Tag Archives: Paris

Charmed, I’m Sure

What is it that makes charm bracelets so, well, charming? The act of collecting the charms? Or perhaps the memories dangling there on? For some maybe it’s getting drawn in to each little piece. The charms are small, so you have to focus and become one with them. It’s a diversion from the outside world. They aren’t attached to anything digital and they don’t plug in.

Charms, or amulets, have been around since humans figured out how to put a shell, rock, or piece of wood on a string. Mine are from my childhood growing up in Germany. I was lucky, having adventurous parents and a mother that liked to buy us things. My parents started 3 bracelets each for my sister and me: coins, enamel on sterling crests, and icons like the Eiffel Tower or a delft wooden shoe from Holland.

I like to wear mine. I like the jingling, except that as a child I stuck a piece of tape inside the little bell acquired in Garmisch because it was too loud. The tape is still in there. I don’t want to annoy those around me after all. Each time we acquired one we’d bring it home and my dad would solder it on our bracelet. I like to look at my charms. There is a memory in each piece.

There’s the coin bracelet. Most of the currencies have now been replaced with the Euro. When I was a kid it was second nature to me to think in multiple currencies. I always had at least 2 in my pocket. And when we were traveling, 3 or 4 or even 5. (This is before everyone had credit cards.) Looking at the Dutch guilder reminds me of our trips to Holland – my favorite place when I was a kid. The Austrian schilling reminds me of all the times we skied the Alps.

The icon bracelet (turns out it’s hard to photograph shiny things with a phone camera) has 2 from Paris, a Berlin bear, a gondola from Venice and a matador from Spain among others. We have a storied history with Spain in my family. When we first tried to visit in about 1967, our little red VW wagon was totaled the night before our trip when a drunk driver plowed in to it in front of our house. We canceled our trip. My dad was the first that got to go, in 1972 for a skeet shoot. We had just moved back to Germany for our second trip and hadn’t unpacked yet. My dad found his guns and took off with a friend for Spain. My mom was furious and my dad didn’t even shoot well. He came home with a “participants” mug, which I later broke while trying to climb in the kitchen window one day when I’d locked myself out of the house. Spain wasn’t faring too well for us. But my sister got to go on a school trip when she was in the 11th grade. I’m pretty sure she had a good time. (30-some kids, a couple chaperones… who wouldn’t have fun.)

I finally went to Spain in 1995. So now we’ve all been there except my mom. She’d love it, I hope she gets to go someday.

I acquired the gondola from Venice on a 10th grade school trip. We had fun on those trips. There usually weren’t very many adults and we were given free rein a lot of the time. Venice is the first place I got tipsy – eating pizza and drinking wine with my friend Michele next to a canal. We giggled and commented that sitting near the water was making us dizzy. I also got pooped on by a pigeon that was sitting on my head for the obligatory photograph in St. Mark’s Square.

The icon bracelet is the only one I’ve added to as an adult. NY, Washington D.C., Mt. Rushmore, and a road runner that my grandma Mary bought when she was in Texas for my parents’ wedding.

My most laden bracelet though is the crest one. My hometown, Pirmasens, is right in the middle. There’s Kaiserslautern, where my sister and I played in the woods on many weekends while my parents shot skeet. Denmark, I was so young when we went there I barely remember anything. And Amsterdam; our first of several trips. On that first trip, I remember we couldn’t find a place to stay and ended up at the Hotel Krasnapolsky. It was beyond our budget and took way more of my dad’s cash then one night should have. The next morning my mom told us to eat as much as we could because we’d paid a lot for it. Budgeting your money was important when you traveled back then. We didn’t have credit cards and you needed to save enough cash, in the right currency, to get home or to get out of an emergency.

As I said, I love my charm bracelets. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about them.

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Paris Highlights – February 2015

I planned this trip on the spur of the moment with the primary purpose of seeing the Sonia Delaunay show at the Musée D’Art Moderne De la Ville de Paris. It promised to be the most comprehensive show of this multi-disciplinary abstract artist as yet shown. It did not disappoint. If you are unfamiliar with her work, Google her.

Photos of the exhibit weren’t allowed. Here is the cover of the exhibition catalog, available at the Tate in London.

I was there for 8 days this time, about as long as I can get away from my office with no one noticing! A word about how I planned this trip to make the best use of my time. First, I got a fold-out map, instead of a book with map pages. I like to see the big picture. Then I marked everything on the map that I would possibly want to see – museums, passages (narrow covered walkways lined with shops and restaurants), stores, homes, and other points of interest. I also printed larger maps of some neighborhoods from the internet so I could see more detail. I even made a circle marking 1 mile from my apartment. That way, I’d know about how long it would take me to walk somewhere.

In addition, I made an Excel spreadsheet with all of the museums and other places that I wanted to visit, broken down by neighborhood, including address and hours of operation. Figuring I would only be in each neighborhood once, this allowed me to hit as many stops as possible. Ah, my German efficiency.

Get the museum pass! You can buy it at any of the museums included in the pass. It’s great because you aren’t opening your wallet all day. But the best part is that you get to skip the line for purchasing tickets. There aren’t many lines in February – but they do exist.

Another suggestion, buy as many tickets, such as music venues and the Eiffel Tower, online before you go.

The best guide book I’ve found. In-depth interesting stories, but very few photos. Use another guide book for photos.

One of my favorite stops, I found the day I arrived while waiting for my apartment to be ready, Musée des Arts et Métiers. They were kind enough to take my luggage in coat check. It includes innovations in the fields of scientific instruments, energy, mechanics, construction, communication and transport starting in the 17th century. It is fascinating. I love old staircase models and they had a few in their collection of other architectural models.

If you’ve never been to the studio of Constantin Brâncuși it’s almost worth a trip on its own. Situated in the plaza in front of the Centre Pompidou, is a little building that houses his studio pretty much as it was when he died.

Another must-see spot, the gah-worthy bedroom of Jeanne Lanvin at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs adjacent to the Louvre. My phone photos are terrible, so I’ve lifted a couple from the internet. The fabric on the walls, drapes, bed… is hand embroidered. And it’s my favorite color – periwinkle.

Tucked in a hallway of the same museum, a series of botanicals by Girolamo Pini. I’d never heard of him and there isn’t much about him on the internet. But I fell in love with his work.

Close-ups of 2 paintings.

 Passages – there are dozens of these ranging from very fancy to completely utilitarian. I recommend organizing them into your walks.

Last but not least for this posting. Sainte Chappelle. I’d never heard of this place, but a friend insisted I go. Now I’m insisting you go. It’s near Notre-Dame. They host music events in the evenings. Tickets are hard to come by as it’s a small chapel, so try to buy them online before you leave on your trip. I was unable to get tickets, but did go to a choral night at Notre-Dame and enjoyed it immensely. Also, just so you know, you can get really cheap tickets up high at the opera. Who cares how far from the stage you are, just gawk at the beautiful setting and that Marc Chagall ceiling!

The windows wrap all the way around this intimate chapel.

The floor.

Be sure to check out our Paris goodies, here, including this gorgeous c. 1898 map.

Reproduction Yellow Paris Map.

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