Archive for the ‘Paris’ Tag

Paris walking tour of Unique Things

Regular readers will know of David’s unique, tres charmant Parisian garret, in the upper-most corner of a building on the Place de Breteuil. Today, as he bravely suffered his horrible gastro attack, he proposed for me a walk through Paris that would take me to inspiring shops selling unique objets d’art, curiousities, bric-a-brac and antiques, and other landmarks along the way. I have been following some of the Lonely Planet’s walking tours, which I recommend, but offer this one as an alternative. Here is David sick in bed…

David sick

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“We love politics” – Democrats Abroad

Saturday night I had the chance to take part in something quite interesting. A friend of CP’s was hosting a meeting of the Paris chapter of Democrats Abroad, and invited him and his guests to come along. We would get to take part in a teleconference involving five different cities in Europe and the States, talking with Barack Obama’s sister, who is just getting involved in his campaign to be nominated as the Democrats’ Presidential candidate.

The evening was in fact a fundraiser and a way to urge local Americans to get involved in the political process and vote in the primary, hopefully getting behind Obama.

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Last days in Paris

It’s a bit alarming to realise that I’m leaving for Armenia the day after tomorrow. Thus I have been doing my best to be a better tourist and see a few more of the key sites.

I had an excellent walk through Belleville on Friday, and met S for lunch in Little India; I went to the Porte de Vanves flea market on Saturday morning, followed by a pleasurable wander through the local street market that was set up in Place de Breteuil, right at the base of the building of which the garret flat is at the top (I bought fresh roasted potatoes and some lasagne for my lunch); Saturday evening was interesting as we went to a Democrats fundraiser – but I’ll write about that separately.

Sunday I attempted to get to Bercy village but got a bit sidetracked along the Promenade Plante which is a gorgeous walking track along a disused viaduct that I thought might take me towards Bercy… but as it turned out I walked in totally the wrong direction, towards Bois de Vincennes, (Vincennes Woods) – which is almost off the Lonely Planet map. (Was a bit unimpressed with the Lonely Planet directions actually). Fortunately a passer-by helped me work out where I was. He was an interesting chap – he told me about a trip he’d made to Antarctica to set up a geo-tracking system at the French base there.

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Blue sky Friday morning

I’ve woken up with lots of energy this morning. I slept with the window open which brought in a lot of noise from the street, but also lots of cool air which was refreshing counter to the relentless centralised heating in this building. (I am staying on Ile-St-Louis again).

Last night I went to the theatre again – another performance by Theatre de l’arc-en-ciel, this time of Les Tolstoi – Journal Intime (The Tolstoys – Intimate Diary), which told of the marriage and life shared between Leo and Sonia Tolstoy. It’s an epic story indeed that starts with their meeting and marriage (when Sonia is 17 and Tolstoy is 34) and ends with Tolstoy’s death and a fleeting image of the great changes under the newly arrived communists.

Tolstoy poster

I loved it! It was written by CP’s mother and she is in Paris at the moment. I read the script in English beforehand, and unlike Monday night’s play, I found I could follow the dialogue and action quite successfully.

Seeing theatre in another language is interesting as it really encourages you to read everything that is taking place on the stage. All the nuances of interaction. I am always amazed, after reading a script, at the ability and skill of the actors and creative team to bring the words from the page into life. When I read it, and hear the words in my head, it sits quite flat.

So, it looks like today will be sunny and fine! I now have a plan for the next rainy day (to explore the undercover passages and arcades that criss-cross one section of the city).

Today I could:

  • Walk to Bercy village which has undergone a transformation in recent years and now has many small boutique shops and cafes and village feel. I need to buy some presents for people and this could be the place to do it;
  • Head to Belleville, where there is a park on a hill with views across this mostly flat city. This area is known as Paris Mondiale, a microcosm of the many nationalities that call Paris their home, from North Africa and Asia and all over…
  • Montmartre and Sacre Coeur?
  • Head to the galleries on foot. There is an exhibition of art from Iran (in the Sephardic tradition) that I’d like to see… as well as a return visit to the Musee d’Orsay, in part to enjoy once again the cafe on the top floor that is illuminated by the large railway clock/window, a very photogenic place to enjoy a coffee or chocolat chaud.

So many possibilities. I’ll choose soon.

Rain, clouds

Overall, since I have been in Paris, the weather has been very mild. However, the day that C came to visit it rained and rained and rained. So I thought I would share with you this rather pathetic shot of the Eiffel Tower in which the umbrella was blown into the frame. I like the contrast of colours.


But since that day it really has been quite pleasant, with some sunny days perfect for wandering in the Jardin Des Plantes.

Last night CP and LP included me in an invitation to dinner at their friends’ apartment – a charming, artistic older couple who live near the Arc du Triomphe, and who made me very, very welcome. CP made a tart, which caused him to be running a little late. (He said, “But I’m coming with a tart, so they will wait.” I let him know in no uncertain terms that that wasn’t a very nice thing to call me.) The tart was more of a pie, and very tasty indeed. I should have photographed it as it looked magnificent. Spinach, ricotta,and mushrooms, with ronds of goats cheese on top.

Together we watched the video of Colin, the Armenians, and I performing the Khatchaturian Trio in Ohrid, Macedonia, for the opening of the Council of Europe’s newest Democracy Embassy in 1997. (This is the music we will revise for the concert in Yerevan). Dominic and Irene (the couple) were a wonderfully appreciative audience, and recognised the magic of the ensemble that we created at that time, with that piece. I don’t mean to flatter myself, or act too proud, but I know – all of us knew – that we had created something very special together when we worked on the Trio.

New boots

I bought new boots on the weekend. It took quite a lot of wandering up and down the streets, in and out of shops, trying on and pulling off. They are different in style to what I normally wear. CP gave a barely-discernible shudder when he saw them and said, “They’re a bit scary, aren’t they?” That was because they are pointy. For some reason CP immediately associated them with a swift (and scary) coup au zizi. So to speak. Hopefully I would never have any need to give such a coup.

Here I am thinking about them, and wondering if I have made the right choice:Gill thinkingAnd this is a view of the points:dscf0059.jpg

Yesterday I caught up with an old friend from Melbourne, SH, who lives near CP on the Ile-Saint Louis. We went for un chocolat chaud a l’ancienne in a fairly touristy cafe near her home (which is in the heart of tourist territory given that it has a gorgeous view of Notre Dame) with an unusually attentive waiter who took it upon himself to give her a hasty shoulder massage as he walked past us. We both raised our eyebrows at each other. “Does that often happen here?” I queried. No, she assured me. It doesn’t.

Last night I went to the theatre. CP was performing in a remount of a play Etty Hillesum, in which he is one of four performers, playing violin (music he composed) as well as acting with some proudly delivered lines. It was all in French, but CP had given me a copy of the script in English to read beforehand. Despite that, it was hard to follow the dialogue. Afterwards, one of his friends asked me if I had enjoyed it. Yes, I had, I replied, but added honestly that I hadn’t really understood it.

“Oh”, she said, surprised. “What didn’t you understand?”

“The French”, (of course), I replied! I think she thought I meant the storyline of the play. Anyway…

Parisian garret

I stayed last night in the apartment of David (friend of CP’s who was not needing it that night). It is up seven flights of stairs, tucked under the eaves of a building looking onto Place de Breteuil. From the small balcony you can see rooftops in all directions, and above these, the tip of the Eiffel Tower and the dome of Les Invalides. So romantic!

My dear friend from England Caroline joined me for the night, and then all day today. I have just returned home from seeing her off on the Sunday evening Eurostar back to St Pancras in London. It has rained ALL DAY!

We fell in love with this little flat, decorated like “a curiousity shop” (as said the owner, with pride). It is filled with beautiful things, unusual kitsch, objets d’arts, pictures, artwork, dolls, mirrors…caro in mirrordavid-flat-sml.jpg

Friday night in France

On Friday night CP, David and I went for Fondue near Montparnasse. It’s kind of messy… but fun (as good things often are). Here are some images:


It can get very runny.


I am still getting the hang of including images in posts. I’ll publish these now, but hopefully will have it a little more aesthetically pleasing next post.

Re-acquaintance with old friends

I woke up this morning to find myself in Paris. Staying with my dear dear friend from the Mozart Academy in Poland ten years ago, waking up after a solid night’s sleep, which was very welcome after the long flight and a day spent fighting jetlag and waiting for night (and bedtime) to come.

Today has been a day of catching up with old friends and acquaintances. I started the day by practising clarinet (an old friend I haven’t spent a lot of time with recently), rediscovering the Khachaturian Trio – a much-loved old friend for both CP and I. Despite being out of practice, this piece is still under my fingers and playing it felt like a welcome return. It was smiling at me and was gentle with me.

Then I left the apartment and wandered about the Left Bank for the afternoon. I looked in the shops and smiled at people and marveled at the mild weather. Paris is something of a past acquaintance for me, rather than a friend – I have been here several times before but this visit is the longest one yet. The last time I spent a series of days here was in 1995. I came over on the Eurostar (it had only been open a very short time, and I felt like something of a pioneer). I stayed in a hostel and visited galleries and I remember very little detail from that trip other than that I had a wonderful time. I photographed cakes and pastries in patisserie windows, gathered with the young folks on the steps of Sacre Coeur at night-time, then arrived late at Gare du Nord for my return train to Paris (a mighty sin with Eurostar and the cheap ticket I had bought). I panicked and started to sob (was a bit overtired) and the kindly (and bemused) man behind the ticket counter took pity on me and wrote me a pass that would let me sit in the dining car on the next train out. All very strange as there were plenty of seats on that train, it turned out.

I am staying with CP in his apartment which is very near the Jardin des Plants. When I walk to the Metro I pass the Natural History Museum, with its woolly mammoth gracing its lawn, and skeletons of creatures visible in all the windows of the second floor. CP lives in a building that has a concierge who he describes as “a denouncer type”. Cruel, but I picked her straight away so it is clearly an apt description.

Of course, CP is the real old friend here with whom I am re-acquainting myself. I last saw him in 2003 on a flying visit to Paris where we met early in the morning at Gare du Nord, then walked the rues and boulevards of the City of Light, which was the backdrop to our conversations. He has been one of my dearest friends since the Poland days, where we would take ages to farewell each other at the end of the day, and joked that there should be a plaque on the ground where we always stood (on the path between out two pavilions where we slept) acknowledging this place where“G and C solved the problems of the world”.

On that 2-day visit in 2003, we met with his friend David, who had 2 tickets to a performance that evening by Pina Bausch’s company. But we were a group of three and the performance was sold out – in fact it was the hottest ticket in town. We went to the theatre and sold our tickets to an eager punter for 100 euro (that was what he offered – it seemed that we could have demanded far more).. and we went out to eat fondu in the Marais district on the money. “Merci, Pina!” we chorused, as we raised our glasses to our benefactor.

Tonight we are meeting with David and going to have fondu again, after an aperitif at his place. CP is practising violin as I write this. It all feels very relaxed and chilled out – how often do I write something like that? Holidays are a wonderful thing.