Paris in February: Busy, one way or another.

Well.. when we signed off on our last blog (before the Top 10 Restaurants) we said we had found a new engine to solve our under-power issue: A Yanma (the same engine but with 15hp more and turbo charged) which would provide around 20% more power.

Roller bladers go roaring above us at street level .. many hundreds glide off together.

This seemed the most practical solution to our problems – more was better but we couldn’t find such an engine that would fit into our available space.  We thought we had placed the order for this new engine.. and it’s hard for any of us to believe (I’m sure), especially in the current difficult economic climate, but Barrus refused to supply us. “What?” We asked ourselves. They explained that, in their opinion, it would not solve the problem we had with insufficient engine power. We needed far more horse-power. So back to the drawing board for Stewart .. more on that later. But what an interesting company, that in the current economic climate (not exactly rosy in the UK) they said no to our order.

We have no satellite reception in our corner of the Arsenal marina (we and perhaps one other boat beside us) therefore we watch almost no TV.

Endellion tucked into the corner of the marina by the lock onto the River Seine, no satellite reception here.

We can receive free to air French only channels, via our small aerial, which is good in terms of assisting with French studies  – we have our favourite TV programs, mostly on the Arte channel – but virtually none of it can be understood!  So we have a good excuse to occasionally head for the cinema to watch an English Language (original) movie. We don’t need reminding that France was the birthplace of the cinema (eg, Auguste and Louis Lumière’s invention of the cinematographe in 1895)  .. we just have to walk around our little area of the Bastille and we pass at least seven cinemas .. all small, but sadly none are accessible with our wheelchair. Having entered four or so of these and to be told ‘non’ .. it was a great relief when UGC in Rue de Lyon said “non .. but go to Bercy Village”.. and so we did.

Bercy Village where there are no cars, very nice.

It’s about 20 minutes for us to walk along the banks of the river Seine (heading upstream) although there is a bus for return in the dark. In the ‘village’ there are many smart shops and ‘cheap eateries’, no cars and a huge modern cinema complex, totally accessible. So we’ve enjoyed seeing J Edgar, The Artist (which we loved, Oscars well deserved) and War Horse. That should keep us going for a while!

We also visited a Paul Cezanne exhibition showing 80 of his intriguing works covering his early years experimenting with textures and colours through to his last paintings where he is quoted as saying

Cezanne's 'Bread and Eggs', wonderful contrasts of colours and shapes.

Another Cezanne, the texture on the tree from his many layers of paint make it so alive, something that could never be seen in a photo of the real work.

“It took me 40 years to find out that painting is not sculpture” .. we can almost understand what he means from some of his paintings that are so layered with paint they look multidimensional. We find these smaller exhibitions are perfect for us otherwise we get close to saturation (for our eyes and minds!) or have to give up looking and save the rest for later! A delight, a bonus, was the venue which was in the Orangery of the wonderful Luxembourg Palace, which happens to be the seat of the French Senate. A short stroll through the immaculate gardens (even at the end of winter) on a sunny morning reminded us spring isn’t far away.

Just above us at the marina is a museum named the Pavillon de l’Arsenal which we found last year and when we visited it again recently a huge section of the floor (37 square meters) was take up by what looked like the biggest computer screen ever.

The 'Google Earth' screen on the floor of Pavillon de l'Arsenal museum. Photo from their website.

In fact it was 48 screens (the classic 6 x 8) linked together to make the one screen, using Google Earth and some very sophisticated software to allow visitors to zoom in or out throughout Paris. This screen is part of the ‘Paris, a city in the making’exhibition and highlights “key areas marked out for redevelopment, the new transport networks and the iconic architecture of the city of tomorrow in their geographical context”. Great fun!

The amazing 'triangle building' in planning for the Porte de Versailles. (Photo from their website).

And extremely interesting – they have many stunning buildings in development, one will be at the Porte de Versailles (see below, home of the Agriculture Show) which will be triangular.

Last week we revisited (see our blog of 2011) the Salon de l’Agriculture..

Taking a break, me and my mate (says this man), at the Agricultural Show.

the annual show which we say makes the Royal Easter/Cornwall Shows seem very small! Although, what they call the Grand Ring is in fact very small compared with both of ‘our’ shows. When we stopped there to watch one of the events we were slightly amused to see a form of dressage being beautifully performed by two riders, the woman was wearing a long red skirt that flowed right over the horses derriere.

Executing a Half-pass (perhaps) for the dressage performance in the Grand Ring of the Agricultural Show.

They were riding a traditional breed of working horse (maybe a Belgium draft horse) that was definitely not breed for dressage, they took short stocky steps (not strides) but they were enjoying themselves (the horses).. better than pulling a plough they seemed to smirk. I had to tug Stewart away in the end (joking), a bit like when we passed a stall selling ‘Lobster Claw’ flowers which our young friends Jason and Allison are looking at buying into (a farm) ..

Stewart points to the exotic 'lobster claw' flowers at the Agricultural Show - he's seeking out sales opportunities for our friends.

Stewart’s obsessed with researching the opportunities of this business on their behalf! It was yet another great day out. If you visit Paris when it’s on, at the Porte de Versailles annually in February, do NOT miss this show.

Meanwhile .. between gigs so to speak .. we have had very good excuses to share some of our favourite eating places (see our Top 10). First of our February ‘excuses’ was Jackie and Marcus visiting from Australia.

Marcus, Stewart, Lesley and Jackie at the restaurant 'Un Jour Un Chef'.

Jackie worked for Stewart more than a decade ago and they hadn’t seen each other since. Marcus, who we met for the first time, is a film editor of great note. It’s such a delight to hear about Jackie’s life in 2012, with a complete career turnaround, she now has a degree in environmental agriculture and has worked for organisations such as LandCare.  So Jackie went from being a high-powered, graphic design and animation producer (account director) at Garner MacLennan Design to advising groups on planning for, and repairing, damaged agricultural landscapes. We lunched at Un Jour Un Chef, one of our new favourites (see our Top 10), and we’re happy to say they loved it too.

All the Lesleys on the left and all the lads (John, Graham and Stewart) eating Lapin on the right! At le Gorille Blanc.

Next we were joined, for our almost annual get-together, by Graham and Lesley from London for the ‘Legends of Lesley’s’ lunch (amongst other things). This year we had lunch at the Gorille Blanc and as well as the alliteration of Lesley and Legend .. all three men chose Lapin (rabbit).. thankfully it was absolutely delicious they confirmed.

But we have to say the highlight, from the point of view of restaurant and gourmet experiences, came when our friends Robert and Nicole invited us to lunch at their apartment. We first met Robert and Nicole when by happy-stance (we mean happy) they had the table next to us for New Year’s Eve 2010/11. We were introduced by my sister Tammy who speaks French fluently and teaches it at her school in Wadebridge (Cornwall). When we learned they live close by I said “Why not come and have coffee with us?”, and my sister translated for me.

Nicole and Robert with Stewart at our very special lunch .. a grand feast as you can see from the table.

We have been friends ever since although there is quite a story there as we speak very little French and they can speak about the same amount of English! This does not deter any of us .. we manage with the great ‘Franglais’ and several dictionaries between us. I don’t know how to describe this wonderful lunch, as always it is the company first. Robert and Nicole provided especially for us the perfect selection of wines (and there was one for each course) each served in it’s own special glass, glorious fresh Britanny oysters and my very favourite Monkfish. Then fresh fruit and home-made icecream .. and followed, eventually, by the best expresso coffee we’ve had anywhere. We really are a very spoilt couple!

We tune in regularly to Australia of course and since Christmas and New Year we could hardly believe that week after week it was unusually cold in the ACT and NSW, and then last week or so there have been horrendous floods. Then again.. for the first part of February here in Paris,  after an unusually mild Christmas and New Year, temperatures plummeted. It was below freezing day and night for almost two weeks and of course our oil-fired heater (heating radiators throughout the boat and hot water), a Hurricane, stopped working, again. We also had frozen pipes throughout the harbour for almost 10 days which meant no fresh water to the boats. We still don’t have a functioning heater or hot water but we have a rescue plan in place ..

Our new gas bottle portable heater .. bigger than the boot of Jonney and Felicity's car (they say)!

brother Jonney and wife Felicity join us later today and they’re bringing with them a mighty big, portable gas heater! So wish us all the best of luck in carting it from Cornwall .. and getting it to solve our lack of warmth problem.

Can you believe the supplier (another odd lot from the UK) wouldn’t sell it to us with a French address .. it could only go to the UK.

We headed this blog ‘busy’ .. because beside the luxury of being able to enjoy time together and with friends and family, more or less on ‘holiday’, we are also very busy .. Stewart’s latest follows:

I’m lucky enough to be on the fund allocation sub-committee at Australia’s Foundation Five Million; all people with MS, and their families and friends who’ve raised more than $5 million to research the MS cure. 

Foundation Five Million

Last week in a global Skype hook-up, we decided to allocate almost a million of these dollars to some very exciting projects, including world-first research into how levels of Vitamin D may play a role in contracting MS. It’s all very complicated, but if MS  was simple, they would have found the cure years ago.

2012 is the 70th anniversary year of the fall of Singapore to the Japanese army in WW2. 

Colour patch of the 2nd 18th Battalion, AIF.

My father fought in the Second 18th Battalion and was one of many in the 8th Division sent as a  POW to work in Japanese mills and mines. I’ve found a way to have a brilliant New England University Honours History thesis  ‘Without Glamour’ printed and bound so the members of the Battalions Association can learn more of its beginnings and the fierce fighting it was involved in on the Malay Peninsula before commanding officer Lieutenant General Arthur Percival decided to surrender.

Talking of fights, my latest is with the Federal Government over its GST legislation and the way it taxes people with disabilities through the GST. At present, the greater one’s disability, the more equipment, bits and pieces and house altering, etc, etc, we have to buy – most of it taxed at 10%. So we are driving a campaign which we call ‘No Tax on Disabilities’ (NoToD).

So as Lesley’s been saying, along with enjoying our travels so much and working together on thing’s like the #$%$# heater and the new engine, there are other challenges on the other side of the world which have demanded attention too!

Signing off, we wish our family and friends all the very best .. won’t be long and we’ll be over there in Australia for a few months to catch up (April 2012).

Lesley and Stewart

About Lesley and Stewart

Loving great waterways of the world.
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2 Responses to Paris in February: Busy, one way or another.

  1. Chris Stride says:

    Stewart & Leslie. Regularly tune in to your blog. Great read! Just wanted to warn you about the gas stove…we have exactly the same model (it is beside me as I write this from our winter home in St Gervais). It is a fantastic stove but unsuited for boats because the gas canister is inside the stove, therefore any leak will flow into the boat and, ultimately, into the bilges. This is why storage lockers for gas canisters on boats are totally sealed off from the rest of the boat and ventilate outside only. With houses, or caravans even, the gas can seep away safely…not in a boat. Sadly this stove is potentially very dangerous on board. The same company do make an electric version (it’s a square shape rather than cylindrical) which we have on our boat. If you are interested I can send you a photograph. I am sorry if i am bringing you bad news but I thought I should alert you. all the best. Chris Stride

    • Lesley says:

      Many thanks Chris .. this is important information. I hadn’t realised just what a problem it could be inside. We were also planning on using it on our stern deck where it is ‘outside’ but under canvas shelter. Looks like this is the very best place for it and not inside at all. Our challenge was a failing diesel-fired heater (Hurricane) and too much drain on electricity. We have two small convection heaters so we don’t need another electric one .. but certainly we will now adjust our plan for the gas one!
      Thank you also for your kind words about our blog. All the very best. Lesley and Stewart

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