The two of us

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Norman Ball is a retired university professor who loves visiting Paris and wandering about the city. He is the author of half a dozen books on the history of technology and is currently doing research on pre-1900 typewriters.

Philippa Campsie is a Toronto writer who studied in Paris as a university student, and has never quite got Paris out of her system ever since. She collects Paris maps and travels there with Norman as often as possible.

The fallen tree at the top of the blog is called l’Arbre des Voyelles, the Tree of Vowels, and it is a sculpture by Giuseppe Penone, installed in the Tuileries Gardens in 1999.

25 Responses to The two of us

  1. a menzies says:

    Chestnuts – how wonderful. And a breath of Paris and Ravel. Thank you.

    • Alison says:

      I like the companion pictures. Bookends? Not quite but a great combination of prose and pictures. Please keep it up for all of your groupies.

  2. Carole says:

    Hi, I’m afraid I could not find your email address hence this note – please can you contact me at regarding an Expat Focus Recommended Website Award for your site? Thank you.

    Kind regards,


  3. MATTHEW ROSE says:

    Hey there, would love to invite Parisian Fields (*the two of you) to my exhibition GOD & COUNTRY which opens Thursday 1 September at STORIE, 20 Rue Delambre 75014…

    Can you send me your e mail? Me: http:/

    Thank you!


  4. Richard Ewen says:

    Dear Philippa Campsie:
    “The Balcony Scene”
    I was re-reading the articles on your blog this morning and wanted to mention that I read De Waal’s book on the Ephrussi family and Charles’ netskes after reading of it on your blog this month. My father-in-law collected netskes right after the second world war and my wife and her sister have many beautiful ones. I enjoyed reading about the history of their arrival in France and wanted to connect that story, of the Japanese craze to hit France at the end of the 19th century, with your article on “The Balcony Scene” showing Caillebotte’s ariel-view painting. That point of view was also a result of the influx into Paris of “cheap” Japanese woodblock prints. Their use of the “birds-eye view’ was repeated by countless painters in the impressionist and post-impressionist camp.
    “Cheap Eats”
    We met Sandra Gustafson in LA at The Traveler’s Bookstore one April evening back in about 1993 or ’94 when I had an art show of my watercolors of Paris and she was there promoting her books as was Mark Eversman, promoting his fine newsletter, “Paris Notes”. We used her book to find three or four hotels before settling exclusively on one where we became friendly with the owners and remain in contact to this day. We too gradually moved on to rent and now have purchased a part ownership in an apartment in Paris for our visits.
    We also used Sandra’s books, as well as her editions on London, and she eventually dropped the “Cheap” in the title. Mark Eversman’s monthly newsletter eventually went online and then he retired. Now the internet makes travel information instantly available to everyone.
    I know you put a lot of effort in your articles and want you to know I really enjoy reading them. Thanks, and keep up the good work!
    Richard Ewen

  5. Richard Ewen says:

    Did you run across any material about this bridge that mentions that when it was first opened to foot traffic there was a lot of “swaying” of the structure, and that it was shut down temporarily and something was done to stabilize it? I was going to Paris each summer when the bridge was being built and seem to remember that it was opened and then closed for a while. Perhaps it was another bridge and my memory is incorrect.

    • Thanks for your comment and yes, you are correct. As often happens with elegant pedestrian bridges there was a swaying problem which was fixed rather quickly. No problem now. There is a long history of swaying bridges, the most famous being Galloping Gertie a vehicle bridge over Tacoma Narrows that swayed to destruction.

  6. Tom G. says:

    I was lucky enough to discover your website and enjoy reading the posts. I especially wanted to commend Norman for his ‘Beauty and the Bridge’. His thoughts on space and the function/beauty aspect were well expressed and the pictures were great. I love the bridges in Paris also.

  7. Sab says:

    Hi There Norman & Philippa!
    I do love reading your postings, and it’s always a pleasure when a new one pops into my in box.
    I was wondering if you could tell me where a sign in your ‘Signs of Paris’ posting from 13th May (I think) is located. I’d love to photograph it myself! It’s the one saying ‘Maison salubre tout à l’égout eau et gaz à tous les étages’ or something like that, all on one plaque. It’s terribly corroded though. My e-mail is . Let me know if I can help you out in any way too :-) Sab

  8. Richard Ewen says:

    Norman Bell:

    Peter’s Paris’ Blog today posted some neighborhood shots, one of which would interest you. It shows some curiously curved stacks. Scroll down the collection of photos and you will see what looks like a low first or second story small roof.

  9. Diane says:

    HI Philippa and Norman,
    I just left a post on your Christmas blog and then took a peek at your bio. I really like your blog – well-written and great photos. We have a similar story – my husband takes the photos and I write about our favourite topic, France.

    I’m wondering if you would be interested in receiving a review copy of our latest book, “How to Cook Bouillabaisse in 37 Easy Steps – Culinary Adventures in Paris and Provence”. It’s a culinary romp that takes the reader to cooking classes, wine tastings, champagne exploration and truffle-hunting…

    Long title, I know! It’s currently available on Amazon and soon to be available at Chapters. It’s been getting some nice press so we’re trying to get it into the right hands.

    I hope we can send you a copy!
    Diane Shaskin

  10. I am dazzled by your blog, your research, your stories, your photos. I want to sit here and read through all your archives and take notes and then visit the places you describe so thoroughly and so evocatively! Thank you for sharing.

    My poor husband–he’s going to get very tired of my bugging him that we should take our family to Paris very soon!

    I’ve added this site to my blogroll and plan to come back often.

  11. Katherine Olney says:

    Just wanted to thank you very much for the pleasure that your postings provide me. I love the details of life and am lucky to lately be able to visit Paris yearly. My visits last for only a week or ten days–but due to your generosity I’m able to see your Paris. (I just purchased note cards from Richard Ewen’s website and may be able to visit the gallery in Austin, Texas–the ripples that emerge from computer trolling.) Thanks very much for sharing your research, photos, and thoughts.
    Kitty Olney

  12. Your blog is beautiful, Philippa and Norman. I found you while looking for just that: beautiful blogs to nominate for the One Lovely Blog award. I’m following you now and I’m excited to do so, as I’ll learn a lot about Paris through your eyes, including while I’m there for the month of July! Take a look at your nomination here, and keep up your wonderful work!

  13. Janice Caine-Brewster says:

    Hello Philippa, My husband and I are going to Paris in five weeks. My great grand-father was an artist who lived and painted in Paris and I feel called to go. I am interested in checking out flea markets, the artists scene and generally seeing as much as possible. What advice would you give us?

    • Hello Janice,

      I would love to know more about your great grandfather. What do you know about him?

      There are two main flea markets — Vanves at the southern edge of the city (smaller, cheaper, and more informal) and St-Ouen on the northern edge (much larger, more expensive, and semi-permanent). We started with the former, which is less intimidating and filled with reasonably affordable treasures. Also look for temporary antique markets called “brocantes” that pop up here and there for a few days at a time.

      As for the arts scene, look out for “vernissages” (gallery openings) and “portes ouvertes” (days when artists’ studios in a particular quartier are open to the public). We generally stumble across these things by accident, but the mairie (or city hall) of each arrondissement usually has information (in French) about such events. We’ve visited galleries and artists’ studios in the Marais, St-Germain, Belleville, and Montsouris just by wandering around and looking to see what is open.

      If you have other questions, just ask. Have a wonderful time!


  14. Jeroen says:

    Hey, I recently uploaded a video about Paris on vimeo, thought it might be interesting for your blog ;)

    • We are envious! Where we are, spring is very late and there are still a few piles of snow here and there. Thank you for the reminder of what spring can be in Paris.
      Philippa and Norman

  15. Carolyn says:

    Hello Philippa and Norman — I’ve just discovered your blog and enjoyed reading about the two of you and your shared love of Paris :) Look forward to exploring further and reading more of your knowledgeable posts.

    Cheers from the City of Light (at least for the moment – yay).
    Carolyn B.

  16. Mylène says:

    Dear Philippa and Norman,

    I am an MA student and I am writing my dissertation about stained glass windows representing the Neville family members. One of the figure possibly represents Philippa of Hainault and I am looking for the source of inspiration of this representation. I came across the picture of the painting of Philippa on your blog and I would like to know where it comes from. It would really help my research if you could share that with me.

    Thank you very much,


  17. Marie says:

    Chers Philippa and Norman,

    So enchanted to have stumbled upon your blog yesterday! Such sparkling prose, such unexpected and varied topics . . . and a friendly warmth that is palpable. Part of my heart is rooted in the farmlands of Brittany, and in the boulevards of Paris. My maternal great-great-grandfather was from Brittany, and he and his bride were married in Paris in L’église de la Madeleine before emigrating, first to Québec, later to San Francisco, and finally settling in Seaside, Oregon, where my great-great-grandfather became the first mayor of the town. I grew up nearby, often hearing stories of our family’s French origins. Along with my mother, the family historian, I used to dream of visiting Paris and seeing the Madeleine one day. That never came to pass, sadly. But I am an armchair traveler now, and your writings have given me, already, several very pleasurable hours. I look forward to more, and shall come here often. For the future, happy travels, and many thanks for sharing your thoughts, experiences, and interesting researches and observations.

    Bien amicalement,
    a great-great-granddaughter of France

    • How very kind of you to write and we are delighted that you enjoy the blog. We are very fond of the Church of the Madeleine, where they serve lunch in the basement — we are subscribing members of their lunch club! Was your great-great grandmother a Parisienne? How did they come to be married there?

      All the best,

      Philippa and Norman

      • Marie says:

        Thank you for your kind interest. I am unsure of the reason they were married in Paris. I’m not sure where they met and courted, or where they spent their early months of marriage, though answers to my questions may be linked to his war service. He was one of many brothers who fought as soldiers in the Franco-Prussian War. Most of his brothers did not survive. There is a family story that after their first child (my great-grandmother) was born, and while she was still tiny, they left Paris by moving under the streets, through the sewers, the baby carried safely out of the city in a cigar box (which I’m told would have been much larger than cigar boxes of today). But why the need for such an escape? My suspicion, impossible to confirm, is that when Paris fell to the Prussians, my great-great grandfather may have been caught up in the general chaos of the French defeat and possibly might have deserted in order to remove his new family from danger. That would suggest that his young wife was living near Paris as the war raged in the countryside. One signal fact, only recently discovered by another family historian, is that at some point during or after they emigrated, their name was changed from Guilbert to Gilbert. I now wonder if this was prompted by the need for disguise, for in French, of course, the pronunciation would have shifted. I don’t know how French deserters might have been regarded in Québec following the war. There is much mystery surrounding the early history of this branch of the family in North America.

        How delightful that the Madeleine turns out to be such a favorite place for you! Thank you for mentioning it!

        Best wishes to you both,

      • What an amazing story! Perhaps they left the city during the siege of Paris in the final stages of the Franco-Prussian War, when Paris was completely surrounded and the people were reduced to eating horse, dog, cat, rat, and zoo animals to survive. Messages could go out only by balloon or passenger pigeon. Very likely that some people escaped through the sewers. Your ancestor may not necessarily have been a deserter, since the armed forces more or less fell apart and surrendered in the end, didn’t they? Yet he may have felt conflicted about leaving the starving city. The name change is interesting…or possibly an orthographic error by a clerk. That did happen.

        It sounds as if your family historians have plenty of rich material to work with.

        Philippa and Norman

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