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Saturday, July 31, 2010

A maybe gray day in Paris

Cloudy today, but I'm not complaining. Plenty of museums to duck into if it starts to rain.

I'm sitting in my cozy little studio off the rue de Rivoli, a prime location if there ever was one, I'm almost embarrassed to say that the one reason I hesitated about taking this apt is because of the trendy, convenient location, a half block from the Tuileries and a short walk from the Louvre. I wanted to be in a less touristy, more authentic neighborhood. But I'm certainly not sorry to be here,

Who could say no to an apt with a terrace, with views of both Eiffel Tower and Sacre Coeur, illuminated at night?

Let me try to describe the apt, hopefully leaving time to describe some of yesterday's doings.

The "terrace" is really just the roof of the building,or a part of it. The conical skylight over the stairwell takes up 3/4 of the roof, my little paradise with its metal and glass table and two chairs take up the other quarter. I've eaten all my meals there. To get out there you step over the knee high sill of what is really more of a low window than a door. A little tricky when carrying a meal. The tin roof is covered by pallet like segments of wood, quite like our sauna floor in Maine. The view is rather monochromatic, or at least subtle in hue - the gray of the roofs, antennas, and Eiffel Tower, the off white walls of the buildings, the rust color of the chimneys, and the traces of rust along the slopes of the roofs. Plus today's gray skies. I love it.

The interior of my little haven has a similar palette; white walls, except for one along the kitchen wall, which is painted q peach color. A few framed prints, all of which have orange tones. The rust colored hexagonal floor tiles look as though they have been here more than a century, and I suppose that they have. I can see a line along the floor where there once was a wall. The alcove where the bed and bathroom are was once storage, when JP bought the place 15 years ago. He put in the bathroom, which has a real tub as well as the ubiquitous French hand held shower; but with no wall bracket to hook it into. ( I was amazed when someone recently mentioned to me a shower which had only a permanently wall mounted shower head, nothing hand held, which he found odd and lacking in convenience: Let's hear it for cultural differences!) The door to the bathroom itself is the kind of glass door you would normally see in a shower, a bit unusual but intersesting.

There is a skylight directly over the bed, really nice, and JP assured me that no matter how hard it rained, the bed would stay dry even with the window open. Oh, qnd then there's the bed itself, nestled into its nook so you have to climb in from the bottom. The sheets are purple, and the bedspread is bright orange and purple stripes! Ooh la la!

The couch in the living space is a sofa bed, so the place could actually accomodate 4, but it would be a tight squeeze.

The elevator up to the 6th (read 7th, American style) floor is old and rickety, in the stairwell as many in Paris are. The doors of the lower floors look rather more upscale, or upper scale than mine, anyway. The walls are peeling in a number of places; The names on the buzzers downstairs don't include anything for this apt, or anything above the 5th floor. I have not seen anyone at all, but heard loud noise in English my first night. I think there is some kind of hostel somewhere in the building or an adjacent one. The stairs actually continue up from my apt, but I have not yet ventured up there. I am surprised that places like this still exist in this pretty ritzy neighborhood.

JP didn't ask for any security deposit; only wanted half the rent upfront; with the other half due when I arrived, and is as nice as could be. Bqsed on my experiences so far, I would recommend the place highly. The price is right, too!

Only drawback so far: I awoke in the middle of the first night with several bites and a mosquito buzzing around my head. So closed went the windows and skylight. Three weeks camping in a field and no bites; one night in a Paris apt and bites that are still itching. Go figure!

Onto yesterday: I cruised town with the eventual aim of ending up at the Decorative Arts Museum, which I've been to only once before. Came across a street market, lots of interesting architecture of all vintages, of course, stopped for a sandwich at a take out place with outdoor tables on a small square; my sandwich was shrimp and lettuce on a baguette; Not shrimp salad, just the whole shrimp and the lettuce, There was an additional flavor that I couldn't place at first. Then I noticed small green pieces baked into the bread. They were slices of green olive. Delicious! As I entered the square, an unusual, almost triangular shape, I had a strong sense of deja vu (let's see how many French words and phrases I can fit in) It felt like a dream, but I am sure I'd been there before, in a long ago life. All I can associate with it is it having been shortly before I left Paris after my two year sojourn. (!) There's a small church, and opposite it, a couple of stores with religious items sandwiching a chic design store. And, my sandwich/bakery shop. My sandwich, by the way, cost only 3 1/2 euros, about 4 dollars. (no dollar sign!) who said you can't live cheaply in Paris? and not on MacDonald's either!

I continued onward, eventually arriving at the Musee de Arts Decoratif. But by then, I decided I didn't feel like visiting that day, so I continued onward, thru the Tuileries, virtually past my apt; to the smaller Jeu de Paume,(once the royal tennis courts) at the far end of the gardens. I had seen an incredible photography exhibit there, the work of a man named Martin Parr, last summer (detailed in a blog entry from then, and lso in photos on my fb page) So I was interested to see what they had currently. It was the work of two artists; William Kentridge, and Bruno Serralongue. Both somewhat interesting, but neither with the impact of Parr's work (gee, I feel so erudite and well travelled being able to say that!) For me, the most interesting part of Kentridge's work was the music accompanying his short animated films. He is South African, and the choral music was so reminiscent of the a capella singing of my young South African friends from the festival.

I wandered through the Fair, that occupies a good part of the Tuileries, twice yesterday, during the day and again at night. The juxtaposition of the carnival and the traditional gardens and buildings around it intrigues me. But I'd never before been there at night. The huge ferris wheel is just a block from my building. I think it's become a modern Paris icon in its own right, although it's only there one month of the year.I 'll have to do some research, I know there's been a ferris wheel in Paris for a long time, dating perhaps even to the fair for which the Eiffel Tower was built.

Oh, then there's the 19th century Passages (French and English word) I walked thru yesterday. Same type and vintage architecture as the Eiffel and the ferris wheel, lots of metal. But I'll save writing about those until later: the sun is poking thru and it's time for me to head out. Don't want to spend more time documenting my experiences than having them!

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