Loving your whole report, Lola. I feel totally sympatico with your journey. MC’s photos are superb! One year, I rented an apartment for a month on rue de la Roquette ( a 5 minute walk away) and each morning I began my day at the ‘little square’ , les Place des Vosges. A few times at Ma Bourgogne, then, all of the other times at Café Hugo. There, I would have a coffee and plan the day. You have brought back lovely and powerful memories. Thank you for those two great photos.
Paul’s. Another beautiful memory. Ten years ago, (early in my trips to Paris), I dropped into Paul’s and enjoyed the most delicious hot chocolate of my existence….didn’t even know it was a chain. The Chocolate was superb, the most delicious that I have ever tasted. (then and now)
Like you, looking at Paris apartments is a hobby of mine and I spend hours doing this. I LOVE (!) your chosen apartment and have saved it for either a wealthier time, or, when a friend can come with me. Given that I’ve looked at hundreds of apartments, it is perfect. You are an artist and I can see the appeal. (thus far, I’ve never stayed in the Marais…just, the 5th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th )
Your daughter’s photographs are truly exceptional and thank you for sharing them with us. I was very moved by your visit to the small church, ….On my way back I stopped in at a candlelit church near our apartment, with creaky wooden chairs instead of pews, the air heavy with incense, solemn Bach on the organ, and a handful of the faithful….
Would love to hear more of your impressions and see more of MC’s photos. I can only say that it sounds like a sensual and remarkable moment in Paris. And again, I feel very sympatico with you.
Jazz, In a few days I've gone from thinking I might not afford Paris again in this lifetime to thinking, "Hmm, maybe if Jazz and I could get that apt...." I remember your talking about having coffee at Place des Vosges during your rue de la Roquette stay. I am glad and proud to be simpatico with you, and appreciate your kind words.
Thanks, Lagatta. Yes, it’s been an extremely surreal and chaotic winter for me and it isn’t over yet. Not much time to post. God, within one day here the temperature went from 21 to 2!
Lola, “…In a few days I've gone from thinking I might not afford Paris again in this lifetime to thinking, "Hmm, maybe if Jazz and I could get that apt...."
Reading this, it took me only moments! To quote you, …’Then memories of Kerouac's Christmas in Paris photo spreads began to water that seed, and a vine of possibility began to twine around my mind…’
Hmmm, I think, why not? It could be so fabulous.
My French is mediocre, but in all of my trips, like you, I spoke in French. I was secretly gratified that the unlucky recipients chose to respond in French. 95% of the time was spent communicating in French, the other few times in English during rare moments of being with English speakers. You may have had this happen…I would diligently ‘rehearse’ my question/comment in French and obviously sounded decent. Unfortunately, the response would be in rapid French. (leaving me silent, floundering and pathetic…). Since I was alone for a month, it was often isolating…not being able to share nuance, humor etc. But, as you found, almost everyone was a delight to deal with.
-----’ ‘The City of Light. I used to think that meant "lights", but there's something about the quality of natural light----
For me, Parisian natural light is special and beautiful. Each season, each time of day.
Just shut your eyes and GO for it Jazz, there is nowhere else that can compare with Paris. I also will carefully rehearse a little sentence, only to be blown away by the machine gun French which comes rattling back at me ;D
Man is not lost, only temporarily uncertain of his position
I'll look for that book, Jazz. Thanks! (Though maybe I should finish paying for our last trip before I start dreaming of another? And Bob would take it kind of hard I guess.)
And yes, me too. My accent for one or two words probably sounds so plausible that the French person assumes I can handle it, and replies accordingly. If I could live there six months or so I know I would improve.
Bob plays guitar in a gypsy jazz group, so he burned to visit as many Django Reinhardt shrines as he could, and jazz manouche clubs for the current real thing.
One day, while the girls amused themselves elsewhere, he and I visited the Reinhardt exhibit at the Cite de la Musique. It was nicely done, maybe not something I'd have done on my own, but 2 for 1 admission with our Eurostar ticket and fun even if not manouche obsessed. Posters, mementos, a cool exhibit on guitar making, paintings by the man himself (hinting at his interest in the female models' chests), a movie about his life, and flim clips including a short 1930's documentary on gypsy life around Paris and the few existing ones of his Quintette du Hot Club
My interest eventually waned, and I wandered the upper floors of the museum, checking out the instrument collections. The Cite is a multiple use building, so new it still smells like concrete, with performance spaces, a snack bar and library, and of course a gift shop.
We got back on the Metro and rode to the end of the line at Bobigny/Picasso, where we figured out how to board the T1 tram, heading west, hoping to glimpse some of the gypsy encampments so excellently recorded by K2. The tram was full, and became packed the further we rode. Veiled women pushing strollers, odorous bodies, no doubt some genuine roma. Tattered suburbs where the people live. Shopping centers, graffiti. A great ride. We rode by a gypsy shanty village, then another, and got off at St-Denis.
It was a grey late afternoon, and a little disorienting getting off the tram. We knew there was a cathedral over there somewhere, but couldn't see a spire. Big Carrefour hypermarket in a kind of shopping center. Here's the part K will like: we saw a little Paul baked goods outlet (freshly baked pizza type rolls, too hot to eat, cooling on a rack though), overworked staff. We stood in line to order, asked when it was finally our turn where the tourist office might be. No idea. Do you know where the cathedral is? Vague wave over that way.
We came to the big plaza near the Mairie, decorated for the holidays, and saw the cathedral off to the left and the tourism office straight ahead. I like that office: excellent selections of postcards, mostly cathedral related, and they ask politely where you are from no doubt for funding and statistical purposes. When you reply "U.S." they smile as if this does not happen hundreds of times a day.
We were just able to slip into St-Denis Basilica just before it closed. Inside, the gothic architecture has its intended effect and fills us with awe. Stained glass rises to heaven under the vaulted roof. The church was built on the site of a Roman/Gaul cemetery, and later Ste. Genevieve and Charlemagne entered into buying and building there. Almost all the kings and queens of France, including the unlucky last pair Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, are entombed there.
These from the internet:
Hear the stillness of the ages, and smell the ancient smells.
Bob loved St-Denis, the basilica, the town, the market street crowded with workers on their way home, the experience on the tram. I bought fruit there for a song, compared to the Marais. We crowded onto the rush hour metro and headed home after our northern suburbs adventure.
Another manouche pilgrimage: the Saturday between Christmas and New Year's we all took the Metro to Porte de Clignancourt, then walked north under the Peripherique to Saint-Ouen and rue des Rosiers. Destination la Chope des Puces, "le Temple du Jazz Manouche", and it was hopping nicely by the time we got there ~ 1430. The musicians set up in front by the windows, all acoustic. There were two guitars and a bass, then later a saxaphone player dropped in. Ninine Garcia, famed in that world, played lead guitar. Very nice.
We squeezed back across from the bar and lucked into a table for four. The young waitress was working at top speed, but it took her a long time to take our orders. We had intended to order lunch, but in the waiting time MC and I decided it was too beautiful a day to sit in a crowded bar, excellent music notwithstanding, and besides that the couple standing next to our table kept looking at us with "Scram" written on their faces. MC and I ordered Viennese coffee then escaped outside to the flea market while Bob and H got lunch.
Some of MC's impressions of the St-Ouen flea market:
Watching the scene. There may even have been a small fluffy dog at her feet.
Stallkeeper chastises a man for taking his photo, while MC does it more stealthily from across the street. What are the ethics of public human photography? I'd be happy to discuss that.
My favorite scene from the market was watching MC in action as she haggled in French for a pair of leggings with zippers at the ankles. They were all over the market for 15 euros, and one man let her try some from a 15 euro rack; when she said she'd take them he told her 20 euros. She said, "What? I'll give you ten!" I liked this guy, who held his 20 euro ground with the amused air of someone who knows he's giving you the business. Finally, after much amusing back and forth, MC hung the leggings back and we stalked off. I regret that she bought a 15 euro pair from a humorless guy with the look of someone who spends his leisure time reading extremist websites.
I bought a 500 franc note for a coworker who collects money from countries she's visited. This vendor was fun, eager to tell us about the time he fought as a lightweight boxer in Houston.
After regrouping, we walked south to towards Montmartre and Sacre-Coeur. We paused outside one church (Notre-Dame de Clignancourt) for a moment, admiring it before going inside, and and older gentleman approached to ask us if we needed help with anything. That was darling, and a first in Paris.
MC wanted to reach the summit while we still had daylight, though clouds had moved in, so we pushed on, still deferring lunch, up the mountain's many stairways. A delightful climb. My respect for K's bicycling muscles increased as we went on.
Looking back north.
Approaching. Need a postcard?
Sorry she missed the sunshine, but evening clouds are interesting too.
The masses want to go in.
Decorated for holidays, and a Christmas Market too.
We filed into the basilica, where young men in blazers called out for silence, directed the crowd to walk clockwise to the nave and back out, and not to take photos. I opted out, sat down near the entrance. A young couple in front of me must have taken a picture, because one of the staff, an intense young African man, crouched down and talked to them respectfully about the need for respect: "The Virgin Mother in heaven sees all this. Your photo, you, I will all be dead tomorrow, but this is eternal." His eyes shone with a zealot's fire, and he was beautiful.
We had an early dinner (la Cremaillere 1900, decent and welcome refuge from coming rain) around the corner at Place du Tertre, soon to be home per Kerouac to a Starbucks forsooth.
Comfort and joy, then down the southern stairs to catch a bus home.
Perfect pictures as usual. I am one person who has always believed that the view from the top of Montmartre looking down is much better with abundant clouds. However, things like Sacré Coeur, looking uphill, are much better when photographed in the sun with a blue sky. Unfortunately, many visitors do not have the time or the inclination to make two trips to Montmartre in the course of one trip.
A city this large, and this complex is going to take years (decades?) to get to know. But I'm ok with that. Today I want to get out during my daughter's nap and photograph the various little passageways here in the Pigalle/Abessess/Rue Lepic area.
Père Lachaise Cemetery. I hadn't particularly wanted to visit, but one morning the girls and I took a bus up rue de Turenne and rue Oberkampf to the Belleville market, a rich cultural trip in its own right. The smells of the produce, piled high, old people with walkers threading their way between the stalls with bags hanging from the frame, scarved women and tatooed men looking for the best deals.
The girls wanted to see the cemetery, so we walked down Bd de Menilmontant to the eastern entrance, then up the cobbled avenue between the monuments. The grey day added to a feeling of mossy antiquity. Solemn loving regret surrounded us, and the feeling that those who could still enjoy life and beauty should be doing so. Limestone maidens weep, young iron men recline forever, and angels look heavenward. Our bags of apples and grapes bumped against our legs, and we had to be careful on the slick stones.
We weren't particularly looking for anyone's remains, and no maps evident at that entrance, but we climbed to the crest of the hill and headed in the general direction of Oscar Wilde's tomb. I told them what I could remember about his final days and words. Wilde's monument has been scrubbed clean of lipstick, imperfectly, and the whole is surrounded by a fence of lucite. Someone put a lipstick print on a piece of paper and threw that in.
Back down towards the entrance, we found a map with the big names and their locations. Even if it's not the real bones of Heloise and Abelard, I was glad to see their monument.
We stopped for tea at a nice little cafe by the main entrance at Rue de Repos, glad to be alive together, then walked down good old Rue de la Roquette and home. Bob had been out for the day visiting the guitar maker of his dreams near the Louvre somewhere.
This is apparently the place for a certain kind of techno music and a certain crowd. MC and H went there one evening. When I offered to go check it out myself, they said that I would not fit in there, not even if I bought new shoes.
I don't mind the street people and public drinking, as long as they don't harrass me. On our wedding anniversary, Bob went out late to buy flowers at Rue St-Antoine, came back annoyed. He'd given a flower to a woman camped out on the street, as a kind gesture, and she seemed to appreciate it. Soon after that a gang of street type men approached him shouting angrily. His street fighter instincts kicked in, and he wanted to start punching, but luckily walked away without a brawl. As many good things as I hear about the French health system, I was glad to avoid close inspection.
This man perfected his tai chi in the Place des Vosges, 10 yards from where a black-clad young man practiced minuet steps lost in his world of partnerless dance. They ignored each other and everyone else. I waited there our last morning while the girls ran down to the river for one more look. Bob had been safely put on the RER to CDG and home, and the rest of us were about to collect our luggage from the apartment, apologize and pay for the bowl I broke, and head for Gare du Nord to catch the Eurostar.
That morning we'd run through the Carnavalet Museum, just a few short blocks from our apartment, and enjoyed the exhibits of Paris history, the models of the medieval town, the old portraits, the roses in the courtyard, in January.