Thursday, 15 November 2007

The Last Time I Saw Paris 15/11

Jacques Brel is alive and well and living in Paris. Allegedly. Well, I couldn’t find him.. An evening of Brel’s music seemed like the perfect theatrical experience to enjoy on last weeks Paris trip. But alas the Brel show wasn’t playing that week. This wasn’t even my first choice of show. I had read about a small musical called “Panique Au Bord” and had also been recommended another – “Coups De Foudre” – however both venues were a little off the beaten track (i.e. beyond the four corners of my tourist map) and I didn’t feel confident enough to wander into the unknown. Ok, so Bonnie Tyler thought being “Lost In France” was cool, but Bonnie is much braver than me. And fierce. I mean come on, have you heard her growl?

Anyway, the main purpose of my visit was Christmas shopping and that went quite well. I made a big start at least….

Of course, despite the lack of theatre, culture played a big part in my holiday, as indeed did history. I recently read a fictional account of the life of Catherine De Medici (thank you Miss Plaidy) and am currently working my way through a “proper” biography (thank you Mr Ferris) so when I flicked through my eye witness guide in the sections on Les Halles and Le Marais a few things leapt from the page. Obviously much has changed since the time of the Royal House of Valois, but it was interesting to see that several of the locations that featured in this particularly bloody period of history are still standing. So I managed to see the St-Germain L’Auxerrois , the church where the bells first rang out after the massacre of St Bartholomew’s eve, and also the Hotel De Sens (one of only a few mediaeval buildings still standing in Paris) home to Catherine’s daughter – the scandalous “la Reine Margo”. All in all seeing these, and many more locations are helping to paint a more vivid picture as I continue to read the biography.

So back to culture. Even more than theatre the two mainstays of my Paris jaunts are cinema and art. Paris, as you may know, offers the choice of most English or American films in either dubbed or subtitled (version originale) versions so it’s pretty easy to find a plethora of movie options. First off was “Stardust” which was really lovely and I would definitely recommend it if you are in the mood for a touch of whimsy. The following night I left my stardust memories far behind me to watch the new, London set, Woody Allen movie “The Dream Of Cassandra”. I’m not really a Woody fan per se, and this film did little to make me one. It was truly dire. I think possibly that Woody just can’t quite master the British syntax because the script was beyond awful. People just don’t talk like that. Ok well maybe Diane Keaton might but Colin O’Farrell and Ewan McGregor just sounded plain wrong. Better by far was “Ratatouille”. An absolute comedic delight from start to finish and it’s Parisian setting certainly enhanced my enjoyment. I must admit though, that I was a little wary of eating in a restaurant the following day. Mind you, in hindsight I suspect that the chance of my meals having been cooked by rats was a little far fetched!

Talking of restaurants, those of you who have read of my previous Paris breaks may remember that my restaurant habituelle has always been Joe Allens. Well, not only did this remain the case but I was staying in a hotel just around the corner – the lovely Hotel De Cygne. Despite the rather noisy street cleaners who appeared at 7am it was great to be so central. I barely even had to use the metro.

Not only did I go to the cinema but I also bought a few French DVDs. I was even brave enough to buy a couple without English subtitles. No, I am not talking about “The Making Of The Dieux De Stade Calendar” but a couple starring Romain Duris (of “The Beat My Heart Skipped”) who is fast becoming one of my favourite actors. These movies will continue my French experience over the coming weeks and hopefully aid my understanding of French a little more in time for my next visit.

So what of art? Well, as I was staying a stones throw away, I decided that it was opportune to revisit the Pompidou with its collection of modern art. I must admit that when it comes to art I tend to prefer the more conventional forms such as painting and sculpture. Although a large proportion of the Pompidou’s collection is of “installation” art it does have an abundance of paintings dating back eighty or ninety years so I had the opportunity to see works by Kandisky, Picasso and Matisse as well as Marc Chagalle – a personal favourite. Not to mention a big red shiny rhino and a giant fridge!

Now a shiny red rhino seems a good a place as any to leave it for now – more from Paris next week where I tell you about more paintings, a reunion with a former colleague and a case of indecent exposure!

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