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art and endives

Today, my friend and I discovered the number 27 bus. We spent the rainy morning in the apartment, eating breakfast, getting travel tickets on-line, eating lunch and jabbering, but finally it was time to go and see some art and culture. As we left, we checked the itinerary of the local bus on the map at the stop. Mind-boggling – this is the best bus route in the world, surely, through the Latin Quarter, down the Boulevard St. Michel and over the Seine in front of Notre Dame, then along and by the Louvre, the Rue de Rivoli and the baroque Paris Opéra (All together now: “The Pha – a – antom of the Opera is there, inside my mind!”) and other fantastic and beautiful streets. We got off on the Boulevard Haussman, named for the man who laid out the design of Paris we still enjoy today – and there, on the Boul. Haussman, the biggest department stores of Paris, Galeries Lafayette and Au Printemps. Imagine, a store called In the Spring.

But art and culture first; we found the Musee Jacquemart André, a mansion transformed into a small museum. Lynn, incidentally, almost always enjoys a greatly reduced price at exhibitions and in travel, either as a professor or as a mother of 3 children or more. I wonder why Canada has never considered those little bonuses. 
There was a beautiful exhibit called “From Siena to Florence: the Italian Primitives” – Fra Lippo Lippe, Fra Angelico, Montegna and more. As we went around, Lynn explained the biblical allusions because I simply have no idea – that St. Jerome is always portrayed in a grotto with a pen because that’s where he lived while he wrote a version of the Bible, for example. We discussed all the faces of Mary, some beautiful and modern – one where she looks exactly like Uma Thurman – and some distended or bulgy or plain. The baby too – sometimes fat and joyful, sometimes extremely odd, a dark, naked little bundle of prescience. 
There was a beautiful Fra Angelico “Last Supper,” in which I couldn’t find Judas. “Well,” said my friend, “I would guess he’s the one without the halo.” And sure enough, there is one disciple without the halo.
“But why didn’t the others notice that he didn’t have a halo?” I asked her. “Then they’d have figured out that something was going wrong.” But I don’t think this is a good Christian question.
We also toured the mansion itself and enjoyed especially the two bedrooms, one for Madame, and one for Monsieur, which is beautifully appointed with luxurious satin bedcovers and mirrored screens. “Decorée par Madame,” it said, “après la mort de Monsieur.” 
“That’s because Monsieur wouldn’t let her near the place,” said Lynn, “while he was alive.”
It was time for a snack. We sat at a sidewalk cafe as the crowds and traffic swirled by, and decided on the famous Poilane bread with melted cheese and ham. I wanted a coffee, but Lynn pointed out that unless it was a little espresso, I would be noticeably North American if I drank a cafe au lait with a ham sandwich at 4 p.m. It is just not done. So we both had beer and watched the parade of humanity, then found the spectacular Number 27 back. Oh no, I’ve blocked out the time we spent shopping first – walking briskly through Au Printemps and Galeries Lafayette, which are enormous and impressive, but nothing was on sale and everything was expensive. We went instead to one of Lynn’s favourite stores, HandM, which is my idea of torment. She found three great tops while I stood sweating and suffering in the overheated noise and tumult of the HandM basement. I sat down on the edge of a low display table at one point and an officious assistant bustled over to tell me to stand up. I may never go to HandM again. But three lovely inexpensive tops – it was worth it, I’m sure.
Incidentally, the public transportation system here is great – very long accordeon busses that can expand when needed, with many doors equipped with sensors. You are required to swipe your pass or punch in your ticket at whichever door you enter, so there’s hardly ever a bottleneck. Plus, of course, the amazing parking lots of “vélibes” – hefty bicycles available for a very small price, that can be rented with a swipe of a card at one point and left anywhere else in the city at another – so brilliant. I can’t wait to figure out how to use those. Plus the efficient métro. Many get around on the thousands of Mobylettes, some with two front wheels for greater stability, and the great majority of the cars, by our standards, are small. 
Along with most of Paris, we stopped to buy meat at the butcher and vegetables at the grocer on the way home. In the late afternoon you see both women and men in business clothes with bulging bags of fresh food that they’ve just bought on the way home from work. Lynn, in ten minutes with I as souschef, made veal scalopini in fresh cream and braised endives with Emmenthal. For an entrée, I made my first French vinaigrette and poured it into the two hollowed–out halves of an avocado. Then the chops and endives, followed by cheesecake, chocolate, fruit. I don’t eat veal at home, but here I happily will eat what I’m given, and it was all very delicious. In Toronto, I have a glass of wine at 5 and eat something or other at 6. Here we start the apéritif at 7 and eat a simple sublime meal at 8.30. And beforehand, I have not snacked on a single thing – especially not the half bag of tortilla chips and salsa that keep me company at home. 
This is why Frenchwomen don’t get fat. There’s money to be made in this concept – why doesn’t someone write a book?

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

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Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.

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