Paris Retrospective

shock and awe at Deyrolles

One night I dreamt I was still in Paris, at Deyrolles. A fabulous scene was filmed here, in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. In the dream, Ben and I spent a couple of hours just prowling around upstairs, and more than a few critters seemed to come to life before my eyes!

how do you think we look, dear? deer? aunty antelope?

I felt like I’d taken a step back in time. Perhaps a time warp of the imagination? Deyrolles still sells dessicated butterflies (dead, but still pretty), stuffed birds, and so on and so forth…. the price tag increases exponentially with the size of the dead critter, especially when the number of legs goes from 2 to 4 (with the exception of their insect collection, of course).

Oops! just noticed the grizzly?

Paris reverberates with music and musicians… every summer they have la Fête du la Musique, a big music festival, with free music all over the city, from small neighborhood cafés and clubs to giant concert halls and expo centers. We stumbled on this antique instrument shop one day as we were strolling around aimlessly… one of the best ways to see Paris.

old musical instruments for sale

are those lyres beside the harps?

Walking around Paris you find stuff you never dreamed of… like the best chocolatiers in the world.

Cocteau: avant-garde eggs

Unfortunately the average tourist who “does” Paris in a 3-day hypertour only gets off the double decker tour bus to file into the Louvre to see la Gioconda, and is too exhausted at the end of the day to relax and mingle with locals. Here are a few pix (hard to choose!) of some splendid creations:

Apricot pistachio tart…. yum

the essential baguette, fit for palace or attic alike

Ben, the aspiring baker, comments that the ONLY reason bakeries open (for a few hours) on Sundays is because people have to have fresh baguettes every day!

Salvador Dalí, well-known Spanish baguette lover and surrealist, did a fine series of illustrations for Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll’s fantastical story about a girl who wandered into a stranger than strange land. We saw the exhibit at the Espace Dalí  in Montmarte. Dalí’s ink drawings are amazingly delicate: such loving, precise and precious details… perhaps intended for a particular child, as was the book. Of course, Alice in Wonderland IS a children’s book… for the imaginative child in all of us.

white rabbit

Dalí knew that even Angels need a little extra support sometimes.

even Angels have rough days…

Salvador Dalí circa 1940

And since this is a retrospective with some of my favorite Paris photos, here’s Adam giving God a drag in Montmartre:

maybe this explains why so many Parisians smoke

Angels on both sides of the Atlantic

The above angel is from Recoleta, in Buenos Aires. Our own Mackinze is perhaps a less worldly Angel, but she sparkles even brighter than the crystal chandeliers of Versailles!

“she doth teach the torches to burn bright!” (Will Shakespeare)

Speaking of worldly, unworldly, otherworldly… (am I missing anything here?) in Paris I noticed that, despite the monstrosities you see in Vogue or on the fashion page, what women REALLY wear is what you see in the shop windows on the Champs Elysées.

I’d wear it too if I had the bucks!!

But la femme does not live by frock alone; we must accessorize!

Spanish fans are wearable Art. Vale?

This amazing fan shop is right across from the Museo de la Historia de Barcelona, Plaça del Rey. (Please excuse the Barcelona photos, I couldn’t resist!) Needless to say, I bought several, even some teeny tiny ones!

this is only one wall…

One cannot recall Paris, retrospectively or otherwise, without seeing the Louvre again. It’s huge, stunning, imposing… even intimidating. Imagine being a peasant from the 18th century, seeing the city for the first time! A LIFE-CHANGING EVENT!! Even if you’re a 21st century worker-drone!

the Louvre from across the Seine

nice front door… yeah

my favorite street artist, Miss.Tic

My favorite Starbucks, so Parisian!

on the Champs Elysées

How about my favorite guy in the universe?

traveling tanguero, takin’ it to the water

Here he is at Sunderland Club.

who’s the babe?

COMING SOON: my long-awaited post on the Sitges Tango Festival!

Ciao from North America!

Medieval field trip: Luxembourg, Gargoyles and Provins

Luxembourg Castle

One fine day we left Paris for a weekend drive to Luxembourg. The french countryside is so very beautiful, so very lush this summer, on account of all the rain. Abundant greenness everywhere, though not as wild and untamed as the more remote places back home in California.

old path and steps in the river bottom, near the castle moat

The french are so neat and tidy, so meticulous! I thought only the germanic tribes were like that! We took back roads and drove through village after village, each one so perfectly cared for, so historic. Here you can see the juxtaposition of three eras: medieval, eighteenth century and twentieth.

which era would YOU choose to live in?

Downtown Luxembourg was bustling; people were eating, drinking, shopping, listening to music. A street fair was bubbling over one of the plazas, with entertainment and a huge yard sale.

kinda like Farmer’s Market in SLO

Every building is historic and well-tended. There must be hordes of worker-ants crawling around every day inside and out, keeping it all so perfect for us lucky tourists.

a quiet plaza in Luxembourg

Part of the old castle fits like a jigsaw puzzle into the natural rock formations carved out by the river a few eons ago.

some good hidey-holes there

this gorgeous building caught my eye

I stole this photo of Luxembourg lit up at night:

looks prettier without the skyscrapers

We found more old rock walls on our way back to Paris. It was like the family field trip minus the kids; late afternoon and we were hungry. We took the turnoff  to Provins almost by accident: it looked big enough to have a restaurant that might still be open on a Sunday evening. As luck would have it, we drove into a medieval village le plus belle de tout. A middle-eastern café was still open and quite busy. While throwing down hummus, pita bread and baba ganoush, I couldn’t take my eyes off the church across the street, where a diverse clan of gargoyles guard ancient stone.

parts of it are more vintage than others

Eagle gargoyle

Big Bird gargoyle?

Old Woman Gargoyle with Message

Porky Pig?

I give up: dog-dragon-gargoyle?

I thought maybe some of them were griffins but Wikipedia says griffins have the body of a lion with an eagle head. Gargoyles, as you know, are there to protect churches from evil spirits and other wandering disembodied bad vibes.

a goat gargoyle

I thought THIS was a GRIFFIN. WHOA!! Please note!! CORRECTION!! Our good friend Adrian from San Luis Obispo, who happens to be British which of course makes him an expert on cathedral decor, writes:  “Incidentally, the creature you have at Font St. Michel is a wyvern, not a griffin, since it has the hind quarters of a serpent – preferably with a barbed tail.” Oh my gosh I had no idea!! Knowing this could come in real handy, especially if you time-travel to the middle ages, or have a nightmare where a wyvern is going to toast you if you don’t answer the riddle about how his tail came to be barbed.

detail of Font St. Michel, Paris, Latin Quarter

Wikipedia sure has some amazingly curious articles on a host of obscure topics! Our wyvern doesn’t have a dragon’s head, but a lion’s. In every other respect it is undoubtedly a wyvern. This oddity is “a frequent heraldic device on British coats of arms and flags… A golden wyvern is believed to have been the symbol of the ancient kingdom of Wessex.”

a golden wyvern

So why are griffins part lion and part eagle? “As the lion was traditionally considered the king of the beasts and the eagle was the king of the birds, the griffin was thought to be an especially powerful and majestic creature. Griffins are known for guarding treasures and priceless possessions.”  I think I want one!

Provins church: note the older portions mixed with more recent

The arched doorway of the church in Provins reminds me of Notre Dame de París, but with way less fuss: broad strokes as opposed to devilish details. Compare it with the doorway of this catedral in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona:

Barrio Gótico

And for more comparison here’s the lady herself: Notre Dame de París:

Notre Dame is famous for her gargoyles and her hunchback, from the story by Victor Hugo

Once you see one gargoyle, you start seeing them everywhere! Here are some from that cathedral in Barcelona.

A few gargoyles to protect from Dark Side flybys

Little Provins turns out to be a big stop on the European Medieval circuit…. remember the Renaissance Faire? This is where it lives. Time stood still here in 1429, when Joan of Arc went to mass accompanied by Charles VII.

Wow! She is one of my favorite saints… that girl really rocked the boat — and paid the price. My favorite, unforgettable painting of her lives in NYC, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

St. Quiriace was built in 1160, partly destroyed by fire in 1662, and is pretty much out of service these days, you can’t even get a peek inside. But the vibes there are amazing; we loved it. Here is a statue of Joan of Arc in Paris, wearing solid gold armor. I can’t seem to find my photos of her; this is off the web:

correction: this one is MY photo of Joan of Arc!

St. Quiriace

Here I am at the doors:

yes, I go to church occasionally!

wabi-sabi detail

the watchtower next door

This is the old keep, or watchtower, sometimes called Caesar’s tower. We circled it.

Ben likes ancient rock walls too.

Provins is an amazing place, definitely the spot for all you history buffs. I couldn’t stop taking pix of the old houses, they are so beautiful!!

a busy corner in Provins

part of the old moat

How cool is that!!?!

a pretty country cottage

on the outside, a rustic cottage

On the inside… I’d be happy to decorate it for you!

the banker’s mansion?

City Hall or an official residence?

Provins is a living town, albeit a tourist town: how convenient. However it is located in the midst of some of the most beautiful countryside in the world! Its rolling green hills are like California’s wine country in spring. Just gorgeous. By the way, don’t get Provins, the town near Paris, mixed up with Provence, a wine-growing region in southern France, close to the Mediterranean coast: Marseilles, Aix-en-Provence, Cannes, Monaco. Not a bad spot to combine vacation and business: just ask James Bond!

Thanks to all of you for your emails, comments and likes. I really appreciate news from home. It helps me feel connected and not adrift somewhere in the universe…. sometimes I wake up and it takes a few moments to get oriented…. where the heck am I?

Next blog up: Tango Festival in Sitges, and fabulous Barcelona!

Au revoir, Paris!

A Visit to the Pampas

I never meant to blog about itty-bitty cars, but sometimes things just happen. Perhaps if I had a kitten to play with, or a horse that needed riding…  I had to find a horse to ride, to be sure, but the little blue car found me.

my Isetta getting a green energy transfusion

DEAR FRIENDS and WILLOWTANGO.ME FOLLOWERS: Hundreds of you are responding to this post as if it’s the only post you can see!! If you like this post and want to read more, go to <willowtango.me> And please, no responses marketing your product line or personal fetishes!!

QUERIDOS AMIGOS de WILLOWTANGO.ME: Cientos de vosotros, mis queridos lectores, están respondiendo a este post como si fuera la única!! Si les gusta este post y quieren leer más, hagan clic en <willowtango.me>. Y por favor, no me hablan de sus intereses publicitarias ni sus fetiches personales!!

No, it’s not my Isetta.  If it was I would spoil it with some much-needed TLC. Please note that the front of the car doubles as the entry. This baby is a one cylinder, 4-wheeler ragtop. Here she is cuddling up to a pickup. How cute is that?

which do you like better, the front or the rear?

Ben discovered it while walking from our apartment to his Spanish class in Palermo Soho.  Apparently it’s parked in some kind of cosmic waiting room, patiently awaiting restoration and rebirth.  Perhaps its mantra could be… I’m so cute I can tango on 3 wheels?

sweet view from a wabi-sabi world

There can’t be very many of these microcars left.  But thousands were produced in post WWII Europe.  Skip the next paragraph if you’re not totally fascinated by this Barbie car.

The Isetta was an Italian-designed micro-car built in a number of different countries, including Spain, Belgium, France, Brazil, Germany, and the UK. Produced in the post-World War II years, a time when cheap short-distance transportation was most needed, it became one of the most successful and influential city cars ever created.

The car originated with the Italian firm of Iso-SpA. In the early 1950s the company was building refrigerators, motor scooters and small three-wheeled trucks. Iso’s owner, Renzo Rivolta, decided he would like to build a small car for mass distribution. By 1952 the engineers Ermenegildo Preti and Pierluigi Raggi had designed a small car that used the scooter engine and named it Isetta—an Italian diminutive meaning little ISO.

The Isetta caused a sensation when it was introduced to the motoring press inTurin in November 1953. It was unlike anything seen before. Small (only 2.29 m (7.5 ft) long by 1.37 m (4.5 ft) wide) and egg-shaped, with bubble-type windows, the entire front end of the car hinged outwards to allow entry. In the event of a crash, the driver and passenger were to exit through the canvas sunroof. The steering wheel and instrument panel swung out with the single door, as this made access to the single bench seat simpler. The seat provided reasonable comfort for two occupants, and perhaps a small child. Behind the seat was a large parcel shelf with a spare wheel located below. A heater was optional, and ventilation was provided by opening the fabric sunroof. The first prototypes had one wheel at the rear; this made the car prone to roll-overs, so they placed two rear wheels 48 cm (19 in) apart from each other.

BMW bought the Isetta license from ISO SpA in 1954.  They bought the complete Isetta body tooling as well.  The BMW Isetta was in 1955 the world’s first mass-production 3-Liters/100km car. It was the top-selling single cylinder car in the world, with 161,728 units sold. After constructing some 1,000 units, production of the Italian built cars ceased in 1955, although Iso continued to build the Isetta in Spain until 1958.  (compiled from Wikipedia)

Even in its present sad condition, this Isetta has a bright future!  and is probably worth a few bucks.

Do you see the little face?

So sweet of the man in my life to take these photos for me.  You could say he found a clever way to get back in my good graces, after a little spat about who knows what?!  Here he is asking for forgiveness:

on his knees at the Gallerias

Not blue anymore, but wearing blue! at our favorite café by Plaza San Martín:

blue sky and sunshine!

Now we’re going on a day trip to the Pampas! First stop, San Antonio de Areco, about 120 km. northwest of Buenos Aires. This beautiful colonial pueblo was settled in 1730. The bici is not quite that old!

two-wheelers can have significant curb appeal also

The bici decorates the sidewalk in front of one of the best trattorias in town, La Esquina de Merti. My hosts, Flavia and Fabio, who also happen to be our landlords in town, brought me out to the country for an afternoon of sightseeing and horseback riding. Here’s the beautiful shady plaza:

Plaza Gómez

A typical street on a very quiet day in San Antonio de Areco.

Fabio at El Tokio

The church looks like an vacant gray stone palace.  Spooky and grim, even in the sunshine!

Nuestra Señora de Loreto

It’s prettier on the inside. The main altar is quite beautiful. We were the only people inside the church, on a Tuesday about 1:00 pm. This town is definitely not overrun with tourists! Maybe on the weekends.

el altar mayor

Flavia and me sightseeing

We were fortunate to find the leather shop open. Besides the handmade leather goods, there were bridles, reatas, cinchas, stirrups, tapaderos, ponchos… lots of stuff. Many of the tools hanging on the wall or lying about the workshop were antiques still in use. We chatted with the craftsman at his workbench, and he showed us how he stamps a design into leather using a metal punch.

the artesano working at his trade

cowboy socks’n’spurs?

In the really old days (we’re not talkin’ 1950s here! more like 1750s!) out here in the pampas, they didn’t have boots. They just wrapped rawhide around their legs and feet. They left the toe part open cause back then their stirrups were a rawhide reata hanging down from the saddle with a big rawhide braided knot on the end that you stuck in between your big toe and second toe. Kind of a toe wedgie! Doesn’t sound as comfy as a real stirrup, does it? Of course they didn’t spend a day’s wages to have their horses shod, either. Come to think of it, the campesinos back then didn’t get paid wages at all. That was back in the days before organized labor.

Rawhide, when it’s wet, can be stretched taut (as in drum making); when it dries, it’s stiff as a board and extremely sturdy. You can cut it in a giant spiral which results in narrow strips anywhere from 30 – 60 feet long depending on the size of the hide. Braiding a number of those strands together creates reatas, reins, bosals, bridles, etc. All the gear you ever dreamed of having!

Argentine bridles

These are the saddles we’ll be riding later today. No frills, no saddle horn, either. In an emergency, just grab some mane!

a Chilean saddle: no frills, wooly sheepskin keeps you warm

As we drive into the rancho the first thing we see is a bunch of horses tied up amongst the trees:

all tied up and waiting to be ridden

we go past a marvellous treehouse!

Pulling into the stable area the horses in the barn stick their heads out to see who’s coming:

howdy

The barn is new, built of cement and brick, with a metal roof. It has 5 stalls, a tack room, a bathroom with shower, and a tiny kitchen area with sink. The stall doors are wood, as is the framing and the shutters.

the front of the barn

We saddled up and went for a ride!  The sun was playing tag with the clouds, but it was warm with a slight breeze. Everywhere you look it’s green! We were about 60 or 70 miles northwest of Buenos Aires. Santiago is wearing polo boots and riding britches; he competes on the hunter-jumper circuit.

Santiago, Flavia’s hunter-jumper instructor

Flavia is our horse-crazy landlady!  She and I hit it off from day 1. Here she is on a pretty red dun, holding his head very nicely.  The helmet protects her coco loco. She and I could sit and talk horses all day long.

Flavia on a red dun

Here I am on a nice little grey gelding. When we were just walking along he wanted to lag behind the pack, but when we were loping, he moved right up to the front every time!

me on Gitano

We rode for about an hour and a half. By the time we came upon this windmill and got thru the gate, we could see the clouds piling up. The rain was comin’!

a working windmill

We kicked our horses into gear and loped the last few hundred yards in the rain. Now that’s my idea of fun! After we unsaddled and got the horses put away, we hunkered down in the barn in some comfy canvas chairs to dry off while our host brewed up some mate. We passed it around, sucking it down thru the silver bombilla. Good medicine. This was our view out the barn door:

sweet view

You can just barely make out a gorgeous caballo criollo in this stall:

chewable stall doors

I like the clean, earthy design, but… but what if your horses decides to punch a hole in it with a double-barrel kick?  Here’s the ranch manager’s casita:

see the tri-color tail on the left?

I have to share a funny comment from my brother Kim:  “Hi Sis, I am really enjoying your tango blogs…  You are a great writer!  Not a bad photographer either (must have gotten that from Grandpa).  In the future please try to provide more photos of beautiful women instead of just guys, cowboys, etc.”  

Okay, bro, this one’s for you!  Ciao from Buenos Aires!