Stone walls and chandliers

We’ve made it to Pauillac, our home for the next three months. It’s in the middle of the wine region, and home to some of Bordeaux’s most prestigious labels – Château Mouton Rothschild, Château Lynch-Bages, Château Latour – just to name a few. Sadly they’re a little bit out of my budget to drink on Wednesday nights (or ever, really). I’ve been coming here for my PhD research for the last seven years, so it feels a bit like my second home. It’s just a little town – a few thousand people – on the Gironde River, which stretches several kilometres wide at this point. The houses are mostly stone, including our three storey delight. Anyone popping in for a cup of tea in the jardin?

Grubby old Paris

After five days in Paris, we’re off on a train heading south. It’s Easter and the fast train tickets were exorbitant, so we’re on the normal train nosing out through the suburbs of Paris, past little villages and regional towns. Having caught the fast train from Paris to Bordeaux quite a few times, it’s nice to be on a different line and travelling at a speed where everything isn’t whizzing past in a blur. Strange that when you get outside Paris, the countryside is remarkable similar all the way south until you hit the wine country just outside Bordeaux.

We’re all quite happy to sit on the train today as we’ve walked our little legs off in Paris this week. Gabe has been horrified by the filth – bird poo, dog poo, chewing gum, urine – and the noise – traffic, beeping, trains, street sweepers, people and out of tune police cars (his words) – and is very happy to leave Paris for the country. Lucie’s tired face lit up when she saw the Eiffel Tower peeping over a building. Being Easter, there were a gazillion people so we didn’t go up it, but wandered around the area and saw it from different angles. As the photo below shows, sometimes we were very confused about where we were!

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We spent an interesting few hours at the Musée des Art et Métiers looking at all kinds of old telegraphic, photographic and recording machines. I dragged the kids through the crowds in the Galeries Lafayette (one of the original department stores with a coloured glass domed roof) up to the terrace for a view of the roof tops, and again to the top of the Institut du Monde Arabe. I was going to have coffee, but at 6 euro for an espresso, decided to descend to ground level where it’s only 1.50. We stopped at Les Arènes de Lutèce – a roman amphitheatre discovered in the late 19th century, where instead of throwing Christians to the lions, they now play pétanque.

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Around the corner we found the Paris Mosque, standing serenely in its aquamarine and white simplicity. We got a sneak peek at the courtyard garden, but it was closed to visitors, so no more than that.

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Paris is a very different place with children. I’ve only been once with kids – when Gabe was 15 months old – and every time since has a been a little escape from real life and responsibilities. Unlike all those other visits this one has been very subdued – no cocktails, no wine, no fancy dinners, no trying on pretty dresses, or late nights skipping around the city of lights. It seems entirely wrong to report I’ve been in France for 6 days and not had a glass of wine. A glass of Bordeaux this evening is in order!

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Little surprises

DSC03226If there’s one thing that characterises Paris for me, it’s little surprises hiding around corners.
Wandering down a street, suddenly Sacre Cœur popped into view for a few moments, sitting high above the city and beautifully framed by the buildings below.

Or visiting a new museum – today it was the Musée des Arts et Métiers (the Design Museum) – where we discovered that the first telegraphic machines used piano keyboards to type the letters in. Each key corresponded to a letter of the alphabet and the exquisitely crafted machine could send messages.

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Paris, je t’aime

Paris in all its splendour for four days…

Beginning with a sing at the Paris Ukulele Festival,

Amie @ Paris Uke Fest

Followed by the Sawmill Sessions Bluegrass & Old Time Festival, in a barge on the canal. The sound was fabulous, and I was pleased to note they were using the same Myrtle microphone that I have. I spent the afternoon and evening jamming and listening to some great bands.

Sawmill Sessions

Interspersed with wandering the streets,

Tiles near Montmartre  Sunday in the park Pétanque     Père LachaisePalais Royal  Sculpture near Louvre

And a wonderful photographic exhibition – Dans l’Atelier – at Le Petit Palais,

Dans l'Atelier

If you click on the photos they’ll come up bigger so you can see what the Parisians are doing.

More Paris commentaries will be popping up soon.

I like London in the rain

The 11:31 Eurostar left at 11:31 and 5 seconds, cruising out so smoothly I hardly noticed we were moving. London has been grand for the last two weeks. I even enjoyed the rain over the last two days, wandering around with that Blossom Dearie song playing in my head:

Postcard London Shard“I like London in the rain,

With my boots on, in the rain,

See the couples arm in arm,

London drizzle has its charm”

 

I went to a wonderful exhibition of photographs of the UK by foreigners over the 20th century at the Barbican Centre yesterday. The centre is architecture in all its post-modern glory. At one level it’s quite ugly with all the brown brick and concrete, but on the other hand there’s something quite playful about the enclosed centre that includes apartments, the Guildhall School of Music, bits of canal, a very old church, concert hall, museum, art gallery, with plants spilling over the balconies… actually very appealing as a place to live when you put it like that.

I was, however, reminded that despite how lovely London has been these past weeks, I do not want to live here again. I popped into the book sale in the church at the Barbican and the first thing that caught my eye was the Steinway grand piano. Needing a music fix, I asked the book man if anyone would mind if I played. His reply, in clipped, upper class accent: “That is the prerogative of the Director of Music.” A definite no, imbued with a clear sense of rules and privileges. Five minutes later as I was looking at the organ, the organ teacher stopped for a chat and said “Sure, have a play for five minutes.” I did enjoy the feeling of having thwarted the hierarchy as I walked out, head held high and a wave from the teacher in the organ loft, but the effort required to constantly get past it is wearisome. These little encounters highlight how much freedom I enjoy as an educated person in Australia, regardless of class.

London Landscape