March 24, 2013

A Perfect Sunday in Paris

The calendar may say spring, but the chestnuts are far from in blossom here in Paris.  After a very brief respite when one could actually unbutton an overcoat, the cold grey skies have returned and Parisians are left wondering if there will ever be buds on the trees.  But at least it is not raining!

Today being Palm Sunday I took the bus over to the Avenue Georges V for a special Passiontide service at the American Cathedral.  This magnificent church has served the expat community since the 1830s and is now both a parish church and the seat of the Bishop of all Episcopal churches in Europe.  It was a beautiful service beginning with the jubilant waving of palms and ending with the Passion, the commencement of Holy Week.  The choir and music was first rate and I loved their rendition of a traditional spiritual "Ride on King Jesus".  All in all it was a very welcoming congregation and a very uplifting morning.

The next stop was for lunch in a classically bourgeois restaurant in the XVI ième arrondissement.  I enjoyed a typical French meal of leeks vinaigrette, roast chicken with sautéed potatoes and a glass of Bordeaux and it was so delicious and filling that I could skip dessert.

After lunch it was a short walk to the Musée Marmottan, a former hunting lodge on the periphery of the city that is now a museum with a magnificent collection of furniture and Impressionist paintings.  This spring they are offering a special exhibition dedicated to one of the major women artists of the 20th century, Marie Laurencin (1883-1956).  Largely self-taught and often overlooked in the annals of Modern Art, Marie Laurencin was actually at the center of the avant garde movement and was very close with some of its most famous proponents including Georges Braque, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, Nicole Groult and her brother the fashion king Paul Poiret, and especially the writer Guillaume Apollinaire. 

Curated in cooperation with the Marie Laurencin Museum in Tokyo, this exhibition presents 85 works spanning her career.  Though her paintings may seem overly feminine to some, the muted shades of grey and pink, later with splashes of yellow and blue and always with the black almond shaped eyes, are actually quite beautiful and expressive.  I had always liked the color etchings of Marie Laurencin but I gained a new appreciation for her œuvre with this show.

Due to a manifestation or demonstration - an archetypal French way to spend a weekend afternoon - the buses ceased to run and it was necessary to transfer to the métro and go underground to the next destination.  Surfacing on the Left Bank at the Place St. Michel, it was time to go to a very special event.  French friends with a wonderful art collection had invited a group to their apartment to listen to a private concert.  About 25 people packed into their salon to hear a pianist and a violinist perform works by Scarlatti, Beethoven, Schoenberg and Debussy.  The music was sublime, but what was really fabulous too was the fact that their windows overlook Notre Dame!  And at 6 PM, when the concert was over, the new bells - installed to celebrate the cathedral's 850th birthday - began to ring!

It was the perfect end to a very lovely day.  Time to wander back along the Quai, pick up something for breakfast, and tuck up in our rental apartment for a tasty wine and cheese picnic dinner!  I'll be back again soon but in the meantime I wish you un très bon dimanche!

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