"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go, it stays with you, for Paris is a movable feast."
Last week we went feasting. Here is our trail of crumbs.
First, the premiere of an original theatrical production. A dear friend of ours is the writer and director of Sweet Ladies, his first opening in Paris. We wended our way through the 11eme arrondissement to the Theatre a l'Epouvantail, a tidy little black box tucked into street with the eyebrow-raising name of rue de la Folie Mericourt. Sweet Ladies, indeed. But this was anything but a "folie" (burlesque comedy in parlance of old). Rather, it was a sobering look into the human condition, dipping the pen of Shakespeare directly into the heart of man, and seeing what came out. Two women, a mother and daughter, grapple with their estranged relationship through the lines of the Great Bard. Simply amazing.
Next, it had always been my intention to visit the former abode of Victor Hugo at 6 Place des Vosges, which is a stone's throw from my workplace. With the ghosts of Esmerelda and Jean Valjean hanging on my shoulder and whispering in my ear, I trooped over during the Journees du Patrimoine (Heritage Days), which earned me free entry. It was an elegant space indeed. And a glorious surprise - I cam across a watercolor that depicted a bell tower in Gentilly, the suburb where we live. Apparently, he used to rent a room out here, which of course was a little village at the time.
As long as I was looking into powerful figures, I decided to hunker down and wait in line at the Palais Royale, which was also giving free tours. This was built for the influential Cardinal Richelieu, and now houses the various members of France's democracy - the Senate and the Judiciary and others. Curiously enough, they have preserved the little prayer-room of a former monarch in this most strict atheistic spaces. Of course, I overheard French people commenting on the tiny oratory - isn't that quaint. I gently suggested to one monsieur that it certainly wouldn't hurt if the Senate members did pray every once in while.
Sunday was our final go at taking advantage of Heritage Days, so we both headed out to Versailles. We eagerly grabbed pastries and coffee and a train, only to arrive to a vast sea of people. You'd think all of Paris has come to recapture the king and queen. Helas. After a disheartening forty minutes in the ticket queue, we finally decided that we'd save the chateau for a quieter day and go off to see La Domaine de Marie-Antoinette - you know, her home away from home away from home away from...
Well you get the idea. We got to wondering - how many beds did this woman have? Well, we all know that her extravagances were solely responsible for the governmental deficit that led to the downfall of monarchy, so what was I supposed to expect? Well, let's just say we underestimated a wee bit. There was Grand Trianon. And the Petit Trianon. And her hobby farm, where Marie-Antoinette and her ladies-in-waiting could cleanse their rich-fat souls and consciences with some good old-fashioned farmwork. Apparently, the cows were also carefully cleaned, before they could be milked by Your Highness.
One last little vignette. After church, we jumped on with a group a friends headed off to the North of Paris near Montmartre where a friend's band was playing. This was chanson francaise at its best - flirtatious and funny and we washed it all down with pate, pain, fromage, and a good glass of Bourgeuil. I mean, really. What else do you need for dinner?
Yes, it is good to be back.