Wild Souls

Let me assure you that the title of this post does not refer to any of the three of us who visited Musee d’Orsay on our third day in Paris, although it might have described any of us at certain points in time. Instead, this is the English translation of the title “Ames Sauveges” which featured the work of artists from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, a special exhibition.

My first visit to Musee d’Orsay was back in 2012 and at that time I posted some favorite works on Facebook. If you are one of my “friends” and you care to revisit it, you will find it in my photo albums of that year. If you are not on Facebook, or you otherwise don’t want to bother, you can see a very nice representation of the holdings of this incredible museum here:


Instead we’ll begin with this iconic view from the museum. This is from the inside looking out over to Louvre to Sacra Coeur in the background:


This is the central gallery of Musee d’Orsay. Off to either side are multiple smaller galleries featuring some of the greatest artists who ever lived:

Musee’ d’Orsay is a former train station, completed in time for the World Exposition in 1900. As trains got longer, the building proved inadequate and was going to be torn down till somebody came up with the idea of turning it into a museum. The rest is history.


Although I said I wasn’t going to re-hash the permanent collection, I’ll throw in a few pieces that had special significance:

This is Van Gogh’s painting of his room in Arles, France. Since we would be going to Arles I had hoped we might see the place. Turns out bombers of World War 2 had other plans and blew it off the face of the Earth.


Having just been here, I liked seeing how it looked in 1901. The artist is Maximillian Luce:


This is the artist Berthe Morisot, a model and sister-in-law of Edouard Manet, the artist who painted her. The significance of this piece is that a few years ago it was featured with several other Manet’s in an exhibit at the Toledo Museum of Art. Good to see her again!


Ames Sauvages

I have to confess that if I’m looking for great art, my first instinct is not to jump on a plane headed for the Balkans. What I have learned is that if I did jump on that plane, I would not be disappointed.


The intent of this exhibit is not only to feature Balkan artists, but also to explore their use of symbolism. Unfortunately, there is not much there to explain the symbolism or what it means. Apparently, some of it has to do with folk lore and tradition. I’ll leave that to you to discover if you are so inclined. Instead, I’ll focus on the artists we met for the first time. In the exhibit their works are scattered throughout the hall, but I will group them so you get a sense of their style.

For me, the one who stood out above all the others was

Ferdynand Ruszczyc:


La Vent D’Automne

DSCF2928 (2)Nec Mergitur (Unsinkable)

Konrad Magi:

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Portrait of a Norwegian Girl




Paysage De Foret

I should add, that, looking over other works by these artists when I got home, Konrad Magi’s body of work is the most striking. Here is a look, if you are interested:


Johann Walter:


Peasant Girl

Janis Rozentals

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Princess with a Monkey

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Rudolph Perle:



Antana Zmuidzinavicius:


Tomb of Povilo Visinkio


Milzinkapiu krastas

Vilhelms Puvitis

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Kristjan Raud:


Dancing with the Stars

So, this is just a small number of the paintings in the total exhibit, one of the best I’ve seen in years. I’m so glad we had a chance to experience it.

Well, in our usual fashion we didn’t arrive at Musee d’Orsay till after noon. We had a nice lunch there as well. By the time we had seen all the exhibits none of us were in the mood to take on any more museums. So, we headed back to the apartment. Not long after arriving there we found ourselves back at the Le Pub de la Butte for refreshment and dinner. In addition to the fine mixed board:


we decided to kick it up a notch and order some skewers. You had your choice of beef, chicken, duck and mutton. We went with the sampler.


After stuffing ourselves, we decided to venture out and stroll the hood. We had just made it outside when the young bar tender who had taken such a shine to us, ran out of the bar toward us. “Wait!” he yelled breathlessly, “I have a free digestif for you!”

Now, my brother and I have known one or two bartenders in our time and we like to think we are familiar with their ways. For one of them to run out of a bar to offer us something free was unique in both of our considerable experiences. But, the word “free” translates well in any language and in no time we were back inside toasting our good fortune with limoncellos. The radar was now up, however, and while we were as complimentary and cordial as we could be, we later spent some time trying to figure out what was going on. We never did come to a satisfactory conclusion.






Settling into Butte Aux Cailles

Having found round trip flights to Paris for $426 pp, the next order of business was to find a place to stay. For this, we ruled out hotels immediately. We needed an apartment. So, time to call up AirBnb to see what they had to offer, which was plenty. Rich and Sis both agreed that they did not want to have to climb stairs, so that limited the search right away. And, it was a quick reminder that in France a first-floor apartment is actually on what we know as the second floor. So you would often see a first floor apartment advertised as being over, say, a bakery. Not what we wanted. We wanted a ground floor place. And, again, there were several available, but we needed to refine the search further.

My brother and I had recently shared a cabin in the wilds of Canada, so we were already aware that ear plugs and ventilation were a high priority. No need to subject Sis to that, so the best bet would be a separate area for her. Surprisingly, many of the apartments had one or more beds on a loft, which meant climbing a ladder to get to them. This was no more welcome than stairs, so the search continued.

And, of course, a further consideration was location. We needed quick access to the Metro. Paris is divided into districts, called arrondissements. The smaller the number, the closer you are to the central city and, generally, the more expensive the accommodations. But, the metro system is so good, you can easily be in the central city from the outlying areas in a matter of minutes.


After the exchange of several e-mails we settled on a place in the 13th arrondissement near the metro hub called Place d’Italie. First, it was on the ground floor, it had one bedroom separated from the others and three single beds. It also had a nice courtyard, kitchen and bath. Previous tenants gave it rave reviews. I contacted the owner to confirm availability and we booked it. Seven nights for $400 per person, or, $57 per night.

After Air France had changed our arrival time to 8:45 am, I contacted our host, Catherine, to let her know. She said she would have a nice French breakfast waiting for us. That’s when we knew we had found a winner!

Upon arrival at Charles De Gaul, however, we had a few items of business to attend to. The first was to purchase a two-day museum pass, which saves considerably on entrance fees to the great museums of Paris. The second was to purchase a Navigo Découverte pass. This pass gives us unlimited use of all Paris buses and trains. There are two train systems in Paris, the regular metro and the RER, or regional express railroad. This pass was good for both and it cost 23 euro plus 5 euro for the week. The problem with the pass is that it is effective only from Monday through Sunday. Since we were arriving on a Tuesday we had already lost a day, but it was still much cheaper than buying individual tickets. To buy a Navigo card you have to have a photo of yourself, like a passport photo, only smaller. We had done this before we arrived, so we were ready for them. The Navigo is actually a plastic card holder. You stick your picture onto the insert, along with your newly activated card and you are good to go. The purchase and assembly process took longer than we had hope, plus it is about an hour ride from the Airport to the apartment, so we didn’t arrive until about noon. Still, Catherine was waiting for us with a very nice breakfast of baguette slices and croissants with honey and jellies and coffee and very pleasant conversation. I had brought for her a box of Dietz’s chocolates from home, and while it might seem like madness to bring chocolates to Paris, we know Dietz’s can hold their own anywhere in the world, and they were much appreciated.

So, when you get off the train at Place d’Italie, the first thing you see is a whoppin’ big mall. Also, you are in the center of a hub from which seven streets make up the spokes. Our street, Avenue d’Italie ran alongside the mall. The first intersection is Rue Vandrezanne and that is where our apartment was. So, you follow the mall, turn at the end, where there is this mall entrance:


Across the street you see this:


The door beside the gate has a pass code, which Catherine had given us. That takes us to DSCF3322

The glass door, for which there is a key, then you go across the courtyard to the apartment entrance, which is the corner glass door:


The courtyard is mostly decorative. There are no chairs or benches unless you take some out. There are about seven or eight apartments there.


Then you unlock your door, as seen from the inside:


Here is the layout:


Please note, these are the AirBnB photos which are 100 percent accurate, but which show a much tidier appearance than those in my personal collection. The pink covered boudoir, as you might guess, was the lady’s chambers. The only downside was that it was also the pathway to the bathroom, so, sadly, privacy was rarely to be had. And other perils were all too close at hand.

So, following a very warm welcome by our host and an explanation of the keys and appliances, we settled in. Anticipating the jet lag and time zone fatigue, we did not plan to do much the first day except explore the neighborhood at our leisure.

OK, I believe I have mentioned in previous posts, but will restate: I still cannot get over the fact that I can sit at my little desk in Findlay, Ohio, click a few keys, and, months later, when I walk into the lobby of a hotel in France or Scotland or wherever and there will be a reservation for us just sitting there waiting. How is this possible? Sorcery?

Well, to blow my mind even further, with the assistance of Google maps I can now get a street level view of our apartment in Paris and I can stroll down the street in any direction with the aid of my mouse. I can look at various stores, and whatever as if I were actually there. So, by the time we arrived I had taken many a stroll down Rue Vandrazanne and knew the location of every boulangerie (bread bakery), pastisserie (yummy pastry shop), restaurant and bar in the neighborhood. Just amazing!

The neighborhood we were in is called Butte aux Cailles, which translates to Quail Hill, but is actually named for the Cailles (rhymes with “cry”) family who farmed the area. It used to be a small, independent village, but in the 1800’s it was incorporated into the city of Paris. It still maintains a small-town vibe. It is made up of small homes, surrounded by high-rise apartments. This is not a tourist area, which made it all the more attractive to us. It is where working class Parisians live. And, while we were clearly outsiders, we were made to feel very welcome. Here are a few scenes from the neighborhood:

DSCF3327Just outside our gate, down from the mall entrance, is one of those high rise apartments. There are many, many more to the east of us. But once you get past this one, Rue Vandrezanne is gated off to traffic and becomes a pedestrian gateway.

DSCF3336  This is more typical of the neighborhood, small houses and cobblestone streets.



There are small parks throughout the area, perfect for enjoying a coffee and pastry.

The most famous place around, though, is the Butte aux Cailles Piscine. There is an artesian spring around that the civic leaders turned into a public swimming pool. People can swim outside year round:




Screenshot-2018-5-19 butte aux cailles piscine - Google Search


The other thing Butte aux Cailles is famous for is graffiti, which normally I hate. But here it is done by an association of artists called  ‘Lézarts de la Bièvre’. Here is a sample, which is by no means all, of their work:





Angel or Devil?






The most famous of all the street artists is a woman named Miss Tic, whose work is found around the world:


To the terraces of life the flash of our furious liberty


I  wave to the man


The abuse of pleasure is excellent for the health


The masculine wins but where?

These, of course, are Google translations.

So, after a pleasant stroll about the hood, we were not at all surprised to end up here:


Le Pub de la Butte!




Fine cuisine and delightful beverages! Far from being American outcasts, we were warmly welcomed by all the staff, especially the bartenders. One, in particular, took a shine to us and began by offering a free beer to us. Sis declined, but Rich and I took full advantage. We spent a pleasant and relaxing evening here, to say the least!