May 31, 2016

Rain, rain go away...

The question everybody is asking themselves today... is the rain ever going to go away? It has been the wettest month of May since way back in 1873!

Just to give you some insight, the average rainfall for the month of May is 26mm, however, on Monday alone some 53mm of rain fell over the French capital. Consequently Roland Garros suffered its first wash out in 16 years.

In the whole month of May, the National weather service, has recorded 172mm of rainfall. Only July 2001 could beat that since records began.

Do I need to mention the mood of the Parisians has plummeted to subterranean levels and we are back to wearing black and have all brought out our black winter boots again to match the outfit!

Drivers are going frantic under the torrential rainfalls. Trust the trains to go on strike as if on cue! Air France might be joining them by the end of the week! Ah, vive la France dans toute sa grandeur, sa magnificence, sa richesse et sa beauté!

The happiest bunch at the moment are the street sellers whom have all switched from selling Eiffel Tower key rings to cheap umbrellas and are making a fortune!

A spectacular rainy view on top of the Tour de Saint Jacques

Another rainy moment at the Place de la Republique 

La dame de fer with her head in the fog

Souvenirs... anyone?!?

May 29, 2016

Not quite...

We were suppose to move today but the new flat is not quite ready...
I was suppose to receive a nice bouquet of flowers today but it seems Mother's Day has been forgotten...
It was suppose to be sunny today but spring has not yet come to Paris...

Tomorrow will be better!

May 26, 2016

The need to communicate....

Over the past weeks the French have been in a heated discussion about the "code du travail". I will spare you the details let's just say "a company can, by agreement, lower wages and change working hour" should this law pass. This would ultimately essentially allow employers more ‘flexibility’ and their employees the possibility of working more hours according the employers’ needs, but I'm not going to discuss that.

A simple walk across the Place de la Republique featuring the statue of Marianne - who symbolises the spirit of the French republic - shows the unease of the French population. They are in dire need to communicate their opinion and what better way than to stage demonstrations.

Street protests are hardly a novelty in the homeland of the 1789 French revolution and the May 1968 student-worker uprising but the occupation, night after night, of the vast square by left-wing and anarchist young people is a novel form of snowballing action that is giving President Francois Hollande's Socialist government sleepless nights.

The "Nuit Debout" or "Up all Night" movement began on March 31 when a group of activists decided not to go home after a march against labor reform. Crowds ranging from several hundred to a few thousand have gathered every evening since then for a spontaneous happening that is a mixture of street theater, party and ritual initiation for a new generation of activists.

The "Nuit Debout" protesters agree only that they want change. There is no defined platform beyond widespread anger at the government's pro-business reforms.

"Nuit Debout" unites the discontented in a mostly joyous hubbub of debate on everything from rewriting the French constitution to protesting against police violence and labor reforms.

Asked what their objective is, a common response among the participants is "We'll see where this gets us".

Come rain or come shine... 

Place de la Republique had become an improvised shrine and a symbol of national unity. 

Working groups on the square discuss utopian projects such as a universal income, a lifetime job guarantee or worker takeovers of companies, but also women's rights, the media, unemployment and climate change. 

Everybody has a right to express themselves as best they wish!

The "Nuit Debout"movement has pitched its tents and built its stalls around the shrine of la Marianne, still festooned with candles, banners, graffiti and flowers from last year's Islamist attacks.

Police have taken a mostly hands-off approach! 

May 24, 2016

Even the "stayers" must leave one day...

Another farewell party, more goodbyes, some tears, and a feeling of being abandoned with my emotions as I leave the event and walk through the deserted alleys on an unusually cold May evening. On my way home walking through the streets of Paris, every corner holds a memory, every avenue makes me smile in reminiscence. A café that reminds me of a glass of hot water ordered, a bistrot where I used to hang out with friends for a habitual café au lait, a boulangerie where we asked for free sandwiches to feed the homeless on a freezing Friday night. I spot a hotel that brings back souvenirs of a luxurious happy hour, and walk past restaurants that are loaded with nostalgia of good times with people long gone.

It seems everybody is moving on and I am left to myself to start all over again. Every year I become more local, nevertheless every September - at the beginning of the school year - I make an effort to welcome the newcomers, spotting a character or two with whom I think I might hit it off and maybe make a new friend. 

I do not want to replace the friends that have left, every single one has a special place in my heart, some take up more space than others but each and every one has left an imprint in my life, even the lady that used to take the bus with my daughter and I after school every day and I haven't heard from in the last 4 years. Little does she know I still think of her and her daughter every time I take that bus route!

Tonight was another farewell party for a friend who has made history at my kids' school for organising the most epic Parisian tours over the last eight years. She managed to remain calm and composed during her farewell address as opposed to me who once again could not contain my tears. She was one of the "stayers" ... until today! 

Five other ladies announced their family's departure in June and I am wondering how many times will I go through this. However, I am convinced that the benefits of meeting new people and making a new friend or two even for a limited time is so enriching that it is worth the effort. I can't imagine how many experiences I would have missed out on and how little I would know about the world's cultures and customs, had it not been for the wonderful personalities I have met over the past five years.

My heart is always filled with sadness this time of year but I force myself to see the blessing each encounter has brought. So, yes I am a stayer and I will probably be the one turning off the light after I leave because everyone else will have already moved on, but I am convinced it is worth every single tear I have shed.

And after all, it is Paris I am lucky enough to call my home! 

May 21, 2016

The Petit Trianon in black & white

When Madame the Archduchess had yet to become queen, she keenly desired to have a country house for herself and the first time she mentioned the Petit Trianon to the king he replied with real enthusiasm that this holiday house was for the queen and that he would be delighted to transfer it to her. Now doesn't that just make you smile big time? At this point I am hoping my hubby is reading my blog! ;)

In all seriousness, it is difficult render the glory and beauty of Marie Antoinette's Petit Trianon in one post only, therefore here are another series of shots in black and white.

Marie Antoinette informed the king that she accepted Trianon on condition that he came only when he was invited.

A staircase made for queens

A peek inside the "Pavillion Français" at the end of the French garden

Marie Antoinette's portrait sitting on a mantle piece

Angle sculptures in her own little chapel

A grandiose kitchen

Virtuosi Italian artists produced impressive decorative panels of stucco.

Imagine the queen descending down these staircases to take a walk in her grounds.

An history of art student's personal sketch book

Cupids everywhere

Everything in and around the Petit Trianon was devoted to festivities and amusements.

A detail of the Pavillon Français

The English Garden and its Belvedere 

Between 1783 and 1787, the Hamlet was created in the spirit of a true Norman village, with eleven houses spread out around a big lake.

May 18, 2016

The queen of contradictions

Even though Versailles is only 20km away it is hard to get Parisians out of their city. However, Queen Marie Antoinette must be one of the most intriguing characters in French history and therefore well worth the trip.

Royals being royals, King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette decided that Versailles and the massive gardens were not enough, so they built their respective miniature palaces about a mile away from the main palace, but still on the grounds of Versailles. Apparently, they would escape the pressures of court life down the road to their Grand Trianon (for King Louis) and Petit Trianon (Marie Antoinette).

Our expert guide led us around the Queen's residence, a small palace full of charm, inseparably linked to the queen herself. Although built between 1762 and 1789, it was originally destined for Madame de Pompadour who died before it was completed, it was Marie Antoinette, scoffing at stuffy court traditions, who imposed her personal taste on it. From 1774, when her husband Louis XVI gave it to her, she found a haven of peace that allowed her to escape from Paris, a mere stone's throw away.

The moment we entered the Trianon palace, we absorbed the atmosphere pervaded with the shadow and personality of the young Austrian queen, as each of the tastefully decorated rooms reflects her way of living and freedom of thought. It must have been very pleasant and relaxing to live here, with her pretty bedroom looking out over the English-style gardens, picturesque and full of flowers, notwithstanding the fact that not once did her husband stay overnight there.

We continued exploring the grounds by trekking along a labyrinth of little paths criss-crossing the vast estate designed by the celebrated gardener of Louis XIV, Andre Le Notre, and popularly known as "the domain of Marie Antoinette". Everything in the gardens was just beginning to bloom. We were very lucky with the weather and looking around you could imagine her majesty sitting on a bench under one of the century-old trees looking onto the pond reflecting the exquisite Belvedere pavilion.

The delightful landscaped gardens include a grotto, a vineyard, a theatre, a hamlet and a farm which to this day is inhabited by donkeys, goats, pigs, lambs, rabbits and ducks the idea being that Marie Antoinette wanted the village to provide country pastimes for herself and her children as well as allowing the estate to be self-sufficient.

We enjoyed a glorious day discovering a woman's look, not at the pomp of the official apartments, but at the intimate spaces of the Petit Trianon and the hamlet created by the Queen Marie Antoinette as places of escape for herself, her friends and their children. It told the story of this contradictory Queen, who came to France to learn about its fashions and styles and ended up creating them, who knew extremes of privilege and excess as well as grief and loss, whose headstrong character was truer to the monarchy than the King himself yet who lost her head on the guillotine...

...and she's wasn't even French!

The backside of the Petit Trianon looking onto the garden

The queen was 14 years old when she first arrived to France

The inside of le Petit Trianon

The music room where the Queen received visitors

Let's take a look behind the doors

The queen's bedroom

The view from Marie Antoinette's bedroom

Le Pavillon français

One of the accesses to the Trianon Gardens

Impressive flora

Le rocher et le Belvedere

An intriguing statue

The queen had her own personal vineyard. It still produces wine to this day.

The very picturesque hamlet. Where is Jane Eyre?

Time to go back to Paris!

May 14, 2016

Paris is not a city, it's a world!

Everything about Paris is true: it is romantic, historic, cultural, prolific, neurotic, dirty yet breathtaking. No words can describe the Parisian experience; just walking past the Tour Eiffel every morning taking the kids to school is awe-inspiring.

Paris - like the Eiffel Tower itself - evokes moods which depend much on the weather. One day it is reflecting the sunshine from it’s great steel armour and you feel ready to conquer the whole world. The next day, it is cloaked in clouds resembling the Swiss Alps cocooned in fog and you feel like crawling back into bed or better having a croissant and coffee in the local bistro.

I love the architecture and history. I like the feeling you get from meandering from a roman arena, to a cafe where the existensialists congregated, to a restaurant where Benjamin Franklin enjoyed his lunch, to a chapel where kings once attended church, to a building where a court summarily sentenced citizens to sit in the back of a cart, to go to their death by guillotine... and then to a spot where a contemporary movie is being shot with century old buildings and a historic river as a background frame. All in one walk!

I love sauntering the avenues and strolling down alleyways to discover a small cobblestone street with the ruts where carriages used to run, to see an old doorway or portion of a wall built into a newer structure, a picturesque flower-potted balcony, a small park, a plaque telling the history, sometimes sad, of what happended at this location.

I love that around every corner is something that looks like a postcard. Whether it is a just a quiet, small street or a site as majestic as Notre Dame.

I love standing on a bridge over the Seine on a summer night, a warm breeze stirring, watching the "bateaux mouches" going by with their spotlights darting from building to building and the bridges lightening up to show their splendour, the Eiffel Tour again and again twinkling in the distance...

I love Paris in the winter when the cold, gray weather blends in with the old, gray buildings and is not overrun by tourists and sightseeing buses.

I love to order a glass of champagne anywhere I go and feel "oh, so Parisienne"!

I love the exquisite cheeses and how special a bite or two of fresh baguette tastes with a glass of red wine. I love the butter that has sea salt in it!

I love that the chocolats are works of art; the quality of the product and the scientific approach to make it look beautiful and taste unique.

I love that I feel so alive in Paris... it challenges my senses and keeps me on my toes.

I love that there is always more to discover... I love the beauty that is revealed in every single day as long as you are open enough to see it.

... oh, and did I tell you how much I looooove the Eiffel Tower?!?

View onto the Eiffel Tower from the Peninsula Terrasse

Evening sun setting onto the Sacré Coeur

City walls of Wall of Philip II Augustus incorporated into a Haussmanien building

One of many, MANY tourist shops

Baguette delivered to my doorstep

 I'll have one of each please!

Notre Dame de Paris seen from a Bateau Mouche

Le Grand Palais photographed from Pont de la Tournelle

Madame de Fer in Autumn light

It's snowing !

Place de la Concorde with the Grande Dame in the background

A shot taken close from home
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