Archive for April, 2014

Amie du Louvre

Posted in La France, Paris at 18:32

Fontaine de Diane

This morning I woke up to the sound of rain. “A museum day,” I yawned while preparing breakfast. Once the fruit and gluten-free apricot bread had woken me up, reality hit: I’m in Paris. I can go to the Louvre. But wait… not only can I go to the Louvre, I could get a membership!

As an adolescent, when I first began learning French in middle school, our teacher regaled us with stories of her time in France, and showed us newspaper clippings from Le Monde. One was about the then-controversial construction of Le Pyramide du Louvre, finished during my second year of French studies. Our teacher told us how unimaginably vast the Louvre was; how full of amazing works of art; and how, if you were very lucky and stayed in Paris long enough, you could get membership in the museum, and visit whenever you wanted.

Amis du Louvre

Twenty-five years later, I did just that. The card is somewhat expensive; you would need to visit the Louvre more than six times for the card to be worth the investment. Difficult to do on holiday, but easy when you live in the city and can visit on weekday evenings: the Louvre is open until 10pm on Wednesdays and Fridays.

I remembered how massive the museum is from my last lengthy visit in 1998, which was also the first time in my life I had set foot in the Louvre. So I wasn’t too surprised when, after two hours browsing just one floor of one wing (Richelieu) of French sculptures, I had reached “peak artwork” and wanted to go home. With the card, the decision was easy – I knew I could come back at any time, and take in the Louvre at my own pace. My life feels very charmed indeed.

Parisian street finds

Posted in La France, Paris at 17:38

Kanoko on chair

Slowly but surely, I’m settling into life in Parisian suburbia. My rental apartment came furnished, but street finds have added to its décor these past couple of weeks. The first was a simple wood end table that became a cat tree, then I found two plastic croquet balls that are perfect cat toys. This week I crossed a pile of clothes, shoes, old purses, and broken shelves. I nearly kept walking, but took a second look – beneath four cushions peeked out the tell-tale taper of midcentury modern furniture legs. I took off the cushions, and lo and behold, there was a perfect little chair.

Midcentury chair

I took three of the four cushions (the fourth was in terrible shape) along with it, and now they too have become a feline favorite.

As for other “street finds”, I’ve mainly been visiting Paris on foot so far. A couple trips to Montmartre for its cobblestone streets and amazing fabric shops, and a neat walk from La Grande Arche de La Défense, which is a few yards from our offices, to the Arc de Triomphe. It takes about an hour, and you get to go from the postmodern skyscrapers, cross the Seine, and walk through the posh suburb of Neuilly to reach the neoclassic Arc. There’s a large métro station there from which you can get anywhere else. Hopefully the weather will cooperate tomorrow (Sunday) and I’ll finally be able to spend a bit longer on foot in the City of Light.

Paris-Nice by TGV

Posted in La France, Travel at 12:32

Ever since learning about the TGV as a child, I dreamt of one day taking it. When I finally rode the Paris Gare de Lyon – Lyon Part-Dieu two-hour stretch as a newly-arrived exchange student in 1997, I was giddy. It was the end of August, early in the morning, and the French countryside was covered in shades of green, grazing cows, and houses whose walls and roofs changed as we moved a kilometer every twelve seconds (300km/h) from cooler northern France to its central region.

Since then, I had only ever taken the TGV once in a while. I promised myself that if I ever had a job that sent me away from home, I would take the train – not just because it’s cheaper and more convenient, but because the sight of France from its windows was so breathtaking.

On a flight from Nice to Paris, you get a lovely view of the Mediterranean Alps, and when flying over Switzerland, an enviable sight of some of the tallest mountains in the world from the air. Once you’ve seen them a couple times, however, that’s about it. You’re too high up to benefit from much detail.

Yesterday I took my third morning rail trip from Paris to Nice. I’ve been accustomed to taking in scenery on my bus commutes between Nice and Sophia Antipolis; this third time by TGV suddenly made me aware of another reality. I’ll be seeing France as she changes seasons! In just one month, from early March to early April, she has gone from grey and muted greens with bare deciduous trees and huddled cows to relishing in the returning sun. Bare-earth fields have now become resplendent in yellow canola robes. Hibernating vineyard stumps have begun pushing out their first leaf buds. Countryside roads are graced with cyclists in short-sleeved jerseys wearing smiles on their spring faces. Such a happy metamorphosis to witness.