Isn’t that beautiful? The design is by William Morris, and it’s in the Musee d’Orsay. We spent a couple of hours there today, which is as much as children can reasonably be expected to handle, but I could have been there all day. Have you ever seen the French film “Summer Hours”? It’s one of my favorites. In the film, a family has to decide how to disperse artistic treasures that they hold in common, but can no longer keep in the family because the dynamic of globalization and individualism has torn the family apart (that is, two of the French siblings live overseas, following their careers and passions, and only one remains in France). At the end of the film, the main character, a lawyer played by Charles Berling, walks through the Musee d’Orsay with his wife, looking at art objects the family donated to the museum. It’s a deeply melancholy moment, because you understand that what museumgoers see as impersonal aesthetic objects were once loved as part of the furniture and fabric of a family’s life. Having seen that film several times, and loved it, I found it disconcerting to walk through parts of the museum today; I kept thinking, “Who loved these pieces when they weren’t ‘art’?”
After the museum, we walked over to the rue due Bac, and heard a bagpipe band playing in the rain. They were splendid. Turns out that they weren’t Scottish at all, but actually Breton. The Bretons are French Celts. I have made a private vow to stay in Bretagne for a while next time we come to France; I’m so curious to know more about that land. After we passed the bagpipers, we stopped in at Deyrolle, a kind of magical taxidermy shop. Here is a virtual tour of the place. My kids were overawed by it. Julie and I were overawed by it. Julie said afterward, “I can’t think of a time when I had tears in my eyes leaving a shop.” It was one of the most bizarre and wonderful places I have ever been, and I cannot wait to go back. Here is a Vanity Fair story about the shop. If I were a millionaire, I would go to Deyrolle and buy one of the taxidermied chickens. They also have terrific pedagogical prints from days gone by. We chose not to buy anything today because it was raining miserably, and we didn’t want it to get wet. Tonight we had Nora’s birthday dinner with old friends who came in from Holland, and it was a sweet and cherished time. Lucas and our friends’ son Leon, who is about his age, rolled around on the floor like puppies. The torch of friendship has been pahssed to a new generation. Happy! How blessed we are in our friends, and in this opportunity to be in a city filled with such wonders, and so many joys. And hey, I bought a bottle of non-vintage Nicholas Feuillatte Champagne from the supermarket for $9, and it was crisp and delicious.