Sunday, September 27, 2009

Madeleine Albright: Read My Pins

Madeleine Albright, the first women to serve as U.S. Secretary of State (1997 - 2001), is known for her pins. On September 30 the New York Museum of Arts & Design opens an exhibit of Albright's pin collection, accompanied by her new book Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat's Jewel Box. Albright came to wear pins not for their gem value, but for their messages, getting the "read my pin" idea from the first President Bush who said about no new taxes, "Read my lips." For example, she told Katie Couric on Sunday Morning that after Iraq President Saddam Hussein called her a snake, she began wearing a snake pin anytime she had meetings concerning that nation. She also said that every Valentine's Day she wears a pin her now grown daughter made her at age five. Much of her collection is comprised of mass-produced, inexpensive pieces she acquired during her travels as secretary of state. "Read My Pins: The Madeleine Albright Collection" is on view in New York until January 31, 2010. It will then travel to several still undetermined U.S. cities.

More Information

Madeleine Albright's Read My Pins Author Tour
Madeleine Albright's brooch collection on display in NYC (USA Today)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Iditarod Accomplishment

For some 18 months I have been working with another librarian on a book list for the Iditarod, and today I submitted the final draft. It came to the point where I had to admit to myself that the project could go on forever -- there are so many books about the Iditarod, Alaska, sled dogs, and related topics -- and that I needed to bring this volunteer project to an end. I emailed the list saying that it was as far as I could take it at this time, and that, of course, additions from others were always welcome. I feel a sense of accomplishment. The list is 22 pages long; a bit much to share here in its entirety. I'll let you know when it is posted to the Iditarod web site.

Friday, September 25, 2009

An American (Library) in Paris

Truth be told, there have been instances when I’ve heard librarians bemoan the existence of computers and the World Wide Web. But just this week I’ve experienced another positive to technology. Because of a google search, I made a discovery in Paris.

The American Library in Paris is not listed in any of the typical travel guides I consulted when planning my vacation. But as a librarian and a bibliophile, I wanted to visit a library in the City of Light. Google led me to the web page of the American Library in Paris, and on a recent afternoon I walked a few blocks north of the Eiffel Tower for a visit.

The American Library in Paris is an offshoot of the 1917 Library War Service, founded by the American Library Association, in which U.S. libraries shipped some 1.5 million books to American service personnel during World War I. Alan Seeger, a celebrated poet, was killed in the war. In 1920 Seeger’s father worked to found the American Library in Paris in honor of his son, with a core of the Library War Service books becoming the start of the collection. As part of its Vision & Mission, the library provides “access in France to what is best in English-language books, periodicals and other materials…”

Now the largest English language lending library in Europe, the library has had quite a history. For example, Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein were contributors to Ex Libris, the library’s monthly review. As World War II began, the library circulated books to French and British soldiers. When the French libraries closed under Nazi occupation, the American Library remained open, attracting hundreds of French patrons. In 1941 Library Director Dorothy Reeder was sent back to the United States for safety, but one of the library’s founding members, Countess Clara de Chambrun, arranged for the library to remain open. The staff secretly continued to lend to Jewish members.

When Sylvia Beach closed her famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore in 1951, she donated its circulating collection to the American Library in Paris. In 1955 the library began its English Language Library for the Blind, providing the first Braille books in English on the European continent.

Today the library has a web site, an online catalog, a reading room, a research room, a children’s room, two internet stations for customers, wireless (WiFi) access, and numerous programs for all ages. Ex Libris is still published (four times a year), along with a new online electronic newsletter called e-Libris, which is e-mailed twice a month. Copies are available from the library’s web site under “Newsletters and Reports”.

The American Library in Paris is located at 10, Rue du General Camou, and is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Ken Burns and Teddy Roosevelt

Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns has done it again. On Sunday, September 27, The National Parks: America's Best Idea, his most recent series, will debut on PBS stations. Jim Axelrod interviewed Burns for Sunday Morning.

A new book also takes a look at our National Parks. The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America by Douglas Brinkley reviews the naturalist achievements of President Roosevelt, who preserved more than 230 million acres of American wilderness.

Friday, September 18, 2009

My Last Night in Paris

Following an early afternoon touring the ancient Egyptian collection at the Louvre, the largest of its kind outside of Egypt, I treated myself to lunch in Cafe Richelieu, overlooking I. M. Pei's pyramid. Afterward I walked through the spectacular Royal Apartments of Napoleon III. Then it was time again for an art break, so I headed outdoors into the Jardin des Tuileries. There were chairs surrounding the central fountain, and I sat for over an hour watching the comings and goings of both tourists and residents. The Louvre has Wednesday evening hours, so I returned at about 7 p.m. to see a few favorites still on my list. I'd read that the evening hours would be less crowded, but this was not the case. I believe the crowd increased in size, with many Parisians visiting after work. At about 9 p.m., I said goodbye to the Louvre, serendipitously finding a seat along the fountain wall with both the Louvre pyramid and the distant Eiffel Tower in view.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

J'aime Paris!

I'm in love. We've all heard that Paris is the city of love, and I've fallen head over heels for Paris. The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Seine -- all have captured my heart. Here is Paris at sunset from the top of the Eiffel Tower. Isn't it beautiful!

My Birthday in Paris

Shopping at Printemps, viewing Monet's Water Lily panels at Musee de Orangerie, dining at the Julves Verne Restaurant in the Eiffel Tower. Oh la la!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

An American (Library) in Paris

Just a few blocks from the Eiffel Tower is the American Library in Paris. Being a librarian and a bibliophile I, of course, have made it a priority to visit. I doubt it makes many tourist's "must see" lists. I'm writing on one of the library's two Internet stations, and luckily no one else is waiting to use the computers because it is slow going on this French keyboard! But what an adventure. I'll have photos and details to share later, when I'm typing from my laptop and don't have to keep searching for keys. For now I will leave you with the library's web site so that you may visit virtually. And yes, I am wondering if there are any job openings here. Wouldn't that be quite the gig!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Joyce, Hemmingway and Ujka Larson

One reason Paris has fascinated me is because of the people who have come here to pursue their dreams. I am sitting and writing and dining this evening in Cremerie-Restaurant Polidor, a bistro on Rue Monsieur-le-Prince in the sixth arrondissement that traces its history to 1845, and was a favorite haunt of writers James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway, among others. As I look around at the thick wooden communal style tables and wood paneled walls, I try to imagine those of the past sitting around me. Even Julia Child comes to mind since, having recently seen the movie Julie and Julia in which Beef Bourguignon features prominently, that is what I order for dinner. It is savory and tender, served with the tastiest mashed potatoes (called puree here) I have ever eaten. The main course is preceded by cream of lentil soup and followed by lemon tart and coffee. Every taste is authentic; a delight to the palate. Bon appetit!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Paris Jour Deux

(L) Arc de Triomphe

(R) A Renoir painting in the Musee d'Orsay

Jardin du Luxembourg

Day two began with a walk west through the Latin Quarter toward the Jardin du Luxembourg. On the way I had a few moments of quiet in St. Etienne Dumont Catholic Church. My walk continued past the Pantheon, then through the campus of the Sorbonne. The Jardin du Luxemborg was filled with French people enjoying a gorgeous autumn morning. The flowers were abundant, fragrant and beautiful. Another walk north toward the Seine, then west took me to the Musee d'Orsay, where room after room was filled with the Impressionist and Post Impressionist paintings and sculpture so well known and recognizable in the world today. I remembered playing the board game Masterpiece as a child, and having seen some of these paintings on that game's playing cards. In addition, I unexpectedly came upon the original of a painting of which my Great Grandmother Lektorich kept a small print hanging in her farm house in South Haven, Michigan. It was a shock to see the real thing and be flooded with the memories of studying that print while visiting. Never did I think of ever seeing the original. This evening a friend and I visited the Arc de Triomphe, climbing more stairs than I could count to gain a spectacular 360 degree view of Paris at night. The Arc is much bigger than I imagined. From the top, we also had a view of the Eiffel Tower lit in the night sky. We ended the evening with a walk along the Champs-Elysees, which I compare to Fifth Avenue in New York City or the Magnificent Mile in Chicago, except with the late night activity that I've only experienced in Europe. I feel strangely at home here, and even have people asking me for directions, thinking that I am French. Tre bien!

Friday, September 11, 2009

First Day in Paris!

For so long I've dreamt of traveling to Paris that now it seems almost unbelievable to actually be here. This photo of me, standing on a bridge spanning the Seine, is the spot where I first saw the Eiffle Tower. Look closely, and you'll notice it behind me in the distant sky. I made it to the Louvre on my first day, and was quite moved to walk the historic Palace and art mecca I've imagined for so long. Arriving late in the day, there was no line to enter, and a very small crowd around the Mona Lisa. Two other top picks I saw were the Winged Victory and the Wedding at Cana. I've got so many stories to share already, but I'm on a thirty minute internet limit. However, now that I know my tech works, I plan to post each day I'm here. I'm blogging from Paris. Now that is cool! Au revoir until tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The List of 35

As I write just 25 hours remain until my Air France jet takes off for Paris. The reality has not yet sunk-in. Over the weeks since making my reservations, I've been reading books and browsing web sites to compile "A", "B", and "C" lists of what I want to do and see while in Paris. As an art lover, visiting museums is high on my "A" list, and Paris if filled to overflowing with options. My top choices are the Louvre (of course), the Musee d'Orsay, the Musee de l'Orangerie, the MuseeMarmottan Monet , and the sculpture garden at the Musee Rodin. That's a lot, but I have a plan. For example, the Louvre has about 35,000 items in eight departments on display at any one time. So I've been browsing the Louvre's web site for 35 items that I most want to see. Of course my list includes the Louvre's top three: Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and Winged Victory.
What would you recommend I include in my list of 35?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

What Should I See in Paris?

I've been reading Paris for Dummies (2005), but today checked out guides more up-to-date. They are Access Paris: The Only Guide That Leads You Street by Street into the Heart of the City, published in 2008; and Fodor's Paris 2009. Using these books, I'm drafting a schedule of what I want to see and when during my week in the City of Lights. What would be at the top of your list?