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sun, rain and gariguettes

Crazy spring weather here – one minute hot sun, the next a violent thunderstorm, then sun again. An umbrella, a sweater and hat, sunscreen …

On Tuesday, William Blake and Mozart, how’s that for great day? There’s a Blake exhibit at the Petit Palais – petit, hah, the place is a vast decorated wedding cake. The exhibit was extensive and absorbing, but at the same time it’s easy to see why people thought he was a lunatic – even now, he’s pretty odd and extreme, exquisite as his work is. Another Van Gogh story, a man who never stopped doing what he had to do though he nearly starved in the process. But William Blake had his wife Catherine by his side every step of the way. He died singing, apparently, and she died a few years later calling to him that she was coming.

At the end of the exhibit, they were showing clips from Dead Man, a Jim Jarmusch film starring Johnny Depp as William Blake. Typecast again, Johnny! I recognised a Canadian First Nations actor called Gary Farmer, dressed in Indian garb with feathered headdress – perhaps as one of Blake’s visions. Not a film I’d rush out to see. 

I wandered through the Palais afterwards – there’s a great deal of work by artists who just aren’t quite up to Louvre standards, and then suddenly you come upon a corner with a Rembrandt or a Monet. Upstairs there’s a huge hall of giant canvases; I liked the famous portrait of Sarah Bernhart reclining and the row of stunning Courbets, including “Le Sommeil,” the racy one of two naked women sleeping intertwined, a 19th century high art kind of porno, apparently. I had a cafe in the exotic garden, looking out at the jungle of ferns and the fancy architecture. Wonderful.

Another great bus stopped just on the other side of the street, in front of the Grand Palais, and was supposed to take me right home. But it stopped after about ten minutes. “The end of the line,” the driver announced. “We can’t go further. There’s a demonstration.” There was a bit of grumbling, but it’s so normal for the French, they just got off and figured out alternate transportation. So I did too – there was a metro stop nearby.  On the way there, incidentally, the bus passed by the Orsay, and the line-up to get in wound around endlessly; another reminder that it pays to pick your times.  

Then, last night, another difficult genius – at 9 p.m. I walked in the drizzle to hear the Mozart Requiem at St. Sulpice. My friend Lynn warned me to beware of the quality of concerts in churches, and I could see what she meant – the sound was like soup, bouncing off that vaulted ceiling, and the choir was pretty ragged. But still, the voices rang and the music is glorious and extremely moving. And then, in more drizzle, I walked home.

Marketing this morning; Friday is a national holiday and everything is closed, so I’m getting in supplies. I went first up the cobbled, tiny Rue Mouffetard to FranPrix, the equivalent of a very small Loblaws. Besides staples, I bought a pre-cooked lentil puree that you heat up in a bain marie; tons of Lindt dark chocolate; for fun, some Vache qui Rit cheese that comes in a tub to spread, not in the triangles, and some real cheese – a chunk of cantal and 2 little smelly crottins de chevre that an old man ahead of me picked up so I copied him. I’m still intimidated by the cheese stores, even though they look like heaven. 

In the market some kiwis, gariguette strawberries and raspberries that are sublime, I’ve already finished a tub, and thick white asparagus. The cherries are in and fantastic, I’ll get some next time. I’m eating much more fruit here than at home, because there is it, down the street in the market, and except for kiwis it’s clear what’s in season and delicious.  I also stopped at the tabac – the tobacconist who also sells magazines, newspapers, lottery and metro tickets and is the local centre for gossip and political discussion. The man who runs it works six days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. I bought this week’s Pariscope and asked his advice on various practical matters. I need to find a post office to send my daughter a birthday card. She’s 28 next week, and I’m not there. 

Both kids were too busy to come visit me in Paris this time, but next, I will insist that they come. I need to share my crottin de chevre and gariguettes, not to mention everything else here, with the two people in the world I love most. 

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A bit later: I must apologise for my hyperbolic and repetitive exclamations: wonderful marvellous beautiful stunning exquisite. Also huge magnificent glorious. I need a thesaurus to find some new words, in order to describe my experiences here without repeating myself. 

More errands this afternoon – some paté de campagne to serve to my friend Daniel who’s visiting this evening, a huge bouquet of spring flowers just because, and the local papeterie where I hyperventilated over the notebooks and pens, because I am a writer and must have these things. After my enormous lunch, I went for a tiny little run around the block and passed by a second-hand clothing store I’d never seen before – my kind of place. So I went in, and the owner literally reeled backwards to find a large woman in jogging gear and giant running shoes in his tiny designer-filled store. 

But I am a Parisienne now, which means I don’t care. I worried at the beginning about doing the right thing, but in fact, the right thing in Paris is whatever you want, as long as you do it with aplomb. 




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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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