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Alessandro Allori

Born in Florence at the Palazzo Pitti on April 26, 1575, Maria  was one of seven children.  Her youth unfolded between the Pitti Palace, the Boboli Gardens, the villa at Pratolino and other Medici residences.  Music and painting lessons, devotional practices and sumptuous dresses were her interests.  In October 1600 at the age of 25, she married Henry IV of France. Her eldest son, the future King Louis XIII, was born at Fontainebleau the following year.  Maria was crowned Queen of France in 1610, a day before her husband was assassinated by a fanatical Catholic named François Ravaillac.  She later travelled to Cologne and died there at the age of 62.  She’s buried in the Basilica of St Denis in the north of Paris.

This exhibition will offer a panorama of Florentine portraiture in the 16th century with all its main themes and stylistic transformations. Through the eyes of the painters experimenting with new ways of representing their contemporaries, it will allow visitors to appreciate the style developments of the Cinquecento, an especially eventful century in cultural and religious terms.

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Enjoy your visit.  Tip – on Monday nights, the museum is open until 8:30 pm….that’s when I’ll be going (less people).  Weekends will be packed solid.

I’ve just learned of another exhibition opening this week across town at the Musée d’Orsay – “Splendours and ­Miseries”, the ­first major exhibition looking at the artistic ­representation of prostitution in 19th-century Paris.

This astonishing photograph of a courtesan was taken sometime between 1861 and 1866.

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http://musee-jacquemart-andre.com/en/home

http://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/home.html

yearning to breathe free….

refugee children

Here in Europe we are receiving images daily on our TV screens of a sea of refugees struggling in their escape from persecution at home and arriving in Europe.  I want to help in some small way.  Tomorrow I’m taking a suitcase full of winter clothes, sheets and blankets to my local Red Cross up the road.  And a few stuffed toys.  How anyone can look at those children and feel nothing is beyond my comprehension. (UNICEF link below)

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free….”

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Imagine leaving all your worldly possessions behind, cramming bare necessities into one backpack or small suitcase, shutting the door on your house, never to return, and then leaving your homeland on foot.  And then walking for days and days, with your children, some of them babies or toddlers, sleeping in fields or in train stations, crossing turbulent waters in a rubber dinghy.  Not knowing what awaits you, not knowing what dangers lurk, not knowing where you’ll end up.  If there’s a time for these brave people to have faith in their God, then this is it.  But they should also have faith in humanity and in the assistance of their fellow human beings.  And that’s us.  You and me. 

“The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me…”

Why am I so pro-refugee?  Because the West is primarily responsible for their distress, the USA in particular: the Bush administration’s naked military invasion of Iraq in 2003 which led to degenerating the country into turmoil and then, once US soldiers there, Obama’s inept decision to end its military involvement in Iraq in 2011.  Obama’s inaction towards Syria in 2012.  But the worst was Hillary Clinton’s intervention in Libya to intentionally topple Gadhafi.  The consequence has been disastrous.  It is the USA who should be receiving the bulk of the refugees, more than the EU. 

Many of us were refugees, migrants or asylum seekers…or our parents or grandparents were.  My maternal grandfather fled Riga (Latvia) for England.  My parents left England for Canada as economic migrants.

Below – Migrants being chased by Hungarian police.  Have Hungarians forgotten the Hungarian Revolution of October 1956?

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Below is the link to UNICEF to help children worldwide.

http://www.unicef.org/

And don’t forget the children across Gaza, a year on from Israel’s murderous assault on Gaza’s defenceless population that left 551 children dead and 3,370 injured.  Those who managed to survive are struggling today with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and life-long disabilities. (see UNICEF – State of Palestine)

Lille flea market 2015

IMG_5078IMG_5081I was just one person out of two and a half million visitors who attended the flea market this weekend.IMG_5070IMG_5043This man is a Tuareg from Mali.  Nomadic Berbers, they roam the Sahara of North Africa.  I purchased two small leather boxes from him.IMG_5045IMG_5084Beautiful old linens which remind me of old houses, grandmothers and smells of camphor and lavender.IMG_5088IMG_5085IMG_5087I fell in love with these gorgeous paper weights with a jellyfish imprisoned inside.IMG_5093IMG_5094IMG_5063And every year I pay a visit to the Workers’ Struggle (Lutte Ouvrière) booth, France’s Communist-Trotskyist political party. They’re a friendly, feisty bunch.IMG_5053In Greece as in France, bankers and industrialists have benefited from the debt. It’s up to the capitalists to pay, not the workers!IMG_5050Competitiveness is to take from the pockets of the working class to enrich management. Out of the question!IMG_5054And right next door was the Socialist Party booth with members tucking into the traditional meal of mussels, fries and beer.IMG_5056IMG_5080And that’s it for another year!

tomato sandwich

I love Melissa Clark.  I love her perkiness, her positivity and her brisk pragmatism.  I also love her New York apartment, if that indeed is her apartment.  But what I especially love, in the video below, is her gutsiness to stand in front of the camera and bite heartily into the slightly sloppy sandwich she has just made (while bits of tomato fall into the sink.)

Here in Paris, I’m enjoying the second week of my vacation.  Yesterday we had a heatwave, but today is considerably cooler.   I’m feeling a tad guilty this afternoon because instead of working on my book project (which is the reason why I took 10 days vacation), I’m watching New York Times videos and Melissa Clark making a sandwich. (Lesson number one for writers – before you start writing, disconnect from the internet!!) 

I just bought a quarter loaf of Poilâne bread this morning.  I have some ripe market tomatoes and red onions on hand, so I’ll make a sandwich too.  I’m not sure that I’d add mayonnaise though.  Maybe some fresh basil leaves or a smear of pesto.

Stay tuned for my next post – I’m off to Lille on Friday for the annual flea market.

OK, I’m disconnecting now.  très bonne semaine.  Here’s Melissa –

http://www.nytimes.com/video/dining/100000003878616/tomato-sandwiches.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&version=timesvideo-heading&module=watch-in-times-video&region=video-player-region&WT.nav=video-player-region