Friday, May 10, 2013

Paris Preparations, Anticipations, Memories . . .

Although this is, obviously, a post on Paris travels, and it includes references to my history with/in the city, it's not the one I referred to in my last post. The promised post to come is more about my much earlier history, aiming myself and Paul towards our eventual first date with the City of Light. I'm hoping it will be up over the weekend. Stay tuned . . . 
This is a lovely book to browse through with a cup of tea, perhaps in an armchair, dream-travelling. . . 
I've spent the morning making sure that my carry-on suitcase will still close after I've arranged 6 weeks' worth of clothes, shoes, and other oddments inside it, having spent the last few days pulling items from the closet, trying out combinations, laundering and editing out and debating the maybes. . . .

And I've spent the last few evenings skimming through all my little Moleskins and school scribblers and pages torn from old dayplanners, refreshing my memories of all our trips to Paris, savouring them and distilling them into a plan, of sorts, for this visit. What constants are now ready to be dropped from the list, what past delights had I forgotten and now am inspired to revisit, what tips will make our trip from the airport to the hotel easier, and what meals would we most like to sit down to one more time. . .
A page from my own illustrated journal -- scrollwork on the Grand Palais staircase. I remember those minutes in the hot sunshine, a bit stuffy, just crowded enough for animation, a couple of elegant Parisiennes of a certain age sitting on the stairs just below us. . . 

I've also been going through the Word file I make up each year -- this one labelled Paris 2013 -- which has cut-and-pasted notes from my travels through the Web and through print reading during the year. And I've been looking at the Pinterest board that I began rather belatedly and manage haphazardly, Next Trip to Paris, for inspiration I find in other blogs and on institutional websites. I don't want to miss any great Art Exhibitions or musical performances, if there's a chance we can fit them into our 3 or 4 days in Paris at either end of our trip.
We listened to a jazz band on the terrace of this cafe on Rue d'Odessa 6 or 7 years ago, and had dinner there one rainy evening a year or two later, but have been frustrated at not being able to find it in the ensuing years.  Last visit, though, success! We lingered over a café allongé while I sketched. Archaeological layers of our own Paris history.

At the same time, though, I'm leisurely browsing through a gorgeous book my artist friend Alison Watt gave me last year, in recognition of our mutual love of Paris. Alison also gave me the book because I'd taken her Illustrated Journal class and had great fun beginning my own very amateur illustrated log (this year, part of my trip will include taking a plein air class with Alison and her friend Kelley in the Lot area of France). It's definitely inspiring, is Paris Sketchbook, with charmingly detailed, yet still delightfully relaxed watercolour paintings by Fabrice Moireau, satisfyingly complemented by Mary Kelly's text, handwritten in pencil with entertaining and instructive notes about the history, architecture, and culture represented by each image.
Another weak pencil sketch (mine, obviously, not Moireau's!!), but oh, how it brings the memory right back to the senses, the afternoon of a beautiful park we discovered in the 7th, in Spring 2011, then revisited last year. Not sure we'll get there this year, but we'll be back someday, I hope. 

As I read, a kaleidoscope of possibilities shifts in my mind's eye, and I begin to form whole days in Paris. From our hotel in the 13th, perhaps we'll wander along Mouffetard (past the fruit vendor who taught me, 5 or 6 years ago, that the word for the stem of the dates is tige) and make our way to the Institut du Monde Arabe. There, we'll be astonished anew not only at the wealth of exhibits but at the beauty of Jean Nouvel's building, particularly the intricacy of its windows, with mechanical irises that open and close in a variety of brilliant geometries to filter light and heat from the sun. We might have lunch, or at least a coffee, on the terrace there and enjoy the view of Notre Dame across the Seine. Then perhaps a stroll through the Jardin de Plantes, not very far away at all. We'd stop at the Mosque for mint tea before deciding if we wanted to cross the Seine and then make our way back via my favourite bridge, the passerelle Simone de Beauvoir before heading back to our hotel. And in keeping with the day's theme, we'd surely head across the street for a Moroccan meal of méhoui, or a tajine. . . .

Aren't Moireau's illustrations evocative?
We finally began to explore the 19th in 2011, discovering the more relaxed pace and more diverse demographics of Belleville. Along the way, the Canal Saint Martin, so pretty . . . 

Do you, too, draw almost as much enjoyment from the planning of a trip as you do in the (let's be honest, much more stressful) travel itself?
And tell me, whether you've been or not, what might you do on your first full day in Paris? And why?
Or instead, take me on an imaginary first day in another city you (would) love to visit. . .

14 comments:

  1. I particularly like the last illustration of the canal. Last time we went to Paris we stayed along the Canal Saint Martin which was lovely and just a quick 10 min walk from the Eurostar terminal. That was a couple of years ago and I would love to go back again soon.

    Hope you're well.

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    1. We've only spent a few hours in that area, but it's surprisingly charming, and seems not too overrun by tourists, although on a sunny weekend, French families seem to picnic there in droves, which is fun to see. Aren't Moireau's watercolours lovely? You'd think I'd be too embarrassed to mix mine into the same post!

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  2. What a good idea to make a Next Trip to Paris file. There are places that I would really like to see that I missed this year. I enjoy the anticipation of the journey. I haven't been to Belleville yet. On my first full day in Paris next year, I will go to the Place René Viviani and sit on a bench looking across to Notre Dame.

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    1. It took us 6 or 7 visits to finally get to Belleville (have you seen the film Les Triplettes de Belleville?), but I found it such a good antidote to a day in the 1st or visiting the Grands Magasins. Belleville has such a different demographic, along with an interesting history, and some good views.
      Isn't it satisfying to know the street-names and to have a favourite "Place" comme Place René Viviani?

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  3. My goodness, but you are organised!
    Paris is not (gasp!) my favourite city. I'd have to save that for Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle)- I know, not in the same league as Paris at all, but you did ask for favourites. On my first day I'd want to be in the city centre very early - just walking through the main square, near city hall. The cobbles underfoot would be wet and steaming from the daily washing, and there would be relative quiet - except for the sounds of deliveries as the restaurants and shops prepare for the day. Being there at that time gives me the feeling of being an 'insider'. As the sun rises I'd want to walk down to the Cathedral, perhaps to sit through an early mass - I've had a love-affair with Charlemagne since childhood, when my father would tell me stories of this emperor. A quick wander through the cathedral precinct to watch the musicians and buskers set up for the day and then I'd probably stop again for a lovely cup of coffee and a brodchen before spending the rest of the morning walking through the pedestrian district - a good way to see what's changed since my last visit. While I won't argue that Parisians have a flair, the women of Aachen dress with such simple elegance - perfect shoes and bags and always so well-coiffed. Lunch - something on the street, of course - weisswurst mit zwiebeln on the way to the Couven Museum to indulge my love affair with 18th century life - then a rest with a glass of a lovely Mosel, change for dinner and off to the casino for dinner and a flurry.
    What a lovely dream!

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    1. This is a lovely introduction to Aachen, Pondside -- thanks so much for taking the time. We haven't visited Germany yet -- although we did spend a few days in Metz 2 years ago, and that was once under German rule. I can picture that quiet early morning preparation for the day and can imagine that I might, also, sit through Mass at the Cathedral.
      Now I'm making a note that I must read up on Charlemagne AND that I might someday think about drinking a Mosel in Aachen. Dreaming . . .

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  4. Yes. Planning is the best. I so admire your illustrated journal.

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    1. Hmmmm, you do realize, I hope, that the good pictures are NOT mine, but taken from a book by a wonderful illustrator. The only thing to admire in mine, I'd say, is my willingness to expose my lack of talent! But thanks. . .

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  5. Can I say that I became decidedly green as I read this post? I'm going to start my very own "next trip to Paris" file, and this post is going into it.
    On our first day in Paris, we walked. We took the metro from our hotel (near Canal St. Martin, but the concierge advised to not go there at that time because of the camps of sans-abri) to the Hotel de Ville, and wandered from there, over bridges, through narrow streets, popping into the odd shop, and surveying the Seine. I would recommend doing such a thing again on a first day. Surveying the landscape. We picked up lunch from a traiteur and ate it on a bench in the little park behind Notre Dame.
    I've been looking at Alison's website and her courses. I wonder if she does an illustrated journal course in the fall, and if so, I'm thinking of taking it. I don't want to wait until next spring.
    I love that you share your sketches alongside the illustrations of a professional. Gutsy and admirable.

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    1. That sounds like a lovely day as well, and I think I know just the little park you speak of. . . I do recommend a "next trip to Paris" file -- wonderfully satisfying to look through on a rainy winter evening and dream . . .

      You could e-mail Alison directly and ask -- She has her email address on her home page. I know you'd love the class, and we would be able to meet and have a visit.
      I'm not sure if putting my sketches up alongside Moireau's is gutsy or foolish, but I do feel as if I have to bat my self-consciousness about my limited talent out of the way or I could easily give up. It's process that's important to me, at least that's what I keep repeating!

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  6. On my first day in Paris I'm excited, happy and- jet-lagged. So I have gone to the Grand Mosqué, to revive in the hammam (if it is one of the women's days, which are frequent). I look forward to your adventures and reports (either written or via sketch.) Our regular fall trip is postponed, so I though I always enjoy your trip diary, this time, even more.

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    1. I've thought of going to the Mosquée hammam, but I'd want a friend to go with the first time, I think. One of these years. . .
      I'm hoping some year that we'll be able to follow your example and visit Paris in the fall -- surely a just-enough-different city to intrigue us even more.

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  7. How wonderful to be en route to Paris!! I, on the other hand, just took a 5-mile run in new shoes. Not Paris, but still had a certain floaty feeling. (I know that 5 miles is a mere warm-up for you and your amazing running ability.)

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  8. 5 miles is a substantial run, and given the bio-mech. problems you've had, it must feel good to be able to do that distance. Right now, I've got some foot tendonitis going on and am trying to stick to walking, yoga, and Pilates. And not to listen to "I told you so's"! ;-)

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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