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Kicking It: A Month in Paris, Day No. 11

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal

Special to The Village News

As one day folds into the next, we continue to explore the various neighborhoods in the 7th arrondissement. Today, Oct. 18, we board the #63 south to the St. Germain des pres Church bus stop.

Heading toward the front steps of the cathedral, we are stopped by a guard. He explains that today the church is closed for Frank Alamo’s funeral. Who? When we get back tonight, I look up his bio. It turns out, Frank had some success as a pop singer from 1960-1965, but in ’65, he redirected his flagging career as a crooner to go into automobile manufacturing. Alamo did this until his death. He died on his 71st birthday, a week earlier on Oct. 11, 2012. Alamo’s company only made 500 vehicles called the “Dallas Jeep.”

No longer having a plan, we just walked along the neighborhood streets and alleyways. To our delight, we stumble upon the Delacroix Museum. It’s in a small row house with just three rooms upstairs filled with his art. It’s a real jewel box.

With the rest of our day open, we lament over lunch about our lost day. That’s when our Brazilian waiter Enzo recommends that we catch the movie just down the street. “The Paperboy” is a new release starring Nicole Kidman, John Cusack, and Matthew McConaughey.

It turns out to be dubbed over in French with English subtitles. It is a bizarre film to say the least. In fact, it is a stretch even for the characters to imagine that Nicole Kidman is born in a shanty in a Louisiana swamp. As the weird movie progresses, we get an in-your-face close up of McConaughey’s naked bottom. While VJ may be scarred for life, for me, it wasn’t all that bad.

On many of our bus rides crossing over the Seine, we notice, amongst all of the French exhibits, there is one American artist with his own show at the Grand Palais. The other thing we are noticing is how very long the lines are to get in. Since tomorrow is Sunday and the good French should be in church, we figure we should wake up at the crack of dawn and que up before the line begins to form. And we do!

It’s not even 8 a.m. and we’re number 3 in line. Patting ourselves on the back, it isn’t until 9 o’clock, that some smarty pants announces that today is in fact the first day of standard time. Simply put, we have another whole hour to wait.

Even so, it is well worth our time. This is our first introduction to Edward Hopper. Of course, his most prominent work still hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago, as it has ever since the paint dried in 1942.

A renowned illustrator-artist, on par with Rockwell, simply everyone knows his famous café scene “Nighthawks.” For one thing, it is the opening shot on the TCM channel before the movie is introduced.

We also learn that Hopper and his wife Jo are the models in the painting for the customers seated at the counter. For us, it is love at first sight.

As a side note: over the following years, we became so infatuated with Hopper’s work, I can honestly say we “stalked him” by starting at the Chicago Institute, his house in Massachusetts, and all the way to the Whitney Museum in New York to see his original think piece sketch for “Nighthawks” done on a rough piece of manilla construction paper.

Years later, we even find his lighthouses hung in a small museum in Portland, Maine. Apparently, it was budget friendly for artists to paint light houses at that time along the Maine coast because there are lots of them there.

We finally book our tour to Normandy. We meet the other guests in front of the tour office at 6:30 a.m. in the dark. We are squished into a van for a wild ride in both directions. Yet, the result of the effort is monumental.

Spearheaded by France’s second most famous general, Charles De Galle, this memorial is a solemn and respectful, heart tugging tribute to the Americans who died on the Normandy beaches. This grave yard is indeed testament to the high price of war.

The driver must be on a time schedule because in less than two hours, he shuttled us away from the Memorial to a pub in the nearby village of Bayeux for lunch.

As it happens, we are across the street from the Cathedral that houses the medieval Bayeux Tapestry. Made of linen with wool embroidery, it is over 70 meters long (224 feet). It details the Battle of Hastings. The tapestry is attributed to William the Conqueror’s wife Matilda.

One of the battle scenes depicts when King Harold is shot in the eye by an arrow thus ending the battle which results in The Duke of Normandy aka William the Conqueror claiming England’s throne in 1066 and the rest as they say is history.

The next day, while VJ waves to me from the top of the Arc de Triomphe, my nose is pressed against the glass at the Louis Vuitton flagship window. But, to my chagrin, the reflection dominating my view is none other than the McDonalds across the Boulevard Champs Elysée.

To be continued…

Elizabeth can be reached at [email protected].

 

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