With all the emotions surrounding the Notre Dame fire, it’s been hard to sit down to write another blog post. But, life does go on. I’m going to attempt in this blog post to bring you up to speed on the last several days, to in effect, clean the slate and start fresh.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, Priscilla and I have been getting to know different neighborhoods in Paris. One that we visited late last week was the Canal Saint-Martin area. At one point, this part of Paris was a bit down and out, but slowly it has been getting gentrified, or as the French call it, embourgeoisement. We started with lunch at Mems, a wonderful bistro at 1, rue de Marseille. Then we stepped across the street and picked up a baguette and pain chocolat at the famous boulangerie, du Pain et des Idées. Next up was the fabulous art, design, and photography store, Artazart shown in the photograph above. This store has a fabulous selection of books and prints. I picked up a photography book of Saul Leider’s early color work.
After leaving Artazart, we got to watch the swing bridge and locks in operation at Pont Louis Philippe. The first time I saw them put the gates down to start the swing bridge opening up the canal, some jaunty fellow decided that he didn’t need to heed the barrier, so he just strode his way across that bridge, with the operators cursing him up one side and down the other in French over the loudspeaker. He didn’t give a rip, he was going across that bridge. While an unwitting tourist got caught on the wrong side of the barrier the next time around, the drama was less charged. She managed to get herself on the right side of the barrier with a little coaching and encouragement from the crowd, and no cursing from the operators.
Sunday we attended the Palm Sunday service at the beautiful Saint-Sulpice church. The one-hour and forty-five minute service, with over one hour of that standing, tested the calves of these died-in-the-wool Presbyterians. The service began outside, with congregants holding and waving boxwood tree boughs rather than palm branches. The service at Saint-Sulpice was a bit more high church than we prefer. I was surprised at the light crowd that Sunday. Contrasting with that, tonight we attended a wonderful Maundy Thursday service at the church of Saint-Gervais & Saint-Protais, which is right in our neighborhood. This church has the oldest organ in Paris, which was played by members of the famous Couperin family for generations. The church was packed. It was basically standing room only. I don’t know if that was because this service followed the Notre Dame fire, or if that’s just the way things are at this church. The service was more in the monastic tradition, more like a Taizé service. In fact, we actually got to sing the Ubi Caritas that we’ve learned in our Westminster Taizé services. That was comforting. This congregation knows how to sing. It was all hauntingly beautiful. Being Protestants, there is much of the ritual at Catholic masses that we do not understand, especially when conducted in a language foreign to us, but the washing of hands is universally understood and appreciated. We were surprised to run into a new friend there, Eileen, the American we met at Miss Lunch whom I wrote of a couple posts ago.
Sunday night was the infamous weekly dinner at the atelier of the American expat, Jim Haynes. Priscilla had read of Jim’s dinners in a book on Paris, and once we learned of them, we knew we just had to go. Jim’s dinners have been going on for over forty years and they attract all manner of people. We met folks from Portland, San Francisco, Berlin, and London. While the quarters were cramped, we managed to find a corner in which to sit and eat our dinners and converse. Some of the guests are in Paris for a short time, and others are long-term expats. Sorry, but I don’t have any photos from this dinner.
Monday afternoon had us getting in another neighborhood walk from the “Paris in Stride” book. This time is was Montmartre. I’m going to make this really short. The last time we tried to visit Montmartre and Sacre Coeur in 2011, Priscilla got pickpocketed, so we never made it, since we spent most of that day in a police station. This time no one got pickpocketed, so that’s the good news. The bad news is that Montmartre is a mess of tourists. We’ve done it. We don’t need to do it again. We did have a terrific lunch at Soul Kitchen though. If it were located anywhere but Montmartre, we’d go back in a heartbeat.
I’m going to close off this blog post now, even though I’m not completely caught up. I’ll pick up next time with our visits to the Picasso Museum today and the Henri Cartier-Bresson photography museum tomorrow. So far our visits to photography galleries have come up a cropper, so I’m counting on Henri Cartier-Bresson to pull through for us.