Sunday, 30 January 2011

Expo / Shakespeare & Co

Peurs sur la ville: An exhibition of urban violence in Paris, from the Occupation, to May 68, to burning cars in the banlieues. It culminated in a roomful of imagined photographs, where scenes of urban warfare in Belfast, Beirut and Sarajevo were transposed onto Parisian street scenes. Tanks in front of the Arc de Triomphe, dead soldiers in front of the Trocadéro, the Montparnasse Tower exploding. A very disturbing collection. 


I wouldn't say this was my favourite bookshop, but it may well become it. I spent two hours curled up in an armchair reading a book full of fascinating observations on the French, from an English writer. I'd really recommend buying it, the name is "The Secret Life of France", by Lucy Wadham. The genre is packed, yet this was as hilariously anecdotal as any English satirist, and as theoretical as any French textbook.

I really intend to write some more myself on the differences between these two cultures, but for now I'll leave a set of opposites that seem to me to be generally true.

Hard work as a virtue/Hard work as a necessary evil
Music/ Art

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Flowers and trees.

Proud of this photo.

A grey Sunday afternoon in the Parc Floral de Vincennes.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Le Marais: Part 1

I work in the Marais. It's sad how easily you can get accustomed to the most interesting circumstances, and often when I'm trudging up the Rue de Poitou at 7.55am in the darkness I don't exactly appreciate how incredibly lucky I am to work in this particular area of Paris. So yesterday after work I wandered around the area taking photos like the perpetual tourist I am. It was sunny and I wandered around listening to Carla Bruni (I cannot believe this woman is married to the President)... I love living here.

The Marais is narrow, winding streets and buildings of honey-coloured stone. It has lots of hotels particuliers, which were built as homes for aristocrats in the 16th and 17th centuries. They are typically like small mansions with large interior courtyards, which now house museum or art collections. The Marais also has a large Jewish community centred on the Rue de Rosiers, and it's also the gay quarter of Paris. The Marais is full of gay bars, falafel vendors, boutique clothing stores, tiny workshops and small warehouses, pretty cafés, synagogues, wrought-iron balconies, winding streets and hidden squares. 

A selection of photos; mostly pretty buildings and other accidental glimpses of street life. 

                                      Un beau chat dans un jardin.

"Little pleasures" (or to be more precises, "happinesses").

Close up of the previous photo; this statue is surrounded by rose bushes and should look
beautiful come summer.

Woman in café

This weekend I'm going to my first social occasion without any other anglophones. My French friend Estelle is having a little dinner party chez elle, and has invited some others over partly, I think, because I kept saying how much I wanted to meet some actual Parisians seeing as I live in Paris (as opposed to the Brits and Americans I socialise with otherwise). It's pretty terrible that it's taken me four months to get here, but I'm looking forward to it. This doesn't feel like a year out from my life. Sometimes I feel like returning to Warwick will be the 8 month sabbatical from where I really should be, which is here, in this magnificent city.


Thursday, 13 January 2011


This weekend I went to Brussels to stay with my friend Isabelle and her family.

We saw the old part of town and I took photos of it with my pinhole camera. Très belle!

Isabelle went riding and I wandered around chatting to these horses. 

We visited the EU district. Here is two bright umbrellas near to the Council building.

This is the Cinquantenaire arch, a monument to Belgian national unity. With a van selling waffles in front of it! 
 More waffles. I'm not a big fan. 

Here is the national symbol of Belgium which is........ wait for it........ a small boy peeing. There is a TINY statue of this, called the Mannekin Pis, and the souvenir shops around are filled with trinkets based on this bizarre image. The funniest one I saw was a life size bronze statue of the Mannekin Pis, for a mere 50 euros. Quite who this is meant to appeal to is beyond me - Belgian nationalists? Extreme souvenir collectors? 

A good time was had by all. I think.

I would like to thank Isabelle's family for their hospitality, not least two lovely dinners. On the first night I had my first galette. It's a puff-pastry pie filled with almond paste that is traditional to eat during January for Epiphany. I had a vague idea of what it was before coming to France, but had never eaten one before. Baked inside the pie is a fève - the word literally means "broad bean" but it is more often now a small trinket or figurine. Our galette was Narnia-themed, which I found quite adorable. There was a tiny Reepicheep baked inside! I kept it, but unfortunately I think it fell out of my pocked and I can't find it anymore. Anyway, the person who finds the fève in their slice of galette gets to wear a paper crown and be the King or Queen for the rest of the evening. I'm pretty sure the tradition has its roots in Saturnalia, the Roman festival during which servants and masters swapped roles for a limited amount of time, and one of the servants became the Lord of Misrule (this is also the plot of Twelfth Night, which also refers to the 6th January - the 12th night after Christmas and official end of the festivities).

When I returned to Paris, there was discarded Christmas trees all over the streets. I have started two new babysitting jobs, and the incongruous pines on the streets of Vincennes particularly delighted the 3 year old Victor that I escorted to nursery on Monday. 

And as for the city? It's not Spring, it's not even nearly Spring, but at least the snows are over. It's exciting to think that deep in the branches of trees, and deep in the soil of flowerbeds all over the city lie the potential for blossom. In a few weeks time Paris will burst into flower - my camera can't wait. 

A tout ailleurs