Monday, 27 June 2011

Marche des Fiertés

Ok, a blog post a day until I leave France.

Lesson learnt from Saturday: don't wear black skinny jeans and high-heeled boots to a Gay Pride parade on the hottest day of June so far in Paris. Also, this is still France, so you probably will still get hit on by creepy straight men in their thirties, even while dancing in a huge crowd with to Bad Romance behind a float full of Spandex-wearing Chinese gay guys.

How these drag queens managed to walk three miles in these heels is beyond me. As is why you would attempt to pick up a woman at a Gay Pride march. Oh well! Fun weekend.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

True story

Today was over 30 degrees and without a cloud in the sky, and I bought a new pair of red shoes. Then I went to the Promenade Plantée, which is a walkway that runs from Bastille to the Jardin de Reuilly, and which, for one day only, was host to "Art en Balade", a series of installations and art displays from Parisian artists that you could discover while walking along. One was in a shallow basin filled with water, with tufts of lavender growing on each side, and an archway at either end of the basin. An artist that Ally knows had filled the pool with garlands of roses made from silver and gold foil, and someone else, a thin woman like a water-nymph did a dance down the length of the pool - she turned and pirouetted and sank beneath the water and hopped over each string holding the roses - and she ended up at our end, and we clapped and said "Bravo!" to which she replied "C'est l'instillation qui inspire" to the artist, both for modesty's sake, and to compliment the artist, a delicate woman in a big blue and stripy hat.

It was art for arts sake, it was art that also cooled down your feet, it was one of many strange & even magical moments that I've experienced in this city which holds such a place in my heart, this city which is artistic beyond belief, which is frivolous, which tastes of pains aux raisins and good coffee, this city which is tranquil on hot Sunday afternoons, this city where it stays light until 10 in June, city of open-air cinemas and exquisite cuisine, city of poetry and architecture which is also poetry, city of people sublime, sometimes, in their rudeness, city of a language that expresses sentiments impossible to say in English, fourmillant cité, cité pleine de reves...

Monday, 20 June 2011

Rouen/ Flowers

First things first, a picture from the Flaubert and Medical History museum in Rouen. The stairs were decorated with quotes from Flaubert's Dictionnaire des idées reçues, which is an ironic collection of "received ideas". The bottom two here say "Imbeciles: People who don't think like you" and "Optimists: Equivalent to imbeciles". Yes, we did go to this museum to see the parrot mentioned in the book Flaubert's Parrot, and yes, it was a brilliant afternoon!

We even saw the man himself, in wax, at the Joan of Arc museum. Here he is, Gourstave Flaubear. 

Skip forward a couple of weeks, and here is a photo I took in the courtyard of the Musée Rodin. It has so many beautiful Parisian features in it; the dome of the Invalides on the left, the Eiffel tower on the right, a mansion on the left that houses the museum, and the courtyard has sculptures and yellow roses. There are roses everywhere in Paris.

Speaking of flowers, look at what my neighbour gave to me a while ago. What a shame he's 84 and very senile. "Vous etes jeunes et belles, mes enfants!"

After a disaster where the wooden tub these cornflowers were growing in split and the soil and roots went all over the roof, I tried replanting them in new pots. Here they are looking healthy before the accident, but now they are withered and I threw them away. A flash of striking indigo while the flowers lasted, but it did lead me to conclude that if the cornflowers are anything to go by, you can't grow new roots. 

Eden xxx

PS - Stick around for an update on the Trotskyite festival I attended last week. 

Monday, 6 June 2011

Heavy with desire the sky/ To rain.

The weekend: An afternoon wandering around Montmartre by myself, the Montmartre museum isn't really worth the entrance price, in my opinion, but it had a wonderful little courtyard where I sat for about an hour, on a bench, in view of the Sacré Coeur and thus a stone's throw from thousands of tourists, and yet the loudest noise I could hear was birdsong. A quick text around got me a dinner invite from a French friend, and with two hours to spare I tried to walk from Montmartre to St. Paul. I got as far as Galeries Lafayette, where I stopped for a while as I hadn't been there before. Verdict: beautiful architecture, and it's always fun to mentally gasp at the amount that designer clothes cost. It was full of Japanese people, and even the announcements were in Japanese. Dinner was interesting, even if my friend and her flatmate's very fast-paced discussion on the inevitable downfall of capitalism led me to be unable to contribute much more than agreement of certain points.
Fish in an aquarium in the Galeries Lafayette.

Eglise de la Trinité, near the Gare St. Lazare

Saturday: A trip to a lake in Torcy with my flatmates, a swim in the glacial water was the only way to deal with the sweltering pre-storm heat.

Sandra and Fiona

Baignade interdit!

I went out in the evening, although I had a pretty terrible time at a party and was glad to leave, and was glad when it started raining as we crossed the courtyard of the apartment block. It had been so hot all day that Tiffany and I happily walked through St. Germain and the Latin Quarter, down to Hotel to Ville, enjoying the freshness. We saw a clarinet player under a shop-front. We saw the café where Sartre and de Beauvoir went to write and to discuss existentialism. We crossed the river and saw the gigantic Hotel de Ville, still standing, still statuesque after centuries of Parisian upheaval have raged around it. Scratch everything I said about this being a city like any other, my resigned admittance that it's not where you live that's important. I don't want to go home. I don't know exactly what I'm doing this summer, but real life starts again on Saturday 1st October, when I move into a small bedroom on Warwick campus and have to start studying and working out what the hell I'm doing with my life. Needless to say, I'm in no rush for that date to roll around, although I can't deny that being on the same landmass as most of my friends and family is something I won't ever take for granted again.

Today: Taking 3 children to school in the rain at 8am, pronouncing Arthur's name the English way which he found very amusing and kept repeating, doing a pretty good job on the "th" for an 8 year old French child. Then I went home and slept till lunchtime. Homemade brownies. Tiffany and I went to Bercy Cinematheque this afternoon to see L'Ange, which was the most avant-garde thing I've sat through, and although I can't say it was entertaining, it was certainly interesting. It occurred to me that only in Paris would an hour-long piece of wordless, experimental cinema be full at 2pm on a Monday afternoon. Then I went over to Reuilly for more babysitting - Alexandre told me about the dinosaur exhibition he went to at the weekend with more excitement than most adults would use to describe the holiday of a lifetime. We played Piggy in the Middle while blasting out some George Michael, before playing Monsters, which becomes an imaginary battle to think of the scariest imaginary creature - "Je suis... une squelette... avec des doigts qui sont des allumettes, et des grandes ailes! Je fais l'attaque des tenebres!"

"I am... a skeleton.. with fingers made of matches, and big wings! I'm doing the shadow attack!" 

Home for ping pong on the recently constructed table in the spare bedroom. Curry. A quick trip upstairs to get the can opener from Tiffany gave me a chance to admire the view from the roof, and 87 year-old Guy came out to repeat his usual phrases to us - "Vous etes mignonnes!" "English-spoken!" and "J'ai quatre-vingt-sept ans!" before chuckling away. Now for some reading in the bath, and an edit to the pantoum I'm writing (nope, I will never be brave enough to put my poems up here). 

Days like today are peaceful and interesting, and I realise I have only scraped the surface of what this city has to offer. If I'm honest, I'm not quite sure what Hemingway was trying to say when he described Paris as a "moveable feast", but what strikes me every time I cross Place de la Concorde is Montaigne's quote, "Paris a mon cœur dès mon enfance. Je ne suis français que par cette grande cité. Grande surtout et incomparable en variété. La gloire de la France et l’un des plus nobles ornements du monde".

"Paris has had my heart since my childhood. I am French only thanks to that great city. Great especially, and incomparable in variety. The glory of France, and one of the most noble ornaments of the world".

Place de la Concorde, Eiffel Tower in the background.

Place de la Concorde, different angle.

I don't want to complain, and I don't want to come across as smug, but this is truly how I feel, or at least, how I feel at the best of times when I'm here - Paris is special. Paris is a magical city. That's about as original as something you'd find on a t-shirt in a souvenir shop, but it's how I feel - I can't think of any other city in the world that can compare with this one. I wanted to be small fish in a big pond, and if from time to time French culture makes me feel like nothing so much as bumbling clown-fish, well, at least it's in the most monumental pond in Europe. In my humble opinion.