An artist goes to Paris


Le Défenseur du Temps
The Defender of Time

Paris is called the city of light, but especially in the dark, it is gorgeous! I shamelessly snap pictures of everything from store windows TO light reflections on rainy evenings a la Brassai, the famous French photographer whose moody shots of dark streets have enchanted us for many decades. If you will see, you must give yourself time. How much time?… As much as is necessary, as much as you have… Answers like that drive “counting people”, left -brained talented people mad” “Well, how much DO you need?” They demand. “Well I don’t know,” we artists reply, hoping they’ll just not ask that again. A painting, an essay, a story, an idea can happen very quickly or can wait until we end up missing the plane! “It’s all good!” we say and watch those around us expire with aggravation, but, in our heart of hearts, we don’t care. We got what we came for.

There is the same intriguing duality to the French. There are the “bourgeois” shopkeepers, the baguette prepared fresh every morning, the regularity of habit that makes such refined living possible and yet, a deep enjoyment of eccentricity, the flamboyant and the exotic. The highest, outrageous fashions are made with devotion by people who go home on the trains to their families each night and come back to sew each morning. They make the extraordinary possible and they know it.

For touring, comfort with a little panache seems just right. Comfortable shoes, raincoat, umbrella are essential, but do as the French women do and wear a great scarf over your raincoat or a small bouquet of violets on your lapel in the Spring, you will be forgiven all faux pas and lack of French. If you’re a man, wear a beret! Frenchmen love their hats. The French covet little bits of paper, tickets, petit mots, receipts. Do save and paste them into your diary. It’s part of the difference.

Every photographer knows that “The Shot” takes hundreds to get “The One.” Well, painters are the same way. A painting may need its own space, a life of its own. An artist is the instrument of the process. The process is composed of the Gestalt of fate, experiences, desires, the feelings, the smell and the textures have to “get into you.” We become de-sensitized by the familiar. “It’s all the same,” we say mournfully. That’s why we have to go away to wake up. This is what makes Paris so satisfying. It is never the same. It is always a little unfamiliar, yet reliably wonder-filled from centuries of nurture.

In “Shakespeare in Love” the theater owner says to the financier, “It will all turn out well.” “How will that happen?” He asks doubtfully. “I don’t know. It’s a mystery.” Is the reply. This is what I will tell you about your trip to Paris.

Off the beaten path, but my favorites:

Mariage Frères: Tea Trade, Paris
Mariage Frères: Tea Trade, Paris

Mariage Freres_Paris-tea-shop

Mariage Frères tea shop in Paris.

Tea at Mariage Frères on rue du Bourg-Tibourg. Have a madeline, a pot of tea and think of Proust’s A La Recherché du Temps Perdu. Go upstairs to the tea museum and imagine.

Parc Butte Chaumont before noon when the light is perfection. On a clear day there are fabulous views of Sacre Coeur and Montmartre, the rocks, the caves, the carved benches and fences. Don’t miss this!

The Jardin du Luxembourg on Sundays is filled with French families. The rocks on the paths look like caramels. Men are sailing model boats on the pond. This is like a Monet scene in modern garb. My favorite statue in the world stands there announcing the inevitable fall of innocence out of youthful mischief.

The Paris Mosque on weekday afternoons for green Tunisian pastries that taste like fresh grass and sweet mint tea served in glasses. You enter through the SE corner. It is unmarked!

Le Défenseur du Temps: Paris – Beauborg: Quartier de l’Horloge near Centre Georges Pompidou arrive a little early and order a coffee in the café across the street and wait.


Musee Gustave Moreau, Paris

Musée Gustave Moreau, Paris
Musée Gustave Moreau, Paris
Musée Gustave Moreau- an easy walk downhill from Montmartre – He was an amazing symbolist painter and teacher of Henri Matisse and Georges Rouault to mention just two of his famous students.

Alexandre Nevsky Cathedral 12 rue Daru: Go on Sunday morning for the experience of Russia before 1905. The timber of the men’s chorus goes right through your bones. The real gold has real flash! The icons are a different way of connecting with divinity than most of us are used to. It is very interesting!

Musée Jacquemart-Andre, 158 blvd Haussmann – sumptuous!

In St Germain de Pres listen for the bells of St Sulpice which have a different tonality than any of the other bells in Paris. They seem to say, ‘Doom! Pray or Doom! Doom is at hand.” in a very off key minor tone.

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