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Manet, Monet and the boys

The weather has taken a turn for the … well, not the worse, since it’s what it should be. A turn for the normal – actually cold in the mornings and evenings, and not that warm during the day. Which is wonderful. It means, first, that I can leave the windows closed and don’t have to hear the drilling and the beep, both of which continue unabated. And, more importantly, that I can work without feeling that sunshine calling, like a siren.

I’ve done some good work here. I know, it makes no sense to come all the way to this delicious city in order to shut myself in a room. But actually, it does. I have not a single responsibility here beyond keeping myself alive, which is an extremely pleasant chore in France. So mornings and early afternoons spent at work are filled with pleasure, knowing that a glorious city, and lunch and dinner, await.
Speaking of a glorious dinner – here’s Mr. Bruth and I at the flat before going out for our celebratory meal. I served him Beaumes de Venise, a lovely aperitif wine, and gave him a souvenir of our journey together. As we were leaving the apartment in Madrid, I took a small spoon from the pile of small spoons, to eat a yogurt on the train. Bruth was shocked at this flagrant act of larceny. Now he owns the spoon and will have to deal with the guilt.
And I am wearing a bright Goodwill jacket to hide the new bulges around my middle.
We went to the little place I’d seen on my walk, near the Pantheon – what a find. A very small, cosy, cluttered, warm room – 18 diners, max – with, wonderfully, the owner’s dog very much a presence. An airedale-type hound, he spent the evening flopping in various corners, carrying cushions around in his mouth and, at one point, my napkin, which had fallen from my lap, and generally being adorable. Bruth did remark that in Canada, dogs are not permitted to wander around restaurants. Canada’s loss, say I.
I thought we were being sophisticated in arriving at 8.15, but the room was nearly empty. Too bad, I thought, it’s because it’s a Tuesday. But an hour later, the room was full. I simply do not understand going out for dinner at 9 p.m., but that’s the French way. (And the Spanish way is an hour or two later!)
I had the menu entrée plat – entrée and main dish – and Bruth had the menu plat dessert – main dish and dessert (which was called “suicide by chocolate,” and which he had to share with me.) I did not take pictures of the food because the room was filled with actual French people – we were the only English speakers – and I didn’t want to be embarrassingly gauche and in awe. But take it from me, the food was wonderful, the wine and ambience too, and best of all were the sole eccentric, friendly waiter and the dog.
This was our trip’s big extravagance, a two course gourmet meal with free appetizers and a pichet of wine, which came to $48 each, including tip.
I love this country.
Today, the marché on the rue Monge, for supplies, and then work till mid-afternoon, when I went to the Musée d’Orsay. It’s always a zoo, and now it’s being renovated; I’d brought a book to read in the line-up to get in, which wasn’t too bad, and then the next line-up for the Manet exhibit. Which was worth the wait.
I’ll have to read more about him – it was very crowded and I’m sure I missed a lot – but the exhibit gave a real sense of the man, his work and life. There was a great portrait of him by Fantin-Latour, showing an intense, handsome young man with a thick blonde beard and hair. He loved women, painted them beautifully, took as a mistress his younger brother’s piano teacher when he was only 18 … and later had a child by her and much later married her but also possibly had a thing for the beautiful painter Berthe Morisot, whom he painted often and who then married his younger brother. Ah, a complex world.
Manet went to Madrid and was profoundly impressed by Velasquez, Goya and El Greco at the Prado – as were M. Bruth and I – and in Paris, hung around with his buddies Baudelaire, Degas, Renoir, Pissarro and Monet. His paintings were refused repeatedly at the famous art salon.
Despite his grand and influential canvases like Dejeuner sur l’herbe and Olympia, I loved best the tiny ones he did of flowers and fruit. One asparagus stalk, a few flowers in a vase, a mirabelle plum – quivering with life.
Then I did my best to see as much as possible in the time remaining, with recorded announcements in six languages urging us to vacate. The sublime Courbet, and here’s Van Gogh, Bonnard, Seurat, Degas, Cezanne, Renoir, Monet, Derain and all the others. What a time that was in France.
As I stood in front of the unforgettably grim “Whistler’s Mother,” two French women behind me were in full discussion. “Tu es deja menopausée?” asked one. I didn’t realize that “to menopause” was a verb.
Walked back through streets, streets, narrow winding windows beckoning with beautiful things great smells people having l’aperitif at countless little sidewalk cafés, sometimes this city is a cliché of itself and yet it’s all true. So, to be part of the cliché myself, I stopped in Monoprix and bought myself some pretty underpants.
P.S. I gather that the leadership debates have changed nothing – no one made a big mistake, no one made a big breakthrough, on we go. I just watched yesterday’s Jon Stewart show, featuring an interview with Massachusett Democratic governor Deval Patrick. The man is a marvel of honesty, good sense and humour. I’m not voting either Liberal or New Democrat; I’m moving to Massachusetts.



One response to “Manet, Monet and the boys”

  1. clothing says:

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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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