Un Dimanche à Paris.

Un Dimanche à Paris.

Sunday in Paris.

The street in which I live in Paris is littered with history. Picasso lived five doors down during the Second World War and, over at number 8, Louis XIII received the sacrament just hours after the death of his father, King Henry IV.

It’s so French.

Had the laundromat not burned down almost a week ago, I could have claimed that I was off to do my washing next door to Louis XIII on Sunday, but instead I headed to ‘Juice Laverie’ a further five minutes away over in Rue de Seine, which doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. Although, the Hotel La Louisiane at number 68 is famous for having accommodated many notable jazz musicians and writers, including Miles Davis, Chet Baker, John Coltrane, Ernest Hemingway, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir and, in the French novel La Duchesse de Langeais by Honoré de Balzac, the aristocratic character Marquess Armand de Montriveau, lived in Rue de Seine as well.

Not so drab, after all.

I began typing this piece from the cafeteria at l’Institut du Monde Arabe – the Institute of the Arab World, at number 1 Rue de Fossés Saint Bernard in the 5th Arrondissement and just a short walk from home.

Almost ten days since I arrived back in Paris after two months in the sun, my once tanned skin has begun to slowly turn purple again, and the chill in the air is almost too much to bare. Each day, I layer myself in the warmest of woollens and I am further saved by a sweet pair of pink angora gloves given to me by my sister, Edwina, for Christmas.

Having just been less than savoury abut the weather I will add, that unpacking has been prolonged by the sheer beauty that is the Parisian landscape framed by a winters haze, and just as the sun begins to set later each day, it is also beginning to rise at a near normalised dawn. The birds sing a different tune at this time of year, flirting with the idea that spring is just around the corner and walks along the Seine, bone chilling as they may be, are incredibly special in this late February light.

Yesterday, I woke feeling newly organised and with a new found skip in my stride after spending Saturday in ‘organise mode’ where I found myself buying filing systems from Muji, storage boxes from Monoprix and packets of biros from my local newsagent.

By Sunday, I was ready for an expedition.

L’institut du Monde Arabe is an organisation founded in Paris in 1980 by the French alongside 18 Arab countries. It’s purpose is to research and disseminate information about the Arab world and its cultural and spiritual values. It is said that the institute was established as a result of a perceived lack of representation for the Arab world in France, and it seeks to provide a secular location for the promotion of Arab civilisation, art, knowledge, and aesthetics.
Housed within the institution are a museum, library, auditorium, restaurant, offices and meeting rooms.

And, a cafeteria where I enjoyed a delicious fattoush salad paired with an equally delicious glass of vin rouge while tapping my toe to the beat of the fine tunes of A’Amer Farhkom (thanks, Shazam).

Before lunch, I explored the permanent collection spanning seven floors – an exercise I’d been meaning to undertake since first discovering the institute last summer on my way to Piscine Josephine Baker (for more information on this expedition see the earlier post, La Piscine, June 22, 2017).

The seventh floor allows a ‘preamble of the Arab World,’ its great landmass and languages of many diverse origins, such as Aramaic, Amazigh (Berber) and Kurdish, with an emphasis on different ways of thinking; value systems, cultural perceptions and collective imaginations anchored in the distant past, in different environments and through a variety of founding experiences.
Each floor speaks to a different theme- the sixth of the sacred and the divine, and the forth, the expression of beauty and where I read about ancient trade agreements and the introduction of craftsmanship to European markets, such as glass blowing and ceramic techniques, dating back to as late as the tenth century.

There was mention of quasi monopolies on the production of certain spices and aromatic herbs, and the fact that the domestication of the dromedary (the Arabian camel) and its use as a means of transport in around 1000 BC, led to the development of long distance trade.

Original nomadic and sedentary populations established over a long period were ‘most certainly’ coloured by African influences as well as those of the Fertile Crescent (stretching from the Nile to the Tigris). In western and southern Arabia, numerous cultural indicators (writing names and surnames, masonry and types of ceramics) give a fleeting glimpse of the ebb and flow of merchandise, populations and ideas in even the earliest times.

Which brings me to now, typing on a MacBook Pro in the year 2018, musing on how short our memories have become, in a world where we are becoming increasingly inept at reading anything longer than a few simple characters, and where the death of King Henry IV of France in 1610, is comparatively ‘just yesterday’. This is also a time where we hold court on social media, and contradict ourselves on a daily basis.

I feel on one hand, we’re so advanced and on the other, a bit sad at the pace in which time whizzes by and where we (seemingly) increasingly hold little regard for yesterday.

We are now deep into February and the end of 2017 feels like just last night.

From here, I will publish a post each Monday and Friday with regular Instagram  updates in between- if you’re not already following on Instagram, you can find me @pinningmywords and would love your ideas and feedback, I invite you to email me with any suggestions at info@pinningmywords.com.

As I proof read and take in the early morning light after a brisk walk in the freezing cold, I am listening to Ed Sheeran and Andrea Bocelli sing ‘Perfect Symphony’.  Don’t laugh, I love it.  Google it.

With love from here,

Pin

Pictured: the beautiful l’institut du monde arabe under a perfect blue sky.

 

 

 

 

And I’m back.

And I’m back.

Paris.

It was Saturday, and I delighted in the sound of the clip clop of hooves as I rounded the corner in anticipation of my first black coffee and croissant in Paris in almost two months. Carefully negotiating the cobblestones that have tripped me up on more than one occasion, I was greeted moments later with the sight of four beautiful horses and four equally handsome ‘gendarmes’ atop them.

‘Bonjour monsieur,’ they called down to a man keeping himself busy sweeping the street, before swaying off into the distance.

‘J’adore les gendarmes,’ I whispered, as I shuffled to my local where I enjoyed the best croissant I probably ever did eat.

The night before, on my stroll back from drinks in the Marais, I was reminded of many things unique to Paris after my brief Australian sojourn – I shivered at the sight of tents perfectly pitched taking pride of place outside a far too opulent Givenchy store, and sirens wailed for reasons unbeknownst to me in the distance. Earlier at lunch, the sound of chewing from the table beside me was so close to my left ear that I began to tap my foot to the beat, and as I neared the river, two guys leaned against the back door of the Hotel de Ville smoking joints in the company of two security guards – no reprimand for smoking nor instructions of where to stand. I was momentarily stoned at the sheer sight of it and delighted when the guards lit up (albeit a less elicit choice), a common cigarette.

The ease at which people move here delights me, and the urgent pace in which they speak terrifies me. The lack of bother toward one and other and the (comparative) absence of rules, sets my heart on fire.

And this morning, the laundromat burned down.

I’m a stickler for clean laundry, so when I first took up temporary residence at chez moi almost three years ago, I was delighted to find (in the comprehensive house notes) mention of a laundromat just three doors down on the other side of the street. Upon taking up more permanent residency almost a year ago, I was delighted in equal measures to find a very flash washing machine had recently been installed in my beloved digs. But, Sunday visits to ‘mon laverie’ have remained a favourite weekly ritual.

The laundromat has at least eight gigantic driers on one wall and probably no less than twenty machines occupying every other square meter of floor space. Each Sunday I lug bags of linen, towels, socks, underpants and any other imaginable tumble-dry-able items to Monsieur’s laundry where I spend at least two hours gazing at strangers as I pick up little french-isms while I prepare for the week ahead. All other items, delicates and dresses are washed in the shiny white machine upstairs and dried lovingly on my clothing rack.

In the early hours of this morning as I came to the end of ‘the great unpack,’ I danced around the flat shuffling a little Foxtrot of glee as piles diminished and disappeared and bags became empty, finding their way into the suitcase which I soon stashed in its regular spot under the Chinese commode which is home to the smallest television in the world.

It was a happy moment and one I’d dreamed of for days, only to be interrupted with screams of ’Monsieur, monsieur il y a un feu!’ (there is a fire!).

Not averse to a neighbourhood drama, I raced to the window, flinging myself through the curtains in a moment so synchronised with the rest of ‘mes voisins’ that we would have won gold at the window Olympics, should they ever exist. Moments later, huge fire engines arrived blocking the narrow street below and sirens squealed as men in helmets and snorkels appropriately dressed for a mission to Mars, spilled out of their tankers and into Monsieur’s beloved ‘laverie’.

I never wear tracksuits in public. Ever. Unless of course I’ve been on a walk that requires breathlessness and sweat, in which case I do everything in my power to organise a trip home before my next public appearance. Naturally, this is not always possible so there have been times where I’ve gone to lunch in my exercise clothing – but those days are truly numbered.
To about three times in my entire life.

On this occasion, my unpacking Foxtrot was performed in a pair of grey marl track suit pants reserved for the confines of my living space – all 23 sq. m of it. Plans were in place to dress for the day upon completion of ‘operation unpack,’ but as sirens whirled and the street became blocked by gigantic red engines, I found myself racing down the stairs in all my track-suited glory teamed with a pair of raffia pumps found in the doorway, usually reserved for trips to the beach, or cocktails sipped under a warm summers sky.

Monsieur’s miniature Renault Twizy, a three-wheeled ‘car’ that is half the size of the man himself, lay in the shadows of two gigantic fire engines, and it was in this moment that I realised that it was indeed our beloved laundromat that had caught on fire. An elderly man paced the street perplexed, strides pressed and laundry bag in hand, and a young girl begged with les pompiers to go inside. Old women muttered ‘bah’ as they walked by with their mean little dogs on leads, and endless gaggles of people hung out from windows above.

Monsieur leaned against the doorway opposite his laundry.  In this moment my heart sank and ash gathered around the ankles of my tracksuit pants. His fire engine red scarf remained neatly tied around his neck throughout the entire ordeal, as if he’d had an earlier premonition and dressed for the day.

Two days earlier, I’d set off for lunch in the Marais followed by a spot of jet lagged sightseeing. The Seine is still swollen after the recent rain and snow, and as I walked home following a feast of steak tartare, I marvelled at the sight of the lamp at the end of the Ile de Citè which usually stands tall, but is currently treading water in deeper than usual swells.

A brief coffee followed at Shakespeare and Co., where I observed a one man show starring an old drunk in concert with his own mind and a can of 1664, before I rounded the corner into Boulevard Saint Michel where I was met with screams of ‘Attendre! Attendre!’.
Squinting and blinking into the near distance I could just make out the figure of and elderly woman shuffling along the boulevard waiving a Longchamp overnighter at a well dressed little thief who shuffled ahead of her – desperately dancing a little foxtrot of ‘innocence’ clutching her Prada handbag as he did so.

In hindsight, I could have been more gallant, raised a hand, stopped the traffic and risked my life in front of a bus before stopping the robber in his steps, but in reality, I looked on in disbelief, shortened the strap on my bag and concluded that I’d just seen a cunning two person act of desperation occur in the broad light of day.

In the precious final moments before I flew back to Paris just under a week ago, I enjoyed my final Australian supper with Mum at her sweet little leafy ground floor flat in Melbourne.

We reminisced on almost two months where time had been well spent with family and friends during the happiest of summers – a time of year where I often make myself scarce, if not absent. This year it was time to be home in the company of my divine nephews, Mum, Dad and my sisters and of course, great friends.

For that final supper, we feasted on the most succulent of prawns teamed with a delicious salad washed down with our favourite prosecco. As I loaded the taxi with back breakingly heavy bags, Mum handed me an envelope containing a card with the words of Oscar Wilde printed colourfully on the front, ‘be yourself, everyone else is taken.’

As I finish typing this over lunch in the confines of La Palette – a café favourite just moments from home – two little cavalier King Charles spaniels are led past my table by a man of about 80 years wearing shorts and long striped socks in red, white and blue. My gut tells me, as I shiver in 3 degrees, that he dances to his own tune and nothing in the world, would really ever faze him.

Pictured: momentary mayhem!