Monday, 28 February 2011

Out & About

It's nerve-wracking waiting for news of my Mother and brother somewhere in shattered Christchurch so I decided to keep myself busy and get out and about.

After the usual Saturday domestic regime I headed off to Paris, camera in hand and with Laura's birthday present to give to Frederique so she can take it to Auckland for me on her forthcoming trip. It was grey and cold. I hoped it wouldn't rain. Once in Paris I took Line 4 Metro to Odeon and then started walking towards the Musee Cluny. This is the national museum of the middle ages. The buildings include the northern thermal baths of Lutetia (the only important Gallo-Roman monument surviving in Paris, built in the late first century and used for two hundred years). There were cold and tepid baths as well as hot once upon a time. The other building is the Hotel de Cluny built in the late 15th century for the Cluny abbots.

The museum display includes ivories, sculptures, altar-pieces, stained glass, choir stalls, archers' shields and manuscripts and, naturally, tapestries. The crowning glory is the magnificent 6-piece tapestry called the Lady and the Unicorn. There is no flash photography allowed and the lighting is very dim so my photos are not great but here are a selection. The complex is opposite the Sorbonne university.

By the time I emerged from the museum it was pouring with rain and I had no brolly. Hugging my camera to protect it from the raindrops I walked, and walked, and walked from the 5th arrondissement to the 13th, to Frederique's appartment. She had kindly offered to take Laura's 20th birthday pressie to Auckland with her. I bought some french macarons on the way. In Provence there are entire shops devoted to these sweet delights. Why, I had no idea, having never tasted one until now. They have a consistency of cooked meringue filled with a flavoured filling. Surprisingly tasty little coookie things but I would not describe them as biscuites, well, you just have to try them.

I shared a meal with Frederique and a Norwegian couple who were couchsurfing with her. They spoke very good English and it was a very convivial evening until I had to catch a train to Cafeolait.
Starting tomorrow I can use my expanded Train Pass to go anywhere in in the region for a monthly fee of 113 euros. Pricey so I'd better make sure I get to Paris at least 4-5 times a month or even further afield.

Sunday wasn't much better weather-wise. I was taken to lunch by Jean-Claude who is a retired dentist of 65 years, living in a tiny village in a different department. The restaurant seemed to be silver service but the food was a little disappointing. However, I was happy to meet someone new and interesting and share a pleasant meal. Then we headed off to his place where I was really interested in his inherited and collected furniture. There was even an armoir/placard from the time of Louise 14th, furniture in the style of Napoleon 2 etc. All up I had the challenge of holding a conversation completely in french for 9 hours. I probably understood 50% at most but at least I gave it a go.

Jean-Claude is good company, very pleasant and educated. The only startling surprise was to be found in the kitchen, lounge and his office. The kitchen had eyes, sad and tired eyes of taxidermied animals such as a pheasant, a duck, a rare bird, other birds in other rooms and a male and female deer whose heads were mounted on the wall. Gulp! Poor things. JC is a hunter in the forest, as a hobby, though I don't think he's been practising that recently. He has a rather energetic dog of a breed I don't recognise but JC made certain it didn't bother me. Maybe we will catch up again some time.

Photos are of Paris's Roman baths and museum, the little dinner party with Veronique, and Jean-Claude at the restaurant.


Liz said...

Hi Frances,

thanks for all the time and effort you put in to your blog. Fascinating to read about the Middle Ages museum.

Hope you have good news about your mother and brother soon


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