Friday, August 25, 2017


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

Friday, August 18, 2017


What does being a friend mean to you?

This is a week I need to be with friends, 
a week when I want to remind myself of the value of friendship.

A friend, who spent some time in Paris recently, managed to stuff one more item into her suitcase on her way home. She brought me a tin of Lipton's Russian Earl Grey tea, a version of a familiar tea that is only available in Paris. Her thanks, she said, because, "We referred to your list of Paris Sites every day." Her small gesture joins a list of kindnesses that I have received from other people. I hope I am known for kind gestures too.

I have taken a lifetime to learn to be a better friend. Along the way, I have met many good role models who have shown me how to be more open to other people and to be a good friend.

I've been in many groups where friendships have developed over projects, over children, over common perspectives, work assignments, or because we all lived far from our homes. Our friendships made us better than we are by ourselves.

This week, when we all need to reconsider what we value most, 
I put at the top of my list the value of friendship.

"Some people come into our lives and quickly go....Some stay in our lives for awhile, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same."  Flavia Weedn

Friday, August 11, 2017


I've been trying to find Robin's Egg Blue. In the natural world, of course, it is the color of a robin's egg, which protects the egg from heat better than a darker color and from light penetration better than a lighter color. In the printer/computer world, the color is called cyan, a blue-green shade that is one of three primary pigments, the others are yellow and magenta, that create all the other colors for printing full color photographs and prints. Cyan is also called turquoise (darker) and aqua (more green). They are all different from Sky Blue.

I looked at photos of robin's eggs. They vary in shade from lighter to darker, some more blue, some more green. By itself on a swatch, robin's egg blue looks green to me. Does it to you?

courtesy of Wikipedia

Is this Robin's Egg Blue?

Or this building?

Do you see Robin's Egg Blue here?

courtesy of Google play

I decided to answer a challenge to use robin's egg blue in a piece of artwork. I'm painting a nest on a circular sheet of handmade paper. I plan to add drawings of robin's footprints, eggs, and some of the feathers. Feathers are so beautiful that I find it hard not to pick them off the ground when I find them and carry them home. But the American Robin is on the list of birds from the Migratory Bird Act of 1918 that makes it illegal for you to collect any of their particulars. The Act, which is updated periodically, was approved because at the time hunters were killing masses of birds to feed women's desire to decorate their hats with feathers, nests, and other bird parts. An exhibit about Degas at the San Francisco Legion of Honor showcases hats from the Impressionist era, which use a plethora of bird feathers and even an owl's head as adornments.

When I find a feather on the ground, I take a photo where I find them, check more feathers on the Internet, and try to draw their exquisite formation as closely as I can.

I've assembled most of the pieces of the painting. I'm not finished. After I submit the painting to the challenge, I am going to send it to the Treewhispers site so that Pamela Paulsrud can add it to her collection of tree stories.

Why robin eggs are blue...

Science Daily, May 27, 2016,

Migratory Bird Act list

SF Museums of Fine Arts:

Pamela Paulsrud, Treewhispers blog:

Peace be with you, James.

Friday, August 4, 2017


The middle of summer, 95 degrees for the last week. Hot enough that the artificial grass outside a local business is wilting. I'm hiding in my workroom, the coolest room in our house, thinking of past summers back in my childhood slurping popsicles, swimming in a lake, soaking in a tub of cold water in the backyard, trying to find a cool place in a house without air conditioning, waiting to hear the crickets at night.

Occasionally, I receive on my Facebook page a nostalgic essay reminding me that when we were kids we didn't use seat belts or wear bike helmets, we sat in smoke-filled rooms, didn't wear sunscreen and we survived. Every time I get one of these messages, I cringe. I understand that whoever sent the message is trying to recapture a gentler, more carefree time, one that made us supposedly tougher than today's children.Yes, looking back on my childhood, I remember having lots of free time, lots of friends who lived several blocks away. Yes, I crowded into cars without protection and sailed around the streets on my bike with no helmet. I also lived a privileged life.

I lived in a safe suburban neighborhood (though Communists supposedly lurked around every corner). I wasn't restricted where we could live or even walk because of the color of my skin. I rarely saw people walking down our street (there were no sidewalks), strangers just didn't come through. But I also remember the accidents: teenagers joyriding and playing 'chicken' with trains, boozed-up college students driving down two-lane roads and crashing into other cars, and adults thrown out of car windows because they weren't wearing seat belts. Some of those people didn't survive the crashes, some have gone through life with terrible scars.

That's why I cringe. I think back on my childhood with fondness, but I am glad we have enacted government protections so that kids ride more safely in cars and wear helmets when they ride scooters, bikes or skateboards. I'm glad I can 'buckle up.' I'm glad I don't have to sit in rooms filled with someone else's smoke. I look at the slight scars left from skin cancer treatments last summer, slather on sunscreen, and don my hat. I'm glad I made it through those years alive.