L’Ateliers des Lumières: Digital Art in Paris

Before arriving in Paris in October, I’d heard quite a bit about the newly opened digital art museum, L’Ateliers des Lumières, and so it was definitely high on my list of places to visit.

Once we arrived, my traveling companions, Thom and Eric, and I went online to check it out. We noticed right away that weekends were sold out. We also realized that it would be best to book in advance, purchasing our tickets online to avoid the potentially long lines waiting to buy tickets onsite.

Digital art has been appearing with more frequency in the past few years. 

From November 2017 to April 2018, the Tate Modern presented the Modigliani exhibit. In addition to 100 of Amedeo Modigliani’s iconic portraits, nudes and sculptures, the Tate paired the exhibition with The Ochre Atelier, a Virtual Reality tour of the artist’s studio in Paris. The seated experience enabled visitors to listen to narrated accounts from the artist’s friends and Tate’s experts while exploring the more than 60 objects authentically modeled by 3D artists.

Modigliani’s Paris Studio in VR at the Tate Modern (Courtesy Preloaded)

However, the digital art museum or, in the case of Paris, ‘workshop,’ which is the direct translation of atelier, is a fairly new concept. 

L’Ateliers des Lumières, located in the 11th Arr., opened in April 2018 with three presentations: Gustav Klimt, Hundertwasser and the contemporary installation, Poetic_AI. 

Klimt artwork as it unfolds as digital art.

Along with our Parisian friend, Sandrine, who met us at our flat on a beautiful, warm Wednesday, we walk the short distance to the museum to arrive by our 12:30 entry time. There were two long lines, one for those with tickets and the other, much longer line, for those wishing to purchase them. Sandrine mentioned that it was good that we had our tickets as she read that the 12:30 exposition was complet (full). 

We enter the building quickly and move through the ticketing area. With my phone in hand, I scan the ticket codes for each of us and we move through the turnstile. 

The museum is operated by Culturespaces, a French museum foundation specializing in immersive art displays, and housed in a former foundry. The Chemin-Vert foundry dates to 1835, when it was established by the Plichon brothers to make high quality cast iron parts for the railroad and the navy. The family-owned foundry closed in 1929, and was purchased by the Martin family in 1935. The foundry was used to manufacture machine tools until the Martins’ moved their company in 2000. 

In 2013, on the heels of the successful opening of the Carrières de Lumières in Les Baux de Provence, the president of Culturespaces discovered the unoccupied foundry. The Martin family was enthusiastic about the concept of creating a center for digital art in Paris, and agreed to rent the space.

Carrières presentation of 16th century artists: Bosch, Brueghel and Arcimboldo.

As we enter the main hall of the exhibit, we find a concrete floor on which many people are sitting around its edges. We walk to the center and looking to the right, we can see around a corner, and to the left at the far end, there’s a stairway with a viewing platform partway up the wall. There’s a large round column off to one side. The ceiling appears to be about 25 feet high.

We decide this might be a good place to begin our viewing, and suddenly, the lights in the room go out. The first presentation, Poetic_AI, prepares us for what lies ahead through a series of black and white lines, drops, circles, numbers and flashing bright lights. From the floors to the ceilings, the images move and swirl, fading into and out of each other. They fall off the walls and travel across the floor. It’s stark, mystifying and mesmerizing, with the visitor as interloper in the midst of the magic. We stand enthralled, turning this way and that and even in circles to capture the essence of the event. We hold out our hands and find the images covering our skin and think, “We’ve become a part of the artwork.”

An example of the Poetic_AI presentation.

This presentation ends and the lights come up, but remain dim. 

The Gustav Klimt presentation begins as we walk around to experience another view. I’ve always been rather enthralled with this Austrian artist who seemed to combine surrealism and realism with the beauty of art nouveau in his gilded portraits of women. The images flowing across the canvas of this foundry are enthralling. As the shapes draw themselves out, they appear to come alive, all while pulling you into the midst of the painting as if you belonged there. The colors are bright and bold, the golds and yellows reflecting like a sunburst.

Klimt: The golden tears of Freyja

These images are put into motion by 140 laser projectors. One would think the use of this digital medium of algorithms and mensuration would appear a bit discordant, but the beauty and awe are captivating, drawing us into the artists’ universe and immersing us in this fantastical aesthetic experience. 

The final Hundertwasser presentation does not disappoint. Its beautiful bold colors and shapes draw gardens of superior beauty and gracefulness. 

An image from the Hundertwasser presentation

The experience is one where you could stand, walk or sit at various places throughout the building and see changes in the shapes and flow of the images. It’s at once, calming and emotional.

After our visit to the Ateliers des Lumières, I was sharing my experience with some friends, and one suggested I check out the new digital art museum in Tokyo by teamLab*Borderless. I checked their website and agree that it would definitely be worth the trip.

This new type of museum is inspiring and reaches an entirely new generation of artists. As it expands to other countries, it will be fascinating to see where it leads.

The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Paris View

One day when summer was in its full bloom and Paris was but a dream, a book friend indicated — quite emphatically, as I now recall — while pointing to The Hare with Amber Eyes, by Edmund de Waal, that it was an excellent book. “You should read it,” he said. “Really … it’s a great book.” 

“Oh, fine,” I said, reluctantly. It’s a memoir, you see, and not my typical cup of tea. Nonetheless, I grabbed the copy from the bookshop shelf and took it home, where it sat for several weeks. I began to imagine the tiny hare on the cover staring at me reproachfully each time I passed.

The hare with amber eyes netsuke.

When I finally picked it up and began, I found that my book connoisseur friend was correct — it was well written and extremely engaging. 

It’s a story about a collection of netsuke bought in Paris in the 1870s by Charles Ephrussi, a cousin of the author’s great-grandfather. The book relates the story of these beautiful art objects and the events occurring around them throughout their travels — from Japan to Paris, Vienna, Tokyo, and London, where they eventually wind up in the possession of Mr. de Waal.

As you read, you get a sense that Mr. de Waal lived among stories — great and tragic ones. He weaves a strong visual tale of these tiny figures — ivory, horn, boxwood — delicately and intricately carved by Japanese artisans and initially collected by Charles. 

As an artist himself, Mr. de Waal has a visual capacity to capture the essence of the past beautifully, so the reader is easily able to “see” the places, the rooms, the people, the netsuke, as they move through time.

While the lives of the netsukes began in Edo (pre-Tokyo), they enter this story in Paris, in Charles Ephrussi’s study overlooking the rue de Monceau, kept in a black polished wood vitrine lined with dark green velvet and reflected in the mirrored backing. 

With this story resonating in my mind, I thought it would be interesting to see the places in Paris where Charles lived, and the sites that Mr. de Waal visited in his quest to track the history of the netsuke collection.

So we begin where Charles lived after his arrival in Paris from Vienna in 1870, the Hôtel Ephrussi, the family’s home, at 81 rue de Monceau. 

Parc Monceau

We arrive at the Parc Monceau and walk through its lovely grounds, stopping occasionally to enjoy the autumn flowers, fantastic variety of trees and beautiful art and installations that make this park unique.

A hillside garden in Parc Monceau.

The park was established in the 18th century at the request of the Duke of Chartres, cousin to King Louis XVI. It was unconventional in its tastes at the time with its many conflicting architectural features. 

Charles was 21 when he arrived in Paris. By that time, the park was undergoing a transformation by Baron Haussmann, opening to the public in 1861. 

The Hôtel Ephrussi

Rue de Monceau is south of the park and we find #81 near the top of the hill. It’s an impressive building, five stories high, with five windows across. Four Corinthian pilasters add a Neo-Classical feel to the façade. Stone urns sit atop the parapet, and the Ephrussi family’s double-Es are still present in the metal grilles over the street windows.

The Ephrussi mansion at 81 rue de Monceau.

We look up at the second floor windows and envision Charles’ suite of rooms: an antechamber, two salons — one which became his study — a dining room, two bedrooms and a petite chambre.

It’s a neighborhood of very impressive homes, once owned by well-known families.

With command of a number of languages, a great amount of money and his freedom, Charles spent a good deal of time traveling during his 20s. During his travels, he became a collector — drawings, tapestries, enamels, sculptures and furniture. 

Musée Nissim de Camondo

To get a better sense of Charles and how he lived, Mr. de Waal visited the Musée Nissim de Camondo to view the contemporaneous furnishings in this Museum of Decorative Arts. 

We, too, visit this museum. 

Musée de Nissim Camondo from the stairway.

We’ve come to see the furnishings of the main house, particularly those in the two drawing rooms. 

The furniture throughout this beautiful home turned museum has been crafted by artisans who worked for the king and other wealthy clients. Through it, we get a feel for how Charles’ apartment would have been furnished. 

Meanwhile in Charles’ life, he begins to write a book about Albert Dürer, while also writing for the Gazette des beaux-arts. 

The Gazette has a reputation as an essential part of society life in Paris. For Charles, it’s “a calling card into those places where society and art intersect.” He’s invited to important salons where he meets poets, playwrights, painters — he begins to find a life for himself in Paris. 

Mr. de Waal finds that life reflected in the social columns of the day, with Charles and his brothers recorded attending Parisian balls, musical soirées, operas, and receptions for princes and countesses.

Japanese art

Charles has new interests … he has a lover and begins collecting Japanese art. 

Japan has opened up in Paris and Charles and Louise buy “Japanese black and gold lacquer boxes for their parallel collections: they start their love affair with Japan.”

In his commentary, Mr. de Waal wonders what it must be like “to have something so alien in your hands for the first time, to pick up a box or a cup — or a netsuke — in a material that you had never encountered before and shift it around, finding its weight and balance, running a fingertip along the raised decoration of a stork in flight through clouds?”

The quantities of Japanese art that came into Paris at that time were overwhelming. They arrived at a merchant’s shop and immediately left it.

Before the netsukes, Charles had already collected 33 black-and-gold lacquer boxes that he placed among his other treasures. They sat near his Renaissance wall hangings and his pale Donatello sculpture in marble.

Charles also developed a growing passion for the work of the Impressionists, creating one of the great early collections of this art. He purchased forty paintings within a three-year period, sending an additional twenty to his cousins in Berlin. His collection included paintings and pastels by Moriset, Cassett, Degas, Manet, Monet, Sisley, Pissarro and Renoir.

This art, along with the Japanese creations “conjure a picture of a place where sensations are always new, where art pours out of daily life, where everything exists in a dream of endless flow.”

The netsukes

Following the promotion in a book by Edmond de Goncourt that described the “obsessive search for the perfection” of these tiny sculpted masterpieces, suddenly, it seemed, netsukes had become essential to salon life.

And so Charles buys his netsukes — 264 of them. It’s a huge collection of small things, bought as a complete, spectacular collection. A fox with inlaid eyes, in wood. A curled snake on a lotus leaf, in ivory. A hare and the moon. Three toads on a leaf. An octopus. A priest on a horse. A persimmon. And countless others — figures, animals, erotica and creatures from myth. 

Lunar hare with moon netsuke

The purchase details are lost to time, leading Mr. de Waal to wonder, “Had they just arrived? Was Charles present when they came in? Did he fall in love with the startlingly pale hare with amber eyes, and buy the rest for company?” 

What he does know is that Charles bought a black vitrine to put them in. 

More than six feet tall with wood polished like lacquer, the vitrine, with its mirrored backing, reflects all the subtle variations in colors of the creams, golds and browns of the ivory, horn and boxwood netsuke.

These tiny figures are not shut up in isolation to be viewed. The cabinet is made to be opened, for a netsuke to be chosen, “picked up in a moment of seduction, and encounter between a hand and an object that is electric.” And the netsuke are perfect for the life of Charles’ salon.

And Charles’ life is progressing. In 1881, the young poet Jules Laforgue is recommended as a secretary to assist with the lists, notes, and such for the publication of his book on Dürer. And at age 30, Charles becomes the editor of the Gazette. 

Mr. de Waal, worrying about how he would construct a life out of mere objects is able to feel the room through Laforgue’s writing; he can hear their nighttime conversations and so can the reader of this wonderful book.

Charles has become good friends with Marcel Proust and a number of painters of that time. He continues to support the impressionist movement. Charles played a pivotal role as an advocate and an editor. One critic wrote of Charles as ‘an older brother to young artists,’ visiting with them in their studios, purchasing a painting directly from the easel.

The book speaks to Charles life, his friendships with the painters, poets and writers of the day and how the “conjunction of Japanese objects and the shimmering new style of painting seems right,” and how this new Japanese art had a profound effect on artists like Manet, Renoir and Degas, who were also avid collectors. 

Charles even makes it into one of Renoir’s paintings, along with his friend Laforgue.

Renoir’s The Boating Party with Charles in top hat in the background.

At age 36, Charles becomes the proprietor of the Gazette. It’s 1885, and he’s becoming a public figure.

Another move

In 1891, Charles moves his netsuke to 11 avenue d’Iéna. The house is larger than the Hôtel Ephrussi and more austere. It’s located on a hill just north of the Champ de Mars, where the Eiffel Tower had just been erected. It was a very desirable neighborhood, referred to as the ‘hill of arts.’ He lives there with his brother Ignace and they give large dinner parties and soirées. 

Courtyard at the current 11 avenue d’Iena.

But Charles appears to grow away from his netsuke.

With the coming of the new century, Charles’ first cousin is to be married in Vienna, someone Charles has known since childhood. He sends the couple “something special, a spectacular something from Paris: a black vitrine with green velvet shelves, and a mirrored back that reflects 264 netsuke.” 

And so ends the Paris section of this remarkable book. Moving to Vienna with the transfer of the netsukes as a wedding gift, the next chapter of this story begins. 

But this and further parts of this tale are not mine for the retelling. You, the reader, will need to decide if your interest is piqued enough to find out what happens as this most interesting of collections travels through time and the world, interacting, impacting and escaping some of history’s most insidious events. 

All I can say is, “You should read it … it’s a really great book.”


Only the Purest Will Do: Paso Robles Wine Country

As far as wine goes, Paso Robles, in the Central Coast of California, is fairly young. Even though the Franciscan Friars began making wine in this area in 1790, it wasn’t until 1983 that Paso Robles became an American Viticultural Appellation (AVA). There was a huge investment in this area beginning in the 1990s and in 2013, Paso Robles Wine Country was named Wine Region of the Year by Wine Enthusiast Magazine.

There are now 32,000 vineyard acres, producing more than 40 wine grape varieties including the area’s heritage variety, Zinfandel. An important factor that distinguishes this region is the distinct microclimates and diverse soils. Combined with warm days and cool nights, growing conditions are ideal.

Paso Robles Wine Country

Paso Robles Wine Country

Perhaps one of the most ecologically-focused wineries in this region is the Carmody McKnight Vineyard. Nutrient-based sustainability is at the heart of their vineyard practices.

And so, on a weekend in mid-January, shortly after a substantial rainfall, Mark Stine and I drove up from Los Angeles specifically to seek out Gary Conway, owner (along with his wife, Marian McKnight Conway) of Carmody McKnight. Mark had purchased Gary’s book, The Art of the Vineyard, and was interested in getting it autographed. The day was glorious with an azure sky marked by very few cotton balls of clouds. The hillsides were newly green, unusual in the midst of the great drought in California’s Central Valley.

The art of wine at Carmody McKnight estate winery

The art of wine at Carmody McKnight estate winery

As we headed out of Paso Robles into the mountains and valleys of wine country, we commented on the beauty of the light creating shadows on the sides of hills from oak trees stripped bare and resting for the short California Winter. The beauty was staggering in its simplicity … the green grass, bright in its newness, fading to a color reminiscent of the blue grass of Kentucky from the reflection of the sunlight, and everywhere along the hills and in the valleys, the branches of grapevines trained to grow along the wires.

Paso Robles Wine Country

Paso Robles Wine Country

Carmody McKnight Vineyards

Carmody McKnight was a pleasant surprise. Not really knowing about the vineyard, except from the story of Gary Conway’s book, we were immediately struck by the simplicity of the old farmhouse, kept as the tasting room. In 1972, while looking for land to purchase, Gary crash-landed in a helicopter and walking away from the accident, proclaimed that he would buy that property.

Carmody McKnight estate winery, farmhouse tasting room

Carmody McKnight, farmhouse tasting room

Gary Conway is what you would clearly call a Renaissance Man. He’s an actor, having starred in Burke’s Law and the 60’s cult Sci-Fi series, Land of the Giants. He’s a writer, artist (modern bold colors painted in oils, images that also adorn the labels of the Carmody McKnight wines), producer, activist and environmentalist.

The land on this 160-acre property was formed by three volcanoes and the natural grapes grow in the magma. The super soils are mineral and nutrient rich, which transfers to the grapes, fitting well with Gary’s passion for the environment and healthy food, and leading him to produce wine that is completely pure and natural.

Carmody McKnight vineyard, Paso Robles, CA

Carmody McKnight vineyard, Paso Robles, CA

There are no additives in the Carmody McKnight wines, no chemicals, no manipulation … pure, exquisite flavor comes through in each varietal. Truly the best wine is the “signature of the soil” and that is clearly apparent in these wines. Of all the wines we tasted, the intense, rich, complex flavors came through.

The Carmody McKnight website describes in detail how the mineral-rich soil contributes to the flavor of their wine as well as increasing its health benefits and enabling this vineyard to produce true Natural Wines.

Gary spent quite a bit of time with us, describing the wines and the production process. His comment, “I used to fight [fictional] giants, but now I’m fighting Corporate Giants” was a reference to his anti-GMO stance that’s pervasive in the US food and agricultural industry.

Mark signed up for the wine club partially because of Gary’s passion, the purity of the wine and the wonderful, bold flavors. From movements all over America, people are supporting local, organic farmers by buying their products and spreading their message. And it’s clear that our health and that of the planet is intricately linked to this movement.

Wild Coyote, House of Reds

There were a couple of other vineyards that Mark and I particularly enjoyed. Wild Coyote featured pure, unfiltered wines. Each wine we tasted was unique, complex and wonderful. I had a few bottles shipped, including a delightful Port. Oh, and, you can stay onsite in one of their five private casitas!

Entrance to Wild Coyote Tasting Room

Entrance to Wild Coyote Tasting Room

Kukkula Vineyards

Another must see winery is Kukkula with their beautifully constructed and energy efficient winery and tasting room. Their mostly estate grapes are organic and their blended Rhone wines rich and delightful.

Wine tasting at Kukkula Vineyards

Wine tasting at Kukkula Vineyards

Thomas Hill Organics

If you’re passionate about supporting restaurants that are organic and sustainable, there are many wonderful choices. Our favorite was Thomas Hill Organics, a beautiful little bistro and wine bar with unique menu items and ingredients sourced locally.

Wine a dinner at Thomas Hill Organics

Wine a dinner at Thomas Hill Organics

Pasolivo Ranch

Another wonderful experience occurred at Pasolivo Ranch. As Mark and I were taking one of the many back roads to Paso Robles, we came across a beautiful olive orchard. We stopped in at the end of their day and the staff was gracious enough to allow us to enjoy their unique olive tasting experience. With pieces of a baguette, and a small plate full of various salts, herbs and spices, we dipped and tasted olive oils with flavors enhanced by our plate of options. Directed by our own “guide” and enhanced by our own imagination, we experienced some amazing flavors! My favorite (and I’ve already purchased more online directly with Pasolivo) was the Lime Olive Oil with Winter Ambrosia Vinegar (a seasonal option).

Outside of Pasolivo Ranch

Outside of Pasolivo Ranch

If you find yourself in the California Central Valley, definitely visit Paso Robles and its many vineyards and olive orchards of that region. It’s well worth the trip.

Crossing the causeway: St Michael’s Mount

From many places in Penzance, you can see St Michael’s Mount reaching majestically toward the sky, its flag flying proudly.

The castle is clearly visible walking across the Penzance harbor bridge on a sunny day, sitting atop its jagged slopes, catching the sunlight and beckoning you to climb its granite steps and walk among its ancient stones and tropical gardens.

St Michael's Mount from Penzance: On a clear day

St Michael’s Mount from Penzance: On a clear day

On a day when the sun has taken leave, out of the mist and barely visible, you might be drawn by the myths and legends that surround the island. Pulled by an image of the Archangel St Michael, who appeared to fishermen in 495, you might find yourself dreaming of an ancient stone chair that still stands at the entrance to the castle.

Located on one of Britian’s most prominent ley lines, St Michael’s Mount is suffused in a spiritual energy both ancient and new.

Looking back on history

Looking back on history

On a beautiful sunny day, Mark and I set out to explore this historic and most magnificent of places. The Mount is open to the public and you can cross the bay by boat during high tide, or wait until the tide is low and walk in the footsteps of time across the cobblestone causeway. Mark and I choose to do the latter, and so we spend a memorable morning exploring the lovely town of Marazion, on the Cornish coast overlooking the island.

Munificent Marazion

On a hill overlooking the bay and St Michael’s Mount is the village of Marazion, Cornwall’s oldest chartered town. With a small town centre and winding streets sheltered by pristine cottages and row houses, Mark and I walk up and around to take in the history and architecture of this beautiful coastal village.

Marazion toward the bay

Marazion toward the bay

As we round a bend in the road, snapping photos of everything imaginable, we garner a smile from a pleasant villager crossing our path. She seems surprised by us and when I point to my camera and comment that everything here is so beautiful, she responds with a simple, “I live here.” I continue my chatter about the history and architecture and she points us to the top of the hill where we will find the oldest public building, the Friends Meeting House, and the beautiful Memorial Gardens.

View of St Michael's Mount from the Friends Meeting House

View of St Michael’s Mount from the Friends Meeting House

Marazion Memorial Gardens

Marazion Memorial Gardens

As we turn to walk up the hill, our villager calls out and asks if we’d like to see her house. She clearly thinks we’re trustworthy and from our conversation of historic buildings has decided to show us her own home. We enter through a carved iron gate to a garden area.

Gateway to the house

Gateway to the house

Our lovely hostess has traced the house, and its use, as far back as 1770. It was originally used as a tool shop and subsequently used by the current owner as she created costumes and stage sets for the theatre. The shop was then turned into a home, with the first level still used as a studio. The creative touches of our hostess are seen throughout the two floors of living space and the deck off the second floor. Two stain glass windows depict the life of the house and the life of our hostess. These are now part of the building and will remain into the future as historical reference.

History of the house in Marazion

History of the house in Marazion

We leave her planting flowers in boxes along the tiny road and walk to the town centre to check out some shops, including The Summerhouse Gallery where I discover the beautiful and vibrant gold-flecked paintings by local artist Kate Richardson.

Looking over at Marazion

Looking over at Marazion

We then head to the beach to see how far the tide has gone out.

A walk across the water

As the waters of Mounts Bay part, each end of the causeway becomes more and more visible. People gather on both sides stepping farther and farther into the sea as the waters recede.

Waiting for the tide

Waiting for the tide

We walk across the rocky beach and climb onto an outcrop overlooking the causeway to wait a bit longer for it to clear. The process is gradual and since my cousins will be arriving in the afternoon and I need to get back, we decide to see how deep the waters are along the walk. Mark springs across the cobblestones as waves rush over the top. I take off my shoes and follow.

Cobblestone causeway

Cobblestone causeway

The water is warmer than expected; the stones cool on my bare feet. I walk cautiously as the path is uneven. I feel the sun on my face, the salt water rushing across my feet and the tug of history pulling me onward toward St Michael’s Mount.

St Michael’s Mount

The castle that sits atop the granite outcropping that is St Michael’s Mount was originally a monastery, tied to the Benedictine Abbey of Mont St Michel in France, following the Norman invasion.

Since the 1650s, it has been home to the St Aubyn family, with James and Mary St Levan making their home here. James is the 12th generation of the St Aubyn family, and while they reside in the fortress, many other families live and work on the island, occupying the waterside cottages at the foot of the Mount.

Cottage by the bay

Cottage by the bay

In 1954, James’s great-grandfather gifted the island to The National Trust with a large endowment fund and a 999-year lease for the St Aubyn family to continue in residence. The property is entrusted to James and Mary who live within its medieval walls, hosting events and keeping its history alive.

After lunch at one of the island cafe’s, we take a walk around where the views out to sea are spectacular.

St Michael's Mount: Looking out to sea

St Michael’s Mount: Looking out to sea

The walkway up to the castle is steep and uneven, but once you arrive at the castle door, it’s a world unto itself. Historic artifacts within its walls have been well maintained and there are many items dating to the 15th Century, including the beautiful stain glass St Michael rose window in the Priory Church. Items found on the island are also on display from the Bronze Age. The plaster work in some of the rooms is remarkable; some with intricate carvings and others depicting hunting scenes.

Through the windows looking out to sea, it’s easy to get lost in thought and wonder at the lives of those who have walked these hallways before.

Windows to the sea

Windows to the sea

Outside, the sub-tropical garden, with its variety of exotic plants growing out of cracks and crevices and clinging to the granite hillside, is serene and magnificent. Flowers delicate in their beauty, yet sturdy enough to withstand the wind and weather of this island, flourish.

Looking down at the gardens

Looking down at the gardens

St Michael’s Mount is truly remarkable, filled with serenity and hope. For centuries, standing guard and looking out to sea, it whispers of magic and myth, of knights and kings, and of time—moving in a wave from past to present and on into the future.


Park in the Sky

One of my favorite places in Manhattan is the High Line,  an urban park built on a section of the elevated former New York Central Railroad. The park runs along the lower west side of Manhattan, beginning in the Meatpacking District and continuing through Chelsea to 30th Street and then around to 34th. It’s a beautiful green space and a wonderfully peaceful place to walk, sit or just get away from the activity on the ground.

In Paris, the Promenade Plantée was the inspiration for the repurposing of the New York railway spur. And so we set out to see for ourselves and to also peruse the artist shops of the Viaduc des Arts.  [From the Place de la Bastille, take Rue de Lyon (to the right of the Opéra Bastille) and stay left at Av. Daumesnil.]

Place de la Bastille

Place de la Bastille

The artists’ shops are located at street level on the Avenue Daumesnil in the arches of the former elevated railway viaduct, which supports the Promenade Plantée.

Artist shops at the Viaduc des Arts

Artist shops at the Viaduc des Arts

From jewelry to pottery and fine art to leather work, this avenue has an amazing array of art and artists.

Shop on the Viaduc des Arts

Shop on the Viaduc des Arts

In one shop, we saw a loom in the window with beautiful handmade clothes hanging about the ‘gallery.’ This shop was closed, so we didn’t get a chance to see the work up close, but the weave looked very delicate and well made.

The Michel Pintado gallery had some amazing sculptures of leaves, animals and other objects. The stone and metal elephants were simple, yet elegant and interestingly enticing. When I initially looked at the folded metal, I thought, “oh, interesting” followed by, “oh, it’s an elephant … WOW!”

By the time we reached the end of the galleries, we decided to stop for lunch. We were looking for a cafe and at the corner of Rue de Rambouillet and Av. Daumesnil, we happened to look up. To our astonishment, we saw statues built into the structure, running along each side of this corner building. Oh, and by the way, this building just happened to be a police station. We’re not sure why we looked up, but we could have easily missed this. The statues appeared to be very fine replicas of Michelangelo’s Dying Slave. [We did an online search later for the original, which is held at the Musée du Louvre.]

Corner view - atop a police station

Corner view – atop a police station


Statues along the building

Statues along the building

Following a very nice lunch, we took the steps up to the promenade.

To say this park is amazing is quite an understatement. It’s quiet, peaceful and overgrown, yet manicured (but not to the extreme). The walkway is lined on both sides with trees, bushes or ground cover, many with beautiful dainty flowers. Archways are present throughout the nearly mile-long walk.

Archway on promenade

Archway on promenade

Drooping casually over the sides or tops of the archways are wisteria, climbing roses (of all colors) or ‘snowdrift’ clematis.

Archway at the  Promenade entrance

Archway at the Promenade entrance


A trellis of roses

A trellis of roses

The walk was delightfully fragrant and at about a 3rd story level, the tops of buildings provide you with a unique look at the city.

Rooftops along the promenade

Rooftops along the promenade

Park benches are placed throughout the promenade, and during our walk, most were occupied by people sitting with their faces to the sun, reading or just relaxing. It didn’t take much to see that they were enjoying the beauty of this space and the warmth of this Spring day.

From the Bastille, we took a detour to the Place des Vosges, the oldest planned square in Paris. This residential square was completed in 1612 and is surrounded by houses all designed the same.

Where the rows of houses meet

Where the rows of houses meet


Houses on Place des Vosges

Houses on Place des Vosges

A bronze of Louis XIII sits in the middle of some very old Linden trees and the square itself is surrounded by Lindens trimmed into square shapes.

Henri XIII bronze

Henri XIII bronze

The square is open along one street, but if you want to exit the square through one of the other three sides, your only choice is the side opposite, through an archway that goes under the center houses with a roof line higher than the others.

Place des Vosges - Entrance  opposite

Place des Vosges – Entrance opposite

The warmth of the sun begged us to keep walking, so we continued through the Marais down Rue Saint-Antoine toward Rue de Rivoli. We stopped for an espresso at a cafe in a very old, small cobblestone square off Rue Caron called Place du Marché Sainte-Catherine before continuing on to the Hôtel de Ville metro and home.