Tag Archive | La Basilique du Sacré Coeur de Montmartre

Something

Abbey Road 45 years later

Abbey Road 45 years later

Something about seeing that Pattie Boyd turned 70 yesterday made me feel – not old, not nostalgic, not sad – grateful? Happy to have lived when I have?

Pattie Boyd, my childhood idol and living Francie doll.

Pattie Boyd, my childhood idol and living Francie doll.

Can’t quite put my finger on what that something is, so I’ll blog it out. She’s the girl about whom George Harrison wrote, “Something in the way she moves attracts me like no other lover …,” from Abbey Road (across which we walked on our recent trip to London). She’s the same girl about whom Eric Clapton wrote the tortured “Layla” and the adoring “Wonderful Tonight.”

She’s the girl on whose every (ghost)written word I hung as a 9-11 year old when she had a beauty and advice column in 16 magazine. Her hair and makeup tips were memorized by yours truly, amusing considering I couldn’t touch cosmetics until I turned 13.

She married a Beatle, for heaven’s sake.

Jean Shrimpton was my favorite model in those days, for sheer beauty, glamour and – just look at her.

Her highness of beauty, Jean Shrimpton

Her highness of beauty, Jean Shrimpton

But Pattie was a regular girl, accessible, with an attainable look and darling clothes. (Or so she seemed, despite marrying George, then marrying Eric and having those songs written about her.) She transcended glamour.

As frivolous as it might seem, I’m glad I was affected by her.

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A few people have asked me to write about our trip, but that’s not something I really feel like doing at the moment, other than to mention the books I read on our trip – and one inspired by our trip that I ordered the last night we were in Paris.

I told myself I could not take Michael Chabon’s Kavalier & Clay with me – it weighs too much and I’d waited all these years to read it and another week wouldn’t hurt me. Kav&Clay

I was about halfway through and could finish it when I got back, I told myself repeatedly – and I already had a beat-up used copy of Special Topics in Calamity Physics, by Marisha Pessl packed – I’d been saving it for the trip since Julia told me I must read it immediately.

But the day came to leave and I couldn’t leave my comic-book-creating boys behind. I stayed up late nights on our trip to finish the tale Chabon wove so well. I won’t give anything away, but if you like World War II history, comic books or just excellent writing in any form, read it.

CalamityPhysicsBookCoverBut I didn’t let myself start Calamity Physics until our very long return-travel day – made do with magazines after the heartbreak of finishing K&C. I almost finished CP in that one day – what a great, weird book it is. After we got home and real-life ensued, it took me a few days to finish the little bit I had left.

Can’t tell you anything, really, except you’ll never read anything else quite like it. Pessl blew me away with her first novel. The first-person narration, by a college-age girl, is accompanied by self-annotation, a fascinating device and not distracting at all from the top-notch mystery that the book really is.

Just as I finished it, the book I ordered from our hotel room in Montmartre arrived. (Stayed up late the last night of our trip to find a good used copy of a 2013 book, which took some digging. I feed my addiction with used books when possible; my iPad is loaded with classics, travel books and books for work, but turning pages is part of the experience for me.)

thepaintedgirlsI’d read about The Painted Girls, by Cathy Marie Buchanan, a while back and thought I’d probably read it when it came out in paperback. But after seeing Little Dancer, Aged 14 at the Musée D’Orsay, then talking to a very nice lady from Port Arthur, Texas, at lunch at the D’Orsay (she and her husband, a retired firefighter, were at the table next to us and accents required chatting), I revised that to “I’ll read it now.”

She brought it up and said she was back at the D’Orsay to visit the statuette after reading the historical novel, based on ballet dancers near Montmartre, including Marie van Goethem, who modeled regularly for Edgar Degas and was captured in Little Dancer and many paintings.

Degas'

Degas’ “Little Dancer, Aged 14”

The book is good, not life-changingly great, but solidly good and very interesting historically. Buchanan craftily weaves two true stories into one –and it was cool reading about events on the streets we’d walked and hills we’d climbed. I’m very glad I read it.

Montmartre and Sacré Coeur from one of the clock windows at the Museé D-Orsay – the setting for much of

Montmartre and Sacré Coeur from one of the clock windows at the Musée D-Orsay – the setting for much of “The Painted Girls” and where we stayed our three nights in Paris. (Taken with an iPhone, I might add, which did better than our Canon aim-and-shoot.)

their_eyes_frontBut now I’m reading Their Eyes Were Watching God. Once I got used to the dialect, I find it hard to put down. I started it to fill a gap in my English-degree reading. Thank heavens I did!

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One last something to write about, in the photo department – and some things I noticed: My passport is expiring, so I had to go get a new picture made. Things I noticed: I often have the non-drunk drunk eyes Daddy had in many photos, and they show up well here. Ten years age you a lot. Passport photos have gone up quite a bit – 10 years ago, I think it was about $10. Yesterday it was $16+ with tax.

And check out the hair – mainly the bangs. Sixties’ influence much? Some things never change.

Pattie Boyd, Jean Shrimpton, I feel your bangs.

Pattie Boyd, Jean Shrimpton, I feel your bangs.

People are strange

Some of our group at the base of the Eiffel Tower. Alli in front, Kitty in the yellow coat.

Some of our group at the base of the Eiffel Tower. Alli in front, Kitty in the yellow coat.

Before moving on with our tight-knit little traveling bands’ adventures, let me just get this out there: People are strange, and traveling with a big group of strangers is, to belabor a point, even stranger.

Before embarking on travel with EF Educational Tours, I’d taken groups of students to conventions with hundreds or thousands of other students and teachers, but we didn’t travel together.

The only group travel I’d ever done was in 2001, to Dublin with the Central Arkansas Arthritis Foundation Marathon group. We almost didn’t get to go after the events of Sept. 11, but our group voted that we weren’t scared, dammit!, so go we did.

(I walked the marathon, bent over in pain for about the last 20 miles, as it turned out – a long and winding story.)

We were all adults and though we did do some things together, we had no real enforced group time. And  most of us had been training together at least occasionally for months, so if we weren’t friends, we at least knew each other.

Getting tossed in a mixed pot of people by random chance to spend nine days and nights together is something else entirely. For some people, I’m sure that it’s great. Instant friends, yada, yada.

We had a different experience in our group of 30. We were just a tiny band of six, five from Arkansas and Kitty from Washington state (but part of my family), cooped up with some nice, friendly if a bit distant (but, hey, so were we) people from Indiana (??), I’m thinking, and a big rowdy bunch from a small town in Texas. I’m thinking east Texas, but that’s my assumption.

Kind of “The Last Picture Show” Texas but not as hip. As in trying to refuse to enter Canterbury Cathedral because you can’t wear a baseball cap inside.

As in “Hey, we can get booze at this fancy hotel in Paris even though we’re kids, then puke all over the lovely lobby bar then run off laughing while our adult male chaperones laugh, too” – until Kitty thundered “Hold it right there, buster,” or some less southern version of the same, and insisted they help the poor bartender clean up their mess.

Waiting by the tree.

Waiting by the tree.

Please don’t think I’m a snob – Alli, Elizabeth, you can vouch for me. I’m just making observations about being forced into a  – hmmm, what word to use? It never became a relationship. Maybe shared experience? – with people from different worlds.

The kids actually did form a bit of a loose friendliness with some of them the last night or two, but for the adults, the twain never met. We kept our distance, but those women made it quite clear from the beginning that they didn’t like us one bit.

I take that back – one did, and she was quite sweet, actually, even after we lost her child one night in Paris. (I can still see her beatific smile; she had an other-worldly lovingness. The others, not so much.)

Her daughter, at 12, wasn’t even legal to be along for the ride but was allowed to accompany her mom. Yes, we lost a small-town adolescent with a heart condition while her mother was trying to retrieve two kids from their group who’d run off deliberately. Our tour director Kathy promptly retrieved her and it worked out fine, though.

I’ll explain later. It was an accident and we felt awful. But it’s funny in retrospect. Many parts of the trip were.

Another thing that had never crossed my mind about group travel was all the waiting we’d have to do – people were blatantly late for designated meetings when we had time apart (the happiest times for our little group), so we spent lots of time waiting under the tree, on the steps, by the bus.

And waiting by another tree. That's our darling director, Kathy, in red and our boy Andrew in the blue sweater.

And waiting by another tree. That’s our darling director, Kathy, in red and our boy Andrew in the blue sweater.

But we were late, too, once, at the Louvre, I think, toward the end of the trip when the only watch in our group had stopped. Oops. Pretty embarrassing considering how we’d grumbled about waiting.

Then there was the night Kim and I – well, that’s a story I’ll confess in full later. She agrees we can go public.

Our little group approaching La Basilique du Sacré Coeur de Montmartre. Elizabeth noticed Kim was taking a picture.

Our little group approaching La Basilique du Sacré Coeur de Montmartre. Elizabeth noticed Kim was taking a picture.