Just power walked down to Concorde and back through the Tuileries Gardens but grossly underestimated the temperature. The thermometer says 9.5° but I forgot about the wind factor. Next time, I’ll wear my cap with ear flaps (hoping I don’t meet anyone I know, Black Cat in particular) and my inferior Australian suede gloves (because I still haven’t got my new rabbit-fur ones from Italy). Or I could just use my exercise bike and watch a movie at the same time (if I can get the technology to work).
But if I did that, I’d miss the pianist on Place du Palais Royal and the guy with the giant bubble ring that all the kids love. I wouldn’t see the glass pyramids of the Louvre or the pink marble Carrousel Arch with its gold figures and green horses. I would miss the sun setting over the Eiffel Tower and the giant Ferris wheel looking so out-of-place with the Obelisk peaking out behind, mocking my fear of heights. I wouldn’t see the kids sailing their boats on the pond and looking like an Impressionist painting (except for their jeans and anoraks) nor hoping for a ride on the Olde Worlde carousel.
Neither would I be reminded on seeing the Orangerie that I haven’t been back since renovation to visit the wonderful oval rooms with Monet’s waterlilies (shame on me). I wouldn’t see the seagulls calling and screeching over the fountain. I wouldn’t have that stunning view of the Louvre spread out before me as I power walk my way back. I’d miss the man who hires out the sail boats pushing his boat-laden trolley home at the end of the day.
I wouldn’t see the lovers kissing on benches (they don’t have cold ears) or the foreign tourists having their cheese and wine picnics (and ignoring the cold). I wouldn’t see Henry (and not the more strait-laced Thomas) Moore’s Reclining Figure at the foot of the Orangerie or the 18 Maillol statues down the other end. I would miss the open-mouthed fish at the bottom of the lamp posts next to the Decorative Arts Museum. Not to mention the giant monkey leaning out the window!
I wouldn’t be treated to the welcoming smell of roast chestnuts as I come out onto Rue de Rivoli. Neither would I go past the Comédie Française where Molière died in his chair or see the Night Revellers’ Kiosk. I wouldn’t see all the kids playing among the Buren columns and proudly wearing their crowns (they had the galette des rois today). I wouldn’t see all the people crowded into Miss Bibi’s tiny jewellery shop nor would I have the pleasure of feeling my ears get warmer as I walk up the stairs to my apartment.
But, more than anything else, I might forget just how lucky I am to actually live in the Palais Royal, right in the centre of the City of Light!
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And there he was, just hanging out the window of the Louvre with absolutely no one taking any notice of him, up to some monkey business no doubt.
And today, I walked past Stella McCartney’s shop in the Palais Royal and the dummies had lost their heads (not to mention the reflection of the gallery gates on their torsos).
At Place de l’Etoile the other night, I came across a huge Christmas cracker!
At Halloween, Miss Bibi had the most intriguing little man sitting on a pumpkin.
And get this statue walking through a gallery on the Champs Elysees looking like the Invisible Man!
Where else but Paris?
Ow! that was loud! I always forget. At 12 noon every Wednesday, the time cannon in the Palais Royal gardens goes off. Initially installed in 1786 on the Paris meridian by a clockmaker called Rousseau who had a shop on one side of the gardens, it would go off at exactly midday on sunny days. The simple mechanism was ingenious. A fuse under a small magnifying glass was sparked by the sun’s rays. At the time, it was used to adjust all the clocks in Paris. It was stolen in 1998 but was eventually replaced and has been working again since the beginning of the year. Sadly, it doesn’t have the magnifying glass system anymore and doesn’t depend on the weather.
There are lots of other surprising things in the Palais Royal galeries. All sorts of interesting boutiques. One day I even saw a fur coat made of teddy bears! Today, the shops are very chic, with Stella McCartney and La Petite Robe Noire (but where would I wear a little black dress ?), Delage and Corto Moltedo, all way over my price range of course.
In the galerie Beaujolais, there’s a shop that sells ribbons for medals. You know, decorative medals like the legion of honour. It’s next to another speciality shop called Le Magasin à l’Oriental, opened in 1818, a real Ali Baba’s cave that sells pipes and other things of that ilk. In the Galerie Montpensier on the other side, there’s a beautiful toy shop with the most wonderful collection of dolls and wooden toys. And just opposite, a shop called Anna Joliet that sells hand-painted music boxes. You can pick your box and pick your music. Mine plays the theme from Doctor Zhivago. L’Escalier d’Argent, run by madame Danou Jacquard, possesses a unique collection of over a hundred men’s vests made out of 18th century-inspired fabric and tailored according to the period of Louis XVI. It also sells silver jewellery.
But my favourite is Miss Bibi. L’Escalier d’Argent used to have a tiny showroom in the Galerie Valois with a dusty collection of bow ties. One day, we saw they had taken everything out and were redoing it. The sign came down and after a while we saw them putting in a sort of shadow box. It was hard to imagine what sort of shop it could be, it’s literally about two metres square. But it’s turned into an increasingly popular jewellery store called Miss Bibi. “Bibi” is short for “bibelot” or knick-knack. But it’s the clever window dressing that attracts the customers. The shadow box with its tiny shelves fills up almost the entire window and the jewellery, “inspired by the world of childhood and nostalgia”, is displayed on miniature items of furniture and little houses and other original items. I didn’t believe for one minute it could work but it’s always full. At 50 to 200 euros apiece, maybe it’s the only shop in the Palais Royal that’s affordable for most people.
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