Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sight-seeing or Sight-thinking?


If you have ever taken a guided sight-seeing tour, you will recall that sometimes at the end of the day it is difficult to remember exactly what you have seen. With the cost of travel and the brevity of vacation time, sometimes a guided tour is the best possible option. However, as a retired person, time is a luxury
that I am able to enjoy.

My Paris days, which will soon come to an end, have taken on a very relaxed pattern. My sleeping area is hidden behind stained glass doors and the curtains are heavy. Every night, there are different noises: revellers, early morning deliveries, street cleaners or heavy-footed neighbours. It doesn't bother me at all. If I am awake, I listen to the BBC radio and I am able to stay in bed if I please.

What a strange revelation! I have always been the earliest lark in a family of early-birds. I have taken great pride in this…The early bird catches the worm….Early to bed, early to rise….BUT, there is no worm to catch and I'm as healthy, wealthy and wise as I'm ever going to be. That's an epiphany of retirement and of age. Striving is no longer necessary.
I found a stone angel in a garden. It made me think of a book that I read long ago.
In the morning, I eat some yogurt and fruit, shower, do laundry, edit photos, read and write. I spend quite a lot of time thinking about what I have seen or done and some time planning for my next destination. As I am alone, I am free to live in the moment but flights do need to be booked and reservations made.

I often carry my book to the same table at the same corner café to eat my salad or fish for the day. Life is easy when there are few decisions to be made. A glass of Sancerre (chablis has become too expensive) and a café expresso mean that I can read a few pages. I am savouring Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald, a book recommended by Materfamilias. I am not rushing through the novel as it is enigmatic, rich with descriptions and meant to be read reflectively.

There will always be new sights to see in Paris. The expositions at the museums change frequently, the gardens bloom with new plantings, each café offers different culinary treats and shop windows are frequently en cours. For me, I know that I don't have to rush or make too many decisions about my day because wherever I go, whatever I see will be perfect.
a giant Easter egg painted by a Croatian artist
One of my May destinations is a 10 day walking visit in Devon and Cornwall so it is important that I walk for at least 2 hours each day. Walking is my daily afternoon activity. Although I must admit that I stop frequently to explore courtyards and small parks, I am now able to climb my stairs without stopping to take a breath.

The sun has been shining in Paris for the whole time that I have been here. Not a day when my quilted coat has been necessary! I am so joyful to be able to be here that even the sound of the street sweeper outside my window seems like music. My wish for today is that every person find his/her own spot that
feels perfect!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Stories Beneath

When I was a young girl, I loved stories more than pretty much anything else. Not one to climb trees or jump ditches, I wrote poetry and created lyrics for my Toronto Royal Conservatory music. I used my mother's ancient Underwood typewriter to publish some of my works.  Once, I was brave enough to submit one of my poems to a magazine. It was not published but I had not yet learned the skills of revision and perseverance.

In the 1950's, books were special gifts to be bestowed on birthdays and on Christmas. Consequently, I read the books of my mother's girlhood library and of our small but friendly library branch. One of the reasons that I love Paris so much is that it is like the palimpsest where old stories are erased to make way for newer ones. However, if one looks very closely, the remnants of the past remain.

Yesterday marked the beginning of Passover. On my street was a procession of Jewish men wearing tall black hats with one man wearing an impressive hat of fur. I don't take pictures of people in the street unless they are performing and I have asked their permission so I do not have a photo.

I decided to visit La Rue des Rosiers again to learn more about le quartier. France has the largest Jewish population in Europe and the third largest in the world after Israel and the United States. There have been Jewish people living in France since Roman times. Throughout French history, there have been periods of acceptance and periods of expulsion and persecution.
The main square is called the Pletz (little place)
I was disappointed that many of the shops were closed but found some interesting signs and windows.


A miniature Seder table.


Most of the Jewish population in Paris were deported to camps. Three hundred school children were sent away from the Fourth Arrondissement. The Museum of the Shoah and Le Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation are interesting centres to visit to learn more about the Shoah.

This young Resistance fighter was killed. There are many such plaques around Paris.

There are so many stories in these few streets of the Marais that I wonder if I will make it to any other areas in the week that remains to me. I am, however, going to visit the Yiddish traiteur, Florence Kahn to pick up some authentic Passover fare.

Two years ago, when I was studying at CCFS, I prepared an oral presentation on L'Affaire Dreyfus, a controversy that split the French nation in two. Last night, I listened to a BBC 4 In Our Time history broadcast on the affair. If French history is an interest, you might find this discussion informative.

Personally, I think that I am missing the academic life a bit and wonder where that road will take me.



"I do like a road, because you can be always wondering what is at the end of it," once said Sara Stanley, also known as the Story Girl.
From The Story Girl  by L.M. Montgomery (one of Maman's girlhood books)


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Monday Meandering

I have seen this on four different walls.

 There are days when I meander through the streets of Paris with absolutely no purpose. It is pleasant to notice something colourful or something previously unnoticed or something thought-provoking. As many shops and museums are closed on Monday, the streets are quiet.

The colours call to me as I explore mews and tiny neighbourhood green spaces.
Down a side street was this pink building, lovely with its ivy and lilacs.
In a little park, the gardien yelled at me for opening a gate in order to take a close-up of a peony. There was no lock or sign, just a man who yelled, "non!"
No peony but I did get a photo of an armless lady.
In an apartment courtyard, flowers and a bicycle make wonder about the resident. Monsieur and I have been caring for our geraniums for three years now. They seem the hardiest of plants for the apartment dweller.
Who lives here? Where does she go on her bicycle?
Street names intrigue me! La Rue des Rosiers! The street of rose bushes! It's hard to imagine that this street lined with falafel stands and delicatessens was once a fleury way. La Rue des Rosiers is one of the principal streets of the Jewish quarter. Plaques record the numbers of residents who were killed during the Shoah. In 1982, a Jewish restaurant was bombed and 6 people died.
The street writer was here.
 So many sights, so many lives, so many happy and sad moments within a few blocks.

Et je me comparais aux palimpsestes ; je goûtais la joie du savant, qui, sous les écritures plus récentes, découvre, sur un même papier, un texte très ancien infiniment plus précieux” André Gide

Basically, the streets of Paris are like a sort of Magic Slate. When you lift the cover, there are so many stories that wait to be told.



On a much lighter note: it is a glorious springtime in Paris. In my neighbourhood, both Passover and la Semaine Sainte are being celebrated and I'm off to hear some wonderful music this week.

Quel oeuf!

C'est très mignon.
I wonder who the mystery writer is.