Saturday, May 14, 2016

Paris for Mother's Day

Throughout the morning, all I could think was- 
to be in France, America is everywhere.

We started the day at the American Church of Paris and my first thought was- this is what America is supposed to be.  The congregation is multicultural, English is spoken with many accents, everyone is open and inclusive, a biracial couple baptized their child, and we all worshipped together.

Afterward, we crossed the river to walk toward the Arc de Triomphe- May 8 is Victory in Europe Day celebrating Germany's defeat in WWII.  The french refer to it as Huit Mai which means 8 May and most do not treat this as a big event-hmmmm.  But: we walked up Avenue Franklin Roosevelt (there is also a metro stop bearing his name), across Avenue du General Eisenhower toward the Champs Elysee where they were having their first pedestrian-only Sunday after a parade.

 Then for lunch we took the Metro back toward the Marais and walked across the Ile de la Cite.  We enjoyed the bird sellers near Chatelet as much as when the kids were small.
Heads up, for the rest of the walk we talked about how this could be the inspiration for our children's book, Canard on the Loose.  I had visions of a duckling in a striped shirt and beret dodging traffic when Pete said "Au Revoir!"
 Next, the Institut de Monde Arabe- on every list for the architecture and views from the roof (which is free), but the temporary exhibit explored Oriental Gardens (east and far east) and their influences.  All the Jardins Exotique filled with succulents, cacti, and water features that we have seen on the Côte d'Azur were originally experimental gardens to acclimatize and design what would grow in France in order to include them in royal gardens since 13th century.

Then, back across the river to the Centre Pompidou- another amazing rooftop view, another amazing permanent collection and another temporary exhibit to introduce us to a new artist.

 The Centre Pompidou is filled with works by Matisse, Picasso, Kandinsky, Georges Bracque, Calder,  and Mondrian.  Again, I keep asking myself why I waited in line and paid exorbitant prices at the Louvre and Musee d'Orsay while these collections are easily accessible with inexpensive tickets and you feel like you are in a private showroom.
 And one of the highlights was the temporary exhibit on the work of Gerard Fromanger.  I have definitely seen some of his work but enjoyed learning more.  Another connection: one of his patrons was Aimée Maeght of the Maeght Foundation in St. Paul de Vence, which is one of our favorite museums.  Maeght and his wife spent a lifetime cultivating artists, nurturing their work and providing places for them to exhibit.  The Foundation in St. Paul de Vence is full of Miró, Bonnard, Georges Bracque and amazing sculpture gardens with Calder mobiles spinning next to Miró's happy figures.

Again, so much to process, so much to see, so much to learn.  Camille, Pete, and I were talking as we walked today about who the smartest people we know are.  Several names were thrown out but ultimately, we agreed that our neighbors, Art and Marilyn Holder, were probably at the top of the list.  Not because of their diplomas or degrees (although those are impressive), but because they are lifelong learners.  They read, travel, go to book clubs, take classes- we agreed that it is the pursuit of knowledge over a lifetime, not for any job/profession or test, that makes you well rounded, engaged and well-educated.  

If anything at all comes of this "Semester of Enrichment" we have been given, I hope it is that lifelong pursuit of knowledge- the curiosity- that stays with my children.  They now know that they are responsible for their education, more so than any teacher, parent or institution and they are making the most of it!  Now that is a Mother's Day present.

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