29 October 2011

Au revoir Paris

It's nearly three weeks since I arrived in France and suddenly - tout d'un coup - my stay is almost over. Seems like it was only yesterday that I was agonising over what to pack, what to do, where to go and just how much I could pack in. I feel like I've only just started to tick off the things on my "to do" list. Not even a dent, really.

Going to french school for an intensive exam preparation has been one of the most challenging things I've ever done while notionally on "holidays". Yesterday, my personal tutor Marie-Neige (who has drilled me in my exam preparation) suggested that next time I come to Paris (there is absolutely no consideration that I might only do this once!) I should just take lessons in the morning and "profite" from more interaction on the street each afternoon. She does have a point.

Alors, with that in mind, I decided to profite bien during my second to last afternoon today. Finishing school at just after mid-day, I decided to visit the Catacombes on the other side of the city from where I'm staying. Imagine my surprise when I got there after 30+ minutes of travel only to find a queue that was conservatively 200 or more people long. In October! The capacity of the site is 200 people (approx) at a time, and the average visit duration is 45 minutes.

Rather than waste an hour of my precious time, I headed over to the Musée Marmottan Monet in the 16th arrondissement. Now this one is a little gem. There was a small queue of less than 15 minutes and toute de suite I was in to the holy grail of impressionism and neo-impressionism. The Musée Marmottan has one of the most extensive collections of paintings by Monet, including the original painting Impression: Soleil Levant that gave rise to the name of the Impressionist movement.

There was also a brilliant temporary exhibition of paintings by Henri Edmond Cross and the neo-impressionist period from Seurat to Matisse. I've never been a huge Matisse fan, but I did like what they had on display here (so perhaps I like his earlier works?)

And to top off my Paris experiences today, I found myself coming home in the most packed metro carriage I've ever been in, barely room to breathe, never mind room to get in or out at your station. Although it's not exactly peak tourist season at the moment, there have been school holidays this week, so perhaps that's creating a bulge in visitor numbers.

As I write this, I'm sitting in my apartment, looking up to the dome of the Basilique Sacré-Coeur with the noise from Place dés Abbesses, its carousel, buskers and people buzzing around, washing through my open windows. Bells are also ringing out from the Église St Jean just a few doors down the road. The boulangers (bakers) must be the hardest working people in Paris. They open early, finish late and most of them seem to keep trading throughout the day, unlike most of the other shops that start a bit later and finish around 6-7 pm.

It's still daylight savings here, but that finishes this weekend. I suspect that late starts are a typical Gallic shrug to authority - OK you can have your daylight savings, but we'll start later and finish as we want.

The weather has been close to perfect: not hot, crisp nights - but nothing like winter in Canberra - and only 1 or 2 rainy days.

As I reflect on the last couple of weeks, I think my daily peregrinations to and from school probably say it all: I wake up and say good morning to Sacré-Coeur and the Eiffel Tower, then I wander down Rue Dés Abbesses and glance at the locals getting started on their petit dejuener complet in the myriad of cafes (and the occasional treat of a group of pompiers - firemen - out for a morning run). I turn left at Rue Lépic as the fish, cheese and fruit shops are sluicing down the pavements ready for a new day, say "hi" to Amélie's cafe - Le Café de Deux Moulins - just before I reach Place Blanche. 

Crossing over I pick up my free daily newspapers outside the metro entrance (usually two or three to choose from - sort of a digested version of the main broadsheet newspapers) and then a take-away coffee from the local Starbucks. Oh I can hear the cries from here - you can't have Starbucks coffee in Paris!! Well I can, because it's the only place between my apartment and my school that does takeaways, and they do a pretty good job. Remember Paris is not exactly known for great coffee, and this works for me, so let it go!!

As I turn down Rue de Bruxelles I glance to the right and say bon jour to the Moulin Rouge, then head down Rue de Vintimille and finally Rue Ballu where my school is.

So now, after two incredibly short but intense weeks, it's time to say au revoir to my lovely mini-group of three (the others being Jean (Swiss) and Yuka (Japanese) and our gorgeous "prof" Isabelle. Au revoir to all of the team at ELFE - you're the best!

And au revoir to Paris - you are a bewitching, seductive city and I will return. So perhaps instead of au revoir - I should instead simply say à bientôt or à la prochaine! See you next year, hopefully.


  1. interesting blog. It would be great if you can provide more details about it. Thanks you

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  2. Love the blog Sue. You must definately sign off as 'see you next year.' You can never say goodbye to Paris.