Archive for June, 2006

Day to Day Paris

Every morning, I go out to buy bread.  Sometimes bread and pastries (croissants, pain au chocolat, chausson). There are a couple of new bakeries in the neighborhood, two just within a half block on different sides of the apartment, so I hit a different one every morning and sometimes, evening too. The first day, I went to an old standby, a little bit far away, Le Pain Quotidien, for their baguette a l’ancienne. The second day, we tried two different baguettes (a multigrain and a regular) from Aux Desirs de Manon, a new bakery across the street from the apartment. Sometimes, I come home with quiche (from another new bakery three doors away, La Baguette Magique) and tartes (pear and pistachio) and cake (Sacher). I also go to the green grocer and grocery store almost every day.

Two days ago, we went to La Grand Epicerie de Paris, a gourmet food store that is part of Le Bon Marche department store (two metro lines but only 20 minutes away).  We got some cheeses (the fromagier in our neighborhood are not very friendly and does not carry a great selection), as well as packaged specialty foods to form the basis of a few meals. Today, we went to Le Palais des Thes (about a 15 minute walk in the neighborhood) to stock up on some teas.

It is 10:30pm, and the light is finally fading.  We’ve finished a dinner of soup, cheese, salad, bread, and dessert, and are getting back to work on our projects.  Where do I go for bread tomorrow?

Musee du quai Branly, Paris

The controversial museum of “tribal art” or “art of Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas”, the Musee du quai Branly, opened on June 23, 2006. Eleven years in the making, Jacques Chirac’s legacy sits in the shadows of the Eiffel Tower, the entrance facing rows of stately 19th. century Haussmann buildings, some of which are currently advertising apartments for sale. (For a description of the architecture of the museum, see the New York Times architectural review.) Articles in the BBC, the Epoch Times, and the Boston Globe hint at some of the points of controversy, which includes the very mission of the museum. Is it an art museum? An ethnographic museum? An anthropological museum? A museum to showcase France’s colonial legacy?

Mark and I went to the museum yesterday on the fourth day it was open; an extended day of free admission. We walked to the entrance on Rue de L’Universite after crossing the Pont de L’Alma from the Alma Marceau metro stop. We were able to get a wheelchair for Mark, and were escorted by the friendly, bilingual (at least) staff to the yet-closed-to-the-public elevator banks, so we didn’t get the first impression that everyone else does of the museum by walking up a long, curved ramp to the main galleries on the second floor. We started in the Africa section, following the color-coded floor to the Asia, then Oceania, and finally the Americas. We didn’t get much of a chance to see the multimedia exhibits, mostly video displays of people engaged in various ceremonies. The video screens were buried in low, wall-like structures with seats built in, leaving space for one, maybe two people to view the screens at the same time. Others were placed to face the passageways, leading to congestion. Images projected on to the mostly glass cases and walls of the displays were not clear.

Other problems besides the typical opening pains of missing lighting, descriptions, and not-quite-ready-for-prime-time bathrooms included an ill-executed test of the emergency evacuation notice (they neglected to tell us that it was a test so the staff had to run around telling everyone “it’s just a test”) and the takeover of a gallery on the third floor by a news crew.

Although the objects on display from the over 300,000 item collection are stunning, the exhibits just did not hang together. Some of the artifacts were displayed thematically, but the descriptions were disappointing (“Masks are used for many purposes…” – uh, I could have told you that!). Others were merely like items (textiles, for example), displayed together by region (a Gujarati piece near a Punjabi piece) with no other explanation than area of origin (What were the uses of these textiles? What is the type of embroidery called? Is it the work of a predominant “tribe”? Etc.) And, there were too many objects on display. In some cases, the exhibit would have made a bigger impact by presenting just one, or fewer examples of an item (e.g. Oceanic Great House pillers).

I left the museum thinking that it was a great gallery.

Paris, 2006

Francoise and Pascal remember that the last time we were in Paris was in July, 2004 – 2 years ago! I don’t remember why we were here, but I do remember going to hear Shakti at Club New Morning and of course, buying music at FNAC. That was a lifetime ago.

In this new life, we don’t have any disposable income; our friends have become bourgeois (they are even getting married!); and the Marais has been infiltrated by Ben & Jerry’s and Starbucks (oh no, say it ain’t so!). It’s all a little unsettling.

We are here this time for the marriage of Francoise and Pascal on July 1, 2006. We have been asked to be Francoise’s witnesses, a request we found as surprising and lovely as Francoise found Pascal’s marriage proposal.

July is never an ideal time to be in Paris (why were we here in July the last time?), and the fact that Mark is on crutches, on week 3 of 6 weeks in a cast, healing from a ruptured Achilles tendon, doesn’t help matters. But luckily, it is relatively cool and overcast these days (although we are hoping for a sunny day on Saturday), and we’ve spent enough time in Paris that we don’t need to rush around being tourists (although I would like to see the new museum near the Eiffel Tower that finally opened last week: the Musee de quai Branly, dedicated to the “tribal arts” of Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas). We’ll be content to sit at “home” (Youngae’s apartment on Rue de Rivoli in the Marais) and work on our various projects.

Francoise and Pascal

The Proposal

Pascal proposed to Francoise on his birthday, October 7, 2005. A week before his birthday, he told Francoise that he would like to have a birthday party at home and invite a few of his friends. They prepared for the party together, but Pascal took charge of the invitations. The evening of the party, he asked Francoise to get the door when the first guests arrived. She did, and was surprised to find some old friends of hers. The doorbell rang again, and more good friends of hers arrived. Pascal had invited all of Francoise’s friends to come and celebrate his birthday. The biggest surprise came that evening, when he proposed to her, and she accepted. (Neither the proposal or the acceptance were anticipated or assured.) They made the announcement to the gathering of her friends.

The Reason


We’re getting married for several reasons; for poetical ones and also for practical and down to earth ones.” Francoise, January 6, 2006

Why? We asked Pascal yesterday, since he had done the proposing. The main reason was Raphael, their son, who turned 3 yesterday. And also Anjely, Francoise’s daughter, who is 12. “Oh”, says Francoise, in mock hurt, “not me?” The practical issues of joint property ownership, succession, and inheritance may have prompted the decision, but the emotional security of the children took hold.

The Wedding

Francoise hates weddings.

“… we don’t want anything pompous – no big chantillywhiteweddingdress or tuxedo nonsense….Just some nice food and wine at home with the people we love most, and good music to spend a fun moment.”

“There will be no religious ceremony, but a wedding at the city hall. Here in France a wedding at the city hall has a meaning. A “republican” (in the french sense of the word) ceremony. We are inviting our parents only and Pascal’s sister and brother. All the other members of the family are not invited because we want to do something simple. At home. And we don’t want to end up with 200 people around. But we are also inviting our best friends at the city hall and for a party at home afterwards.” Francoise, January 6, 2006


“And here I am, I have a very special demand to make:
Would you make the great honour of being my witnesses. Both of you.
I called the city hall to know if the witnesses had to be French citizens and the answer is no, the witnesses do not have to be French. You just need ID! The law and tradition here is that each member of the couple chooses 2 witnesses. And when I think of whom I would like to have next to me that day, I can think of no other person but the two of you. I hope that it will be possible for you to make it!

Voilà!” Francoise, January 6, 2006


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