We made a long sojourn into Paris last week – five days and nights. That’s the longest we’ve stayed there in years, and although it was the hottest stretch of the year – between 85 and 92! – we had a terrific time. We saw a jazz singer we love – twice, did some museum time, spent a wonderful day with friends, saw a parade, walked, just all kinds of good stuff. Here’s a recap:
In Seattle, we often attend house concerts of jazz singers (jazzvox.com, if you’re interested, and if you like jazz vocalists you should be interested). Last year we heard Hetty Kate sing and just loved her. Talking to Hetty after her performance then, she said she was moving to Paris. We’ve kept in touch with her and when we arrived, she told us that she was singing in a small club in Paris Saturday June 30. With Mary and Gilles, off we went to see Hetty.
I will leave until below our arrival in Paris. Hetty was just wonderful and the experience – seeing great jazz in a small Paris jazz club, well, pretty cool. Some pictures from that night:
Hetty told us that the following Tuesday she was singing in the bar at a (very nice) hotel, so off we went again – this time just Laurie and I. We met Hetty an hour before she started and shared a bottle of Sancerre wine with her, and heard her tales of performing and trying to get known in the Paris jazz scene. We stayed for her first set and were again blown away by how good she is. It was great fun to have a chance to get to know her better and hear her sing again.
Though Hetty is based in Paris now, she sings all over the world. If she gets to your city, you really need to go see her. You will not regret it; she is just fabulous!
Arriving at our Metro (subway) stop to see Hetty, we were astonished to hear music – lots of REALLY LOUD music from multiple bands – while we were still underground in the Metro station. We climbed the stairs and ascended into the mayhem of the Paris Gay Pride Parade! And mayhem it was: many tens of thousands of people; music trucks everywhere, in the parade and not; and because it was over 90 degrees, people in every state of dress and undress. I’m telling you, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen a 6’5″ guy dressed as Roman woman, wearing 5″ heels!
For the second time this year, we were able to introduce Paris to friends who had never been there. Mark and Kathy, friends from Seattle, were in Paris for one day at the end of a sixteen day trip to Italy (for a wedding), Austria and Switzerland. We met them in the morning and just kind of toured around the parts of Paris we like best – mostly along the Seine. We also went to the Eiffel Tower, which is a mess, as there is a huge amount of construction work underway. At the end of their trip, and after a particularly stressful travel day the previous day coming from Geneva, Mark and Kathy were just happy to go where we wanted to go…slowly.
After dinner, we walked our favorite walk in Paris, around Ile Saint Louis. The evening weather was perfect: warm and comfortable, and we enjoyed what was – weatherwise – the nicest evening in Paris we can remember, and we’ve had a lot of evenings here. I told Mark and Kathy, “It’s an evening like this that will bring you back to Paris.” Actually, that evening will bring us back to Paris!
Institute du Monde Arab
The Institute du Monde Arab is a center for study of the world loosely designated as the “Arab World:” the Middle East mostly, but also including parts of North Africa and the now-extinct Ottoman Empire. This area was the birthplace of the three major Western religions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity. The museum that’s part of the Institute does a beautiful job of showing the birth, growth and connections of the three religions. We’ve visited it before and did again this trip, largely because of an exhibit on the construction and history of the Suez Canal, but also because we love the permanent exhibit of the art from this part of the world.
Corot at the Museé Marmottan
Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot (1796-1875)) is known largely for his beautiful landscapes – he’s arguably the best and best-known landscape artist of the 19th century. During his career, though, he painted portraits of people he knew, though he exhibited only a few of them, and sold them only to friends for their private collection. The Marmottan presented the first exhibition dedicated to his portraits, and we like the Marmottan, so off we went. Corot probably could have made a living as a portraitist – his portraits are that good. This was an interesting look into an almost unknown side of this famous artist.
If you’re a fan of Impressionist art, the Marmottan is a must-visit. The son of Claude Monet donated his entire collection to the museum, which created a large space just for them. It’s pretty spectacular; though we’ve seen them three or four times before, we toured it again. Monet was nothing short of a genius, and that shows in this collection.
From 1859 to 1969 a railroad ran on an elevated track from Bastille east to Vincennes. Abandoned in 1969, it sat unused until the late 1980s, when the city started to re-purpose it as a pedestrian walk. It was landscaped, water features added, stairs installed at intersections, and then the eastern end, where the path is not elevated (in fact, it runs through several tunnels) was made into a park. Not far from our Paris homebase, it’s a perfect walk for us.
It seems that I’ve left out some things, but that covers the highlights. I could mention our train trip home where, among other things, the train broke down one station away from the one we needed to reach, but what the heck, this post is long enough. We were a little concerned at going into Paris on such a hot week, for that long (Paris is, no matter how beautiful, a big, noisy, crowded city and so can wear you out). But we had a great time, and are so glad we went. We’re already looking forward to getting back.