Tuesday, August 25, 2009

We remember Paris . . .

Our trip to Paris this past spring was our fifth in as many years -- getting to know the city through repeat visits has allowed us to relax on holiday without ever being bored -- perfect for years when we could only co-ordinate ten days away together. This last trip, though, we were beginning to wonder if the thrill was gone -- some days our plans felt a bit mechanical and the walking that had always seemed well worth the rewards just felt wearying. We've thought about this since, and we think part of the problem is that this trip our week in Paris came after a week in London (and, for me, almost a week in Ottawa/Montreal), all spent in hotels, the whole time eating restaurant food. Our next holiday will include a different city, some rural time, and some self-catering stay.

What I wanted to show you here, though, is how even as we felt ourselves approach ennui with Paris (quel horreur!), she would charm us, reminding us how little we yet know of her delights. For example, on one of our last days, walking through the Luxembourg Gardens (of which I will never, ever get bored) we spotted this sculpture by Ossipe Zadkine. I recognized the style of the sculptor from a statue we'd seen earlier, perhaps in the St. Germain area? I snapped this photo thinking I would try to track that likeness down later and find out something more about Zadkine.

Ten minutes later, walking back to the hotel from the Gardens, we saw this bannerand tentatively poked our way through this narrow passageway into the sunny courtyard Pater is standing in, below.As this informational sign explains, this was Zadkine's home for many years. Charming, tiny, rural right in the heart of a city, it is filled, garden and house, with Zadkine's works, and being able to spend time here in its inspiring quiet while the rest of the city bustles just beyond its sequestered space is quite marvellous -- on a bigger scale, you can enjoy such an experience at the Rodin Museum, but it's the small scale that gives you the intimate glimpse of Paris.I wonder if any photographer could capture the exultation of those upraised arms to match what I felt in that afternoon dappled sunshine. . . I doubt it, because some of the exultation was my own, at having made a bit more of Paris my own. Again, with this sculpture I shared a sense of basking -- classical chamber music was playing in the background so that I was as infused with music as this figure is fused with it.
The leaf-filtered sunshine was aromatic, green-smelling, and the textured bark of the trees was a lovely counterpoint to the texture of the plastered walls of the house. Light and shade, smooth and rough, nature and culture, all in a hushed, beautiful, tiny space. And speaking of counterpoint, looking through the passageway to the city framed just beyond, it becomes very clear why the curves and irregularities of the vegetable world are so welcome . . . So we're still deciding whether Paris is on next year's itinerary, but we're reminded that it still holds many, many surprises for us. And I'm already missing it . . .


  1. How delightful to discover these little nooks of Paris life! This one's an absolute treasure. I'm hoping that this upcoming visit in Oct will be a more leisurely one for us as well, and we'll have more time to poke about in the corners and see what we find.

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  3. Sorry about the double comment, not sure what happened there.

  4. Looking for another European city to explore? - Budapest!! :0)

  5. You probably know the saying, "When you're through with Paris, you're through with life"? The only time we did not fully enjoy ourselves was a trip we made in the heat of summer. And yet, there are many other fabulous parts of the world to explore.

    I would like to be more widely traveled, but with a DH for whom French is an occupation, Paris it is. I can't get him to go anywhere else except occasionally New York.

  6. Ooooh, I leave in just a few days for Paris and can't wait to tuck into some neat sculpture when the "ennui" sets in!!!

  7. As a frequent visitor to Paris,I understand what you mean about ennui. But I'm sure you'll get over it. I wonder, though,whether it's time to re-assess the type of vacation you take in Paris - rather than sightseeing and being a tourist, maybe you could just drift and play at living as a Parisienne for a few days. Easier to do that if you stay in an apartment of course, and there are some lovely and very reasonable ones to let in places like the Marais or on the Left Bank. Whatever you do, enjoy.

  8. Pseu: For us, at least, after the first visit or two when we were crossing must-sees off the list, we've enjoyed just being able to experience the city at whim, leaving as much time to "be" as to "do."
    Patricia: Thanks for the invite;-)
    Budapest definitely sounds interesting!
    Duchesse: This was the case for Pater -- while the Duke's French came with, Pater spent so much time and effort acquiring his that he wants the opportunity to use it. And I, too, appreciate being in an environment which takes us so far from the everyday but in which we can still communicate reasonably well. That said, there are so many other places I'd also like to see and only so many years left. . . We loved Lisbon/Portugal last year, and I'd like to see some of Italy and Spain before too long. Still, as you suggest, it's not much of a complaint, that the only place one's partner wants to holiday is Paris. Ah me! What a problem to have . . . ;-)
    Karen: You would love this little garden and Zadkine's house is just charming with changing exhibitions held there year 'round.
    Anon: This is exactly what we're thinking and even our hotelier in Paris suggested we might want to try this -- she sees our relationship with the city deepening and thinks we need to take the next step. The markets, especially, call us with their produce and fish and cheeses, and we'll love to be able to make our own meals at the end of a day as well as to feel comfortable just staying in and reading for an afternoon. Already, in our visits, we do much less sightseeing than simply wandering or going to specific exhibitions, back to favourite restaurants. So we'll see what the next few years bring . . . much more Paris, I hope.

  9. How I dream of the chance to get bored of Paris! Europe is our next 'big trip' en famille, possibly next Northern summer ... Fingers crossed!

  10. I wonder if staying in an apartment rather than a hotel would change your viewpoint. Shopping for food can sometimes be so much more fun than the lottery of finding a restaurant.
    I would also recommend using Paris as a hub and spoke. They have superb rail travel and you are only a couple of hours from some amazing places. Luxembourg, Bruges, Avignon, Giverny to name but a few places.
    I am returning to Berlin yet again this October, I wonder if the same malaise will afflict me!

  11. Tiffany: Exactly! To even be contemplating boredom with Paris is to approach an outrageous complaint. ---- A family trip from Australia to Europe must be quite an undertaking. We "did" England once with our two oldest and France once with all four -- challenges and rewards!
    Alison: Yes, this is what we're thinking of doing next time -- we'd get a flat, possibly with some extra space so any of our kids could join us for some of the time, and we'd use it as a base for travel. How long do you go to Berlin for generally? I think it's the period after five-seven days that's been a bit too much for us, altho' I do like having a few "spare" days in the mix...

  12. Too many delights here, though, Thom -- but I do think we'll be doing longer stints. . .


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