Sunday, 30 June 2013

Paris: A Few More Photos From Day 2

I woke up at 5.30am on my second day in Paris, which surprised me, because usually when I am in the UK visiting family the time difference makes it hard to get up before 10am.  Melissa was awake about an hour later and we readied ourselves to head for breakfast at Bread & Roses at 7 Rue De Fleurus/62 Rue Madame.
After sating ourselves with coffee and croissants we walked the 2.5miles to the St Paul Metro station to join with a Paris Walks tour of the Marais.

We arrived about half an hour too early for the tour so we killed time by pottering around the Place Des Vosges - the oldest planned square in Paris, built by Henri IV between 1605-1612 on the site of the Hôtel des Tournelles, a former royal estate - and the Carnavalet Museum; a free museum dedicated to the history of Paris.

Place Des Vosges

At 10am on Saturday morning the square was very peaceful, but when we returned at the end of the tour, around noon, it was full of French families enjoying picnics with many an open bottle of champagne.  "I like how the French picnic," said Melissa.

The picnics explained the proliferation of hugely fat pigeons, like these two enjoying a morning shower in one of the fountains.

As pigeons go they were quite photogenic in the Place Des Vosges

One of the first stops on the tour was the Hôtel de Beauvais former home of Catherine Bellier, wife of Pierre de Beauvais, who was a lady in waiting to Anne of Austria.  Apparently Catherine and Anne were very close with Catherine administering the Queen Mother her colonics.  Yikes!!!  A 38-year old Catherine was also rumored to have shown Anne's son, the 14 year old Louis XIV, a very good time - at Anne's request - by providing him with a practical demonstration of the facts of life.  Louis and Anne were lovers for 2-years after which time she was awarded an estate and a pension by the dowager Queen Anne, using the money to commission architect Antoine Le Pautre to design and build the Hôtel de Beauvais in 1657.  Today the building is used as an administrative court. 
Hotel de Beauvais, 68 rue Francois-Miron, Paris

One of the benefits of the Paris Walks tour, led by Oriel, is that we got to go inside the courtyard.  The home was built on the site of a 13th Century mansion, which Catherine had knocked down, although she left the cellars intact for the servants. Nice of her eh!!  The facade of the building is in the French Baroque style, the name given to French architecture during the reigns of Louis XIII, Louis XIV and Louis XV (1610-1774).

Despite not being blessed in the looks department Catherine was purportedly not short of lovers, it being fashionable at the time to imitate the king, and she was very much in demand in the bedroom department, counting the Archbishop de Sens, Henri-Louis de Gondrin, among her lovers.  This carved stone figure, or grotesque, in the courtyard of the Hôtel de Beauvais is supposedly of Catherine.

According to Leonard Pitt in "Walks Through Lost Paris:A journey into the heart of historic Paris," Catherine grew ugly and heavy as she aged, although never lost her strong sexual appetite but was reduced to paying for sexual favors.  When her husband died in 1674 she was saddled with huge debts and became a pauper.  In the end she lived destitute at the Hôtel de Beauvais as merely a renter. 

Catherine wasn't the only notable resident of the townhouse.  In 1763, when the building was in the possession of the Bavarian Ambassador he was visited by Mr. Leopold Mozart and family, including a 7-year old Wolfgang.  During his stay the young prodigy performed for the royal family at Versailles.

Further along the Rue Francois-Miron at the corner of the tiny, pedestrian only, Rue Cloche Percé stand wood framed houses whose construction dates back to the 14th Century.  The pitched roofs allow rainwater to drain down the sides of the buildings. The wooden frames of these buildings meant they were a serious fire risk with fires jumping quickly from building to building and in 1607 Henri IV ordered the buildings to be covered with plaster of Paris to prevent the spread of fire.

11 & 13, rue Francois Miron
"I'm told it's now a swingers club" said our guide, Oriel.  A quick look at Google confirms that the building at number 13 does indeed now house the Au Pluriel Club, which describes itself as "Adult swingers Club in the 4th district of Paris."  Enter at your own risk. 

After a quick tour around a Saturday market we made our way to the Church of St Gervais et St Protais, one of the oldest churches in Paris whose existence in this location is mentioned as early as the 4th century.  The present church building is in the Gothic style and was begun in 1474 and completed in 1578.  Since 1975 the church has been the headquarters of the Monastic Fraternities of Jerusalem, who are devoted to monastic life within an urban context with most of it's members working part-time jobs.

The Church of St Gervais et St Protais

At the back of the church are a number of misericords, also known as a mercy seat, a small wooden shelf used for support when having to stand for long periods, since prayers in the early medieval church were said standing with uplifted hands. The old or infirm could use crutches or, as time went on, a misericordia, which literally means "act of mercy". According to our guide, Oriel, the seats in St Gervais et St Protais were used by the priests and would typically be shielded from the view of the standing parishioners by a rood screen, an ornate partition between the chancel and the nave, so that they wouldn't be able to see the priests having a break.  The seats could be turned up to  expose a small shelf underneath which could be leaned against.  They were often beautifully carved with detailed scenes, despite being hidden underneath the seats.

Misericords in the church of St Gervais et St Protais
The church at St Gervais et St Protais has 21 mid-16th century misericords (dating from 1556) and 21 from the early 17th century.  Most Parisian churches had their carvings removed and burnt during the fuel shortage that resulted from the siege of Paris (1870-1871).

A woman cavorts with a fool. Supposedly a damning indictment of women, but women more often than not cavort with men so....I'm just saying!!

The next stop on the tour was the Shoah Memorial.  According to TripAdvisor the memorial "opened in 2005 as a bridge between contemporaries of the Holocaust and those who have not experienced it" and also houses the Center of Contemporary Jewish Documentation (YSC) founded during the Second World War to gather documentary evidence of the destruction of European Jews.   

Outside the museum is "le mur des justes", a wall of names of those who helped the Jews in France during World War II.  Apparently the wall is featured in the fictional film Sarah's Key, an adaptation of the book by Tatiana de Rosnay, which follows an American journalist's present-day investigation into the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup of Jews in German-occupied Paris in 1942. Irene Nemirovsky's Suite Francaise also tells a story of being a Jew in Nazi occupied France. 

I'm going to end this here as I feel it's getting lengthy, but I'll continue reporting on the tour in a day or two, but below is the tour route so far, beginning on the far right at the St Paul Metro station.

Tour of Le Marais, Paris

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Paris: A few photos from Day 1

One of my favorite things about my recent trip to Paris was the way the street cafes make absolutely no pretense about blatantly facilitating people watching.  I wish New York cafes would take note.

On our first day we covered about 6 miles as the crow flies.  I felt as if we walked much further, but all in all not bad considering we were sleep deprived after taking the red eye from New York. 

I suspect we realistically walked a couple of miles more than that as we got lost once - took a wrong turn out of Jardin Du Luxembourg and ended up back in the vicinity of our Montparnasse hotel instead of by the Seine - and retrod our ground a few times.  We didn't really have a destination in mind, beyond our curiosity concerning the Paris Plages, or beaches, and my curiosity about a public pool on a barge in the Seine named for Josephine Baker.

Photo by Alexandrealari

It wasn't the most picturesque route, although initially it did take us past Notre Dame.

Before all that though we headed for Montparnasse Tower, which is a great spot for taking in an amazing view of Paris that includes the Eiffel Tower.

During our walk we saw this amazing public art on the quai d'austerlitz.  Apparently it's the work of street artist IDEM who was looking to give the impression of a giant over flowing paint pot.

After crossing the Pont de Bercy we walked up the Qual de la Rapee to Avenue Ledru Rollin and headed to Le Bistrot du Peintre for an early dinner, which I'd read about in Eloisa James's Paris In Love.  I think I ordered badly. I was a bit over faced by the circular cake of salmon in fromage frais topped with layers of smoked salmon served with a side salad.  Not that it was bad, not in the least; it was just too much salmon for me, but Melissa loved her dish of roast chicken on a bed of ratatouille.

We took the metro back to the hotel after dinner and I was snoozing by 8pm, 2pm New York time.  Come to think of it we never did see Paris Plages!!

Monday, 24 June 2013

I'm not thinking of returning to online dating...

...but if I were the story I heard from Michelle in Pilates class tonight really wouldn't help.

"I knew he might be a little weird from our phone conversation," she told me "but I thought 'what the hell, give him a chance', so I went to dinner with him on Saturday night."


"It didn't go well.  Right off the bat he told me I was asking him weird questions."

"Like what?"

"How was your day?"

Apparently he was also really paranoid and thought everyone was talking about them.  "That woman at the next table is talking about your hair," he told her.

"I was 18-inches from the woman at the next table.  If she'd been talking about me I would have known," said Michelle.  "After that he told me that a woman at the other end of the bar kept staring at me.  He also complained that he didn't like the restaurant, which HE chose."

After they'd finished their meal she excused herself to go to the bathroom 

"The waiter kept giving me sympathy eyes, I couldn't wait to get out of there.  I was relieved to see that he'd asked for the check when I walked back to the table."

"How were the bathrooms?" he asked.

"Fine," she shrugged "okay I guess."

"Did you poop?" 

Apparently she just stared at him.  

"Did he think he was being funny?" I asked her.  She'd told me earlier that he was in finance, so I was picturing the overgrown adolescent type who doesn't fraternize with too many women on a day to day basis.

"Nooooooooooooo!!!  He was deadly serious."

Lordy lordy!!  Who asks someone that?  This is what's out there ladies.  At least she has a story out of it!!

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Why hello there!!

In preparation for my upcoming trip to Paris I've been doing my usual research, largely restaurant and bar focused research - you can keep The Louvre, I want to experience Paris as a Parisienne - but I've also read a couple of memoirs by American authors who have recently lived there.  The first book I read was Rosecrans Baldwin's "Paris, I love you, but you're bringing me down", which was an enjoyable read, especially when I realized part-way through that the advertising agency where he worked as a copywriter was an agency where I'd also spent a part of my career.  I read Rosecrans' book partly as research and partly as a deterrent to the possibility of me arriving in Paris and deciding never to leave.  I've always been a huge Francophile and when I initially moved to New York I thought I'd be here for a year or two at the max, and after that I'd move to either San Francisco or, more likely, Paris.  That was where my head was in 2000, but in 2 weeks I'll celebrate my 13th anniversary of moving to New York.  Still, despite being very settled in New York, I've never quite given up on the idea of living in Paris at some point in my life, even if it's just for a short while, but not just yet.  I thought from the title of Rosecrans' book, his memoir would serve to diminish my rose tinted fantasy and mitigate the risk of my deciding never to come back.  It didn't change my rosy view of the city.  I think only actually living in Paris could do that, but I do believe that the risk of me deciding never to return to New York on this particular trip is considerably reduced.

After that I started Eloisa James' "Paris in love: a memoir," a fun read which is essentially a collection of Twitter and Facebook posts she wrote while living there.  Eloisa James' memoir is where I first heard mention of Dalloyau Patisserie......I think I'm in love.

On the website, below the description of the cake, is written "Pour votre santé, pratiquez une activité physique régulière."  For your health, practice regular physical activity :-)  

It's all about balance people!!