Friday, November 17, 2017

LOOKING FOR COLOR


Garden of the Gods in Colorado


I needed a photo of a landscape for a 30-day watercolor sketching project. I came across my file of photos of the Garden of the Gods in Colorado and was struck by the color palette that ran through my photos. Burnt sienna, yellow ochre, raw umber -- color names that roll off my tongue and that remind me of Florence and Tuscany whose landscapes are filled with them and where their use as art materials originated. Cave paintings include these three colors and the ancient Romans mined the earth to recover the iron oxide clay that produced these well-known hues.

My interest peaked, I looked for other landscapes whose color palettes identified a place. I compared the Garden of the Gods landscape with Whidbey Island, Washington, with its reds and greens.


Whidbey Island, Washington



the lush green and grey woods near Ashland, Oregon,


Ashland, Oregon


the greys of the land and sky near the Pacific Ocean from different parts of the Bay Area.


Pacific Ocean coastline


and the rich teal and burnt sienna around Amsterdam.


Amsterdam



I realized how easily I could identify each place by its colors. Our senses are ripe with memories. Is there a color palette that reminds you of a place you've visited?


Friday, November 10, 2017

ONE YEAR

One year, and what a year it has been. The national tumult created a new dialogue about what our country means. Every gathering I attended brimmed with discussions about what we needed to do to resolve issues that we have ignored or thought we had resolved. I, like many people, had been too complacent for too long. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said,

"History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period
 of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, 
but the appalling silence of the good people."*

I have grappled all year with what I could do to speak out and support my beliefs. I marched in the Women's March last January, I sent postcards of our National Parks to our leaders in Congress to remind them that people of another era with strong ideals created our park system to safeguard the beauty of many parts of our unique country. I emailed and wrote my own representatives whenever I felt strongly about new Congressional actions. I used Countable* and the AAUW Two-Minute Activist* to further express my voice. I could have done more, but with reflection, I realized that I am not comfortable as a vociferous activist or willing to step up to run for an office. But I can do my small part to support what I believe in and those whom I see as holders of American values of freedom of expression, honesty, and diversity.

As an artist, I looked for another way to be heard.  I found a poster exhibit, Get With the Action at SF MOMA until Spring 2018, which showcases political posters since the 1960s to the present. One of my favorite posters from that era still hangs in our house.



I received the postcard, This Is Your Assignment, from Holstee* as part of their monthly mailings. The card, a design by Courtney E. Martin and Wendy MacNaughton, came during Holstee's month dedicated to Resilience. Martin, a writer, and MacNaughton, an illustrator, designed the postcard to remind us in this turbulent year that we can find answers to our fears.


Produced by Holstee, Designed by Courtney Martin and Wendy McNaughton

In preparation for the next Women's March in Oakland in January, the Oakland group has designed a new logo to fit the messages that the Women's March conveys.


from Women's March Oakland


What's the best way for me to stand for what I believe in?
Be creative.




Check out these websites for creative ideas:
HOLSTEE:  https://www.holstee.com/collections/shop-themed-kits/products/resilience-moving-through

other postcard sites:

https://www.andersondesigngroupstore.com/blogs/news/art-soul-of-america-collection

https://www.syracuseculturalworkers.com

http://wendymacnaughton.com

http://www.courtneyemartin.com

WOMEN'S MARCH OAKLAND:  https://www.bonfire.com/womens-march-oakland-oak-tree/
COUNTABLE:  https://www.countable.us
AAUW TWO-MINUTE ACTIVIST:  https://www.aauw.org/what-we-do/public-policy/two-minute-activist/


*More of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. can be found at https://paradoxologies.org/2010/08/28/martin-luther-king-jr-on-complacency-mlk/

Warning: beware of the website, martinlutherking.org. It is a front for Stormfront, a racist, extremist group.

Friday, November 3, 2017

ART DOESN'T COME EASY


What qualities best describe you?
Adventurous, resourceful, honest, resilient, persistent?

We all can find a little of ourselves in those words, but persistence stays at the top of my list. 

Watercolor is hard. I am determined though. I keep working at watercolors, and sometimes I'm satisfied with the result, other times I'm not. I first learned to watercolor using layers of washes. In a new class, I am trying to learn direct painting, where I put a stroke of color down, decide if it is the right color, and then add other colors directly to the wet paint. Sometimes this technique works for me, sometimes it doesn't.  Some days I feel like picking up my art supplies and throwing them in the trash. But I don't. 

Instead, I follow a quote from a greeting card, "If things aren't going RIGHT, go LEFT." I find other ways to help me over the bump that occurs in every creative process. When I try too hard and focus too much on little details, I have to remind myself to relax, breathe, and feel the movement of the brushes or pencils that I'm working with. Sometimes I step back and do something completely different. Yesterday I spent the day organizing parts of my workroom (again). 




This last month while I continue with my watercolor class, I answered an online challenge to do a quick postcard-sized watercolor of the same landscape every day (I excluded weekends). None of the paintings are worth framing, but they were a good way to release all the inner demons who tighten me up, who lurk behind my brush and zoom in on all the little flaws, leaving me cranky and disheartened.




At the end of the sequence, I realized I was much more relaxed with the direct painting method I have been trying to learn. Again, the new, unfinished painting is not worth framing, but I feel I have a better understanding of what I like about watercolor and how to add in the new techniques I'm learning. I keep trying.




Friday, October 27, 2017

TREE BATHING



Secret Life of Trees, chapbook by Martha Slavin


Though I love trees, I was somewhat skeptical when at a writers' retreat recently in Marin County, we were invited to go forest bathing. I'd first heard of the expression last summer from one of our nieces who lives in a large city and wanted to go tree bathing to reconnect with the natural world. Forest bathing or Shinrin-yoku became a Japanese practice in the 1980s when Japan included the practice in a public health program. The Japanese have studied the effects of a walk in the woods and the restorative value of being out in nature. We all know how soothing being in nature can be, but somehow in our busy, concrete-laden world, we sometimes forget to walk on the grass and take a deep breath.

I'm intrigued by the idea that trees talk to each other. I am not someone who has sought spiritual or mystical relationships with trees, but I am thrilled by the science behind how trees communicate with each other.  Research by Suzanne Simard at Yale shows that trees interact with the fungi in the ground and network with other trees in the neighborhood by exchanging nutrients and information about the family of trees around them. There are even trees called Mother trees, the oldest tree of a species who has the knowledge of the community of trees within its area.




I didn't expect much as we group of writers stood together at the top of a hill ready to experience forest bathing and write about it. We stepped on the well-worn path leading into a small wooded area. I find it hard to be mindful when I am not alone and conscious of others around me; but eventually, I settled down and noticed the forest. I saw a tunnel formed by the trees' branches bent low over the path to create a shelter. My eyes caught minute strands of spider webs connecting one tree to another. I only saw them because a slight breeze brought them to my attention as they floated in the air. I followed the fine lines from one tree to the next. Tiny spiders scurried along the lines to wrap up even smaller insects trapped in the webs. Birds, disturbed by our presence, chirped and flew from one perch to another. They wrestle pine nuts from the cones attached to the branches and trunks of Bishop pines along the trail. Flies or native bees swirled around me as I walked near them. Agitated, they darted from one tree to the next and buzzed around my head.




When I returned to the path's beginning, the ground spongy beneath my shoes, I spotted a circle of young pines and sat inside the circle with my back against one pine. I pulled out my journal and wrote the word "connections" while a breeze moved through the tops of the trees. I felt the tree shudder from the top all the way down to the roots of the tree, the vibrations thrumming through my back. I was surprised. I have never felt a tree move this way. I have never been so close to the heart of a tree.


Eco-printing of tree leaves



Read more about the communication between trees:

Suzanne Simard, Yale
https://e360.yale.edu/features/exploring_how_and_why_trees_talk_to_each_other

Read more about Tree Bathing:

http://www.shinrin-yoku.org/shinrin-yoku.html

Tree Bathing  QUARTZ
https://qz.com/804022/health-benefits-japanese-forest-bathing/

Friday, October 20, 2017

A LONG DRIVE TO A BEAUTIFUL PLACE






Along the road
small wonders.

Canadian geese saunter
across six lanes,
heads high.
No one honks.

A hawk
perched on a light post
above the freeway,
head turning back and forth.
Has he mistaken us for rabbits?

Carcasses
on the September highway:
tomatoes
spilling red.
A cat, raccoon, opossum,
two skunks, a deer,
red splatters of fur.
A splash of seagull feathers
against a fence.
Eco-batting,
torn open,
floating in the wind.
Strewn shirt, a pair of pants
in the gutter.
Who has lost their clothing?

Cornstalks
loaded in the open back
of a pick-up truck.
Husks waving in time
to Mumford & Sons
on the radio.

Bridges across the bay,
first one,
then another.

A long drive to a beautiful place.


Friday, October 13, 2017

PERSISTENCE


photos by Bill Slavin


What are you doing to cope with the large amount of stress created 
by the news of the last few weeks?

Each morning turning on the news brings up my stress levels. We are lucky so far, we are safe, but we know how in an instant life can change. Our backyard is our sanctuary where we can find some peace each day.



We planted redwoods as four-foot sticks in 1983 that now tower above us two or three times the height of our two-story house. We've had to cut down two of them. The arborist assured us that the trunks would die. We asked a tree sculptor to carve with a chainsaw a series of bears' heads into the trunks. One of the trunks died, but the other has continued to send out sprouts at the top and the sides of the trunk. We trim the sprouts so that the tree looks like it has a flat-top haircut. The bears' heads peek out from the ever-growing branches. Squirrels love to chew on the bears' paws, claws and foreheads. They keep their sharp teeth from growing too long that way. Blue jays hide food in the cavities around the bears' heads. The squirrels eagerly wait and take the food and bury it elsewhere.






This summer we noticed that the living tree is now growing inside the cavity where the bears' heads are carved out. The new growth is covering up the bears. Between the squirrels gnawing and the new growth of the tree, the bears will one day disappear. Nature, given a chance, takes back what we disturb. A small event in our backyard, but so true in the last few weeks across the country.



This is the same bear as the bear in the photo at the top.

Friday, October 6, 2017

DON'T FORGET ME





"It's Why It Hurts," a stream of consciousness essay by Tomas Riviera, jumps from an acute awareness of the surroundings of the narrator, a young boy of Mexican descent, to flashbacks of conversations and experiences the boy has had while going to school. The essay is part of the curriculum of the Berkeley middle school where I volunteer as a Writer Coach. It is a difficult essay to read and a challenge for the students.

The essay shows us the growing realization of the narrator about the embedded prejudices in his school. He thinks about the bullies who picked on him, his fights with them, and his ultimate expulsion that day. We hear through his thoughts that his teachers and principal don't think of him as "one of our kids," and therefore he can be easily separated from the school. As he tries to understand what has happened to him, he walks through the gates of a cemetery. He likes the property because it is quiet and green. As he nears the exit gate, he looks up and sees the sign that says, "Don't Forget Me."

The image of the sign resonated with me. The message made me think of the horrific events in the last few weeks, natural and man-made. How many lives lost or disrupted, especially due to senseless gunfire. I want to say, "Don't forget all the people who have lost their lives, whose names are broadcast on the news because they have died of gunshot wounds, people like Trayvon Martin, or the police in Dallas, or those who lost their lives in Columbine, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Orlando, Las Vegas and more. They all need to be remembered, one by one."

They all cry out, "Don't Forget Me," and then they ask, "What are you going to do about it? Prayers and thoughts are not enough. We need your collective strength to be the change that we all need. Make that our legacy."




This month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Friday, September 29, 2017

CELEBRATE AUTUMN




Have you noticed the color of the sky at sunset, the change in the air in the evening, the arrival of spiders and their webs? Are you done feasting on tomatoes and other crops from your garden? You know that Autumn is here. I love to walk through the rustle of leaves, feel the chilly air in the morning, sweep our deck of leaves and maple seeds, and look for lots of acorns as a sign of a wet winter, and  to gather with friends. What do you like to do to enjoy the best of Autumn?

The Autumnal Equinox last Friday ushers in the season and represents balance before the coming of winter. This period is celebrated in ancient religions and marked by events such as Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. The astrological sign for this period is Libra, with a scale as its symbol. In ancient Egypt, Horus and Seth, the powers of light and dark, battled each other as did similar gods in Norse and Aztec mythology. The Chinese celebrate with the Moon festival, honoring the harvest moon. From early times, we've understood the significance of the change in seasons.



At my monthly Craft Day, a friend brought me a decorated pumpkin to welcome Autumn. Our group sipped butternut squash soup, shared Stone Salad and homemade rolls, laughed, and talked while we worked to finish various projects some of us started a long time ago.

During the summer we sat outside, but last Friday we sought the warmth of a room with a fire in the fireplace. In California, the leaves haven't turned yet, but we felt the change in the weather and the change in ourselves as we reached for comfort and warmth as we head towards winter.





Butternut Squash Soup

2 tsp butter
1 onion, chopped
1 lb. butternut squash, peeled and cubed (I use the pre-cut version from the grocery)
2 apples, peeled and chopped
1 small potato, peeled and chopped
1 tsp grated ginger root
1 pinch of pepper
4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup sparkling apple cider
1/4 tsp  each of cinnamon, ground cloves, nutmeg
1 tsp packed brown sugar

1/2 cup plain yogurt
Garnish with either more chopped apple or chopped pecans or both!

Roast butternut squash, 2 apples, potato in a 400-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

Cook onion in butter in a saucepan until soft. Add squash, apple, potato, ginger root, and pepper. Stir in broth. Cover and bring to a boil.

In a food processor, puree soup, in small batches, until smooth. Return to saucepan. Stir in apple cider and brown sugar. Heat to boiling. Garnish with a dollop of yogurt and apples and/or pecans.



Stone Salad is a great way to have a potluck lunch. Ask each person to bring one ingredient to add to salad greens that you provide. Add dressing and let everyone help themselves. This way no one has to work too hard to provide a delicious lunch!

Friday, September 22, 2017

THE RIGHT SPOT






I've found that putting a plant in the right spot makes a world of difference in its ability to thrive. We have a sunny hillside that faces directly west. During the summer, the hill gets too much sun and many of the plants end up with burned leaves and drooping branches. Two bottle brushes grow on the hill. One of the bottle brushes is in just the right shady spot. Its branches are full of leaves, it looks healthy, and can withstand the occasional pruning of our deer. The other bottle brush is just a couple of feet away, but in more sun in the afternoon. Its spindly branches slump from the heat with a few leaves at the tips. The deer do further damage. The same is true of our three hibiscuses. Two are in the right spot and are shapely, while the third is in too much shade so the deer pruning is consequential.

Plants need their right spots. People do too. Do you know people who keep searching for their right spot? I think of large families where some of the siblings grow and thrive with vigor. Other members either don't connect well with their original family or suffer a series of difficult events, which makes resiliency hard to maintain. I was reminded how hard some people have struggled to find their right spot when Carl Nolte, a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, wrote about the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love.* The City became a destination for runaways that summer. Nolte wrote about Jaki Katz, a runaway to the West Coast. She said she ran away because "I was a child of middle-class parents who lived in suburbia. I was spirited and they were not...." She eventually made up with her parents and now lives as an artist in Idaho. She was lucky, she found her right spot.



When I look at my garden, I am reminded of one of my favorite gardening writers, Beverley Nichols, who wrote about gardening in his home in England. His stories about wrestling with nature gave me inspiration because of the life lessons he learned as well.

He said, "The greatest service of the amateur in the art of gardening--or indeed in any of the arts--is that he does things wrong, either from courage, obstinacy, or sheer stupidity. He breaks rules right and left, planting things in the wrong soil at the wrong time of the year in the wrong aspect. And usually, we must admit, the result is disastrous. But not always."        (Garden Open Today, 185)

Doesn't his remark fit our own search for the right spot in life too?

Other books by Beverley Nichols can be found at Barnes & Nobles online:
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/beverley-nichols-bryan-connon/1100847787?ean=9781604690446


*http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/nativeson/article/Summer-of-Love-poster-child-is-found-12168609.php


Friday, September 15, 2017

FULL CIRCLE



by Martha Slavin



My mother loved the illustrations of Kate Greenaway and Walter Crane, artists who lived in the Victorian era. Their delicate and detailed drawings for children's books remind me of illuminated manuscripts. The two artists used common motifs and design elements, such as letterforms, stars, flowers, leaves, swirls, repetition, and awareness of positive and negative space. My mother painted similar designs on the delicate ceramics she made.





This last weekend I felt like I was channeling my mother while I took a workshop called The Enchanted Letter led by Heather Victoria Held, a calligrapher and illustrator, who paints illuminated letters. She kept us enthralled with her mastery and knowledge of illumination, which harks back to the Middle Ages, when monks sat at their desks hand lettering religious books. The books done by monks were used for liturgical purposes, but other artists began using the same skills to illustrate books for wealthy patrons. The artists filled in many of the spaces with filigree, leaves, flowers, animals, and insects. The hand-made book became obsolete with the advent of the printing press, but the beauty and appreciation of these books never died. In the Victorian era, artists such as Kate Greenaway and Walter Crane, created children's books using many of the design techniques of the illuminated manuscripts.



by Martha Slavin
In the workshop, we worked on drawing the acanthus leaf that can be found in many designs dated back to the Ancient Egyptians. We learned how to shape the leaf around "S" forms. We placed leaves around borders. We added gold-leaf or gold paint. We colored the shapes first with watercolor pencils, then we dampened the color to smooth out the shading. We added watercolor to bring out highlights and contrast. We drew filigree between the shapes, added shading with pastels, and, finally, we glued on tiny crystals to add a little bling.  As Heather said, "A little bling never hurts." Much of what we did during the weekend workshop, I used to do in college and for several years afterward. I had put aside this type of work for other things. I gave away some of the reference books I no longer used. But now I am back full circle, enjoying the pleasure of this detailed, delicate work.



by Martha Slavin


If you travel to Europe and want more inspiration, you might want to look at the Lindesfarne Gospels in the British Library, or visit the home of Carl Larsson in Sundborn, Sweden, or travel to Bayeux, France, to see the Bayeux Tapestry, an extraordinary piece of embroidery using similar design techniques to relate the history leading to the Battle of Hastings.



by Martha Slavin


One of my favorite artists, Sara Midda, uses many of the techniques of the Victorian era to illustrate her charming books. Look also in the children's section of the library or bookstore for artists, such Graeme Base, Elizabeth Doyle or Edward Gorey, who have all completed an abcderian book worth looking through.





Check out these websites for more information about

Illuminated Manuscripts    http://www.illuminatedpage.com/history.html

Bayeux Tapestry     http://www.bayeuxmuseum.com/en/la_tapisserie_de_bayeux_en.html
Sara Midda    https://www.workman.com/authors/sara-midda


Dover Publications, a great reference resource   http://www.doverpublications.com/about/

Friday, September 8, 2017

I LOST MY ROCKS






I made a 3-dimensional piece called Wings that features a flag-like structure with wings fixed to the main post. The wings have words, sayings, and poems written on them. To keep the column stable, I put the structure on a board with small, smooth rocks resting on it. Each rock has a word for a sound such as "Murmur, Whistle or Shout," printed on them. While cleaning our house, I put the column on top of a cabinet and put the board with rocks in a separate place. Somewhere. I've lost my rocks. I can't find them anywhere in the house. They seem to be part of that mysterious event called "Lost," such as lost socks, lost papers, lost fish.



The lost fish might make you sit up. Not everyone would put lost fish on their list of Lost Things. We have a fountain in our backyard that we decided last fall to fill with goldfish: 30 2-inch specimens, orange, orange and black, orange and white, and black. Beautiful fish that mesmerized us as we watched them swim to the surface of the fountain's lower bowl to snatch up the flakes of fish food. We set up camp chairs so we could watch them in the evening. We added water lilies to the bowl. We didn't pay attention to the filtering system so eventually, the water became murky. We added barley, which helped some. We continued to watch the fish through the winter until one day in April when winter seemed to have exhausted itself, the fish stopped coming to the surface for food. We tried to entice them each night with fish food flakes, we tried different food, we finally abandoned feeding them entirely after Bill learned that when goldfish die they sink to the bottom, and we couldn't see the bottom.




For a month, we ignored the fountain and mourned our fish. We put away the camp chairs. I tried contacting fountain cleaners, fish stores, anyone who might be able to help us. One day, just as we finally decided to drain the fountain and clean it out, I spotted a 6-inch long goldfish under the lily pads. Bill threw some food in and out came more large orange streaks. We counted at least ten (it's hard to count large numbers of fish. They don't stand still.) We waited a couple of days and added more flakes to the water. More and more fish appeared. We now have our orange, black, and multi-colored ones back--only larger. Where were they for a whole month? On vacation? Sitting under the lily pads? We don't know, but we are now back to standing beside the fountain, dropping in food occasionally, and waiting for the open mouths of the fish as they snatch a flake and then dive down below the lily pads.

We can take our fish off of our Lost List. I still haven't found my rocks.







Friday, September 1, 2017

HERE IS HOME

Hurricane Harvey made me think of home: what home means, what home means to people when they lose theirs. Under entirely different circumstances, I asked myself that question when we prepared to move to Tokyo. It's a question all of us can ask: what does home mean to me?

MOVING TO TOKYO

I stand in the backyard and stare back at our house. Like a Peeping Tom, I look through the windows at the golden glow that the lights cast on the fawn-colored walls, on the well-read books, and the blue paisley sofas of our family room. It is early evening and I am saying goodbye to our house.







We are about to leave on a journey that will take us out of the country for the next five and a half years. I know as I stand on the ground in the backyard that our life as we know it was over.

I ask myself, "How will I ever bring this sense of 'home,' this feeling of warmth and stability, to a high-rise apartment in the middle of Tokyo? How can I uproot our eight-year old son and expect him to fit in easily in a new and very different place that is thousands of miles away?"

View from our apartment overlooking Hiroo shopping street

My husband Bill is confident that moving is a good thing. By the time he started high school, he had moved across the United States from Newport News, Virginia, to Philadelphia, to Cincinnati to Decatur, Illinois, to finally, Los Altos, California. He learned to make friends quickly by joining extra-curricular activities. He felt he benefited from the challenge of being the 'new kid' in each place.

I had moved away from home only when I left for college. By then, I was ready to extend my roots and explore new places. But that was my decision, not my parents.

Bill and I moved to Danville when we were 30, changing houses there three times before we found our present house,  before we moved to Tokyo. We had long time friends, our son Theo was in a small public school that was well-suited to his temperament, we had a dog and cat, and I volunteered at Theo's school and with various groups in Danville. We were established in our community. I knew, by moving, that I was giving up my dreams of going back to work now that our son was older. (I wasn't allowed to work while we were overseas.)

I was looking forward to our move to Tokyo, to the adventure of living overseas in a culture that I had been fascinated by since college. I was excited by the possibility of living in a place so different from our own. But as a mother, I was concerned about the transition for Theo with this move.

Little did I know as looked at the scene in the window how much of a life-changing time this move would be.

Theo and his friends in our Tokyo apartment. His friends came from Japan, India, Sweden, Australia and the U.S.


International Food Fair at Nishimachi International School, the school Theo attended.


MOVING TO TOKYO is the first in a series of essays about our life overseas called LETTERS HOME.


Watching the events unfold in Texas shows how much we have learned from our experiences in dealing with major disasters since Katrina. People have stepped in to help when help was needed. This week those helpers showed the best of ourselves.

Home is not only a building but the community that comes forward to help others wherever you may be.

Friday, August 25, 2017

PARIS WALKS





This time of year, when September comes and summer is almost over, I think of Paris and the walks we took on weekends while we lived there. Paris is only twelve miles across so it was easy to walk half way, stop for a meal and then walk back home, having enjoyed the brisk Autumn air and steak and frites. We used to laugh that our walks would start from our apartment and, no matter which street we took, would end at a restaurant near Notre Dame on the Isle de Cite because Notre Dame is in the center of Paris (look for the plaque in the pavement of the square in front of the cathedral). Many streets radiate from the two central islands where the cathedral is located.

I kept a list of the places we visited on our walks, which I've given to many friends as they plan trips to Paris. Mary Mix and her husband Greg recently returned from an extended stay and have many more items to add to a Paris Sites list. They agreed that though the French have a reputation for being grumpy, particularly towards tourists, their experience was just the opposite. The French, though reserved, are friendly and very proud of their language. While in Paris, try to speak French, even a little. When you enter a store, be sure to say, "Bon jour, Madame or Monsieur," and "Merci et au revoir, Madame or Monsieur," when you exit. The French will appreciate your gesture.


There are many short-term rentals available in Paris. Mary and Greg used VRBO to locate an apartment once they decided on the Marais neighborhood, one of many village-like areas. They found an apartment with a garden gate that led into Place de Vosges, one of the prettiest squares in Paris. Having a washer/dryer in the apartment was a big plus. They found that living in a neighborhood gave them the chance to become familiar with the local cheese store, chocolate store, wine store, the local bakery, as well as with the history of the neighborhood. Victor Hugo, a hero of Parisians, lived in an apartment on their square. Mary and Greg considered Le Moulin de Rosa, 62 Rue de Turenne, to be the best bakery in Paris, which just happened to be situated around the corner from their apartment. Other areas with interesting neighborhoods include St. Germain des Pres, Passy, and the Rue Mouffetard.

Your first stop should be the Office of Tourism. There are various locations throughout the city. You can purchase a Carte Musees which will help you avoid the huge lines outside museums such as the Louvre. You can learn what is happening in Paris while you are there as well as obtain maps of the city, the Metro, and bus lines.

Be a tourist and take the Bateau Mouche on the Seine for a river view of the City or take the red tour buses, which give you a good sense of the general layout of the City. The bus ticket is good for two days. You can get on and off as you please. Once you realize that Paris is laid out, mostly, from the center outwards (not on a grid like New York City), you can leave public transportation behind and walk.

Paris is a great walking city. While you are walking, look for Wallace fountains. They were donated by Sir Richard Wallace to provide safe drinking water to the City. They are all over Paris, they look alike, and they are green. Try the water from an artesian well such as in Square Lamartine in Passy, where you can drink very mineral-laden, fresh spring water. It is supposed to be good for complexions too.

As you walk search for wall plaques on buildings. They are everywhere and give you a good sampling of the history of the city. They may indicate where someone famous--a writer, an artist, a philosopher, a politician--once lived or they may indicate where WWII resistance fighters were executed, a reminder that makes that time in history more real.

Walk rue Mouffetard, which is still a great slice of Parisian life with many food vendors. Or cross over to l'Isle de St. Louis with its good restaurants, including l'Orangerie and Maison Berthillion for tasty ice cream.

Walk rue du Bac and rue Sevres on the Left Bank near the Musee d'Orsay to find meandering streets with many small shops including Deyrolle, a famous taxidermy shop. Both streets will also lead you to the great shopping streets of St. Germain des Pres.




Walk rue Montorgueil near St. Eustache Cathedral, where the funeral of Marat occurred. St. Eustache, unlike most churches and cathedrals in Paris, has no stained-glass windows. They were shot out at Marat's funeral when attendees gave Marat a gun salute inside the church. Stop in at E. Dehillerin, a cooking store that was a favorite of Julia Child's. They have a great selection of copper pots that can be shipped home.

Walk down Avenue Victor Hugo and Avenue Raymond Poincare from the Arc de Triomphe to the Trocadero to the Seine to the Eiffel Tower. If you walk by rue de Lasteyrie, turn on to the street, stop at #5, and look up to the fourth floor. This was our apartment while we lived in Paris. (We need a plaque on the building too!)




Walk from l'Hotel de Ville, the City Hall of Paris, stop and look through BHV, and continue to the Place de la Bastille. Follow rue de Rivoli to the Jardin de Palais Royal. Walk through the enclosed shopping arcade from the 19th century. Another arcade is Gallerie Vivienne on the rue Vivienne. Visit Drouot Auction Houses, 9 due Drouot, in an area that is a wonderful non-tourist segment of Paris. People from all over the country bring pieces to sell here--everything from bric-a-brac to grand pianos. Auction doors open at 11:00 a.m. Come and watch the professionals bid.



When you want more information about what you see on your walks, contact Paris Walks, the best tour guides in the City. Peter and Oriele Caine are an English couple who have lived in Paris for years. Their tours are a valuable source of history and information that you will not find in guide books.

Or purchase a box of City Walks Deck: 50 Adventures on Foot by Henry de Tessen before you leave home. Mary and Greg used these when they explored neighborhoods. One walk on each of fifty cards. The cards took them to areas they never would have found and filled in information about the areas they visited.

Spend a day seeing the heights of Paris by going to the Eiffel Tower, going to the top of Galleries Lafayette on Blvd. Haussman, visiting le Sacre Coeur, riding the Ferris Wheel that is outside of the Tuilleries, taking the elevator to the top  of Montparnasse Tower, and walking up the steps of the Arc de Triomphe, and hopefully, in 2018, you can marvel at the view from La Samaritaine just across the Seine from the Musee d'Orsay.

Planned renovation of La Samaritaine by Sanaa of Japan

And then when you are tired, you can walk beneath an Art Nouveau entrance to the Metro and you will find the fastest and easiest way to get around Paris. Like the Louvre, Paris is a city with so much to see that every visit will give you new items to add to your list of Paris Sites. Best way to find them: take a walk!

Thank you, Bill Slavin and Christy Myers for the photos, and to Mary and Greg Mix for sharing their adventures in Paris with me.

Good reading about Paris:

Elaine Sciolino, The Only Street in Paris
Adam Gopnik, Paris to the Moon
David Lebovitz, The Sweet Life in Paris
Julia Child, My Life in Paris
Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

If you would like my complete list of Paris Sites, email me at marthaslavin@gmail.com