Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Happy Canada Day, from Paris

We arrived in Paris Tuesday afternoon after a pleasant train trip from Portugal on the Sud Express and then the TGV up from Hendaye. Dining and sleeping on the train, beautiful countryside flashing past -- as that Quantas koala used to say: The only way to fly! (I know, some latitude here, please).

It's v. hot here -- 30 degrees and above in a city is too hot, really -- and our hotel is not air-conditioned, but we have a fan and with the windows of our charming room wide open at night, we're managing to sleep well, which makes all the difference.
And sunshine means this kind of street scene at which, really, how can one fail to smile? Yes, there are too many crowds right now -- we usually come to Paris in May or early June -- but we had a lovely chat with two well-travelled young American students at the next table and their excitement about the city is contagious, so we remind ourselves not to resent having "our" city overrun now that school's out.

When it's too hot for our usual walking, we're heading inside for the art and the climatisation. Global warming, energy efficiency, all that aside, I must admit I appreciate the air conditioning when and where it happens. And it was happening yesterday at the fabulous Beaubourg -- I know many hate this building, but I'm not one of them.


We were there to see a powerful exhibit of Lucian Freud's work -- accompanied by some illuminating photographs of his atelier, taken by David Dawson. We picked up a copy of the catalogue -- I'm not sure precisely what I think of Freud's stuff, but I'm arrested, compelled by it -- I find much of it on that border between the beautiful and the grotesque, and many of his nudes disturb me with their odd angles, obviously strained torsion, the so-many planes of the human body. His palette is so powerful yet restrained. Anyway, I'm glad to have the catalogue to mull over later, but being able to stand in front of the big canvasses is part of what makes these trips so worthwhile. Between yesterday's visit and one of our walks in the Beiras, Pater says, we've more than got value out of our plane ticket.Outside, the Beauborg was festooned with these -- what shall we call them? sculpture? habitats? structures? -- by Tadashi Kawamata,
who facilitates collaborative workshops to improvise and build these structures on site. Intriguing. A gorgeous meal last night at a restaurant I'm not identifying for the moment, as I think about the experience -- every bit of the meal was gorgeous, beginning with the complimentary champignon mousse. But l'addition arrived before we were even offered coffee, an obvious boot out the door to make room for the second seating. Pater is unlikely to be persuaded to give them another chance. Too bad.


But that's Paris, I'd say, the good alongside the bad, the beautiful and the grotesque, the delightful and the disturbing.
For example, the contrast between the graffiti pictured at the top of this post (snapped somewhere near the Beaubourg) and the photo below, taken just off the Rue Mouffetard.


So we're here and we're loving it -- heat and all! Especially since we keep checking the temperatures at home and they seem not to have moved above 21 degrees since we left. Today's Canada Day and I hope most of my compatriots are enjoying some warmth and sunshine -- Happy Canada Day to you!
Now I'm off to check out a stunning photographic exhibition mounted on the grillwork surrounding the Luxembourg Gardens -- nomads of the world represented in lush, huge images with brilliant colours, seductive landscapes, challenging truths which we will then ponder on a shaded bench while doing some people-watching. There's a Paul Klee exhibit nearby we may check out, and then we're meeting a blogger you all know and love -- stay tuned!