Monday, 20 October 2014

Sunday Afternoon in the Luxembourg Gardens

Yesterday I spent a blissful few hours strolling about the Luxembourg Gardens, one of my favourite spots in Paris, with a fascinating history. I've visited quite a few times before, but always in the spring or summer, now I've been able to appreciate how autumnal beauty changes the park, but not the enjoyment.

I love the statuary
But can always find a new one I've never managed
to find before, no matter how large 
Although this one has long been a favourite
It looks great in the summer, but is more suited
to the autumn colours I think

Leaf collection must be a huge daily job at this time of year
There were lots of temporary enclosures

These pots were filled with vivid pink colour
in the warmer months
now gorgeous seasonal yellows and oranges

We've been in Paris for 36 hours
and finally a tiny glimpse of another favourite icon

The autumnal glory continues at the Medici Fountain

Perfect late afternoon lighting on the Senate building

Wherever you choose to sit awhile
you're rewarded with such beauty

The people were out in their thousands
And why not the weather is expected to turn colder today
Was this the last, perfect autumnal Sunday afternoon of the year?
It felt like it

People watching is an excellent past time anywhere in Paris, but particularly in the Luxembourg Gardens. Everyone was out yesterday. Young, and old, families, locals and tourists alike revelling in this most glorious of afternoons.

Admiring the beehives

Pulling toys

Weekend pony rides

This girl seemed to be playing and singing for the joy of it
She wasn't busking
She had a beautiful voice

Parisians love reading in parks
and I love watching them,
and wondering what they are reading
French book covers always look so intellectual

Kids the world over love a pile of rocks it seems

It's always wonderful to watch the kids play with the stick powered boats

I'm not fully au fait with the rules
but it seems you can crash you boat into pirate boats

It's as iconic an activity as wearing
blue and white stripes

Malard ducks dodge the boats with ease
We glimpsed some Rose-ringed parakeets too
I hadn't seen them in Paris before
but we saw them in Amsterdam last year
Somehow I'd never seen the rather vast sandpits before

The chess players draw a crowd

I don't have to dream of France today, I'm here, living the dream.

Dreaming of France is a wonderful Monday meme
from Paulita at An Accidental Blog 

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Paris is wherever you are

even in small town Australia. Especially in the last few days before you go to Paris.

When browsing the bookshelves upstairs at
The Dragonfly Lounge

Passing the local optometrists

On the shelf at Taking Shape

At a random shop I've never noticed before

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

The Swiss Family Robinson

I was intrigued to read The Swiss Family Robinson recently after many years, decades even. I remember that The Swiss Family Robinson was one of my favourite stories as a kid, but I did't remember all that much of the actual story. Sadly, my childhood copy is lost to the vagaries of time, and so I read an undated version from the local op shop. I suspect that my childhood copy quite a different book to the one which I read recently- I must have read an abridged version, I know that my childhood self could never have got through these 300 pages.

The Swiss Family Robinson was published in German in 1812, the year before Pride and Prejudice was published in England, and became an immediate sensation. It was first published in English in 1814. There are now several hundred English editions. The introduction to the Project Gutenberg version tells us that

No unabridged edition of Swiss Family Robinson exists in English. Indeed, the book has been rewritten so many times, by so many editors, that it can legitimately be said that no complete edition of the book exists in any language. 

Which is astonishing, and rather sad. Swiss Family Robinson recounts the troubles of a young Swiss family travelling by ship to the new colony of Port Jackson (Sydney). Like every good Robinsonade there is a ship wreck in the very first few pages. The family are stranded alone in their broken ship just off a rather amazing tropical island. This island is indeed rather special- there are flamingoes and penguins, kangaroos, buffalo and jackals, but I guess that was possible in 1812 (the much later The Coral Island also suffered from similar errors), and I don't remember it bothering my childhood self. Indeed I suspect that I was thrilled that they domesticated most species of animals that they came across- which kid doesn't want a pet monkey or parrot, or to go on buffalo and donkey rides?

I found the story somewhat slow really, even though the basic premise is exciting enough. A big storm, a stranded family (I remembered the names Fritz and Ernest after all these years, but Jack and Francis didn't leave as much of a mark), working together for survival, and keeping wild animals as pets. It’s an adventure story, but still safe enough- the parents are still there. I just wanted them to get on with it and build the giant treehouse of my memories. They did do that eventually, but not before stumbling on pretty much every useful plant known to man- sugar cane, potatoes, coconuts of course, and even cinnamon. And they shot and killed everything. I get that it's a survivalist tale, and of it's time, but there was a bit more butchery than my somewhat squeamish constitution enjoys. The language was quaint, and somewhat antiquated.

I sat down in this verdant elysium with my three sons. 

Johann David Wyss was a Swiss pastor with 4 boys, just like the father of the Robinson clan. It is said that one of his sons found his unfinished manuscript and persuaded his father to let him rewrite it, edit it and submit it for publication. This son, Johann Rudolf Wyss was a busy fellow as he was a professor of philosophy, and in 1811 he wrote the former Swiss National Anthem. Living proof I guess of Johann David Wyss's desire to educate and teach via The Swiss Family Robinson. Despite my reservations, I did finish the whole book, which is more than can be said for Robinson Crusoe, which still sits about, half read, and no progress made for several years.


Monday, 13 October 2014

Parisian Cats

I found this delightful gem of a book sitting on the shelf at my local bookstore (in the animals section, it does pay to browse). I'd never heard of it before, but I snatched it off the shelf without even peeking inside, and it was mine. I knew that I'd love it. There's something about books about cats. My first blog post was about a cat. Eventually I read the book version, Making the Rounds with Oscar. And we've thought about The French Cat before.

Olivia Snaije is a Paris based journalist who normally focuses on the more important issues regarding the Middle East. But clearly she is a cat lover who began noticing the many privileged cats living in the shops, restaurants and cafes of Paris.

These cats have not only become the mascots of their establishments, they live in the city's loveliest or most historical and culturally rich neighbourhoods, spending their days roaming seventeenth-century gardens or cavorting in the nineteenth-century Grand Palais. 

Parisian Cats showcases 18 cats living the life of Riley at their various abodes. Many of the cats arrived on their own to their residence but a few were brought to Paris from the French countryside, and one was from an animal shelter. The cats serve as mousers, as companions to the staff of the establishments and friends to the customers. The swanky Bristol Hotel on Rue du Faubourg- Saint-HonorĂ© has a pedigreed Birman called Fa-Raon (indeed they now have a second cat called KlĂ©opatre). Happily I have been to one of the cat owning cafes, Le Rostand, opposite the Luxembourg Gardens, where I had a delicious onion soup, and have vague memories of glimpsing a cat moving amongst the chairs, who I now suspect was Roxane.

But it's more than just a cat book, Olivia talks about the history of the restaurants and institutions themselves, as well as of the surrounding area, and Paris itself. It's fascinating to learn that the carousel in the Luxembourg Gardens was designed by Charles Garnier, who more famously served as the architect for the Opera Garnier, one of my very favourite Paris buildings.

Rucquette at Cafe Ruc

Parisian Cats was published simultaneously in English and French (as Chats Parisiens). The cats and their habitats are all beautifully photographed by Nadia Benchallal, who also usually documents more important issues than the comfort of cats.

Beaujolais enjoying La Rotisserie

I think it's just fantastic that cats are allowed, and actually encouraged in places where people shop, meet, mingle and eat. I don't remember seeing that many cats in Paris, although there was one in a bakery where we learnt how to make baguettes and croissants in 2010. You know I'll be keeping an eye out for some more Parisian cats very soon. Perhaps I'll get to meet Kitty when I finally walk in the doors of Shakespeare and Company?


Dreaming of France is a wonderful Monday meme
from Paulita at An Accidental Blog 
Books on France, a great 2014 challenge
 from Emma at 
Words and Peace

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Leche Vitrine #5

I'm going to Paris soon for the fourth time. It's starting to really preoccupy my thoughts. I love knowing that even though Paris is starting to get quite familiar for me, you still never know what really awaits. Where I will go. What I will see. What I will eat and drink.

Some activities are already planned and anticipated of course. Others will be happenstance. One thing I know though, I will peer into many, many windows, and possibly lick some of them. I've done it before. More than once. I do love browsing the windows of Paris. You never know what you'll find. They have everything from Hello Kitty and Kiss, to Tintin.

And there are always so many astounding shoes. Even if you have no desire whatsoever to buy any of them. They are fascinating. 

Poodle shoes on the Champs Elysee

Yes I think that says 1895

Dior at Le Bon Marche

Coral snakes on the Rue de Rivoli

Sadly Mr Wicker did not come home with these
1000 euro Mocassins Plume from Roberto Cavalli

or this snazzy suit
also by Roberto Cavalli

And if you ever need a mask for a masquerade ball, then Paris is the place to go.

Or if you want to pimp it up a bit. 

I can't wait. 

Dreaming of France is a wonderful Monday meme
from Paulita at An Accidental Blog 
Saturday Snapshot is a wonderful weekly meme
 now hosted by 

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Gone Girl

I didn't read the book, even though everyone else in the world seemed to. And so I didn't know all that much about the film, but I was still very keen to head along to see Gone Girl at the movies on the weekend. All I really knew was that it was about a wife that disappeared. I'm glad that I didn't know more than that really, and I will avoid any major spoilers here.

Amy (Rosamund Pike) and Nick Dunn (Ben Affleck) have been married for 5 years, until Amy goes missing on the morning of their 5th wedding anniversary. Naturally, the people closest to her come under suspicion and scrutiny, most of which falls on Nick. An exploration of love, marriage, personality and trial by media- Gone Girl is not one for the kiddies.

There are many clever plot twists, lots of interesting, if possibly objectionable, characters and for most of Gone Girl I was quite enjoying the ride. But then something happens near the end, that just spoilt it for me. I thought it was handled particularly badly in the movie- way OTT, and it never got me back after that. Indeed it got more silly and preposterous. Which is a shame. 80-90% of the movie was great.

Gone Girl has provoked a lot of online discussion about the portrayal of women, and whether indeed it is feminist or misognyist. It's an interesting discussion, but I'm not sure that I see it as either. The behaviours portrayed in the film are rather specific at times, and certainly not generisable. But don't take my word for it go see it yourself. You'll have an opinion, that's for sure.