G&Gs Blog

A child, offering its sweet smile, its gentle good faith… lets wander astonished and delighted eyes, everywhere offering its young soul to life” Victor Hugo


    Beautiful Music for Anytime of Year.

                                                          The five keyboard organ at Saint-Sulpice

    G-pa’s view

    Everybody knows Paris is a famous capital of art: the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, the Picasso Museum and scores of other world-renowned museums and galleries.

    What about classical music – and the emperor of keyboard music, the pipe-organ? Paris is a paradise of church organs, offering at least 234 of them, many from the 16-17th and 19th centuries. It also harbours scores of world-class organists, from Philip Roth to Marie-Claire Alain.

    The majestic sounds of their organs are a secret treat for the average traveler, a too-often-unheard echo of the grandeur of Western civilization.They remind us of why the great Russian cellist Msistslav Rostropovich called Johann Sebastian Bach, the Cantor and master-organist of Leipzig’s Church of St. Thomas, “the God of Music.”

       If you’re visiting any of the hundreds of Paris churches – and especially around Christmas or Easter – you can hear many of the greatest organs and organists of all time. Here are a handful of the stars:

    Dominating the square of that name in the sixth arrondissement, this church of the Sulpician Order has a mission since 1641 to train priests. Novelist Dan Brown made it the locale of his fantasy The Da Vinci Code. It harbours a world-famous five keyboard organ originally built by François-Henri Clicquot. This was inaugurated in 1781, then renovated in the late 19th century by master-builder Aristide Cavaillé-Coll.

    The church has had many famous organists, including in the 20th century Charles Widor and Marcel Dupré.The latter was an ingenious improviser; Widor is best known as a composer: his dazzling Toccata in F from the final movement of his Fifth Symphony has brought a sense of  joy to wedding recessionals and Easter celebrations throughout the world.

                                                                          L’église Saint-Sulpice


    With 8,000 pipes, its 16th-century organ is the largest in France and one of the world’s most renowned instruments. Its free Sunday concerts draw huge crowds. Queen Elizabeth attended its rededication with Paris mayor (and later president) Jacques Chirac. Its long-sitting organist Jean Gillou has greatly contributed to preserving the organ`s worldwide reputation.

    The organ at Saint-Eustache has 8,000 pipes.

    * Notre-Dame
    Its most famous organist was Louis Vierne. Born almost blind – he fought glaucoma and congenital cataracts all his life, finally composing in Braille. But his genius – recognized at age two — won him the organ at Notre-Dame against fifty rivals. His friends were the great Charles Widor and his pupil Marcel Dupré. With feeble vision, and a leg shattered by a street accident that forced him to re-learn his pedal technique, he spent his life fighting severe glaucoma. Nevertheless, he became a legend. His works still fill out the standard organ repertoire.

    Notre Dame

       Église de la Madeleine

          Church par excellence of society weddings, la Madeleine also shines through its superb organ concerts.


                                                             Église de  la Madeleine

    *Sainte-Clotilde : The great Belgian organist César Franck spent his entire life here from 1858 as organist, improviser, composer and teacher to several other virtuosos, including the masterful composer Louis Vierne of Notre-Dame Cathedral.

    * Église de la La Trinité
    Famous for its now-deceased organist –composer Olivier Messiaen. The organ was still another triumph of the late-19th-century master-builder, Arisitide Cavaillé-Coll.

    Summing-up: France, and especially Paris, is arguably the world capital of organ music: construction, composition and virtuoso performance. All perpetually inventive. Worth a few more trips just for this?

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    Watch and Listen



     Gracie’s Thoughts

    When I listen to organ music, I can clearly feel the power and the majesty of the instrument, whether soft or loud (though I definitely would not have it is as my alarm clock!).

    It’s a shame that some people (mostly my age, I am afraid to say) do not appreciate this kind of classical music that takes you to another world. I will not say that organ music is really my kind of every-day all-day tune but I would listen to it after a great accomplishment or while reading an exciting book…because it makes everything so much more real!

    The best thing to do when listening to organ music is to settle down in a comfy chair with a cup of tea, and listen to it with headphones on, so that you can hear every little thing that remains almost inaudible without headphones. 🙂






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  • Grandpa and Gracie (G & G Blog)


    Grandpa’s Thoughts

    François-Marie Arouet (1794-1778) became Voltaire to the entire intelligentsia of 18th-centry Europe – kings, scientists, fellow philosophers and writers in many genres. A consummate gadfly of the powerful, he knew the Bastille from the inside and enjoyed stimulating exile in England and Switzerland.

    As perhaps the continent’s leading advocate of free thinking and free expression, he enraged the powerful of church, state and high society. Happily, he was taken in by several famous admirers, including Prussia’s Frederick the Great (who bored him) and the beautiful, brilliant Marquise du Châtelet, his multi-dimensional long-term mistress (who drove him wild and did not bore him)…

    photo 2

    Gracie’s Impressions

    Voltaire? That old French writer and philosopher who was known for causing trouble? Yes, that’s the one.Well, I visited the place where he lived. I ate at the restaurant dedicated to the famous man…with my grandpa. Helped by delicious drenched-in-chocolate profiteroles, I understood Voltaire much better. I learned about his attitude that got him sent to England (he asked for it, literally) and how the French fell for all his little tricks. He was ‘going out’ with a wild lady, Madame de Châtelet, who drove him crazy, just like the crowded métro station that was named after her.
    Thanks to a friendly waiter and a mention about this blog, we saw Voltaire’s REAL window; not facing the Louvre but looking at a courtyard covered wall-to-wall by lilacs. So, if you ever heard that Voltaire died looking at the Louvre, it’s false.
    A taxi strike slightly dampened the day but the métro was pleasant enough (although I stepped in dog poop and that we were going the wrong way).
    Mais bon, we had a wonderful time that I would qualify as ‘awesome’ and, although visiting Voltaire’s apartment is not permitted, you can contact the lady who inhabits the place now and visit it!
    Do you think Voltaire’s ghost comes down to visit the restaurant that was built in his honor?
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  • Olympe de Gouges and George Sand

    Grandpa’s Views

    Many think that French feminism began in the 20th century with tart-tongued Simone de Beauvoir and Benoîte Groult. Not true. Forgetting the immense inherited power of Anglo-French Queen Eleonor of Aquitaine and the string-pulling of famous royal mistresses like Diane de Poitiers, Madame du Barry and Madame de Pompadour, the real pioneers were Olympe de Gouges and George Sand. Both wielded pens mightier than swords, and annoyed men magnificently – in de Gouges’ case, alas, at the cost of her head.

    Olympe de Gouges

    Olympe de Gouges


     Gracie’s Impressions                         

    Olympe de Gouges

    This feisty French revolutionist, known for standing up to men, lived over 200 years ago and yet she is remembered all over France. Although, until 100 years ago, she was not yet considered as a hero and just as ‘a widow who defied men’. But she was much more than that. She wrote the ‘Declaration of the rights of the Woman and the Female Citizen’ the women’s version of the Declaration of the rights of Men and the Citizen’. She pretty much broke every law stating that women had no rights by demanding that women get the right of voting and of being respected. She was also against slavery. But she paid for her reasonable demands.
    Olympe de Gouges was guillotined in 1793 and wasn’t really acknowledged until 150 years  later but she hasn’t been forgotten.
    George Sand
    George Sand
    George Sand
    She acted and looked like a man but wrote like and was a woman. A respected lady who was born a tomboy and who shocked the French by leaving her wealthy husband, smoking cigars and dressing up as a man! She was a wonderful author who wrote under the pen name of George Sand so that people would buy and read her books. Her pen name name was a bit shorter than Ama
    ntine Lucile Aurore Dupin, no?
    Here is a short list of her novels: ‘La Petite Fadette’
    ‘Mauprat’; ‘Indiana’.
    La Petite Fadette

    La Petite Fadette




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  • Grace and Grandpa’s Paris Visit 6: La Marquise de Sévigné

    Grandpa’s Thoughts


    When her stupid young husband got himself killed in a duel over another woman, she decided to spend her time being the most desired woman in France. And for her hapless daughter, the most meddlesome mother in France.
    When the poor girl married a minor aristocrat in a southern town called Grignan, mommy wrote her almost every day with advice. Lucky us: her letters remain models of style, and Grignan has created an annual festival devoted to something we digi-nuts can`t even fathom: the art of writing letters.

    Marquise de Sévigné

    Marquise de Sévigné

    Gracie’s Impressions

    booksThe Marquise de Sévigné, a somewhat overly protective mother and widow at 25, is famous for writing beautiful letters to her daughter in polished French. We visited her apartment in the Musée Carnavalet, located in the 4e arrondissement near Victor Hugo’s house, including several other wings on the French Revolution, the Hundred Year War, and more! Sadly, the Marquise’s wing was shut down for construction but I still got a pretty good idea of who she was and what she did, reinforced by delicious pastries at ‘La Carette’.
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  • Grace and Grandpa’s Paris Visit 5 – Descartes

    Grandpa’s Thoughts

    Why do French debaters and writers exasperate you so much? Because they were stuffed full of philosophy (including techniques of arguing) in high school.
    The chief culprit was 17th-century polymath (fancy word for know-it-all) René Descartes, who stripped down problems to their core, then reassembled the pieces in an irresistible, coherent sequence. So, at least, claim the “philo” profs who, to Anglo ears, often sound as though they are putting, well, Descartes before the horse…

    Gracie’s Impressions

    ‘I think, therefore I am’.

    Yes, we visited M. René Descartes, the famous philosopher and mathematician who invented the Cartesian coordinate system. His house, nestled near Place de la Contrescarpe in the 5e, is near Ernest Hemingway’s apartment.
    Passing by, you can see a plaque saying the dates of the philosopher and what he is famous for!
    And for the French, he is famous for
    ‘Je pense, donc je suis’.
    But is he wrong? Is life just a dream?
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  • Grace and Grandpa’s Paris Visit 4: Musee Rodin

    Grandpa’s Thoughts

    The Musée Rodin is a must for tourists of any age. The powerful, eloquent sculptures of Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) capture human emotion with both drama and subtlety. You will immediately recognize his The Thinker and The Kiss, but also perhaps the Burghers of Calais and several others. Scores of sculptures immortalize famous figures such as Balzac and Victor Hugo. The museum and its gorgeous French-style garden make an unforgettable outing for seniors and grandchildren. You might make a day of this if you include Napoleon`s Tomb in the nearby Les Invalides.

    Outside the beautiful Musee Rodin

    Outside the beautiful Musée Rodin

    Gracie’s Impressions

    Visiting Rodin’s museum was fascinating and I loved his works such as The Kiss and The Thinker. They are very detailed and well done. As talented as he is, I’m afraid I don’t like Rodin because he practically crushed his girlfriend’s (Camille Claudel) dreams by smashing her works, which are sometimes considered better than his. Because of him, she finished in an insane asylum. My favorite work by Camille Claudel is the Wave! But Rodin was still gifted, no one can deny that! He had a beautiful garden with several large boulders and other statues. At one place, you can see L’Hôtel des Invalides!
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  • Grace and Grandpa’s Paris Visit 3: Père Lachaise Cemetery

    A path in the cemetary -not an easy walk so wear comfortable shoes!

    A path in the cemetery -not an easy walk so wear comfortable shoes. Not an ideal visit for the visually impaired or physically challenged…

    Grandpa’s Summary

    Cemeteries are not supposed to be fun, especially for those who sleep there. But the famous Père Lachaise cemetery is somewhere near the bottom of the top ten Paris places to visit. Higher than that if you are a history buff. But since you are likely now over 60, maybe you should stay away from this sprawling reminder that all good things must come to an end.

    Lachaise offers a cornucopia of famous writers, artists, politicians, philosophers and just plain folks. Perfect for a morning or afternoon stroll.

    But beware: that stroll may become a walker`s nightmare. Uneven paths, hidden gaps and bumps, plus treacherous cobblestones await you. Unless you`re sure that your walking boots are trip-proof, stay away. Or you might get an earlier-than-planned underground berth.

    Grace’s Impressions

    The cemetery Père Lachaise has a special air to It.  It is majestic and somewhat sombre….any author would want to be buried there.
    Girl waiting...

    Girl waiting. I don’t know who she is but she is  lovely and very deep in thought.

    We visited Frédéric Chopin’s grave first. It is covered in flowers and there is a violin next to it.
    Chopin's final resting place

    Chopin’s final resting place

    Then, we visited Edith Piaf. After a steep climb, we saw her marble grave, very well polished, like her singing.
    Edith Piaf
    “The sparrow’s” grave. She will live forever in our hearts with “la vie en rose”and “Je ne regrette rien”.
    Finally, we stood before Oscar Wilde’s grave. A big glass cover is in front of it so that nobody can get in. Admirers have kissed the glass, leaving stains all over it!
    Oscar Wilde's final resting place

    Bisous for Oscar Wilde  – His is a very popular grave to visit…

    It feels nice to stand in front of famous people’s graves and it must be nice for them to have died famous.
    Oscar Wilde

    Oscar Wilde – My mom’s favorite work of his is The Picture of Dorian Gray.

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  • Grace and Grandpa’s Paris Visit 2: Eugene Delacroix

    Wednesday October 23, 2013

    G-pa and Gracie in front of the Delacroix Museum

    G-pa and Gracie in front of the Delacroix Museum

    Grandpa’s Summary

    Gracie and Grandpa (with mom Geneviève tagging along) visited the home studio of Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863), famous heroic painter and sculptor. We saw scores of his paintings of all types and, sitting on a bench in the lovely garden below his house, reflected on his genius. We recalled his familiar fountain sculpture in the Jardin du Luxembourg and his famous painting of La Liberté guidant le Peuple. Imagining Delacroix beside us, we stopped just a block away at the Café des Deux Magots facing the Église de Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Naturally, we had to have champagne and foie gras to do Delacroix justice. Well, Gracie preferred a ham sandwich and an orange drink.

    For more info, in English, visit: http://www.louvre.fr/en/departments/musee-delacroix

    Gracie’s Impressions

    Delacroix's artist box

    Delacroix’s artist box

    Eugène Delacroix, famous painter from the 19th century, lived in a cozy white building with a beautiful garden where he had his ‘atelier’. A very talented painter who painted heroic paintings of famous battles and historical moments. His house had an odor of beeswax and many paintings are hung up on the walls of his house. The dim lighting casts an eerie glow on the mysterious paintings… His work is seen all over Paris as well. Delacroix was also friends with George Sand and Alexandre Dumas, friends many people these days would want to have. He often went to les Deux Magots, an inspiring brasserie in the 6th, minutes from the beautiful white museum and former home of M. Delacroix. 
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  • Grace and Grandpa’s Paris Visit 1: Balzac

    Sept, 25, 2013

    Grandpa’s view…

    Every Wednesday afternoon, 11-year-old Grace and her grandfather visit the haunts of a famous writer and/or artist. First day: Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850), father of the modern French novel, essayist, playwright and journalist. With an additional 50 manuscripts, his fiction appeared as La Comédie Humaine. France’s Charles Dickens, the  wildly popular Balzac is still read in the world`s major languages. Today`s G-G tour included a visit to the author`s home in the old Passy district and a stop at Balzac`s personal print-shop on rue Visconti. Last stop:  Gracie got her first Balzac novel, Le Père Goriot, in the bookstore L’Arbre à Lettres at the foot of the rue Mouffetard. Mango ice-cream fueled post-visit analysis.

    Gracie’s view…

    Balzac’s house was very open and I loved the room filled with his characters. His ‘bureau’ was very eccentric and looked very much like the office any author would want! The garden was beautiful, although the big green bug scared grandpa away! Back to his office: I can just imagine him dipping his pen in the ink bottle, scratching furiously a the paper, then crossing it out again… He was intelligent but drank too much caffeine!

    Balzac’s House in the 7th arrondissement


    The writer’s desk


    A wall with pictures of Balzac’s characters such le Père Goriot and la Comédie Humaine’sLucien Chardon de Rubempre




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