I’ve always had problems with timing – from cooking Thanksgiving dinner when the turkey wasn’t edible until after dessert was served, to not quite making it to the delivery room in time to give birth, to being the first car stopped after the last car in front of me made it over the bridge when it was shut down for hours due to a jumper. On my birthday. Making me the only person not present at my birthday dinner.
My poor timing followed me to Paris. I planned my investigative Parisian excursions carefully, beginning with a longshot and ending with what I thought would be a sure bet. I was anticipating a slow build to a resounding crescendo when I reached that climactic moment of discovery. The location I believed would yield the answer to my Hubert questions was Montmartre. Several of Hubert’s etchings were set in Montmartre, the area in the 18th arrondisement noted for the white-domed Basilica of the Sacre-Coeur AND the premiere artistic center of Paris.
Montmartre has always been known as the artists colony and since the 19th century thousands of artists have set up their studio on the hill with the panoramic view of the city. Along with the likes of Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet and Renoir, Hubert set up his easel here to sketch what would become his etchings titled “Montmartre-L’Eglise Saint-Pierre”, “Montmartre-La Place du Tertre”, and “Montmartre-Le Square Saint-Pierre”. When I read about Musee de Montmarte, museum of cultural history, housed in the oldest dwelling in Montmartre, containing a collection of paintings, photographs, posters, and manuscripts documenting Montmartre’s history, I knew this would be my best shot at unearthing clues about Hubert. At the very least, perhaps someone there could guide me further along in my quest. At best, perhaps someone there knew of Hubert or would recognize one of the crumpled, sweat-stained copies of his etchings I’d been carrying in my purse since my arrival in Paris. Like a new mother who carries an album of photos and obnoxiously subjects any unfortunate victim in her path to a photo op of her darling newborn, so did I break out my copies of Hubert’s etchings to any French citizen who even glanced in my direction.
That Monday, our last day in Paris, I awoke early to the sound of heavy rains hitting the window of our hotel. Not to be deterred, armed with umbrellas, raincoats, a map, my French dictionary and my etching copies, my husband and I set out for our trek to Montmartre. Three connecting Metro rides, several blocks in drenching rain, 2 glasses of wine in a cafe to dry off where I unwittingly mis-translated a phrase for my husband who proceeded to say something rather profane about the waiter’s mother, hundreds of quadricep-building steps, and a steamy funicular ride later we arrived. Only to discover that Musee de Montmartre est ouvert tous les jours sauf le Lundi. Yes, closed on Mondays.
I refuse to give up. I’m sending off an e-mail to le Musee to beg for information. In English this time. I just hope they can read English better than I can speak French….