I’m sitting at the table in the living room looking out the window watching giant white snow flakes swirl in the air on their way to the ground below. It’s a cold winter day in Paris and I’m missing my girls…mes filles.
Our friends, Alan and Melissa, arrived yesterday and today was our first full day with them in Paris. The Seifers are from Miami so wouldn’t you know that their first day in this beautiful city is also our coldest day here thus far! I heard one man at the flea market we went to this morning yell, “Mon Dieu! C’est trop froide!” I smiled in part because I actually understood him and also because I thought — You got that right!
It’s about 29 degrees right now, but The Weather Channel on my Android tells me it feels like 20. As I watch the snow accumulate on the balcony rail right outside the window — I can believe it.
I missed my girls today because we saw things that I knew they would particularly enjoy — starting with the flea market — Les Marches des Puces — this morning. It’s the largest flea market in the world and if you’re a Francophile or, like me, simply like French country “stuff” — this is the place for you! Miles of it…with antiques and contemporary wares galore. We braved the cold and probably spent almost two hours walking the aisles. Alan found a metal sign that said “No smoking” in French which he plans on cleaning up and putting in his medical office back in Miami. That’s a nice way of telling his patients to lay off the tobacco!
Shannon and my mother could have spent all day at Les Marches des Puces…I, however, was ready for my cup of hot chocolate after a couple of hours in the cold! Then it was on to the Musee Rodin — a hot spot for my second child. The Musee Rodin is a small museum that houses the works of the famous sculpture, August Rodin. Thanks to my youngest child I was not so much interested in Monsieur Rodin’s work, amazing though it is, as I was in seeing if there was anything about Camille Claudel in the museum.
Camille was a young woman who shocked the 19th century society she was born into by having the audacity and the talent to do a man’s art form — sculpt. She became a student of Rodin’s and ultimately his muse and lover. But women born into the upper class of French society during that time were simply supposed to marry well and dedicate themselves to having children and painting landscapes or playing the piano in their spare time. Camille was having none of it and while her father supported her desire to pursue a life creating art — her mother and brother most decidedly did not. When her father died, her mother (with the full support of her brother) had Camille institutionalized for “hysteria.” That’s late 19th/early 20th century code for “I have the power to have you declared insane and locked up until I want to let you out.” It’s the world’s loss that Camille spent the last 30 years of her life in a mental institution despite the fact that a growing number of art historians now believe she was not insane at all…just bucking the moral code and system of her day. The greatest tragedy however was that her mother…and then her brother…would not even permit her to sculpt while incarcerated.
I was thrilled to see on the floor of the museum a mask of Camille which had been created during her tenure with Rodin. And the gift shop was filled with books — in English and French — on the young woman who has captured my Megan’s interest. Meg wrote a research paper on Camille which was selected to be presented at an academic forum at Georgia State University in a week or so. Go Meggie Moo!!!
The Musee Rodin is definitely worth a visit — even if you only have a limited amount of time in Paris. It was conceived by the master himself, and Rodin donated many of his works — including The Thinker, The Kiss, and The Gates of Hell — to it upon his death. As I stood to snap this picture of The Gates of Hell, I couldn’t help wondering about Camille’s mother and brother….