We’ve had a few unscheduled events since the last blog which was written soon after arriving in Paris for our winter mooring.
The primary unscheduled event was Stewart’s health which took a bit of turn just before our trip to Cornwall for Christmas. The good news is that he’s now back to good health. The bad news of course was that we had to postpone our visit to Cornwall.. but that’s all sorted as we set off in our hire van tomorrow, Friday 18th January.
To spend Christmas (again) in Paris was a delight, having recovered from the shock of not being in Cornwall and once Stewart’s health had started to improve. It was just the two of us for the big feast (25th December), very different to the imagined Cornish family gathering. This year we’d found a good ‘bird’ at the local Place d’Aligre markets where there is a fabulous ‘Vollailles’ (poultry) merchant. The displays of all poultry were literally dressed to dazzle, some with blue ‘trousers’ and their plucked tail feathers protruding from nether regions! They were spectacular. We chose a Poularde. This is a female equivalent of a Capon we learned later at this website: (http://www.foodme.fr/pages/lg/en?PHPSESSID=a151b384d528fe7c5676315d97935a58). Delicious although there was sadness it wasn’t the Cornish turkey we were eating surrounded by the Hawkey family.
In the past two months back in Paris we have revisited many of our favourite haunts, like the Cafe de l’Industrie, the markets at Place d’Aligre, walking up and down Rue St Antoine and along the Seine to Notre Dame across the Ile St Louis.
We also had a fabulous night at the nearby Cafe de la Danse where Martha Wainwright more than entertained us .. a brilliant night.
A few further observations we’ve made since last year in Paris …
Intelligent Bus Shelters
At the end of last winter (March 2012 in fact) we noticed a new bus shelter at Place de la Bastille. In Paris most bus stops have an electronic digital display showing the next bus arrival time (eg, No. 20/2 minutes), but this shelter had been ultra-modernised.
It included a similar digital display but now viewable from both sides of the stop, ie, if you were standing outside the shelter you could still see the bus arrival times.
Plus, it had a fantastic massive computer screen, the size of a billboard, and an inviting ‘Touch Me’ icon which of course Stewart proceeded to touch and found an Internet connection relating to all facilities of the area.
But just as we thought this was impressive we found an even better set-up at Gare de Lyon which is our nearest train station, at less than a kilometre away. This bus shelter can be entered from many sides, better seating has been provided and it has a huge glass roof which illuminates at night and filters out sunlight during the day. It has free WiFi connection (the same as at Bastille) and the ability to charge a mobile phone.
Although to us the shelter’s most interesting aspect is the mix of high and low tech. For example it includes a printed book loan library, ledges on which to place bags and a courtesy mirror! Then again, sound is not broadcast via speakers, but through the glass walls which limit sound to the bus stop area! The whole space is wheelchair friendly and redefines how a bus shelter of the future could and should be.
You can read all about this ‘international’ scheme here: http://www.transportspublics-expo.com/sites/default/files/files/Press_Kit_EBSF(2).pdf.
AutoLib electric cars
We’ve also noticed the growing number of electric cars parked in specially designated places with charging towers beside each. These are the AutoLib cars and work very much like the Velib bicycle system (written about here in our blog). The Velib is a system where you unhitch a bicycle from your chosen location and ride it to another Velib station where you lock it back into place and if within less than 30 minutes you pay nothing.
The stations are roughly every 300 meters and there are more than 20,000 bikes on call. These Velib-type stations we now see in cities in Australia and Britain.
We first noticed the car version, the ‘AutoLib’, more than a year ago where we spotted a brand new structure at the Place de la Bastille and now we see these little stations all over the city. Wikipedia tells us that since October 2012, the service has 37,000 registered subscribers. There was a fleet of 1,782 cars registered at June 2012, with 1,120 citywide parking and charging stations.
We find it all very interesting and a positive move given the benefits to the environment and to the problem of major congestion on the roads of the inner city. Is this happening in other cities too, we wonder?
Sanisette: electronically controlled public toilets!
We’ve been observing these modern street-side electrically controlled cubicles for the past few years. They seem to be growing in number and recently we (well Stewart) tried one out .. but not for real, just for a close inspection.
In the words of a website I found giving more details, this is also what Stewart discovered:
Clean, ecologically efficient and amusing
Stewart stepped into what felt like another sci-fi scenario (like the cars and bus shelters). On entering an electronic voice (with an English translation written on a panel outside) announced that the doors would be automatically shutting and locking. Everything seemed to happen automatically including flushing of the toilet which then started it’s ‘self-cleaning’.
“There are around 400 of these public toilets in Paris which are heated in the winter and use electricity drawn from renewable energy sources, including wind and solar power. They’re equipped with motion sensors, so they don’t use unnecessary energy.”
And Stewart suggests they are almost accessible: His recommendation would be to make the circumference of the toilet bowl larger and the grab rails longer and in slightly better positions. Otherwise they had the thumbs up! If you want to know more we can recommend this Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanisette and the official Paris website (Mayor of Paris) which lists all of the excellent FREE Sanisettes Toilets in Paris.
Recently we have discovered a few new favourites..
This is a charming cafe-style venue which has live, mostly jazz, performances every Tuesday night. One of the star performers, Linda Lee, we found out when she came to chat with us, was an American born gospel singer as well as jazz performer.
She explained how Le Tabarin was heavily themed around Josephine Baker who spent much of her performing life in Paris.
We were charmed by the ceiling full of colourful images of that era and the graphic Josephine Baker symbol of the venue, all legs and arms.
Heading off for the Museum Pinacoteque at Place de Madeline, a slightly new area for us, Stewart spotted from the window of our bus (no. 29) as we passed by just before Gare St Lazare the bustling Brasserie Le Triadou Haussmann. We found out that the bustling was for good reason: It is extremely popular, ultra-efficient and still waiters are warm and welcoming. When we arrived the first time we had to wait perhaps twenty minutes, standing and in Stewart’s case sitting, in the passage where frantically busy waiters whizzed past us carefully avoiding the rear caster wheels of Stewart’s chair which project way out behind. Quite often we find various people kick these wheels as they pass and say nothing (no apology) but here they seemed to see them, didn’t trip and didn’t have to apologise for bumping the chair! This is a considerate group of people.
We had a delicious lunch, wonderful atmosphere and have since been back with the same excellent experience. There seem to be many such Brasseries in Paris with the classic tables on pavement, tiny eating spaces for everyone, excellent lighting helped along with great placement of mirrors, and this one we can recommend. Amazingly it is apparently open 24×7.
A La Biche au Bois
Another delight, this restaurant is an easy stroll from our mooring at the Port de l’Arsenal at 45 Avenue Ledru-Rollin. It’s a classically tiny Paris restaurant, extremely popular (you have to book ahead) with excellent traditional French Cuisine.
What made it most delightful was the company: Lesley and John (bateau Emanuel) and Josh and Kay (bateau Peridot). Like us they are spending their third winter here in Paris and we love their company .. as you can see from the photo.
What a delight .. we love the established Louvre, d’Orsay and Pompidou but now we will always look out for ‘what’s on at the Pinacoteque’. This is where we went for the Hiroshige (the Art of Travel)/Van Gogh (Dreaming of Japan) exhibition. We saw many stunning Van Gogh paintings we’d never seen before and had never thought of Hiroshige and his influence on the great Impressionist artists.
We knew how much the Impressionists respected and admired Japanese art but in this exhibition we could see the very tangible direct influence Hiroshige had on Van Gogh. And we could see why Van Gogh was so impressed by Hiroshige in particular .. some photos can be found here.
The Hiroshige prints (from his engravings) are all from the Museum Volkenkunde in Leiden in the Netherlands. When we visited Leiden (twice before) we had no idea what treasures were held in this museum! And all of the Van Gogh paintings from this exhibition are from Otterlo also in the Netherlands, which has the second-largest collection of Van Gogh paintings in the world (after the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam). In the book of letters that Vincent wrote to his brother Theo we discovered he’d made more than 50 references to Japan and Japanese art.
Christmas is almost completely packed away now .. from our boat we look out at the forlorn sapin (fir tree) coral where locals throw their no-longer-needed trees for recycling. In the streets around us others bring out their trees and plonk them on the pavement, often in gold-coloured plastic bags. This ‘tradition’ seems to go on well into January.
The story of the Christmas trees, still hanging around, is a bit like our Christmas presents which were all packed up and ready to take to Cornwall for the festive season. Finally they will be packed into the van we are hiring and on Friday and off we go to have a very belated Christmas present party. We’re also going to be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary (again, as it was on 23rd December and would have taken place in Padstow) along with brother Jonney and sister-in-law Felicity who also celebrate 25 years of marriage this year.
We wish our friends and family cool days in Australia (where there are raging fires) and warm ones in Europe (where we have a late cold spell, rarely above zero for the next week and more) and with good weather we wish all the very best for a brilliant 2013.