Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Guthrie's 7th Birthday Yesterday!

Above is adorable birthday boy's breakfast of frosted flakes.

Guthrie with his 2 top front teeth missing and his new Pokemon shooter with his admiring (and jealous) sister Harper:

The desserts Guthrie chose - Apple tart, a cigar filled with chocolate for Harper, raspberry tart and a mille Feuille (a thousand leaves of pastry):
Guthrie making a secret namaste birthday wish before blowing out the 7 candle:Harper with her chocolate mask tonight, right before eating half of it while watching Mulan 2:


The day before we left Lyon for Paris, I met Corinne at the Centre for Deportation and Resistance to see the Centre of Documentation (archives, books, films, microfilm, etc). All the films I need to see about the Resistance are there and I can go there and watch them! The librarian also showed us an interactive online map, on the City of Lyon's website, of historical sites and memorials to the Resistance in Lyon. This will be useful for my own map. I am glad one DOES exist and that it can be accessed all over the world via computer. I now want to make a different kind - a series of etchings, a huge one, one that can be folded or flipped through for those people wishing to walk the city to see these places. Corinne and I sat and flipped through images on a computer screen of: bridges sabotaged by the Resistance; Maquis in the fields, woods, mountains; truckloads of refugees; bomb craters; propaganda posters.

Corinne came over for dinner that night - a spicy shrimp, lemon, garlic and parsley linguine with a fresh arugula, spinach, gorgonzola, raisin and pear salad, fresh bread, green beans, and the most amazing raspberry-marzipan tart. Corinne brought the perfect bottle of white wine from Alsace - delicious! She also brought beautiful Mardi Gras chocolate butterfly masks for the kids (above).

At the top of the sixth flight of stairs at Laurence's Vincennes apartment:

We drove 5 hours to Paris - to our friend Laurence's small apartment in Vincennes, 6 flights up, no elevator. We went straight to bed only to wake up around 4am because David was in excruciating pain again from kidney stones. It was raining and snowing, freezing cold grey outside. I ventured out with the kids to find a pharmacy only to realize the only 24 hour one was blocks and blocks away. So, I convinced the man at the nearby shop to let me use the phone to call the SOS doctor/emergency number (and to let Harper use the potty in the dark back room at the same time!) They said an ambulance would be there "rapidement'. I had to move the car so we would not be towed and the kids and I trudged through the snowy rain with umbrellas and luckily found a free spot across the street alongside the Park Vincennes. By the time we got back to the apartment, David had been taken to the hospital by ambulance, leaving a note with the hospital name. We were scheduled to meet Carol and family at the Eiffel Tower at 10:30 and David had told me to take the kids (for Guthrie's birthday present), so we took the metro and voila! When the metro came out of the tunnel, Paris was in full sun! We met Carol, Kevin, Augustine and Oliver and went up to the 2nd floor by elevator. Harper and Guthrie brought their binoculars, got 2 little Eiffel Tower keychains and postcards and loved seeing Carol, who brought sweet gifts for them both, making them very very happy.

We took a taxi directly afterwards to the hospital, missing David by 3 minutes. I was in tears, exhausted and worried. David did not have keys to the apartment and I was not even sure he remembered the address or door code to the building. We had to walk long blocks to find a taxi stand and i told the driver Ave. Franklin Roosevelt, showing him the address in Vincennes. After quite a while driving - the hospital was in the Vincennes neighborhood where we were staying - I clarified with the driver that it was Ave. Franklin Roosevelt in Vincennes. "Ah Madame!" He thought Paris, so he had to turn around and drive for quite some time back to Vincennes. I was in tears again. By the time we got to the apartment, we had missed David again. Luckily, he left us a note that he was at the pharmacy getting his medicine and would be back soon. I made the kids noodles for lunch and when David got home we all took a long nap. He was not even charged for the ambulance or hospital and was given 2 drips of painkillers while there. Feeling better, we went off to see Christian Boltanski's new remarkable installation, Monumenta, at the Grand Palais and to the Jeu de Paume for exhibitions by 3 women photographers, including Lisette Model.

Harper's photograph of brother and Papa on the Paris metro:

Guthrie's photograph of sister and Mama on the Paris metro:

Christian Boltanski's Monumenta at the Grand Palais, a huge pile of clothes with a red crane hand reaching down regularly to grab some clothes, lift them up high and thend rop them down, fluttering like birds. Sometimes the hand takes too many clothes and can not lift them.

There is a signature Boltanski wall of rusty tins as you walk into the
spectacular interior of the Grand Palais:

This is one of my favourite greens, institutional, jade, sea foam, and on these art noveau pillars and Guthrie's red Cassius Clay t-shirt by Basquiat - wow!
Harper playing on one of the Grand Palais' interior architectural balls:

Paris at dusk, looking back over to the Eiffel Tower from the Jeu de Paume:

By the time we were finishing Boltanski, David started having pain again, took some medicine and sat out the Jeu de Paume in the lobby. We took the metro home and David lay in bed in pain until he fell asleep. I made some pasta for dinner and let the kids open some birthday gifts and we all went to bed, deciding to leave Paris a day early, missing the Mona Lisa. We drove home on Sunday under gorgeous dramatic skies, finding a very cool mushroom playground on the side of the highway and some bad highway food. It felt good to be home.

Guthrie feeling his loose tooth and feeling bad after stepping on
Harper's fingers on a ladder inside one of the playground mushrooms:

The top of the pink flower slide:

Yesterday was Guthrie's 7th birthday and he was HAPPY all day. It was perfect. He loved his presents: a Pokemon disk shooter with suction cups; a Praxinoscope (spinning projection machine) from the Lumiere Institute; marbles; a harmonica; another Pokemon game and other little trinkets. We had bagels for lunch and found a can of refried beans for him - his favorite and impossible to find here. They rode the carousel and he picked out his desserts - apple tart and raspberry tart. I made his requested dinner: chicken, rice, refried beans in tortillas and David and I had yummy margaritas (with sugar-salt rims, cointreau and fresh lemon-lime) and guacamole.

He lost his 2nd top front tooth while eating the bagel and the tooth fairy brought him another 5 euros! He looks like a 7 year old now. The kids are on a week long vacation, with another 2 weeks off in April. Lucy and Pam arrive on Thursday for a week and I go to NYC-Hartford to give my lecture at University of Hartford on "Framing War". David went to see a Urologist yesterday and recommended that he see a radiologist. He goes on Thursday. Seems like he can only take these prescriptions and wait it out, hoping to pass all the stones on his own. If they can see anything with the x-rays and cat scans, maybe they can use some ultrasound laser technology to get the stones broken up or even operate. He is at work but exhausted and in pain. (Now he is home sipping Tilleul (lime tree) tea, a litre of it, per the local herboriste's recommendation.)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Off to Paris

We are off to Paris this afternoon for Guthrie's 7th birthday - Eiffel Tower, Mona Lisa, etc. We will meet Carol Mavor and family at the Eiffel Tower tomorrow morning. Expect lots of pictures soon. In the meantime, I was weeping on my way home from the kids' school this morning when my favourite Lyonnais radio station, CANUT (silkweaver), played a song by Tom Waits - one I had never heard before - about God being lost on the road to peace regarding Israel and Palestine. I posted a link to the lyrics to the top-right of my blog and I hope there is a link there to listen to it. If not, google it, find it, it's worth it!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Hauterives, the Ideal Palace

The day before, Harper with 100 painted around her eyes for 100s day at her school.
It was the 100th day of school. They had a Valentines Day party
at which they made pasta necklaces and ate candy.

Leaving our apartment for Hauterives, I notice, for the first time,
this sign of shoes posted at the bottom of a wall across the street:

Here is that magical tree again, this time with snow and a little bit of fence:

Snow covered Sumac next door to the Ideal Palais:

We went back to Hauterives yesterday to finally see Le Palais Ideal du Facteur Cheval, the Ideal Palace by the Postman Ferdinand Cheval. There was much more snow in Hauterives than in Lyon which made for a dramatic drive and a brisk viewing of this marvel. The palace is 26m long, 14m wide and 10 m high. It was made with 3,500 bags of chalk, 1,000 square metres of masonry and countless stones collected by the postman while he delivered the mail. He worked on it for 33 years - starting in 1879 and finishing in 1912. He dies in 1924 at the age of 88. In 1969 the palace is classified as a historical monument by Andre Malraux, who considers it the only example of architecture in the naive style. Between 1983 and 1993 the palace and gardens are restored and the town of Hauterives purchases the monument in 1994. Thousands come each year to visit it. In the gift shop, which has been expanded since our last visit 10 years ago, you can find postcards, posters, videos and the usual tourist items, but also books comparing him to Gaudi and when you look at the work of both of them, it is uncanny. It is quite remarkable that a postman in rural France singlehandedly constructed a palace that looks like something made by an accomplished Spanish architect!

There are quotes by Cheval throughout the palace,
inscribed in the surfaces. Some of them are:
10 thousand days
93 thousand hours
33 years of struggle
Shall those more obstinate than I get to work"

One of my favourite quotes:
"I am the faithful companion
of the intelligent worker
who looks for his little continent
each day within his own countryside."

The Hindou Temple. There is also a White House and a Swiss Chalet.

"This monument is the work of a countryman.
Guarded by the three giants, have I shown
the epic story of the humble people
who furrow the ground."

"To the brotherhood of man."

"For good men, all people are brothers."

"Our motto is to love everyone."

Guthrie and Harper LOVED the palace and because of Harper's repeated plea for me to ask the people who work there why we couldn't go up the stairs that were taped off, I DID ask and they let us go up!

Guthrie on the roof -

This is a view of the rooftop through a plastic curtain:

A roadside ruin from David's car window:

Le Canut et Les Gones

Here I am in the coat I bought at the open-air market,
ready to go out, waiting for the babysitter:

I must describe last night's dinner, the best we have had so far, the night before Valentines Day, at a local Croix Rousse restaurant, Le Canut et Les Gones (The Silkweaver and the Kids). It was one of our favourites from 10 years ago and it remains so. We went last night to "test drive" it, as we made reservations there for when Andy comes to visit from London in March. (For those of you who do not know British Andy - he is a fluent French speaker, writes about wine for the Evening Standard where he is an editor, is an excellent cook, David's best friend and a real food and alcohol lover.)

Les Canuts et des Gones is one of the funkiest places in town. Broken clocks and old tin signs cover the ancient walls. Old stone archways are visible in places. The calm and amazing kitchen is partly open so you can watch them torch things and prepare unforgettable delicacies. The chef comes out to talk to friends-customers regularly. Service is impeccable, friendly and while the food is divine, it is almost casual and not too expensive. Our whole meal cost about 100$.

They brought us little glass square dishes filled with a whipped salmon and chives on top of a scoop of curry, wasabi sauce. We ordered Communards for our aperitifs (red wine with creme de cassis). My appetizer was the most incredible soup I have ever tasted and I hesitate calling it "soup". It was a veloute (cream) of yellow squash with swirls of broccoli coulis and olive oil drizzled over it in a perfect pattern and it was topped with the lightest temple mound of whipped creme fraiche on top, sprinkled with tiny poppyseeds. (I am not sure if it was whipped creme fraiche, but it was not whipped cream and not egg whites. Creme fraiche is my best guess.) David started with a farm egg floating in a piping hot bowl of beef broth and lemongrass. We had a basket of fresh soft and crunchy bread to soak up what we could not get on our spoons.

Then we had a delicious Cote du Rhone with our entrees. I had an enormous pork chop, glazed and juicy, served with a cylinder of orzo (that they call bird tongues pasta!) cooked with fresh spinach and ricotta cheese. I have never had such a good pork chop in my life. David had confit de canard topped with whipped sweet potaoes, a piece of duck that looked like a big dumpling, with whipped rutabagas. We were so happy. I had been waiting for my first Ile Flottante and there it was on the dessert menu. We shared it and could not even finish it but it was incredible: an asymetrical bowl holding a pool of creme anglais and caramel topped with a hefty but airy triangular wedge of whipped egg whites drizzled with caramel. I was in heaven. That is my all time favourite dessert (although the panna cotta I had after lunch in Hauterives, topped with a coulis of red fruits, was pretty amazing too). When we asked for the bill, they brought it too us with two tiny glasses of chestnut and caramel liquor - divine.

We walked home in the freezing cold, happy and full. Can't wait to go back and next time, I will bring my camera!

And here I am again in a shirt-jacket I bought at the same open-air market, and peeking through, a plaid Kookai blouse with a lazy and loose neckline, bought at Printemps - Lyon's fancy 6 story-high department store - during their super January sales: