Sunday in Ville d’Avray
The warm, sunny weather of Paris these June days have beckoned us devoted urbanites to venture into greener pastures…to the countryside and even the “banlieue” (suburbs) where life is a little slower, a little more serene. For some odd reason this past week, I was drawn to the west side outside Paris, into the Ile de France, to the area around Saint-Cloud, by the invitations of a variety of different friends and events. As a student of psychoanalyst Carl Jung’s theory of “synchronicity,” a phrased he coined himself, I paid particular attention to why this should be so important in the thread of my grand life plan.
Sunday at noon, we headed for the Gare Saint-Lazare, where trains to the banlieue leave every few minutes from tracks numbers 1 through 4. The short ride took us to “Sevres-Ville d’Avray,” just past Saint-Cloud, to lunch with friends at their “cottage” nestled among a wild and vibrant garden they call “magical.”
An apéritif of Pernod Ricard pastis (anise-flavored liqueur), a traditional Summer drink throughout France (particularly in Provence), started off a very lazy afternoon. Under the umbrellas at the outdoor tables, we feasted on a large variety of fresh Oriental salads, made by a local merchant — the best I’ve ever had.
Serge Bourguignon’s 1962 melodramatic film titled “Dimanches de Ville d’Avray” set in the 1950s, is a story of a former military pilot, Pierre Kruger, who returns home from the French-Indochinese war suffering from amnesia, and becomes emotionally attached to a 12 year-old convent girl. Eventually people become suspicious of this man-child relationship, and when the police encounter the pair, they misinterpret a gesture of Pierre toward the girl, and shoot him. The story is tragic, but Ville d’Avray is certainly not a tragic place. In fact, it’s quite the opposite!
The beautiful “étangs” de Ville d’Avray (ponds) were painted by the artist Corot and supply water to the fountains of the Parc de Saint-Cloud nearby. Our friends had heard that three times every Sunday afternoon all this month, the fountains at the park simultaneously spout at 3 p.m., 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. In the fountains float several large paintings as part of a project called the “Dessein d’Eau” sponsored by the cities of Saint-Cloud and Ville d’Avray until July 15th. You might not find that the Summer’s most exciting event, but if you take a seat in front of the temporary large tent at the edge of one of the ponds, you can relax to a classical music concert beginning at 5:30 p.m. Yesterday, thousands of people were there picnicking under the tall shade trees on the cool grass enjoying the beautiful lazy day. All this is free, except for a small charge of 2,50 euros to park your car. (To get there without a car from Paris, take the Métro #9 in the direction of Pont de Sèvres to the end of the line and switch to the 179 bus.)
Next weekend, June 17th and 18th, Ville d’Avray joins in with the celebration of “La Fête des Etangs” — a cultural festival under the theme of “Le Feu et l’Eau” (Fire and Water). This is another chance to take in the spirit of Summer in music, song, and dance…out in the “banlieue” where life is a little lazier. (For more information, visit http://www.mairie-villedavray.fr/)
That was the message I left with yesterday…to slow down, smell the fresh air, take in the cool breezes from the fountains’ sprays and let the music carry me away to serenity.
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
Email [email protected]
P.S. See you tomorrow from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at La Pierre du Marais for the monthly Parler Paris Aprs Midi gathering! See /parlerparis/apresmidi.html for more details.