“Voyeurs” on a Sunny Paris Day
Before becoming a permanent resident, mid October was our season of choice to visit Paris. Part of the reason for that is a birthday that made going to Paris a good excuse for a celebration. Better than that though, it’s simply the time of year that is ideal for a visit to the City of Light.
The weather is normally crispy and bright, and this year, it’s been even more spectacular than usual with lots of sunshine and warmer temperatures. New exhibitions open this time of year, so if you’re an art junkie like me, then there’s more to see than there is time for. And there are lots of festivals with which you can participate. On top of it all, there are sure to be various demonstrations (“manifs”) as there always are, just to keep you on your political toes.
When the weather is as agreeable as it has been, the entire world comes out to the streets of the city for whatever suits their fancy to take advantage of such ideal conditions — as the old expression goes: “make hay while the sun shines.” And that’s what we do. Of course, we Parisians are living in small spaces without the luxury of yards, swimming pools, hot tubs and cars to take us from one spot to another, so instead…we make the city our own backyard. (Quite honestly, it’s what makes this lifestyle so addicting.)
Call it lucky, but by sheer coincidence Saturday afternoon I had an apartment visit with clients near the Métro Abbesses, just as the annual Fête des Vendanges de Montmartre was in full swing. The festival, which has taken place since 1934, certainly drew a big crowd. The streets around Sacré Coeur and Place du Tertre were wall-to-wall with both locals and tourists. I honestly hadn’t been to the Butte Montmartre in many a month, nor to the festival in many a year and had almost forgotten how this hilltop spot on the north end of the city had so much to offer.
In spite of Montmartre’s touristy tone, it’s still a beautiful and charming part of Paris — it’s no wonder so many visitors flock there. Residents of Montmartre claim it’s the best place on the Parisian landscape as it has retained so much of its village-like feel. It has a long and profound history, but the one we cling to most is the fame for its artist residents, such as Salvador Dalí, Amedeo Modigliani, Claude Monet, Piet Mondrian, Pablo Picasso, Camille Pissarro and Vincent van Gogh, just to name a few.
A different kind of artist was out this past weekend displaying his wares during the festival. These were artisans of taste — producers of wine, sausage, cheese, and all things to satisfy one’s palate. I could smell the sausage stand from a block away and the scent still lingers in my nostrils as I write this.
Later that afternoon, a party was held for a one-time American-in-Paris, Shelley Bradford Bell. She hadn’t been in Paris for way too many years and finally came back for a visit to renew her relationship with the city and all of her old and dear friends. When I met Shelley, she was the Planning Commissioner for the city and county of San Francisco. She’s now self-employed as a community organizer, fund developer and public relations and promotions consultant, but she still has a lot of friends in Paris not only from her participation in the African American Paris community, but with ‘honkies’ like me who were so enthralled by her vibrant personality.
On the way over to a champagne toast in Ms. Bell’s honor, it was impossible to cross at the corner of rues Chemin Vert and Popincourt as the “manif” (short for “manifestation” or demonstration) of the FFMC (Fédération Française des Motards en Colère) taking up every inch of space on rue Chemin Vert. It was the noisiest manif to hit the streets ever, with hundreds, maybe thousands of motorcycles roaring along — perhaps slowly, but loud nonetheless.
Their beef: the threat of banning of two-wheelers in the city for ecological reasons…”Le deux-roues motorisés est une solution, pas une pollution!” (Motorized two-wheelers are the solution, not the pollution!) New environmental policies are attempting to ban motorcycles in the larger cities of France, including Paris. Based on the level of noise and fumes we heard from the windows at the apartment where the party for Shelley took place, I might be in favor of banning them, too. This is a case where the manif could backfire. (It reminds me of when the taxis went on strike to protest against Uber, only to give Uber a 600% boost in their business those days!)
Sunday was as glorious a day as Saturday — impossibly enticing (or torturous) for anyone needing to be inside for one reason or another…but then again, there are too many things to do in Paris and never enough time. With all the wonderful exhibits taking place, it was not too much deprivation to give up just one hour inside a museum. Ours of choice was the Musée du Luxembourg to see the “Fragonard Amoureux: Galant et Libertin.”
Just weeks earlier in London at the Wallace Collection, I had seen Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s 1767 painting “The Swing” and fallen in love with it and his work. Little did I know then, that he was the main illustrator of the era’s “seduction, love and intrigue.” “Dangerous Liaisons” is what comes to mind as one peruses his lusciously executed pastel paintings one after another, as well as the detailed etchings and drawings, which are described as “gallant, libertine, daringly lustful or conversely concerned with new love ethics.” Also called “sophisticated eroticism” and “rustic scenes that take on an unequivocal carnal dimension,” Fragonard’s works are intimate glimpses of which we are the “voyeurs.”
Outside of the musée, the world was taking in the sun and the scene in the Jardin du Luxembourg. This time of year is perfection in the garden, as the palm trees are still out for just a brief time more and the flowers are at their full height before winter sets in. The chestnut trees still have their leaves, but within a couple of weeks, those will brown and drop leaving them bare. There was a concert on the band stand entertaining the park-goers while others basked in the sunshine or sailed their toy boats.
The Fontaine Medicis is a key spot in the garden of decorative and architectural significance. Built in 1630 by Marie de Medici, the widow of King Henry IV, it was moved to the present location and extensively rebuilt between 1864 an 1866. On some of the hottest days of the year, it’s one of the coolest spots and is as romantic a place as one can find in the city. Considering the exhibition at the Musée du Luxembourg from which we had just come, it was symbolic of romanticism of the time.
A la prochaine…
The Adrian Leeds Group
(with Shelley Bradford Bell and friends, photo by Tom Reeves)
P.S. Next week and the following week, I will be ‘holed up’ in my apartment in Nice (“Le Matisse”) exclusively writing the first few chapters and a book proposal to publish the first of a series of books. I have contracted with a US literary agent to finally tell some of the stories of life in France, many of which you have been reading these past years, but with greater depth and development of characters. During those two weeks, in lieu of the usual timely Parler Paris and Parler Nice Nouvellettres®, you will receive a few of the best of past issues — those that we know you enjoyed and might enjoy reading again! (Hope you don’t mind!) Note: “Le Matisse” is available or rent when I’m not there — so inquire now about our Winter low season discount! Email [email protected].
P.P.S. Making last minute plans for a visit to Paris? Did you know you can rent a Parler Paris Apartments/Paris Sharing apartment for only 3 nights? If you’re booking less than 30 days in advance, we will wave the 4 night minimum stay! There is still availability at some of our most popular apartments. Book your Parisian apartment today