It’s now two weeks and a bit since we arrived at the Arsenal Marina which is between Place de la Bastille and the River Seine, in Paris. We are in 4th arrondissement (district) bordering 11th, 12th and 3rd .. for those familiar with Paris .. also known as the Quarter Marais and Bastille. It’s brilliantly central. One of the things that is very clear from my brief past experience here is that the Bastille is a centre of ‘manifestation’ (as they say in France) or political demonstration as we would say (more on this subject in the Manifestation blog). It is totally at the centre of everything that is of great interest to the two of us in France. Here are some of the things we loved most, to date.
Touring the Bastille Markets together – one of the biggest and best in Paris, it has small and large stalls covering several blocks along Boulevard Richard Lenoir just up from our mooring. We loved the very brown fresh eggs of all sizes and no doubt of high quality – reminiscent of our Pope family farm market stalls in Australia. It was crowded but we could get the wheelchair (power chair) through most of the narrow isles .. it was only tricky around the roots of trees which have wrought iron covers around them. And only dangerous when fellow market browsers weren’t looking where they were walking and almost ended up with Stewart carrying them on his lap.
Strolling through the amazing Brocante (Antiques and Bric-a-Brac) fair – it has over 350 stalls from bizarre cactus lamps to the biggest display of chandeliers (with all sorts of spare parts) we’d ever seen.
There were wonderful displays of antique sports equipment (boxing, golf, racquets), china upon china, oddball items like Christmas decorations from the 30s (well, it won’t be long now). These stalls run around our marina using the same facilities as the Contemporary Art Fair which ran the week before. They will be here for more than two weeks so we will be visiting again soon. If you would like to see some great photos of items from these stalls this blog is worthwhile.
Visiting the Victor Hugo museum – at the place des Vosges. “The Place des Vosges, the oldest square in Paris is one of the most beautiful squares in the world.” We agree with this website statement (and it’s their photo we have used). We wanted to visit somewhere not far from the boat as it was definitely going to rain, in between showers. Within ten minutes walk/scoot we found it to be far more perfect than we could have imagined. It is a huge square with a park in the centre and all around there are cloisters and galleries underneath the buildings providing perfect shelter from the rain, with a beautiful walk and fascinating artworks to browse, also for sale. One of the buildings houses the Victor Hugo museum which was where the author lived between 1832 and 1848. We spent more than an hour there soaking up the writer’s life (most well known would be The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Miserables most of which he wrote at this house) and seeing the slightly gaudy interior decor, much of it designed by Monsieur Hugo – for its time it would have been stunning. It reminded me of William Morris wallpaper and interiors, with walls matching ceilings in stunning, often dark colours and paisley patterns. The history of this square goes back to 1604 – officially inaugurated in 1612 as the ‘Place Royale’. At that time apparently there was only a lawn at the centre, a favourite place for duels! In 1800 Napoleon changed the name of the square from ‘Place Royale’ to ‘Place des Vosges’ to show his gratitude towards the Vosges department, the first department in France to pay taxes.
Visiting the Centre Pompidou – on levels 4 and 5 is the National Museum of Modern Art which is so huge that we spent a few hours there and were so overloaded with brilliant artwork and the history of the artists and their many styles (Expressionism, Cubism, and it goes on and on) from 1900 that we didn’t get further than the middle of the 1900s and will go back for more.
Of course it’s almost more famous for the building itself with the plumbing, escalators and air vents forming part of the external fabric of the building. One of the architects was Renzo Piano who also designed Aurora Place in Sydney. Stewart met Renzo Piano when his company (GMD) created the 3D model and video to promote this fantastic building (we’re talking many years ago now).
Socially we’ve had several excellent gatherings .. one with Carolyn and Stefan from their boat Jackospades and our joint need to find a supply of diesel, given the strikes here had limited its availability. The discussion and solution (they took Jackospades up river to a fuel barge, and we can wait until next week for the fuel barge delivery) led to an exchange of invitations to ‘have a drink’ together. It turned out to be quite a night as after our ‘quiet little drink’ onboard Endellion we all joined the monthly BBQ right next to us at the marina.
This led to our second excellent gathering via the BBQ.. Stewart found that John and Lesley, our closest neighbours who fly the Australian flag, have huge connections. Lesley taught at Canberra Grammar, Stewart’s old school (well after he left of course) and John at the Canberra School of music. They lived in Canberra for many years and naturally they recalled several people who Stewart remembered well. It’s a rare experience for Lesley and for me to have someone with the same name, our heads spin when in conversation someone wants attention from ‘Lesley’.
As mentioned in our last blog.. we also wanted to catch up with Jo and Daniel, our Milsons Passage friends. They came to Endellion along with Daniel’s sister and brother-in-law for lunch of baguette, cheese and wine .. their wine. As well as wine from their locality (excellent) they brought a huge bag of apples from their garden, about 5 kilograms of them. We’ve been munching and I’ve been cooking apples for the freezer with great delight.
So our social life is well-balanced with old and new friends joining us onboard and the occasional lunch at a nearby restaurant.. we have no TV (the satellites are behind the wall where our dish has to look) but we are thoroughly enjoying the DVD of the BBC TV series ‘The Impressionists’ and we’ve both been lapping up this theme (Impressionism) for the past month and more .. Stewart reading the e-book ‘Secret Lives of the Impressionists’ which I’m hoping to read next.
All of the accessible public galleries and museums (those mentioned above and many more) do not charge an entry fee for wheelchair users or their companion .. what a treat for us! We can use most of the many buses from bus stops within a ten-minute potter of our mooring as they have the excellent automated ramp which pops out of the middle section of the bus. So we’re well set for heaps of cultural indulgence over coming months.. weather permitting.
We’ll sign off here .. and wish everyone health and happiness. We’ll be in touch again soon. Read the next blog if you’re interested in the art of manifesting here in Paris.
Bon journee ..
Lesley and Stewart