Photos from the Parc Floral

We went to the Parc Floral last Saturday to enjoy a free jazz concert. It costs five euros to get into the park itself, but we’ve heard you may be able to enter for free if you can make it there before 11am (we could not). The outdoor concert venue was pleasant, had good acoustics, and thankfully was covered, since the rain was off-and-on all day.

The flowers were beautiful and so many of them at peak bloom. There was a butterfly room to explore as well.

As always, I had my trusty Pentax Optio with me in its Altoids Case tin. I tried my hand and some nature photography with it, which has only made me more impatient to get my hands on our new digital SLR (more on that later). Note the arrival of the bee in the purple flower photo. I was impressed, but imagine what I could have done with a faster shutter speed!

My photo journey from the Parc Floral:


White Butterfly

Purple Flower With Bee

Purple Flowers


Yellow & Pink Flower

Day for Dads

In honor of Father’s Day yesterday, here are some photos of dads in our family. First, my own Dad today and in 1980. Then, a portrait of my Grandad followed by a photo of my Grandpa when he arrived home from Korea.
Dad and Rachel in DC
Dad and Me in D.C.

Dad, Rachel, Monica 1980
Dad, Monica, and Me, Los Angeles, 1980

Grandad (Mom’s dad)

Grandpa Home Korea
Grandpa (Dad’s dad) Home from Korea

Visiting the Rodin Museum


A friend of mine was in town this week and had a long list of exhibitions, concerts, and plays she was going to see. I went along with her to the Rodin Museum to see the show entitled Le Rêve Japonais (The Japanese Dream). Both the show and the museum were wonderful, as was the serene sculpture garden. For someone like me who is not usually a fan of sculpture, I was pleasantly surprised. It occurred to me that perhaps I never enjoyed sculpture because I hadn’t studied it very much at all.

The exhibition included many Japanese works from Rodin’s personal collection, as well as sketches the artist carried out himself that show the influence of Japanese prints on his own art. A sign at the entrance warns parents that some of the images are not suitable for children. Indeed, many of the prints were erotic and quite graphic. A large part of the exhibition focused on the Japanese actress Hanako, who appears in many sculptures and photographs.

The garden at the Rodin Museum seems to get a lot of press, and rightly so. Three of the artist’s major works ?? The Burghers of Calais (see photo above), The Gates of Hell, and The Thinker ?? are shown here amidst blooming flowers and winding paths. It is bordered by the walls of the enormous but graceful 18th-century hôtel particulier that houses the museum itself (and another great sculpture, The Kiss) and which served as the artist’s residence (!) from 1908. A visit to the gardens without access to the rest of the museum costs just one euro. I don’t know why it took me eight months to finally visit!

Musée Rodin
79, rue de Varenne
Paris 7e
métro Varenne or Invalides
Open everyday but Monday

Reve JaponaisHanakoHanako PortraitMusee Rodin

Knit in Public Day

Knit Public Bootee SMHow did you celebrate Worldwide Knit in Public Day yesterday? Many areas of Paris held events in a range of formality, but my friend Julie and I decided to celebrate La Journée Mondiale du Tricot at the beautiful and centrally-located Palais Royal. The French yarn company Phildar was giving away free needles and yarn, but we were so overwhelmed by dedicated to our current projects that ?? gasp ?? we decided to pass on it.

The Palais Royal is located just across the rue du Rivoli from the Louvre Museum. One of many experiments in making contemporary an old royal site (like the Louvre’s pyramids), the courtyard is covered in black- and white-striped columns of various height designed by the contemporary artist Daniel Buren. The little columns made for lovely perching seats for knitting, although I had to work on my posture to save myself from a backache.

To coordinate with our surroundings, a small group of the organizers made a knit Buren column, which I thought was quite lovely (see photo below). Julie is getting closer to finishing the scarf she’s working on for her trip to Iceland this summer, and I almost finished bootee number 17 million. The sun even made an appearance and everyone was in good spirits: strangers talked to each other, friendly little ladies came up to us talking about how they used to knit socks, too… Restores your faith in humanity, to be honest. Ah, the power of knitting!

Knit Column SMKnit Column Close SMJulie & Rachel SMWorldwide Knit Public Poster

Paris Restaurant Picks

Ile FlotanteWhen it comes to eating a classic French meal in the more touristy areas of Paris, quality food and a pleasant experience are sometimes hard to find. Here are some of the tried-and-true dining establishments we’ve come to love.

3rd arrondissement:
Chez Janou
2, rue Roger Verlomme You will need this phone number to reserve a table; this restaurant fills up fast!
Traditional provençale cuisine with an emphasis on fish dishes. Try a pre-dinner “apéro”: a large selection of pastis, the anis-flavored liqueur from Provence. The atmosphere is busy and the walls are covered in vintage posters of films based in Provence (notably screen adaptations of Marcel Pagnol’s popular books).

5th arrondissement:
Café Panis
21, Quai Montebello
Reliable classics like French onion soup and croque monsieur, with a friendly waitstaff. To accompany your lamb or steak-frites, order a bottle of Cotes du Rhone for 12.50. Old Latin-quarter feel with old books filling the walls of bookshelves. Hard to believe such an “authentic” feeling place could be just across the Seine from the tourist center that is Notre Dame Cathedral. I wouldn’t say there are no tourists here, but it doesn’t have the high-stress atmosphere of some other Latin Quarter restaurants a few blocks over on rue de la Huchette.

6th arrondissement:
Le Bistrot d’Henri
16, rue Princesse
Metro: Mabillon
Traditional French cuisine, from the foie gras entrée (if you dare…) to the crème caramel dessert. Prix-fixe menus under 20 euros.

La Bastide d’Opio
9, rue Guisarde
Provençale cuisine that may even beat Chez Janou (see above). Fish, chicken, and brochettes (skewers of meat) are delicious here. The daily specials are particularly recommended – classic flavors with creative flair. Don’t forget to order a dry rosé from the Aix-en-Provence area: not sweet, but an oh-so-refreshing complement to the sunny, savory food.

10th arrondissement:
Chez Julien
16, rue du Faubourg Saint Denis
The Flo chain of restaurants has received some bad press, but I was impressed with my dining experience at Chez Julien. The exquisitely preserved Belle-?poque dining room is quite a marvel, with stained glass peacocks and art déco paintings of muses.  My salmon was tasty, as was my île flotante dessert (“floating island,” in the above picture).  A friend was disappointed in her crème caramel, which was flavored with a hint of orange. Nonetheless, a friendly and fun dinner.

18th arrondissement:
Le Bruant
rue des Abesses, in Montmartre
Prix fixe menu for 17.50 or 23 euros, depending on how fancy a dish you’d like to order.  Bistro classics (steaks and chicken) and live jazz several nights a week.

Picasso’s Carmen?

Picasso Carmen

Was Picasso ?? lover of women, Spaniard expatriate, passionate painter ?? preoccupied with the figure of the gypsy seductress, Carmen? The Musée Picasso is currently holding an exhibition based on the premise that the character of Carmen, first developed in Prosper Mérimée’s 1845 novel and then interpreted in Georges Bizet’s 1874 opera, was an influential figure in the painter??s oeuvre and imaginary. Alan Riding??s interesting review in the International Herald Tribune promotes this reading of Picasso??s work, imagining a seductive Carmen as motor and muse for his representations of the many women he painted throughout his life. I am not convinced this reading ??sticks,? however, once you??ve examined the sources on display.

To be sure, Picasso twice illustrated editions of Carmen ?? once in the late 1940s and again in 1964 (Le Carmen des Carmen) ?? and entitled “Carmen” an early drawing of a Spanish woman. A Spaniard and also lover of many women, images of his lovers wearing mantilla veils appear in dozens of drawings and paintings, as does imagery of the corrida. These two themes ?? seductive women and the bullfight ?? are indeed the principal components of the Carmen story and so, also, form the bulk of the Picasso works in the exhibition.

But I argue that these themes are simply identifiers of the Spanish culture from which Picasso came and then definitively left behind during the Franco era. The retro-fit operation of placing Carmen behind these works of art doesn??t seem to fit when Carmen really represents an exotic, Spanish caricature that would mean more to an outsider (say, a French author) than to the painter himself.

The Corrida
An avid fan of the corrida, Picasso quite often experienced this tradition of stamina and struggle, honor and sacrifice. It should be no surprise that the bullfight would emerge in so many of his drawings and paintings: Alan Riding has a convincing argument that Picasso used the bullfight in his art as a metaphor for animalistic human passions. Nonetheless, it would hold more strongly that the corrida imagery came from first-hand experience and artistic interpretation than it did from a 19th-century French story the artist read or opera he saw. It is not doubtful Picasso was interested in the corrida theme of the Carmen story, but the interest most likely preceded the story and not the other way around. It made up the cultural imaginary that surrounded him.

The Seductress
Much has been said about Picasso??s personal life. Womanizer to some, serial monogamist to others, he was married twice and had four children with three different women, and had many other companions in between. Françoise Gilot notoriously wrote about their 9-year relationship in often unflattering terms. I am not convinced, however, that this behavior is linked to a ??Carmen? that Picasso sought time after time in his serial amorous exploits. The theme of the femme fatale has more far-reaching origins and widespread interpretations than the particular figure of Carmen. Fin-de-siècle and Belle Epoque art and literature is particularly preoccupied with dangerous, hysterical, and eroticized femmes fatales, through figures like the biblical Salomé in the symbolist art of Gustave Moreau, paintings by Gustav Klimt, and literary works by decadent writers like Joris-Karl Huysmans. If in Picasso’s work or life such a figure emerges, it would be more useful to analyze this phenomenon in the broader context of late 19th- and early 20th-century art.

In all, the exhibition did not seem to provide convincing evidence of a ??Carmen? figure as the influential force behind the works displayed, but promoted instead a hind-sight look at his oeuvre through Merimée??s lens. Spain seen through the eyes of a Frenchman (be it Mérimée or Bizet) then caricaturized and reintroduced to a Spaniard? It may be giving too much credit to the mythical Carmen what Picasso??s own native visual inspiration and cultural imagery produced in his work. This context would serve as a more accurate and equally interesting premise to the exhibition.

“Picasso-Carmen: Sol y Sombra” runs until June 24.
Musée Picasso, 5, rue de Thorigny, 3rd arrondissement.
Open everyday but Tuesday from 9:30am-6:00pm.

Picasso Corrida Muerte ToreroPicasso Carmen des CarmenPicasso La CelestinePicasso Fernande MantillePicasso Olga FauteuilPicasso Olga MantillePicasso Senora Canals