The Days of the Dead and the Dutch
It was like a scene in a movie you couldn’t have orchestrated or anticipated…and one of those moments in life that will forever bring a smile to my face and I will remember with clarity.
Sunday afternoon, as is usually the case, the line to enter the Diane Arbus exhibition at the Jeu de Paume (on until February 5th, 2011, Jeu de Paume) was too long a wait to consider so we opted instead to visit the Pinacothèque at Place de la Madeleine. There the line outside moved relatively quickly and within a few minutes we were at the ticket counter, all four of us.
The Pinacothèque de Paris (Pinacothèque de Paris) is a private museum founded by Marc Restellini arranged on three levels with a small permanent collection, but showing large scale international temporary exhibitions of note. When we arrived at the ticket counter, the line behind us had grown. There were three exhibits to choose from, plus the permanent collection, and the price to enter was dear – 7€ for the permanent collection and 10€ for each additional exhibition. There is no discount for seniors, only students. The ticket seller warned us that we would be disappointed if we saw only the permanent collection as it was small. So, the decision became difficult about which exhibits to see and one person in our party began to ask questions of the ticket sellers about each. This took some time.
Meanwhile, the line behind us was growing and becoming obviously impatient. In an effort to speed things along, I emphatically said to my inquiring friend, “Do the Hollandais!”…referring to the “L’Âge d’Or Hollandais – La collection Kremer” exhibition, that looked most interesting to me.
At that, the entire waiting crowd of about 30 people, in one unanimous voice, as if they had been practicing like a chorus, yelled “HOLLANDAIS!!” It brought the house down with a roar of laughter…and of course, the tickets were quickly purchased without further ado. It was one of those sweet, touching, funny moments that don’t happen often in life and which expose the softer side of the French personality. As we wandered through the exhibit and marvel at the Dutch masters (worth the 10€ price of admission), we would giggle to ourselves periodically about the scene at the ticket counter.
I saw a few witch’s hats on the streets of Paris Saturday night – obviously celebrating Halloween two days early, but there is little to remind us of the American holiday. It was popular among the young for a while, but faded after a few years and we no longer see too many signs of it.
Halloween originated in the British Isles centuries before the Roman Catholic church established All Saint’s Day (“Toussaint”) on November 1st – a celebration of saints who don’t have their own holy day. In France, Toussaint is a national and bank holiday, even though it has religious foundation. To “faire le pont” – bridge the weekend with the holiday – much is closed today, too. In fact, a friend just phoned that he may have to delay his flight back to the States just to make banking transactions he assumed he’d be able to do today or tomorrow! It is traditional to visit your departed relatives’ graves on Toussaint and lay chrysanthemums or wreaths of “immortelles” (everlasting flowers) on their graves. (Make note, chrysanthemums are so closely tied with Toussaint that you must never give them to a French person as a gift!) So, tomorrow is the perfect day to visit some of Paris’ most illustrious cemeteries! If you’ve never thought to do this, think again. Where else would you have a chance to mingle with the likes of Frederic Chopin, Oscar Wilde, Sarah Bernhardt, Edouard Manet, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and thousands more?
A few of my favorites are Père Lachaise, Montparnasse and Montmartre, but there are many others worth a trip. For a comprehensive Web site in English to help you plan your ghoulish visit, visit Paris Cemeteries.
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
P.S. In honor of Toussaint, the Parler Parlor French-English Conversation Group (Parler Parlor) will be closed, but sessions resume as normal on Wednesday, November 2nd.
P.P.S. Plan on meeting up with us next Tuesday, November 8th, from 3 to 5 p.m. when Jane Grey discusses “Metaphysical Manifestation: How to create whatever you really want in life” at Parler Paris Après Midi! Visit Après Midi for more information.