|Notre Dame - where else?|
The minute we climbed the steps out of the RER and saw the trees, the Boulevard St Michel and the familiar architecture, stresses vanished and we knew that life made sense (even though, only a few hundred metres from where we stood, Sartre had explained so eloquently why it didn’t). Paris is magical – it’s beauty, history, romance, freedom, love, art, architecture, nobility, humanity – as well as bloody good food and even better wine.
And I wanted to share just one of the days – last Sunday. After breakfast at a terrasse looking onto the Luxembourg fountain, we wandered through the Jardins du Luxembourg. London boasts (justifiably) of its parks but those in Paris are of a different order. Dappled shade, all the usual impressionist stuff, trees and open spaces. People everywhere but no sense of crowding. On the pond, model boats, especially two magnificent schooner rigs. Bizarrely, one guy preferred his submarine. It was big and painted the usual sinister black. He launched it; it set out
All around the edge of the water, very young kids perched and leaned, their parents either deep in chat with friends or welded to a mobile – an obvious demonstration of the French passion for individual freedom. ‘If le petit Bertrand, aged 2, wants to topple into the pond, that’s his inalienable right.’ None did.
Everywhere under the trees – nearby and in the distance – groups of slowly moving Taekwondo practitioners wove their moves. Others performed slow rituals with actual swords, sliding them so close to their bodies that I was surprised the ground wasn’t littered with ears, slices of buttock or other, even more important organs. There were donkeys, ponies, families, couples, readers, joggers, walkers. People sat on the hundreds of chairs spread around the place – so much more inviting than fixed benches. The sun was hot and ‘le tout Paris’ was there enjoying it.
But it still makes Buckingham Palace look like a shed. When I look at the vastness and the glory of the construction, with all the statues and columns and gothic frilly bits, I have conflicting feelings. First, it’s a triumph, a glorious demonstration of what humans can do. Second, it was all built so that one individual who got lucky because the right sperm and egg fused could say ‘Hey, look how cool I am’. On this day of sun, however, the guy’s hubris was forgiven. The palace that people had built for him looked magnificent.
I forgot to mention that, at various points in our meanderings, we’d stop and marvel at the number of significant places we could see around the skyline. Paris is stuffed with them – our particular count on this trip was the Panthéon, the Eiffel Tower (of course), Notre Dame, the Tour St Jacques, the Grand Palais and even, way up north, the Sacré Coeur.
And on and on.
Then, six o’clock, in the tiny church of St Julien-le-Pauvre, the requisite bit of culture. We’d bought the
Dinner at Balzar and a last wander up the Boulevard St Michel through the still fascinating crowds. Not a bad day.
So if any of you are thinking of buying a place there, I’d be happy to look after it for you while you’re away.