23 Sep Paris
It was a splendid autumn Sunday. Perhaps it was the thought of the impending cold winter or La Fête des Jardins (a festival celebrating local parks), but it seemed like the whole of Paris had come out to play.
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Walking, jogging, bike riding, scootering, strolling, pony riding, miniature boat sailing, tennis and table tennis, informal games of football, martial arts, eating, people watching, dog walking, listening to bands, and sipping café. Interestingly, shops, other than those selling food, were not open, so there was not much shopping.
Our day started catching the sunrise at Sacre Coeur. From the top of the hill a pale mauve early morning haze sat over the city tainted with a glow of orange from the rising sun. Obviously getting drunk and watching the sunrise from here is some sort of rite of passage for adolescents. The pavement, steps and lawns were littered with empties (someone should let Heineken know what a mess their beer makes) and sleeping bodies. The air had the stench of a mix of piss, vomit and stale beer. African cleaners moved deftly through the space probably doing what is a daily clean up.
We wove our way down though the laneways of Montmartre, feasting on almond croissant and Americana café, finally resting on seats under the chestnut trees in Jardine des Tuileries watching the early morning joggers, fitness walkers and the masses already queuing to get into the Louvre.
During our daily obligatory museum visit, Musee D’orsay, we couldn’t interest the boys in the beauty of the impressionists. The opportunity to see Monet, Van Gogh, Renoir and Cezanne first hand failed to impress. Maybe they will get it later? The building, an old train station was amazing with its arching roof, spanning the 50m across. A gentle slope with steps and platforms, with ramps either side filled the space.
Afterwards we meet one of my old university friends and her family in Luxemberg Gardens for a stroll and lunch. Perhaps being with real Parisans (ordering the food in French) and feeling not so much like a tourist, eating frittes and quiche under the chestnut trees, the beautiful day, and seeing so many people out and about enjoying themselves, suddenly awakened the boys senses. “Why can’t Perth be like this?” they asked. My friend, Cecilia, thought it was a combination of density and lack of communal space in the apartments, “Very few people have their own garden so they all use the local park and the streets. Everybody in our neighbourhood knows the children and us. I can take the kids to the park and there will always be a friend to play with and another parent to talk to.” Her 7-year-old daughter, Margo, walks to school on her own (even having to cross two busy streets) picking up friends along the way.
On our long walk back to Montmartre (through a red light district much to Bremer’s horror, where sex parlors sit quite happily next to icecream parlors) Jasper began to hatch a plan to live in Paris. Success!
Tomorrow: Streets of Paris