We have by now visited most of the arrondissements within the Ile de Paris; that basically rounded area of fascination within the Peripherique. If you can imagine the map of the arrondissements as a clock face it can help in sorting out the lie of the land. Underneath the entire area is the network of Metro lines; ducking under and over each other, racing North to South and East to West. Squealing through tighter turns or, on the newer driverless Metro trains, cushioned against the screeches by rubber wheels that also enable the rapid accelerations and braking that characterise these Metro routes.
Just down the river Seine from the Eiffel Tower, where it dips to the South West before looping back to the North in one of its many convolutions on its eventual journey to the sea at Le Havre, there stands a replica of the Statue of Liberty.
Ironically, while the original in New York was a gift from the French, this quarter sized replica of the Statue of Liberty was a gift to the French from US citizens in Paris. This reciprocity of thought around the principles at the heart of a vision of Liberty, Egality and Fraternity/Sorority seem unfortunately diminished when we see elected reps posting Christmas family shots of children with assault rifles around a Christmas tree; an elected rep who admits to lies about qualifications before flashing white supremacy signals in the house and a mob in Brazil who celebrate a date now synonymous with sore losers by storming what is meant to be a place of democracy. The future of us all as humanity is not a reality TV show. Take time to think: what do we all need to agree upon if we are to deliver a positive future for those who come after us?
While we have been in Paris we’ve been very grateful for the fact that Lynette discovered a great blogger and podcaster who is Oliver Gee, an Australian who has created The Earful Tower. This is a great resource for people visiting Paris and people interested in finding out more about Paris and gaining access to interesting perspectives. It really is well worth spending time getting to see the wealth of resources and ideas that Oliver Gee has put together at The Earful Tower.
Oliver moved to Paris as a full-time journalist in 2015, but switched to podcasting in December 2017. He told his full Paris story in 2020 in his first book, Paris On Air, a self-published memoir that went wild on Kickstarter and had top reviews from readers all over the world.The Earful Tower – About : https://theearfultower.com/about/
There’s more information on The Earful Tower about a number of other Statues of Liberty in various places around Paris.
As visitors to Paris know, there are many places to see fabulous and iconic artworks. One venue that provides some excellent idea candy is the Pompidou Centre. This very modern building sits near the Hotel d’Ville and is easily distinguished by the external framework and access conduits that enclose it. Having bought our tickets online, (the easiest way to manage ticket purchases for just about anywhere), we arrived on a cold rainy day and, after finding a locker in the Vestiaire, or Cloakroom, and leaving our outer layers there we travelled to the top floor through a perspex tube and escalators.
The view from the top is itself worth the visit as it’s possible to see across the rooftops to the West of the building; the characteristic shapes of the roof of the Louvre and the sea of windows set into the roofs of the Haussman era apartment blocks that stretch across sightlines in all directions. As the sun sinks the lights create a different view entirely; from the Eiffel Tower to Sacre Coeur
A major exhibition is currently showing at the Pompidou Centre. Christian Markley’s Drums provides plenty of food for thought as it combines the notion of sound with sights that suggest sound and media based around ideas that excite the teacher in me.
One video presentation is comprised wholly of images from the every day that use onamatopoeia; words from sounds, to underscore the extent to which sounds are a part of so much that we do.
Other video sequences, like one entitled ‘Doors’ provide fertile ground for ideas of plot development and some very creative writing indeed. The spacious exhibition spaces make it easy to take time and savour the richness of the ideas at play.
One static installation used musical instruments that invoke a memory of their sounds while visually demonstrating that their form actually defies function: guitars with bent necks, a super extended accordion, a euphonium with an Eb cornet where the mouthpiece would usually be. Sights that can be overtaken in the imagination by the memory of their sounds.
A drum kit with cymbal stands that rise toward the ceiling at a massive height, a guitar case riddled with holes like some sort of weird cheese. It all contributes to a tasty snack of Markley’s point of view.
After a great visit to the Pompidou, including other exhibitions of a range of works, we left the building behind to have a relaxed drink before finding somewhere for a dinner. As usual in Paris this didn’t take long and we were soon seated and ordering drinks. It’s worth knowing that, whenever visiting a cafe, bistro, brasserie or whatever in France it is best to wait on arrival to be seated. When asking for a ‘table pour deux’ you will usually be asked your intentions: that is, ‘mange?’ ie eat? If your answer is yes then you will be seated where tables are usually already laid or where it will be comfortable for a while. If, however you simply want drinks or coffee then you may be restricted to outdoors, or a separate part of the cafe or, maybe even standing at the bar. This simply reflects the fact that customers who intend eating will probably offer a better return in terms of spend and, in a competitive fast paced environment like Paris cafes at certain times then the higher value tables are tended and turned over to maximise the value of their trade. If two of you are simply going to buy a coffee each and dwell on it for a long time then the return is not as great. This is not a slight on your custom, or you; just a strategy to get the best return possible. We’ve found service is usually fairly good in most places if you take some time to try to use some French phrases and work out what your coffee order is going to be. A Paris waitress taught me a few years back that, when wanting what we Australians would call a Long Black, it is best to order a Cafe Allongé rather than Cafe Americano. Since then, I’ve had a high success rate in a large number of cafes of getting a coffee that is served in a cup size that resembles a Long Black in Australia and which has that nice crema on top.
At the end of the meal, when calling for the bill, as well as the internationally recognised signal of miming the signing of a bill on your hand you can also ask for ‘L’addition s’il vous plait’ (pronounced as ‘la dission’) If you intend paying with a card then you can add ‘et machine’ when you ask as that lets the server know that if they bring the eftpos handheld machine with them then they won’t need to make a separate trip back to the till to get the machine when you produce a ‘carte’ to pay the bill. If you don’t want another piece of paper then just say ‘non merci’ when asked whether you want the ‘ticket.’
After a drink and a chance to rest our exhibition legs we find a nearby cafe for a great meal and some cool instrumental jazz.
Despite the fact that there’s clearly a lot of live music available in a huge city like Paris we find that it is so often a matter of chance as it is always hard to find out where the music is happening. Searches on Google or Facebook or for ‘Live Music Near Me Tonight’ just don’t seem to cut it in terms of finding a nice bar or restaurant where there is a soloist, or duo or band playing.
It’s even more difficult to get actual times for the start of a gig and we’ve been caught a number of times turning up for an 8 o’clock gig, as advertised on the venue’s social media to discover that we are the only ones there and the band won’t start until 10 or later. Anyway, some more great Paris adventures. We’ve decide on another train excursion with an overnight trip to Lille; up North near the Belgian border.
Time to find the Metro entrance and click along the long tunnels that link this part of Chatelet Metro with the number 7 line that will take us home to Place Monge.