Lights Out

June 6th marked the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the day on which Allied forces invaded northern France via beach landings in Normandy. In commemoration of this day I joined a new Context Tour, Lights Out, Paris Under the Occupation, accompanied by my Italian and a few friends. Following are several of the relevant spots, including bullet holes I had never noticed, along our 3 hour walk, led by a well-schooled historian. These images and the stories behind them will stay with me forever.

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To learn more about Paris history, art, food… join a Context tour. You might even find me there.

next stop: Impressionism

My most venerated Paris museum was once a railway station, built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900. Since then it was abandoned and later brought back to life 25 years ago, housing the largest Impressionist collection in the world. Not to mention my favorites, the Post-Impressionists.

I have wandered the halls of the Musée d’Orsay many a time, lost amidst it’s history both structural and that which decorates it’s walls. Though in the last year and a half, due to major renovations, much of this grand edifice was closed to the public, it’s space and artwork hidden from view.

To celebrate it’s recent unveiling, I decided to take a proper tour not only of the Orsay’s new galleries but also of it’s masterpieces. It was a Context Paris docent that enlightened me over an almost four hour long tour beginning in 1848 with Corot and the Barbizon School and ending in 1914 with Degas, Van Gogh, Cézanne and Monet, among others. I had briefly studied art history in the past, and tried to enlighten myself whenever possible, but an intimate tour with many of my most admired artists, where each of my questions was answered in depth and at length, THIS is art history heaven! Following the tour, I sat for some time in the sunlit space, thoughtful of all many stories I had been told, while gazing into the distance, grateful that this day at the Orsay was one of my own.

morning marketing

Ever since I moved to Paris, we’ve had the very French idea to go ‘marketing’ on Sunday morning. Particularly the Marché d’Aligre in the 12th, one of the largest markets with the widest array of fresh produce. Our plan was to buy all of our fruits and vegetables for the week, fresh fish for an evening feast and perhaps even mingle with the locals. How enticing! In theory. Come Sunday we were so happy to have time to rest and enjoy a long and leisurely brunch at home, we simply never made it to the market, which closed at the absurdly early hour of 1:30pm. Exactly the time we were enjoying our second cup of coffee. (Fortunately, Marche des Enfants Rouge is just around the corner.)

Recently I was invited to join well reputed Context Paris for a Sunday morning market walk led by docent, foodie and writer Meg Zimbeck, who I was eager to meet, where else but at the Marché d’Aligre. (How did they know?) Finally a morning at the market with my Italian, and a guide!

It turned out to be a morning well worth sacrificing our Sunday ritual, even though the temperature made for quite a chilly stroll. We explored the length of the market, both indoor and out, tasted of delicacies I hadn’t dreamt of sampling so early on a Sunday, and ended the tour with a seasonal (and very savory) cheese tasting. Perfect.

My Italian and I left feeling both educated on the history of this part of our city and fully indulged in the tastes of France. An added bonus was sharing the tour with Raquel, a lovely travel consultant with a grand appetite for Paris.

How are we spending next Sunday? Marketing of course. Thanks for the inspiration Context & Meg!