Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Sadly this time in Paris is coming to an end, but I have hardly touched on the things we have done here in this blog.
And I am too busy doing such things to want to spend the time online.
It is the small things I have most enjoyed ... fresh baguettes from Julien Boulangerie in Beaubourg, breaking off the end and eating that on the short walk home, and especially on a cool day when the baguette is warm ...
walks along the seine and amongst the numerous gardens ... eating a few different tarts every week ... visiting the museums ... trying some different cheeses, especially the extra old mimolette and roquefort ...
checking out the dozens of beautiful and interesting old churches ... the fresh produce from the markets and shops ... visiting well known and especially the more obscure monuments ... picnics in the squares and parks ...
the falafels from L'as ... just walking amongst the architecture and looking up, always looking up and just wandering the streets, with no particular destination in mind, walking along whichever street looks the most interesting.
We have watched the seasons change from late winter through to early summer and have experienced freezing cold days, a mini heatwave (by french standards), driving rain and many lovely sunny days to just wander the streets, and experienced these in every month we have been in Paris. Some of the days in March were as sunny as they have been in July, if slightly cooler.
There has been music and theatre and art and culture.
I'll miss hanging out with Jean-Pierre for our french lessons and especially our french/english conversations, which often involved walking around somewhere in Paris. Also the guitar lessons with Jean-Pierre's son Kajetan who after 8 lessons can now play a handful of tunes on guitar and can play and understand all of the basic chords as well as how to find and read guitar tab.
It was fun trying to speak french, especially with strangers on the streets or in the shops. There were times when someone would ask me something on the streets ... usually where is such and such a place ... and I could answer them in french and they would understand ... these brought feelings of achievement. But then I would confuse the simple words or numbers, or just trip over my tongue, in what should have been a simple conversation, and feel like an idiot.
As always there have been annoying moments which I have tended not to talk about, it can be hard travelling for such an extended period of time, living amongst a foreign culture with only a suitcase worth of your own stuff. But I shan't dwell any further on this.
Most of all, I will just miss Paris. It's a beautiful, friendly, charming, relaxed city which I have found very easy to live in.
I plan to continue writing more posts once I have returned to Australia, further documenting our experiences in Paris and hopefully providing information to anyone who plans to visit, or just wants to get a feel for this gorgeous city.
It's going to be hard returning to Perth, the most isolated city in the world, but I am looking forward to seeing my family and friends again.
And in the meantime, we still have a few days left in Paris ... the city of love indeed!
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Bastille Day, or le quatorze juillet("14 July"), is celebrated in France on July 14th each year.
It commemerates the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille fortress-prison in Paris in 1789. The Bastille was a symbol of the absolute and arbitrary power of Louis the 16th's Ancient Regime and capturing the Bastille was the beginning of the French Revolution.
This uprising led to the creation of the modern nation of France, and of the reconciliation of all the French.
It is celebrated with a presentation of many of the armed forces on a march along the Champs-Élysées avenue in Paris, with aircraft also flying overhead.
There follows a day of demonstrations and exhibitions of the armed forces, with tanks, helicopters, boats and all sorts of military paraphanalia on display and available for everyone to look at and often climb into.
We celebrated with some friends at Invalides, which had the largest amount of displays including helicopters, tanks, gliders, various trucks and machinery, gymnasts and especially parachutists landing nearby.
Then we wandered amongst the displays and watched the parachutists descend from above, landing on a small patch of grass nearby.
Some descended with some speed and skidded across the grass as they landed and one parachutist even had a dog strapped to him.
And there were even free speed boat rides along the Seine.
That night there was a free concert at the Eiffel Tower with Johnny Halliday, but we aren't big fans and the crowds would have been massive, so we gave it a miss. It would have been cool to see the fireworks though.
During the day they had managed to fall to earth, but no one at Invalides managed to fly, despite their best attempts.
Monday, July 6, 2009
The Furia Sound Festival was held on the weekend on the outskirts of Paris and we attended the ROCK 'N' ROLL (in the small tent in the corner) day on Sunday.
It was a very strange festival because in one little corner, in an old circus tent, there were some influential and rocking bands playing, which I will discuss soon, but on the two main stages there were some very wimpy and boring folk and pop bands ... it was nothing in comparison to the musical consistency one tends to get with the festivals in Australia such as Splendour In The Grass and The Big Day Out or even Homebake.
But any festival which features Mogwai (who were the only decent band to be presented on either of the main stages) and Mono can't be all bad, so we bought our tickets a month or so in advance and made the 40 minute train ride from the centre of Paris to the festival site outside of Paris in Cergy-Pontoise.
Unfortunately we spent the morning checking out the Elles exhibition at Georges Pompidou Centre, it being the first Sunday of the month and the galleries across Paris open for free, so we arrived too late to catch the set by Torche.
As we arrived Mono were starting their sound check, which gave me time to buy some tickets for beer, and beer, and to secure a place not too far from the stage.
We last saw Mono in Paris only a few months ago, only a few weeks after we first arrived, so it seemed appropriate that we should again see Mono only a few weeks before leaving Paris. This set was similar to the show at Glazart, with many tracks from their new album Hymn to the Immortal Wind, which they are still touring, but the set at Furia was much shorter at about 50 minutes.
Mono play classical influenced Post Rock and don't stray far from this genre, but especially in the live setting they are a formidable experience. It was strange to see (and hear) the band play live it a circus tent on a hot and sweaty Sunday afternoon with the summer sun streaming in behind us.
And what is it about Mono that attracts people chatting noisily and inanely and cheering at the wrong moments? I'm not sure if they don't understand the music or just have low attention spans? Either way, Mono opened the festival (for us) on a high and even though their set was short, it was still strong. As usual, there was no crowd interaction from the band, but the music spoke volumes.
There was some time until the next band we were interested in seeing came on, so we went for a walk around the festival site to see and hear what was happening. I have decided not to discuss the groups which I didn't like ... as my grandmother always told me "if you can't say anything nice about someone, then don't say anything at all". Needless to say, there was a lot of music that didn't ring my bell, so i'm not saying anything at all.
Isis aren't a band I was familar with, but I really enjoyed their set which was an interesting mix of metal and hard rock, with some shouty vocals thrown in. The Isis quintet often provided a brutal assault of three heavily distorted guitars along with their heavy rhythm section.
I particularly liked the aluminium guitar one of them was using ... and can only assume the sustain such a guitar would create helped produce the huge sound the band achieved ... and further research, and the similarity between the guitar headstocks, suggests they were all playing Electrical Guitar Company guitars. Either way, they were well cool!!
There were even some nice melodic moments amongst the mayhem of the music, although I think the group of lads in front of us preferred it when the band went off, especially during the particularly shouty moments, which they played quite often.
One of the guys was shifting between guitar and keyboards, so there were some shifts in the sound with some psychedelic undertones helping to add flavour to the metal main course.
I really enjoyed Isis, it's always great to find new music to listen to, especially at a festival. Sadly we had another wait until any decent music was due to play.
So we wandered off in search of beer and food. The french are particularly useless at providing food for vegetarians at the best of times, but we thought "this is a music festival, surely there will be a few options for vegies?". Nope! There were chips, which had already sold out. There was a baked potato with butter, but the queue was huge, probably full of veggies looking for something to eat, and they were hell expensive. That was it!!?? No felafel!? No cheese crepes!? No cheese panini!? No nothin'!
At similar types of festivals in Australia there are copious amounts of choice for veggies. France lived up to its reputation here. Luckily there was still beer, albeit in small plastic cups. "It's all going in my blogg" I complained as I continued the vain search for food ... and now it has.
Next time we will take our own food, that explains why there were so many people picnicing there.
After the vain search for food, we were torn between watching Suicidal Tendencies in the ROCK! tent or Gossip on the main stage.
We decided to see what the Gossip hoohah was all about, but whilst waiting on the hill for Gossip to start, they were the only band to come on late throughout the day, we heard an almighty hardcore racquet from our favourite corner of the festival and decided to check that out.
We found Dillinger Escape Plan were playing early and caught a few songs from their very energetic set. These guys were constantly moving around the stage, up on the monitors, bouncing around each other, even crowd surfing and playing guitar at the same time and were very hardcore.
But Gossip were also meant to be playing, and they have been getting a lot of press here in Paris recently. Also I like what they stand for, they're a queer band, screwing with people's perceptions of body image, playing a mix of rock and disco ....
Sadly the hype didn't live up to the reality. They were playing what to my ears was a bland mix of disco and soul. Sure, Beth Ditto has a strong voice, but so does Mariah Carey, it doesn't make her any less boring. A local french magazine Snatch featured an article on the band where they were compared to Christina Aguilera ... and I think I agree with him.
And why do Gossip have a fourth member (the bass player) who is never represented in their media coverage? It was time to wander back to catch the end of the set by Dillinger Escape Plan, much more fun!
The moment Dillinger Escape Plan ended we rushed over to the second main stage for the band we had been most anticipating, Mogwai. It has been far too many years since we have been in the same city as Mogwai, the last time was in Sydney in October 2002! That night they played with ... and You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead ... man! that was some gig! And way before I even started this blog, which seems to have existed forever.
This time we were second row!!
Mogwai opened with Auto Rock from their kick ass Mr Beast album. From there they just took everything a notch higher. The sound from Mogwai is always huge, but they also have almost silent moments ... at one stage the only sound was from Stuart Braithwait gently caressing the neck of his guitar, producing a gentle bowing sound not too dissimilar to an ebow. The rest of the band were silent. The entire crowd was silent, as if holding its breath. I whispered to Elizabeth to look at how he was playing the guitar to create this sound ... suddenly the band burst back into life, louder than ever before! What a moment!
Mogwai are considered by many to be at the fore of the Post Rock movement, but to my ears they manage to continue to evolve whilst remaining primarily within the instrumental genre. Their set tonight was too short to prove this point, the band finished with Batcat from their latest album The Hawk Is Howling ... again they were only on stage for 50 minutes and the time flew by far too quickly.
But while trying to take a photo of the stage after their set finished I managed to score one of the band's plectrums, which will be an appropriate memento of a guitar based group I have admired for over 11 years now, being lucky enough to stumble across their track Tracy on the January 1998 issue of Total Guitar magazine.
Suicidal Tendencies were playing in the corner circus tent, but sadly by this stage it was time to join the queue for the navette back to the train station and on to the (after) midnight train back to Paris.
It was a friendly festival, great fun in one corner of the festival, fairly well organised apart from the complete lack of veggie food. I got my "Furia" plastic beer cup and Mogwai plectrum momentos for the day, and lots of good memories.
Friday, July 3, 2009
There are always numerous free activities across Paris which one can enjoy every day (or night) of the week.
Now that summer has finally arrived we are getting out and about much more with walks along the Seine and all throughout Paris. Although we have been doing just this for the whole time we have been in Paris, since the chilly winter of early March ... it all seems so long ago now, and the end of our lovely holiday in Paris is slowly coming to an end.
Often in conjunction with our walks, we have a little picnic. With a bag or two full of baguette, cheese, salad, fruit, beer, wine ... we choose a location and head in that direction. On other occasions we might just make up a baguette at home and take that to a park for a mini picnic. After our picnic we tend to take a constitutional walk.
And there are now many, many more people out enjoying the warm weather with us, particularly in the evenings.
It isn't quite as comfortable to sit on the cobblestone paved paths which run along the edge of the Seine and the canals, but that doesn't stop the crowds who flock there. And there are all of the parks and gardens, some of which I discussed in an earlier post.
Sometimes we will go somewhere close by such as along the Seine or up to the Luxembourg Gardens or The Tuilleries near the Louvre, and others we will travel up to places such as Butte Chaumont or even as far as Bois De Boulogne or also Pere Lachaise Cemetary for my birthday.
We have even been known to have a picnic in a hotel room.
But no matter where we have our picnic, it is always an interesting location surrounded by water or gardens and sometimes works of art or with views, and it is always an enjoyable and free experience in Paris.