Ernest Hemingway’s book, A Moveable Feast, was first published in 1936. It describes his writing life in Paris – mornings at home in the small flat in rue Cardinal Lemoine where he wrote before his wife woke up, working in the top floor room he rented in the hotel where Verlain died and then hanging out with Gertrude Stein and Scott Fitzgerald and James Joyce and Ezra Pound.

So this is why a person writes in Paris. To touch the hem of greatness, to feel the stardust.

There is the lure of the Marché Poesie – lurking by the book stalls wondering if you’ll meet the next Walt Whitman.

But mainly it’s sitting in the room, looking out of the window.

And then for half an hour inspiration hits – a conversation forms, a meal is eaten, sadness erupts, confusion departs. Then it’s very good to be in Paris.

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Grey skies in Saint Germain. It has rained and rained. It has rained so much there has been coverage on the news and items on the radio expressly suggesting activities for this terrible weather.

And so we, like almost the whole of Paris, have been to the cinema. We went to see Le Brio with Daniel Auteuil (one of my favourite actors), a French version of Whiplash but this time about becoming a lawyer. The salle was full, just two seats left on the second row and a bit of argy bargy as the late comers squelched in. The film was not bad – i picked up a few tips I could have done with early in my career. It should come to London

And then we went to see 3 Billboards. Contrary to popular opinion, the French like to queue. Once you have your ticket you go back outside to wait for the signal to go in. In the rain, particularly when you have forgotten an umbrella, this is no fun.  Other prople’s umbrellas are lethal. They tilt, they spike and they drip. 

What to say about 3 Billboards (panneaux in French)? It was interesting. Frances McDormand is steely. But I felt the real issue of what had happened to her daughter was not given enough weight. A lot of the film involved boys beating each other up.

it was good to leave the cinema at 5.30 and wander along Boulevard Saint Germain in the twilight. The rain had stopped.

I wrote last time about a wonderful morning cruising with the number 70 bus. This is what we did in the afternoon. After a short breather and a light lunch of carottes rapees and celeriac remoulade (the best of Monprix) we went to the movies in Les Halles. Security men search bags at seemingly random spots, young people lounge, there is shopping and tourist trapping, and there is cinema. The UGC at Les Halles is huge, with 15 screens. We went to see Wind River, a film about a murder on a Reservation in Wyoming – much snow and ice. It was good to see a film that deals in a quite subtle way with the treatment of Native Americans.

We came out talking about Elizabeth Olson, the female star, and how good it was that there was (spoiler alert!!) no love affair between the two investigators, how confusing it sometimes was because all the men looked more or less the same – the goodies and the baddies – but how clever the shoot-out scene was, and that perhaps there was a bit too much roaring around on snow-bikes, but that it was an enjoyable and satisfying film.

We were intending to have dinner in Les Halles, but it was really too early, so walked back towards Place Dauphine, past the shell of the beautiful old Samaritaine store, and across the river. But it was still too early. So we walked over to rue Dauphine, past the tiny galleries and the restaurants, and the small clothes shops, and as we were passing Hotel d’Aubusson, we remembered that on Saturday evenings, from 6pm, there is jazz. So we walked in, ordered glasses of white Sancerre and Chablis, were provided with olives and nuts and we sat for an hour listening to the pianist playing the old standards of the Forties – Just One of those Things, These Foolish Things, Baby It’s Cold Outside, in a cool lazy style, as the sky turned from blue to purple outside.

                 

By now we really were hungry so we wandered along to where rue Bonaparte crosses rue Jacob (check) to Le Pré aux Clercs, a classic art nouveau style French bistro, wooden tables, white paper tablecloths, low hanging peach coloured lamps, and unexpectedly an olive tree in the middle. It’s famous for being a place where Ernest Hemingway hung out, although it’s hard to find a bar on the Left Bank that he didn’t frequent.

The place was humming, a mix of American and Japanese tourists and French people, children, lovers, pals and even a woman alone (I always like a restaurant that treats single women well).  The tables spilled out on to the pavement and the waiters in their black outfits and long white aprons squeezed expertly through the narrow pathways, filling orders – chicken, steak, duck, crème caramel, chocolate mousse. Apart from almost setting the place alight when I investigated a large lamp beside our table and then spilling wax and burning fingers trying to replace the candle, we finished our meal unscathed.  Roast chicken and mashed potato is a meal that’s hard to beat. Accompanied by a half bottle of Bordeaux, it was the perfect end to a perfect day.

 

A sunny day in Paris. After a quick, delicious breakfast Au Vieux Colombier we headed to the bus stop.

The sky was a cloudless deep blue. People were walking around in shorts and tee shirts. It was the right time to catch the number 70 bus, which, heading west, goes to Radio France.  Our first attempt, however, stopped short at the Mairie in the XVth. As we’d already gone past food shops, restaurants, buildings that were intriguing and alluring, we decided we’d explore. There was a small cookery event outside the Mairie, with stalls and demonstrations, and games for kids involving food (identify this vegetable by feel). And a wedding party was gathering.

                   

We jumped back on the next number 70, and passed yet more interesting restaurants, Iranian delicatessens, esoteric shops and delicate building architecture.

And then we crossed the Pont de Grenelle and arrived at Radio France.

Radio France is a huge circular building on the banks of the Seine in the XVIth arrondissement and is the home of French public service radio. We did a circuit of the building and came across a pop up restaurant in the road. It was for a film crew who were filming inside. I wanted to start my acting career immediately for a chance to sit and eat.

Radio France is the stop for the French Statue of Liberty. Coincidentally, on the Eurostar over to Paris, I had been watching an odd little 2016 film called Lost in Paris (Paris Pieds Nus) which had centred round this area.

The Allée des Cygnes is a long strip of land in the middle of the Seine, an artificial island built in 1827 to separate river traffic from the port of Grenelle. There are trees, and benches and bridges (where roads and trains and the Metro pass over head). It was such a sunny day, people were out walking their dogs, families were strolling with buggies, a few people were jogging and tourists (including me) were snapping.   Coming from Radio France, to the left is the Eiffel Tower.

                  

To the right is the Statue de la Liberté. France gave the US the Statue of Liberty in 1886. The Americans gave Paris a smaller version of the same statue in 1889.

 

Some things are lovely because they’re in Paris, some are just intrinsically lovely.   

This post has been brought to you by the bus number 70.

Paris in July is a very different place. The school holidays have begun and people have left to enjy their holidays in the south. Sometimes they travel with an unsuspecting au-pair.

In this picture I am standing on the beach in Royan in my absurdly heavy dark woollen trousers, with two of my three charges, their mum and a cousin. Fifty years ago. We had passed through Paris on the way down from Valenciennes, and though I can’t remember much about that apart from lunch in a small rather ornate appartement, Paris this July, with fewer cars, less rush, felt like Paris in the Sixties. Almost.

This year it was not too hot, not too busy and not much to do – a relaxed, strolling, slow kind of visit.

A trip to Les Halles led to the discovery of a really nice café – Au Père Tranquille,

where you can sit for hours over un café crème, in the quiet first floor room, surrounded by books and writers with laptops and the hum of business meetings, and watch the world go by in the streets below, with the occasional visit from the café cat.

There was a trip to Merlin le Roy to buy paint – yes, there will be redecorating in the studio! Once every 14 years, that’s not too bad. It will require a surprising amount of paint, so the journey home, walking along the banks of the Seine – somehow there were no buses – was quite heavy (man).

But no sweat, we passed posters of other worldly events.

In the midst of all the quiet flâneuserie (this may not be a word) it was Sales time. Soldes, soldes, soldes! In the VIth arrondisement every shop announced a sale, brashly or discreetly, illegibly or almost in English. Everyone was, apparently, slashing prices.

           

 

                      

 

Ah, the potential for absurd purchases. But somehow, if it’s not in Monoprix I’m not interested. And Monoprix was undergoing major reconstruction work, so the shopping experience was not the same. My Euros stayed safe.

But to finish, there was the exhibition at Musee Maillol, 21 rue la Boetie, which included a fascinating piece of social history – the period from 1941-44 when the Nazis looted French art, stored it in the Jeu de Paume and transported much of it to Germany – which I have written about here

(painting below by Leger)

 

A fine week.

Another hot day and we decided to go to the Buttes-Chaumont park in the 19th, two bus rides away. The 96 to the Hotel de Ville was fine and then we got on the 75. All the way there the bus indicated that its destination was Pont Neuf – which was the wrong direction, which was very worrying, as its path took us on a route with many twists and turns, through Place de la Republique and across the Canal Saint Martin, by the side of the Hôpital Saint-Louis.  But in the end it all came right and we got off at the Jean Menans – Buttes Chaumont stop.

The 19th arrondisement is not one of the ‘fashionable’ areas of Paris, it is not a rich area, but it is Paris, and Paris has a very strong sense of social commitment and its parks are one very obvious demonstration of that. Lovely open spaces for everyone.

And what a park this is.  It is celebrating its 150th year this year, having been created in 1867. Then there was a little hiccup with the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 and parts had to be re-organised. It has a huge waterfall, which comes crashing down on to stones that you can walk across to a little grotto where you can do yoga, if you want to.

There are other appearances of water, little bubbling brooks with stepping stones to cross. We passed a woman standing singing into a small cascade – possibly communing with some sort of water god. And there is a suspension bridge, designed by Gustave Eiffel (that’s Mr Tower to you), that wobbles as you get half way across, causing the woman ahead of us in the red dress to hurry away, clonking over the wooden slats, making it sway more.

The Mairie is very close by and we saw a happy wedding party taking photos with the beautiful backdrop. And then, round a corner a group of people were celebrating vegetables, through an organisation funded by European money, lots of little children and mums and dads and grannies, looking at the stall of the man famous for his vegetable sculptures.

 

And of course there is a café with a small terrace. It was a tight squeeze, on one side two big dogs with two slim women, spreading chairs and water-bowls carelessly (‘Je suis désolé que vous êtes coincée’ she said without moving an inch) and a family of 4 or 5 hundred on the other side and so we didn’t realise that for half the price (almost) of a café crème we could have had a café and a croissant.

But the coffee was good and the sun was hot and we were in the shade with a lovely view of trees and rolling slopes and green grass, and then through the windows of the café the first thin, slightly tinny notes of Sampha playing ‘No one knows me (like the piano)’. Sampha I hadn’t heard of till Joel, our guide-son, sent me the link, and I loved it. Then I played it to little Rudi my great nephew who is nearly two, and now every time he hears it a smile comes over his face and he begins to dance. So it was lovely to sit there and think of sweet Joel and wonderful Rudi and be in Paris.

What a wonderful place the Jardin du Luxembourg is. The landscape is so varied, so many acvities are on offer, every visit is different.

On this very very hot day (29 degrees C) it was a joy to walk in the shade of the trees, until we reached the corner of the garden where we heard the unmistakable tonk tonk sound and the gentle murmur of conversation that told us we were approaching the pétanque area. It was impossible to resist. We sat on one of the dark green benches and watched.

I know nothing about pétanque but it was quite hypnotique. The teams that we were watching, two women and two men were interesting. Each time it was the turn of the younger woman to throw the encouraging shout went up ‘Allez Grace!’ We began to get really into it – like tennis, if you concentrate, you begin to jump with shared frustration when a boule misses its mark.

After half an hour it was really time to go, wandering back through the garden, now filling with school children at the end of their school day, kids on the tennis courts, someone being a ball boy on a skateboard. The shadows were dappling the gravel, and the wind was blowing up small clouds of white chalky dust.

It was so hot. We wandered along rue de Vaugirard – the longest road in Paris – heading for the Carrefour Express supermarket to buy a bottle of rosé  wine for a little apero a la maison. But then we came to Café Madame. All the windows were open and folded back, so the inside was almost the outside and there were also tables arranged outside where people sat drinking beer and fruit cocktails. What could we do?

We sat down and soon two glasses of rosé sat before us. Again we watched the world go by. This time it was little people – nursery and primary – coming out of classes, harassed mothers and nannies and dogs on scooters, crossing back and forth on rue Madame with the help of their local lollipop lady.

           

We wandered back along hot narrow streets to Saint Sulpice.  We passed the Antiques Fair and the pop up restaurant where we ate last night

and some election posters for the forthcoming second round legislative elections this weekend – République and En Marche, and then we ducked into the cool shade of the apartment.

      

Then it was shocking to see on the News that the Republicain candidate Natalie Kosciusko-Morizet – a somewhat controversial figure – had been assaulted while out campaigning, and knocked to the ground unconscious. Fortunately, the next day she was fine and out campaigning again.

The forecast is that there will be a very low turnout in the second round of the elections, indicating a certain level of apathy, or possibly confusion about Macron.  His En Marche party looks likely to win the majority of seats. People make political statements in different ways.