Other highlights of our Paris adventure.
Our month in Paris would have been a little dreary if all we did with our time was to spend it in Musketeerland.
We went to a lot of theatre - three plays at the Comedie Francaise (Moliere’s company established in 1680) - The Italian Straw Hat, The Game of Love and Chance, and La Place Royale - all in french obviously. The acting energy was aggressively good with some truly wonderful performances. Parisians obviously love their theatre becuase every show that we went to was sold out - even on Christmas Day. A few things I found to be peculiar but consistent. The set changes seemed to go on and on which they filled with either song or dance - which I found distracting in an unfortunate way. Love and Chance was the most successful but it still slowed the action.
The Parisisan audiences were extremely polite even when there was some outrageously funny physical comedy. They wouldn’t be heard to laugh too loudly. Warm laughter was as large as it got. Curtain calls I found very interesting. It was always an ensemble bow - no going through the ranks from the smallest parts to the stars - every one came out and bowed together. There were no standing ovations as we have here. The way that the audience showed their appreciation was by the longevity of their applause. The actors kept bowing, retreating up stage and returning en-masse downstage in a slightly altered configuration to bow again. This went on for minutes - the actors bowing ten times or so. The theatres that we went to, all proscenium arch halls, had these odd fold down aisle seats which certainly filled the place but as Leslie noted in Canada the Fire Marshall would never allow it.
We also went to puppet theatres - both for children and adults. The older kids all knew the characters and would interplay eagerly with them. The younger ones were all wide-eyed and absorbing the action with complete suspension of disbelief. Even the parents and grandparents enjoyed the half hour shows. The one adult piece of puppet theatre that we went to seemed to be populated by university students. The venue itself was located in what I believe was a public housing complex courtyard - Theatre Aux Mains Nues, Paris. The piece itself was call “Monsieur Edward Gordon Craig”. The tiny theatre held about fifty people. It started with a fifteen minute historical preamble and then the half hour performance by two puppeteers (father and daughter I think, or maybe student and professor). Although neither Leslie or I speak french, we were both happily on board for the trip.
We even went to Opera Garnier for an evening of Strauss waltzes, just to sit in the magnificent hall with its ceiling painted by Chagall, its plush velvet seats (we were in the second row of the orchestra on the left side of the house), the large boxes soaring around the auditorium - the magnificent curtain alone was worth the visit - not to mention the grand staircase leading up to the hall and it’s marble statues of great composers in the lobby!
Enough about the theatre. Every other day it seemed we were in a museum or a gallery or an amazing chateau - Versailles, Mal Maison, Chateau Vincennes, and of course the Louvre. We climbed the towers of Notre Dame and Sacre Coeur. Visited Montmartre and Montparnasse. Contempory Art at the Palais de Toyko and ancient graffiti in the archaeological crypt under the Notre Dame courtyard. Victor Hugo’s house, his crypt in the Pantheon where he lies with Dumas and Emile Zola. Hidden gems like the Musee Jacquemart-Andre, the tiny association of Paris Historique with its ancient monastic basement or La Zoo du Jardin des Plantes. Rodin, Monet, Chagall and Chaim Soutine.
We went to see the movie “Gigi” (in English) in a small cinema downtown and found that we’d been to some of the places in the film - for a week after sought out more. Just around the corner from the same cinema were the steps Owen Wilson sat on in “Midnight in Paris” to wait for the automobile to transport him back to his fantasy Paris.
I dare you to walk anywhere in Paris and not be distracted by some peculiar alleyway or a by a man fixing a cello in his shop window, or by another gourmet chocolate shop. You must try the caramels, they’ll blow your mind. Paris and food!
We resided on Rue Duvivier in the 7th arrondissement - one street away from us (towards the Eiffel Tower) was Rue Cler. I would get up each morning and before anything else walk the 100 paces to the patisserie for fresh baguette. Fresh produce, meat, seafood, cheese, honey and wine shops. Supermarkets and cafes. We even bought fresh shucked oysters for Christmas eve.
The only downside was that you had to keep your eyes where you walked to avoid the dog s__t. It’s everywhere. Sometimes “I don’t understand the Parisians!”