My Finnish friend, who has sightread piano music with me in London, Mannheim, and Bussum since 1993 when we first met, showed me the clavinova he’s renting during his six month sabbatical in Paris.
“Had I known you’ve got a piano here, I would have brought some 4-hand duet music!” I exclaimed with regret. How could I not have guessed that he could not do without his piano?
His one bedroom, 48 square metre apartment sits on the 5th floor in the Marais (4th arrondissement). There is no lift but rather a painful 94 nontrivial steps to climb to what-is-equivalent of the 6th floor in the USA.
“That’s why Parisian women look so good,” mused Robert the Dutch guitarist. “They have to climb a lot of stairs.”
Right this moment (Sunday 16 August 2009) I am struggling to capture the incredible action-packed day since our arrival on Friday night into Gare du Nord. While Robert and my friend are running 12 km on this Sunday morning, I am sitting on a small wooden stool facing the balcony. The distant bells of the Notre Dame chime of noon. My stomach cries for sushi.
Returning to Paris brought back many memories of previous visits.
“I came here for a job interview on a sizzling hot day in 1995,” I reflected yesterday. “I’m pretty sure it was in August. The company was located in that part of Paris famous for Japanese restaurants. Maybe it was here. There are so many sushi places in the Marais.”
“Why didn’t you take the job?” Robert had asked.
“I would have been an energy economist if I had. I didn’t like the high taxes I’d have to pay as a single woman.” It seemed a lame excuse for rejecting Paris.
I had brought my father here in 1998. I was not the insatiable culture vulture I am now. Notre Dame. Fruit de la mer. The Louvre. China town. That was about it. He had injured his foot and couldn’t walk far. But I did visit my Korean/German friend, who has been living here since. I will see her Tuesday for lunch in the 8th arrondissement where she works.
Yesterday my Finnish friend led us on a walk to Place des Vosges, the oldest and most perfect square in Paris. According to my “Paris for free (or extremely cheap” guidebook, it set the model for urban construction throughout Europe. We walked diagonally across the park toward a jazz trio playing outside one of the art galleries.
There was simply too much to see, even after traversing the 20 rooms in the Picasso museum. We were overwhelmed by the enormous output of Pablo Picasso in his life time. A staff member told us that there was more in reserve, i.e. in storage, than on display. The museum was closing for two years at the end of the month for refurbishment, and the displays would go on tour, starting in Helsinki.
We were told that Pablo Picasso had five official wives and countless number of mistresses and affairs. You could say he was a chaud lapin— a hot rabbit — a womaniser. My guidebook mentioned that the museum contained that largest collection of Picasso’s art in one museum. Apparently his art was given to the French government in lieu of death duty payments, after a long court battle with his heirs.
After a light lunch on the pavement of one of many restaurants near his home, my Finnish friend suggested that we have a picnic in the evening on the banks of the Seine.
The day grew hotter as we walked along the “strand” along the River Seine. This was a sandy area for pedestrians and cyclists only. Under each bridge staged a different act, from a clown making animal balloons for kids to an operatic high soprano drawing crowds for the “Queen of the Night.” It felt like carnival on the beach, except it was in the centre of Paris.
We made way to the Museum of Modern Art in the Pompidou Centre. Strange that I had never been inside, after numerous visits to Paris. The escalators offered a brilliant panoramic view of Paris as we ascended to rooftop level. What awaited us in the three remaining hours of the day inspired us beyond imagination. This was possibly the biggest collection of modern art we had ever seen. If only we could do this for modern music! People flock to see modern art but why not modern music?
With aching feet and sun soaked arms and legs, we crawled back to Le Marais district. The live band at Hotel de Ville was still pounding away, threatening to boycott our plans of having Robert play guitar under a bridge (without amplification).
Nonetheless we had the bottle of 2007 Shiraz from South Africa (that we got from our concert in Rotterdam the previous day) and some very very old Dutch farmer’s cheese waiting to be consumed. Just add some qualite superiore sausages and fresh salad from the local grocery store, and we’re off to join the rest of the young generation on the banks of the Seine.