Monday, February 27, 2012

A Perfect Day in Paris

The Pont Neuf on a crystal clear February morning

We spent about half the week in Paris, visiting Zinnie, Quinn and their parents, helping out with childcare and doing some big-city errands. We picked an exquisite day to hop the metro into Paris Center and engage in one of my favorite activities in life, shopping for art supplies! It was also a wonderful excuse to have lunch in a sunny café and take a nice long walk along the river, which is exactly what we did.

I purchase most of my printmaking supplies at Charbonnel, one of the best names in printing ink. They also sell my favorite copper printing plates in various sizes. Their copper is a little thinner and more original in size than I am able to get at other places. Since I usually buy quite small ones, carrying around a bag full of new plates isn't too cumbersome.

The store is located on the left bank just across the river from Notre Dame. After getting off the metro at Place St. Michel and having a very nice Caesar salad at a nearby café, we walked along the water to Charbonnel which has been at this address for over 100 years. From inside the shop, if you look out these windows, you see Notre Dame towering above the waters of the Seine from l'Ile de la Cité. It is really quite breathtaking.

I also found something I wasn't particularly looking for, a little artist's journal by Fabriano. I couldn't resist purchasing it and I must say, after only a fews days of use it's already become the favorite little sketchbook I've ever owned. I had earlier bought a few mechanical pens by Aristo (taking the place in my affections of those annoying old Rapidographs.) I am enjoying the whole experience. Especially because I also got a new light with nice bright daylight bulbs which makes it possible to continue working even after the sun goes down.

As we walked along the sunny banks of the river, we passed, of course, the many bouquinistes along the way. I didn't know much about these folks before reading David Downie's book Paris Paris, Journey into the City of Light, which remains my favorite book about Paris. Their profession, selling antique books and prints, as well as a lot of grotesque knick knacks, is time-honored. There is a whole history there and I highly recommend David's book so you can discover it.

My object, after visiting Charbonnel, was to go to Sennelier, one of my other favorite historic Paris art supply stores. They are both located right beside the river on the left bank, so it is a straight and charming walk the 1.6 miles (2,7 Km) between them.

Along the way you pass Shakespeare and Company. George Whitman, who took over the store from Sylvia Beach, died late last year at the age of 98. He had been living in Paris and selling books since 1946.

Anyone who's been inside knows what a crazy, wonderful place it is. It welcomes one and all and you are welcome to curl up with a book and stay all day long. This landmark will be carried on by George Whitman's daughter, also named Sylvia.

We crossed over from the left bank to the right about half way through our walk, since that was where the sun was. We used the Pont Neuf. Generally we take the Pont des Arts to cross the river (you see it in the near distance). It goes from the Academie Française on the left bank to the Palais de Louvre on the right and is just for pedestrians. However, it was nice to make a change which allowed us to get a close glimpse of this little park on the tip of the Ile de la Cité. It is a favorite place for sunning and picnicking. James had a birthday party there once.

Sennelier is a store I have talked of before on this blog. Like Charbonnel, it has been in business in the same location since the 19th century and is one of the best quality brand names in the art world. It does not sell printmaking supplies, but has the best paints, pastels and art paper that one can hope to buy.

It's a 40 minute metro ride from the center of Paris to Emily's house. We decided to take a bus back instead. Rick is good at figuring out the bus map and it's such a pleasant way to travel, as one gets a view of the city as it slips past. One uses the same ticket as for the metro. Rick figured we could catch the 48 just across the river from Sennelier and it would take us almost directly to Quinn's school where we were due to pick him up at 5 o'clock.

Traffic through the gates of the Palais de Louvre didn't seem too heavy. What a beautiful building. Passing through the smallest arch at the right of the photo

we had this pretty view. It was such a wonderful day for a walk through Paris.


Back home I did some experimenting with old etching plates. I left this one in the acid overnight. It was practically eaten away. I loved the print it made, being inked as a relief instead of an intaglio. It was highly embossed as well.

I suppose we're having our last fires of the season. Our winter was severe but very very short!


  1. Bonjour Nancy,

    I love how in almost every photo I found some beautiful blue color...Spring is coming!! What a grand time you both had...enjoying Paris together..I'm so jealous. someday maybe you'll bring me along????

    Much love to Zinnie, Quinn and the family

    Janet xox

  2. What a truly perfect day in Paris. I can taste the air and even the atmosphere in the shops. Enjoy, enjoy.