Game, Set and (Paris)Match


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June 5th 2013
Published: June 10th 2013
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And so we find ourselves again in Paris, this time for only a few days and with the end of our holiday rushing rapidly towards us. The Roland Garros tennis tournament is in full swing, there is a hint of spring in the air (although we are yet to experience a 20 degree day), and a noticeable increase in the number of tourists in the street compared with 2 weeks ago when we left Paris; summer "is a comin' in". For our base we have chosen a hotel just a little to the east of Place de Bastille – it is less than 10 minutes’ walk from Hans’ apartment in Petit Musc – and in doing so have moved arrondissements from the 4th (Marias) into the 11th(Bastille-Charonne). In a Sydney context this is like going from Darlinghurst to Surry Hills, and the parallels are quite striking both in physical distance and the complexion of the two areas.

How best to spend these precious last few days? Well we’ve diverted from the flâneur’s path a little (although is such a diversion an act of flâneuring in its own right?) and become a little more task focussed, while still leaving some
Regardez Le Queue!Regardez Le Queue!Regardez Le Queue!

... at the Nespresso Boutique
space for those random interruptions to arise. A cultural agenda is the go for our first day starting with an early visit to L’Orangerie to avoid the queue we encountered previously (and have even purchased our tickets in advance). Our preparations prove to be unnecessary (it is Monday like before, but neither a wet day nor a public holiday) and we get straight into the gallery. The large waterlily panels by Monet are stunning and we spend quite a time taking them in. There is something particularly tranquil about the paintings – and especially their misty luminescent blues - and the space in which they are displayed. Our precautionary preparations are rewarded (despite the absence of a queue) in that there are few people in the gallery this early in the day, although by the time we leave things are starting to ramp up. On the matter of queues, we have constantly recalled a French acquaintance who would laughingly point out that Anglos were hard-wired to queue. It has been our observation that the French, and especially the Parisiens, love a nice queue, be it in the market or even in Nespresso boutiques where they even had a door bitch to ensure the orderly flow of patrons (ironic, n’est-ce pas??).

While we are in this part of town we also take the opportunity to swing by the nearby Galignani bookstore. It is everything one expects from an archetypal book store – brass and wood, comfy leather chairs, and of course an overwhelming array of books that give an initial impression of barely contained chaos but which are underpinned by an orderly system. It is also the sort of bookstore that seems appropriate in a city that is still very much in love with the printed page; e-readers are not particularly apparent in cafes and on the metro and the printed book still reigns supreme.

After this is it back over to the left bank to revisit Les Bouquinistes for lunch to charge us up in readiness for an evening performance of Verdi’s Requiem at the Saint-Sulpice church. Fortunately the performance went off without any Dan Brown characters rushing through the middle of the choir, although occasionally the bigness of an opera orchestra and choir overwhelmed both the soloists and the acoustics. As we made our way home via the metro that evening at 11:30pm we were astounded at
Playing Silly BurghersPlaying Silly BurghersPlaying Silly Burghers

.... chaps from Calais at the Rodin
just how busy the metro was at the time of the evening on a Monday night; this is passive safety at its best, and a fabulous public transport network to boot.

Inspired by the Monet panels at L’Orangerie the following day we decide to go to the Marmottan museum over in the 16th for the largest single collection of his works. Housed in a former hunting lodge for the Duke of Valmy, both the collection and the house itself are impressive, although some of the non-Monet pieces on display are a little eclectic to say the least. From here we walk back through the 16th and towards the 7th with our next destination being the Rodin Museum. The 16th is very leafy and spacious, with grand houses and more than its fair share of embassies and consulates – enough said; it is calm and rather soulless and in stark contrast to the more colourful streets of the 11th where we are now staying. Along the way we pass by the Palais de Chaillot for one last panoramic view of the Eiffel Tower (apologies for the inclusion of the clichéd photo but some things just have to be done). Since our previous visit to the Rodin in 2005 there has been quite a bit or work done (and is still in progress) on the gallery and the grounds, and a nice café in the leafy grounds so it must be time for lunch.

And so (like the post-lunch photo of Dianne at the Rodin) our Paris “plate” is empty and a few last sips of wine remain. These last sips involve a walk back through the Marais (with a visit to Pain de Sucre for one of their exquisitely crafted pastries) and a bit more exploration of the area where we are staying. It is certainly an interesting area with virtually no high-street brand stores and a very strong local community feel, not unlike the Marais when we first visited in 2005. It will be interesting to see if, like the Marais, the 11th follows the gentrification/generification path over the next decade. The first signs are starting to emerge with the arrival of edgier restaurants, including an Australian chef whose restaurant Bones is hot property at the moment.

As we'd already had our hit of local hipster grunge a few nights earlier at Café L’Industrie (where we were
The Universe in a Grain of SugarThe Universe in a Grain of SugarThe Universe in a Grain of Sugar

... detail in Pain de Sucre red fruits tart (with apologies to William Blake)
heartily welcomed and fed despite being definite outliers from the 20-something mainstream crowd) for our last meal we opt for a very traditional bistro- Les Galopins - across the way from our hotel; it turns out to be a real gem and a fitting finish for our French adventure. Straightforward dishes, fresh and simple ingredients (potatoes made a lot of appearances, while green vegetables, other than salad, were far less apparent), small but thoughtful wine list, one beer tap, a single price for aperitifs and digestives, and welcoming service (including some complimentary drinks) all added up to a solidly enjoyable evening. And then back to our room to pack up in readiness for the long flight home, and for some rest and reflection about our travels and experiences in France.

So thanks for joining us along the way during our travels in France. And where to next time? Well unlike the end of previous holidays we are not at all certain where our next big journey will take us, however we do have a slight inkling that our PandDGoItaly blog name may again be correct, although at present the two year wait for that to happens seems to be such a long way away.

Thank you ball boys, thank you linesmen.

Peter & Dianne


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10th June 2013

Pain de Retour
Quel dommage! Mais, if something doesn't end, a new thing cannot begin .... probably not much consolation right now, but looking forward to the stories. Safe trip! Love, B and L
10th June 2013

and......... sigh
It's over... but I feel like I was there with you! thanks for taking me along. next time, can I please eat too?
11th June 2013

Why do good things pass so quickly?
Peter & Di - it has been wonderful travelling with you - you re-awakened all sorts of memories of Paris and Brittany for me! Always enjoy your travels - so sorry it's already over.

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