Friday, May 16, 2014

Life is a Rainbow

A recent view out our window

My blog posts seem to be becoming fewer and farther between as the spring progresses. It may have something to do with the weather. It's hard to stay indoors when outside you can almost watch the plants growing.

Today I'm reporting on an adventure that took place on May 1st. Where has the time gone since then? I can not account for it. Still, it's another tour of Paris, and so hopefully of some interest to you.

My brother and his wife Marilyn came to town on their way to Switzerland, where they are taking mountain hikes. They were kind enough to include Paris as a brief stop-over, just to make contact with us.

Marilyn is an English professor in California who specializes in 19th century literature. She is also very clever, organized and energetic. Therefore, although they were just in town for one full day, she had planned a very interesting walking tour that included the houses of Victor Hugo, Marcel Proust, George Sands and Balzac, all of which are now museums.

We met first thing in the morning at the beautiful Place des Vosges on May 1st. I had invited my friend Nelly to accompany us and she graciously accepted.

One of the entrances to Place des Vosges

It was a beautiful morning, but unfortunately we had not calculated that May 1st is a worker's holiday in France and very few museums stay open, in fact all the ones we intended to visit were shut for the whole day.

The garden at Place des Vosgues

Nelly immediately took charge of the situation and with a little quick research found an alternative itinerary for us.

My brother Gary, his wife Marilyn and Nelly doing research on her iPhone

The Museum Jacquemart-André is a beautiful "hôtel particulier" in the 8th arrondissement of Paris near the Champs-Elysées and it just happened to be open. It also had a nice nineteenth century connection to satisfy Marilyn's area of expertise We jumped on the metro and headed that direction.

Edouard André (from a wealthy banking family) and Nélie Jacquemart (an artist in her own right). built a sumptuous home in a new section of Paris during the later part of the1800s on blvd Haussmann, completed in 1875. They became avid art collectors and after their deaths, left their beautiful house and important art collection to the state. It is now a very popular museum. I hadn't been there for years.

The ballroom, where the walls are able to be removed allowing several rooms to serve as a huge dancing floor

The house itself is certainly very grand and interesting, but it is definitely their collection of art which fired my imagination.

One of the salons

The atrium and "winter garden" were my favorite rooms in the house, bathed in natural light.


Most of the other rooms seemed a bit dark and overwhelming to me.

Winter garden

The most impressive rooms, in my opinion, were on the second floor and held the "Italian Collection." mostly works form the Renaissance. It's hard to imagine living one's daily life in a house which includes rooms like these!

On of the Italian gallery rooms
The stone archways and opulent wall furnishings provide a glorious backdrop to some remarkable paintings, including Saint George and the Dragon, painted around 1470 by Paolo Uccello, a painting Marilyn references in some of her courses.

St. George and the Dragon

We also were able to see the temporary exhibit which featured paintings and drawings by Watteau and his contemporaries. I love the way that trees were painted during this period. They always look so French to me and like none other before or since.

La Fête à Saint-Cloud by Jean-Honoré Fragonard

After spending several hours at the museum, Nelly suggested we have a refreshment at Les Deux Magots, a café not far from her house with a very famous literary history itself, of course. I actually had never been there, so it was something of a treat for me.

The famous Deux Magots
Did you know that Magots are Chinese figurines? I personally had no idea. These two, which give the café its name, have been in place since about 1870.

Les Deux Magots

Nelly and Gary had iced coffee and Marilyn and I had Perrier-Menthe. It ended up being a wonderful day, after an uncertain start.

Nelly and Marilyn

Gary and Marilyn came out to Emily's house for dinner. Marilyn, as always, brought the children presents. For Quinn it was a group of Star Wars figurines, which apparently are all the rage in his kindergarten! He was over the moon. For Zinnie is was a collection of purses, a little mirror, and even some lipsticks. She was immediately fascinated. And when she put the lipstick on...goodness! How could a little bit of lip color make her immediately seem like a miniature teenager?

Zinnie gets glamorous

Meanwhile back at home, our season is well underway. When we're not attending to our clients, you are likely to find us in the garden.

A view of the castle and church in Montmiral

We often walk up and back twice a day.

A driveway we walk past on the way to the garden

We still haven't planted our tender vegetables, like tomatoes, but our beans are in the ground, and our sweet peas and nasturtiums are already coming up.

Our vegetable garden as it begins to be plants

Our new flower border contains nothing but well-established perennials moved from other parts of the garden. It makes for instant gratification, although they are certainly not all in bloom as yet, they have grown together just the way a border is supposed to.

The flower border contains a collection of columbines, foxglove, sage, a flowering quince, hollyhock, delphiniums and penstemons

This is the glory time of the year for the peony plant, which must be ancient. I planted two others, more subtlety colored two years ago, and they are nowhere near the size of this giant and have yet to bloom.

The peony has been in our garden since the beginning

Even if we have given over a large part of the garden to vegetables this year, I still can't resist making way for some flowers, including sweet peas, which are always my favorite, and violets which can, after all, be added to salad.

The salad border, with a funny trellis we weaved together from twigs to support the sweet peas

Meanwhile, we are also making some progress on our little garden shed/greenhouse/play house. We're using all old doors and windows recycled from our garage and neighbor's house to create a kind of gypsy look. Rick is making it up as he goes along... we'll see how that turns out. Next comes a picnic table just in time, hopefully, for summer barbeques on the new deck.

Rick framing the last wall of the shed

It is wonderfully pleasant to spend our time in the sunny garden. I often bring a box of paint and do a bit of water color sketching.

Wicker chair beside our new flower border, a pleasant place to sun bathe 


Summer is just around the corner.

Outdoor pleasures


  1. Ah what a lovely post Nancy. It's a perfect balance for me of the familiar (the Place des Vosges, the Deux Magots) and the new, the Museum Jacquement-andré. Your garden looks to really be springing to life, and I especially like the trellis you have woven. Such interesting lines. I hope you have a really good season.

  2. j'adore Zinnie avecson rouge à lèvres !