lundi 11 janvier 2010

Les dernières nuits de Paris

Travelling by train always makes you feel you're leaving a place much more intensely than by plane when the landscapes disappear under a layer of cloud. It had been years since I'd last taken the Eurostar from London to Paris, passing by the oast houses of Kent and the breathtaking landscapes of southern England. While other passengers were slumbering, I felt the last rays of sun pouring onto my face until it finally started to set and the sky was cracked with the most intense scarlet. Gazing out of the window, lost in thought, I remember before I lived in France how melancholic the sight of cars on the roads used to make me because all of these people lived in France and I didn't.

When I arrived in Paris, it was already dark and the old, familiar platforms of the Gare du Nord were waiting for me. Being a book lover has it's good points but it also means that you're constantly weighed down by luggage, so you can imagine my case stuffed full of Christmas presents and how heavy it was. After hauling it up and down the steps of the métro and along narrow streets cursing loudly and wishing my hobby was stamp collecting, I finally opened the door to Ju's charming little apartment in Montparnasse, an old artist's studio with enormous windows, caressed by the beams of the Eiffel Tower as soon as darkness falls.

But Paris would still have to wait a little longer until I had returned from Rouen, the home of .....Rose. As the train was pulling out of the Gare St. Lazare early the morning, there was still a half-moon visible in the sky and at the same time, the clearest, most beautiful day was beginning. The windows of the buildings we passed shone with a pinkish, golden light and little by little, the sky became a dazzling mix of gold, cream, grey and blue. The journey was so beautiful, yet I tapped my feet with impatience to reach my destination. Rose was waiting for me at the station, my guide through the winding streets with their half-timbered houses in this wonderful place. The day was bright, but cold, we stopped to warm our hands with a hot chocolate in a café where Simone de Beauvoir used to go when she was a teacher in Rouen.

The garden of the musée Flaubert

Simone's café as mentioned in La force de l'âge

The name 'Rose' makes me think of the ageless beauty in Aragon's Aurélien or the capricious but charming sister of the heroine in Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle but nothing can match the real one. She talks of books like old friends, shares my passion for the works of Boris Vian, makes me want to lose myself in Greek myths and discover the early writings of Raymond Queneau and can show you the most wonderful bookshops where you can buy second hand editions of Tokyo Sanpo at a bagain price. Then there was the most amazing lunch at a Korean restaurant and talk of trips to Italyand Germany, learning Asian languages and of course, books!

The école de beaux arts, located in a former mass grave.

Some of the wonderful, old houses in Rouen

Later on. we climbed higher and higher up the steep slopes above Rouen to reach the cemetary where the the sunlight still warmed us with its rays and the tombstones were covered with the remains of the last snowfall. Cats scuttled in between narrow alleys as we searched for the graves of Flaubert and Duchamp.

The family Duchamp's grave. The inscription reads "In any case, it's always the others who die."

The flowers reminded us of the waterlily in Boris Vian's L'écume des jours"

That same evening, in the charming house high above the city, Rose made us a wonderful fennel gratin and to finish the most beautiful cake with pralines roses. There was also the music of Satie, the voice of Juliette, frequent glasses of delicious wine and my first ever Neufchâtel cheese. I slept in her study, full of books which reminded me how little I've read but which also seemed to watch over me like Rilke's angels. The next morning, I opened the shutters to discover that the deepest layer of snow had transformed everything completely and as we said our farewells at the station, thick flakes were still falling. I wished I could stayed a little longer in her street which seemed so English, where cats curl up beside you and where you can flick endlessly through all the books you've always dreamed of with the distant sound of a piano playing in the background.

Luckily there is also another place where you can find a different study piled high with books, where you arrive to find a magnificent goûter of perfect chocolate and chestnut tartelettes accompanied by a comforting pot of exquisite tea by Mariage Frères. This place is, of course, called Patoumiville, or just Rennes for those who have yet to discover her beautiful blog. As we sat in the lovely, luminous apartment whose walls are covered with pictures of writers, film posters and scenes from Annie Hall and Rohmer films, the only sound was that of the spoon clinking against the beautiful cups and plates as we talked about all the things we have in common. Later that evening, we ventured out into the cold to walk the short distance to the Japanese restaurant where you can order a tartatre du thon which melts in your mouth and to finish, exquisite Daifuku with vanilla ice cream which made me want to consult Julia's blog and make my own soon.

The tartare au thon

Perfect daifuku

The next morning, I awoke to find the most amazing breakfast laid out on the table; white bread from the boulangerie Cozic, a huge jar of chocolate spread sent by Mingou, blackcurrant jam, tome cheese and a large pot of green tea.

To work off some of the calories, we set out to explore Rennes on a crisp and golden morning, wandering through the snowy, deserted park where a man was taking pictures of squirrels, pausing at Patoumi's favourite bookshops before we finally stopped for a delicious vegetable tart in a café where you can not only choose from an astonishing range of teas with exotic names like gin fizz and sous la véranda but also choose from a list of desserts which all look equally delicious. Crumble with crème anglaise, coffee and walnut cake and so many more but we both decided on the rich English cake which managed to be both rich and light. The hours slipped by too fast and then it was already the moment to take the train back to Paris where I left with a goûter of croissants, oranges and macaroons. There was a dreadful feeling of sadness as I saw her beautiful boots and Madame Mo bag for the last time and darkness began to fall around us in the TGV.

And Paris? It's so difficult for me to sum up the last few days and the whirlwind of impressions I had. There were the walks in the Luxemburg where children were having snowball fights under the marble gaze of the statues of kings and queens, the frustration at not being able to visit all the wonderful cemetaries whose gates remained closed for days with the snow when they would have looked so beautiful, the galette by the Odéon that Patoumi had recommended, the walks in the footsteps of Simone de Beauvoir on the left bank and the visits to all the amazing bookshops.

Deserted alleys of the Luxemburg gardens

The statue of Bacchus with the Panthéon

Anyone for tea?

A sheep lamp in the streets near the Odéon

Evening in Paris

As close as I could get to a cemetary from the footbridge in Montmartre

View across to the islands

Salon des antiquitaires close to the Champs de mars

La Rotonde in Montparnasse which Simone de Beauvoir's family lived above for a while

There was also a chance to meet Julia at l'Entrepôt and consume plates piled high with the most delicious food, discussing Sweden, Wild Strawberries, life in Berlin and Paris, photography and so much more.

Some pastries at l'entrepôt

Travelling back to Berlin where the whitest, most magical landscapes unfolded before my eyes and delicate, little flakes were falling, it felt good to be going home but there was also disappointment at not being able to meet you all; Mingou, Pia, Sarah Lou, Gracienne, Sarah and so many others. I guess though that will have to wait until next time...

26 commentaires:

  1. It looks like you had a wonderful time in Paris! Those pictures are beautiful! I love cemetary shots...



  2. I love it when bloggers document cities I know well.. or at least I think I know them well.. Your pictures make me want to get out there and rumble around in the streets of Paris. You were close to my house, too! (I live in the 14th). I know we're gonna meet some day, but until then it's quite funny to think of all those crossed roads, intermingled destinies... Oh, I'm getting all poetic now...beautiful post anyway!

  3. J'ai vécu dans beaucoup d'endroits que tu cites ou que tu photographies - île St-Louis, 14e (tout près de l'Entrepôt) et d'autres, et cela me rendrait presque nostalgique de Paris, où j'ai résolu de ne pas remettre les pieds avant un bon bout de temps désormais.
    Je n'ai jamais été à Rouen, ton billet m'en donne envie... tes photos de cimetière sont très belles, étonnant, cette statue de gisant tellement... "vivante".
    Bienvenue à Berlin! La neige n'a pas cessé de tomber pendant 15 jours... c'est magique!

  4. Rouen est très belle photographiée par toi ! Le cimetière a l'air particulièrement romantique. Merci pour ce reportage qui me rappelle d'agréables promenades et me permet d'imaginer, un peu, les promenades des jours suivants. Bises !

  5. Alors ça y est, te voilà de retour à Berlin ! J'espère que ça n'a pas été trop dur pour toi de trouver le frigo vide...
    C'est rigolo de regarder ton blog maintenant que je sais qui se cache derrière :-) En tout cas j'étais vraiment très contente de faire connaissance et j'ai adoré ce moment passé à l'Entrepôt.
    A présent, je découvre les autres étapes de ton voyage, Rouen et Rennes. C'est vraiment très chouette tout ce que tu as fait !

  6. Ah, j'oublias... je trouve que ta photo avec le kiosque dans le jardin est superbe ! Et le daifuku a l'air fameux. Miam !

  7. Popped in to say hi! You have a gorgeous blog!

  8. @Rosa - You're right, it was such a great trip and I keep looking at the photos to savour all those wonderful moments.
    @Pia - I thought of you a lot when I was there, trying to imagine how it is to live in that area and to see things through your eyes a little. It's one of my favourite parts of Paris actually and it's a compliment when a Parisian finds your photos do justice to hteir city!
    @Magda - Merci beaucoup! C'est marrant d'avoir marché sur tes traces un peu. J'adore les cimetières à Paris et il faut y rentrer, rien que pour prendre des photos de plus près. Pourtant, ça fait du bien de rentrer et j'ai hâte d'avoir du temps libre pour pouvoir profiter de la neige et prendre des photos.
    @Rose - Tes mots me touchent vraiment et j'ai essayé de capturer un peu la beauté et le charme de ta ville mais tu sais, tu m'as beaucoup inspirée aussi!
    @Julia - C'est vrai, qu'en lisant ton blog j'avais une impression différente mais très agréable aussi. Cela m'a fait super plaisir de te voir. La rentrée s'est bien passé - le train avait une heure de retard mais ca va et puis après un mug de thé, j'avais le courage d'aller au supermarché ;-). Et puis merci pour ces compliments - photographier une devenue une vraie passion pour moi!
    @The blonde duck - Thanks so much for your visit and for your lovely comment. It really made my day!

  9. Wonderful photos; they bring back such lovely memories. Although I have never seen snow in Paris. My daughter lived there for 6 years, but for some reason, I always went in the fall or spring.
    Don't you adore the cemeteries in France? I could wander through them for hours and I did.
    I love that you are seeing Paris through the right eyes- taking time to see real things. When I would forget my camera now and then and miss a great shot, my daughter would point to her head, meaning the photograph is in your memory.

  10. Quel joli recit. Cela me rappelle ma vie a Paris, au temps d'avant et cette impression de vivre dans un magnifique musee ou toutes les oeuvres meriteraient d'etre photographiees. Quand on me demande ce qui me manque de la France (puisque je vis a NY), je dis souvent "l'architecture. Lever la tete et voir de jolis plafonds, de beaux details, de belles fenetres...."
    A bientot,

  11. Dommage, en plus l'Entrepot est à 50 mètres de chez moi. Mais il y aura d'autres occasions... Bon retour à Berlin!

  12. @Barbara - I'm glad my photos helped to bring back nice thoughts of Paris which looks even more romantic with the snow. I was so disappointed not to be able to visit more cemetaries as they truly are magnificent in France. Beautiful story about your daughter too; it's worth keeping in mind that we can't capture absolutely everything!
    @Laurence - Merci beaucoup. C'est vrai que dans chaque rue de Paris, on trouve des bâtiments extraordinaires dont on veut garder toujours les impressions. L'appartement de Ju m'a tellement enchantée avec ce plafond si haut et cette luminosité. Heureusement on voit cela aussi à Berlin.
    @Sarah Lou - Oh, si tu savais comment j'ai le coeur serré en apprenant tout cela :-(

  13. Même en étant parisienne et connaissant cette ville comme ma poche, je suis bluffée par tes photos!! Tu as vraiment su attrapé ce qui fait de cette ville, mon chez moi!
    Biz Vaness :)

  14. Quel voyage enchanté ! Et quels paysages enchanteurs !

  15. Tu me donnes très envie d'aller à Rouen, et pourtant ce n'est pas une ville à laquelle je rêvais...
    Et je viens de finir Tokyo Sanpo, tu devrais te régaler!
    Premier commentaire ici, j'ai découvert ton blog par celui de Magda, et j'aime beaucoup!

  16. La semaine prochaine, c'est à mon tour de prendre le train direction Paris, youpi!

  17. @Sarah - Ça me fait super plaisir ce que tu me dis! C'est une ville magnifique qui inspire. Grosses bises.
    @Gwen - Et moi je suis toujours enchantée par ce voyage.
    @Mo - Merci beaucoup de ta visite, c'est chouette, des gens qui me découvrent par Magda! Rouen est vraiment charmant et vaut absolument la visite, même si ce n'est pas toujours possible d'avoir Rose comme guide. Je remarque que beaucoup de gens que j'aime beaucoup ont une copie de Tokyo Sanpo - c'est très bon signe.
    @Flo Bretzel - Je te souhaite un super voyage. Je sais que tu vas rentrer avec pleines de bonnes choses à manger après!

  18. I'm so glad you liked my blog as much as I like yours!

  19. Ta description de Rouen est touchante... C'est une ville que j'ai découvert au hasard de mes fastes universitaire, cette ville est superbe. J'espère que tu as aimé.

  20. bravo, tes photos sont superbes !!!
    quel joli travail rien que pour faire ce post ca a dû te prendre un petit moment !!!

    bonne journée gourmande


  21. @The Blonde Duck - It's always so nice to discover new bloggers and I can't wait to read you again soon.
    @Le citron- Je suis contente que tu aimes aussi Rouen. C'est une ville qui m'a vraiment enchantée et j'ai envie d'y retourner encore.
    @Virginie - Merci beaucoup! C'est vrai que ça me prend parfois un temps fou pour un seul billet mais en même temps ça me fait vraiment plaisir, surtout en lisant tous les gentils commentaires. Bonne soirée à toi!

  22. Oh, I stopped reading blogs for a while and didn't even know you passed through Paris. Your pictures under the snow are just beautiful. And I love the sheep lamp :)
    Funny I just offered a copy of Tokyo sanpo to one of my friends. Great drawings!
    Bon retour a la maison.

  23. I understand completely because with the holiday season, it was nice to take a break from blogging and have time to think. It would have been great to meet you too but there seemed so little time and I only saw a couple of people. Still, I haven't lost hope that it will happen one day. Funnily, everyone I talk to seems to have a copy of Tokyo Sanpo but you're right, the pictures are really amazing and it's a wonderful book. Have a great weekend!

  24. What an outstanding post. The photos are excellent.

  25. Thanks so much Des! I really appreciate your comment.