The Adventures of DoBell and Pyama

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Location: Minneapolis, MN

Dempsey is a Golden Retriever puppy who is in training to become a Helping Paws service dog for an individual with a physical disability. He lives with his parents Doreen and Paul, and Bailey the cat. None has ever trained a puppy before. These are their adventures. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly those of the blog author. The contents of this blog have not been reviewed or approved by Helping Paws, Inc.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Easter in Paris

For the past several weeks, the stores in Paris have been full of Easter displays. Even the Monoprix changed part of their cheese display to an Easter display, which seems like a big deal.

Oddly, in addition to the usual bunnies and eggs, Easter bells are popular candies. The day before Good Friday, all the church bells in France stop ringing, and they don’t start again till Easter morning. French children are told that the bells have flown away to Rome, and that they will return Easter morning with candy for all the good children. There’s even a lullaby about the magical flying bells:

The bells have flown away,
They have gone to
Down there, down there, far away, you see,
To visit the Pope, a saintly man,
An old man, dressed in white is he.
The bell of each church
To him secretly speaks
Of all the good little ones.

Because Easter seems to be such a big deal here, I thought it might be fun to see a sunrise Easter service at the Sacre Couer Basilica on Montmartre, the highest point in Paris. I asked my French teacher about it:

“Church at sunrise?” she asked, puzzled.

“Yes. It’s popular in America.”

Sunrise? The morning?”


“Oh, no no no! That is crazy, to awaken so early!”

Turns out she was right. There is no sunrise service at Sacre Couer, or anywhere else in Paris, for that matter. Doreen and I went to the 6pm service.

Because many Europeans have a 4-day weekend for Easter, Montmartre was packed. We found a seat, but with the foreign language and the foreign customs, we weren’t getting much out of it, so we left early to explore the neighborhood.

The most interesting thing we found was at the “city hall” for the 18th arrondissement, which had huge banners outside for hostages in Iraq and Colombia. The good citizens of the 18th are invited to sign a petition asking for their release. As boneheaded and counterproductive I think the war in Iraq is, I’m not sure that giving terrorists a petition is the best way to secure world peace.

But I guess believing in petitions and candy-bearing bells is just as fanciful as believing in stupid wars and candy-bearing bunnies.

Joyeux Pâques, everyone!

Doreen was happy to find a flowerbed in Montmartre. Posted by Hello

Paul by Au Lapin Agile, a famous hangout for artists in Montmartre. Posted by Hello

Paul finds space among the crowds at Sacre Couer. Posted by Hello

Doreen looking for gelato in Montmartre. Posted by Hello

Stormy skies in Paris. Posted by Hello

Petition for hostages at city hall. Posted by Hello

Cafe in Montmartre. Posted by Hello

A little Dixie in Chantilly

Yesterday, Doreen and I went to Chantilly, the horse racing capital of France. It was a nice trip, though it didn't start out that way.

One of our guidebooks said there are 36 trains a day to Chantilly, but we when arrived at Gare du Nord, we discovered there were only two: one at 7:30 in the morning, and the other at 11:30 at night. The reason? You guessed it: another strike.

We asked a lot of people, got some bogus information, and finally ended up, almost two hours later, on another train to Chantilly. While we were sitting around waiting, we watched the turnstiles. We'd estimate that at least 1 out of every 5 people was a turnstile jumper. This was pretty irritating, but even more irritating was the security guard ten feet away who didn't do anything. I guess he was on the lookout for terrorists.

Even more curious, people would actually help the turnstile jumpers. Doreen spoke to a nice old lady, who explained that she let some teenagers re-use her ticket, because otherwise the poor cheating teenagers would have to pay a fine. Well, yes.

A lot of environmentalists in the U.S. talk about how wonderful the European train system is, but I haven't seen it. Personally, I think we could better spend our transportation dollars buying everyone a donkey. Donkeys pollute even less, and stubborn as they are, they're still easier to get moving than bureaucrats. (The train system in France is state-owned, so every striking railroad worker is a government employee.)

Grrrrrr. Can you tell all these strikes are driving me nuts?

At any rate, the donkeys wouldn't work in Chantilly, because it's the Kentucky of France -- the capital of the French horse world. The fields surrounding Chantilly are home to thousands of thoroughbreds, and the Hippodrome in Chantilly is home to two big races, the Prix du Jockey-Club and the Prix de Diane-Hermes. The grandstand is tiny by American standards, and the track is entirely turf. Since there was no security, Doreen and I walked on the track and watched some kite flyers in the infield.

We fully realized how big horses are in Chantilly as we were walking from the Hippodrome toward what we thought was the chateau. It wasn't. The huge building that we saw was the stables. The actual chateau, which is down the road a bit, is actually a bit smaller.

Chantilly chateau has an interesting history. A fortress on a rocky outcropping in Roman times, "modern" Chantilly started taking shape in 1528. It was destroyed during the French Revolution, and rebuilt in the late 1800s.

In its heyday, Chantilly was so grand even the royal family was jealous. The hameau, a fake village in the garden, was adored by Marie Antoinette, who built a copy of it at Versailles. The last private owner, Henri d'Orelans, the Duke of Aumale, was a horse lover who believed he would be reincarnated as a horse. (This would explain the fancy stables.) He was also a compulsive collector who amassed 30,000 books and 700 illuminated manuscripts in addition to stained glass, cameos, gems, miniature guns, sculptures, and several hundred paintings, including half a dozen of himself.

It all reminded me a bit of the Richard Petty Museum in North Carolina. Think about it:

Chantilly Richard Petty Museum

It's what you do when you have too much money, I guess.

The hameau, which Marie Antoinette copied at Versailles.  Posted by Hello

A bust of the good duke in his art collection. Posted by Hello

Chantilly Chateau. Posted by Hello

Prancing horsies at the Musee Vivant du Cheval. Posted by Hello

Doreen by one of the entrances to the stables. Posted by Hello

Paul in front of the stables in Chantilly. Posted by Hello

Friday, March 25, 2005

The Toile Museum in Jouy-en-Josas. Posted by Hello

The 12th century St Martin Church in Jouy-en-Josas. Posted by Hello

Main street, Jouy-en-Josas. Posted by Hello

The Toile Museum

Doreen and I tried visiting the Toile Museum of Jouy-en-Josas today, but we didn't make it. We've been trying to get there for a couple of weeks now, so I give up. I'll just tell you the story of toile in Jouy, and we can pretend I learned this by living in Paris, and not from Google.

First: What is toile? It depends on whether you speak English or French.

In French, toile means "fabric."

In English, toile means "a plain-woven cotton fabric printed with a repeating pattern of pastoral settings, animals, people printed in one color on a solid background of another color."

Why such different meanings?

, it turns out, comes from La Manufacture Royale de Jouy, a factory started in Jouy-en-Josas by Christopher-Philippe Oberkampf that produced what we now call toile. Oberkampf's patterns were much in demand at the royal court in nearby Versailles, and Oberkampf hosted many luminaries in his home (which is now city hall), including Marie Antoinette, Laplace, Lagrange, and Gay-Lussac. Oberkampf's printed fabrics were so popular, everyone started referring to them as "toile de Jouy-en-Josas." Eventually, of course, this was shortened simply to "toile."

Today, Jouy-en-Josas is a sleepy little village today that's probably best known for being home to HEC, but it used to be near the center of the universe 200 years ago.

If you're interested, you can read more about the history of toile here. CNN has also produced a story on Jouy-en-Josas. One writer has alleged industrial espionage, but if you can read French, the town of Jouy-en-Josas has a very different history on their Website.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Springtime in Paris

It's springtime in Paris! The temperature is in the 60s, and for the first time in months, we've seen blue skies. It's the perfect time for... a movie.

Every year, the National Federation of French Cinema organizes "Spring Cinema," a 3-day "sale" when you can get a ticket to any movie in France for €3.50 -- quite a discount from the usual €9.50. Last year, over 2.5 million tickets were sold during Spring Cinema, double the usual volume. Movies are very popular in France. Doreen and I saw a couple of movies: "La Vie Aquatique," and "Hitch," which is pronounced "itch" in French.

We've also been going on a lot of Paris strolls. Some highlights:

Parc Monceau: We discovered Parc Monceau on the way back from Holland, when we got lost. It's a beautiful park, with lots of fake ruins -- apparently inspired by the Romanticism of the park's designer. However, the park is in a nice part of town, so the ruins don't feel so much like a Friedrich landscape as an ersatz lawn gnome: manufactured nostalgia.

Place de Vosges: The Place de Vosges is the oldest square in Paris, built in the early 1600s under orders from King Henri IV. It's very beautiful, with lots of little cafes in the arcades, and a perfect place to rest and relax on a Paris stroll.

Musee Carnvalet: Occupying two 16th mansions, the Musee Carnavalet has lots of displays on the history of Paris. The signs are all in French, but luckily the museum also has a number of period rooms and paintings depicting Paris in the days of old.

Luxembourg Garden: Much prettier in the spring than with snow on the ground. There are big expanses of grass, but you're only allowed to sit in certain parts. The result, predictably, is mass crowding on the few available lawns. Fortunately, the French Government also provides lots of chairs that you can sit on near the path. We saw some pretty toy sailboats in the pool in front of the Senate, and we fed a well-camouflaged mother duck, sitting in a nest in a flower bed.

Canal St Martin: The Canal St Martin was built in the early 1800s as a shortcut across some of the bends in the Seine. Although we saw a few barges, it is mostly used these days by the Canal-Rama tour boats. We might do the cruise someday. There are lots of cute locks and drawbridges, and part of the canal goes through a very long underground tunnel, which I think would be very cool.

Parc Villette: Located in the otherwise nondescript 19th arrondissement, the Parc Villette used to be an old stockyard and slaughterhouse. It was redeveloped in the 1980s and today it is home to a science museum, a music museum, and a carousel and playgrounds for kids. I imagine that it was part of a revitalization program in Paris, since it's close to the gritty northern suburbs, such as St Denis. The park was very multicultural, with lots of African immigrants and college-age American hippies hanging around. The science museum, oddly, is a popular hangout for teenagers, though they all appeared to be outside, not inside.

Eglise Saint Augustin: St Augustin Church is fairly new by French standards, built in the 1880s. St Augustin looks more neo-classical than Gothic, with lots of domes and columns. There are two organs in the church: a big one in the back, and a little one in the transept. When we arrived late one afternoon, there was an organist practicing on the little organ. We got a free concert as we watched the afternoon sun stream through the stained glass windows. Except for the fact it was much colder inside than out, it was a nice little visit.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Canal Ourcq in La Villette. Posted by Hello

Paul impersonating Chakotay, by the science museum, of course.Posted by Hello

The Medici Fountain in Luxembourg Garden. Posted by Hello

Toy sailboat in the pool near the Senate, Luxembourg Garden. Posted by Hello

Sunday, March 20, 2005

A real building -- not a facade -- near Canal St Martin. Posted by Hello

Doreen in front of the world's largest Luis Vuitton bag on the Champs-Elysees. Posted by Hello

All dressed up for the Olympics -- a bridge over the Seine. Posted by Hello

Doreen at the Place de Vosges. Posted by Hello

Paul in the courtyard of the Musee Carnavalet, an old mansion in the Marais. Posted by Hello