Sunday, March 05, 2006

Scared Heart

Today began late with brunch at Stuart Friendly cafe, where I had my first good espresso coffee since arriving in Paris a month ago. I had been disappointed to find that the highly recommended Amazone roaster on Rue Rambuteau only served cafe noir, and the Bodum Shop coffee bar seems to have been renamed Bar Ferme or I simply can't identify the 10-minute window when it's open each day. In any case, after a highly caffeinated brunch I was ready for the day's assault on some random new neighbourhoods.

Taking a left turn up Rue Saint-Denis, past the prostitutes-dejeuner we continued through into the 10th and then westward to the Basilica of the Sacré Cœur. The summit of the Montmartre butte is the highest point in Paris, although the view was as overcast as on my last visit in 2002. We took some time out at the top of the stairs to pick out features on the almost bland canvas before us. The odd cathedral spire, and the primary colours of the Pompidou Centre were really the only way for me to trace where we'd started our walk.

Around the back of the basilica is even more touristy than the Basilica steps. Street artists dominate the roads and squares, which in turn are lined by cafes and bar serviced by waiters dressed in traditional (= Allo Allo's Rene ) garb. Bondi was well and truly mobbed in the Place du Tertre by tourists and painters alike. A woman whistling tunes over a hand-cranked organ seemed to struggle to keep her rhythm when he passed, and a marching band of children were caught eyes-left and open-mouthed as they circled the square.

An English lady took the last photo of us, after translating "Bondi facts" for many of the crowd, after which I could hear it being retranslated into German and Russian.

We then headed down through Pigalle in the direction of the square d'Orleans. I stopped into a music store specializing in keyboards and tried out a burst of Scarlatti with my chilled and rusty fingers on a Korg SP-250: a very lightweight unit with weighted keys and a fairly pleasing sound. Their display unit was on sale and I was (am!) sorely tempted to pick it up to satisfy my craving for quality time with my favourite pieces. Anyway, it turned out that the square d'Orleans was gated and closed, so you can't just wander in to see where Chopin, Georg Sand and Alexander Dumas once lived.

Further south again, on Boulevard Haussman (named after the Baron whose city-planning edicts made Paris what it is today) I stopped into the men's store of the Galeries Lafayette, whose flagship store is designated a national monument, and which is just up the road from Proust's townhouse. Bondi caused a major traffic-jam of staff/customer onlookers so I decided to cut my clothes-trying short and take him outside. After that it was a relatively quick walk home, past the Palais Garnier, one of the two homes of the Paris Opera.

In our building we had the unpleasant experience of getting trapped between floors in the tiny lift, with the mechanism reviving every 30 seconds and shaking us around in each of its limited dimensions. I wasn't able to entice it to open on a lower floor and so I placed an emergency call while the lift shuddered violently up the remaining 4 floors and the emergency service slowly tried to identify the lift from the address I supplied (since it didn't have a unique identifier for such purposes). Eventually the doors opened on our floor and I decided that it wasn't worth standing around to continue the call, and simply passed the news onto the booking service I got my studio through. The lift seems to have been out of service 50% of the time that I've been here, including 3 days out this week for a major overhaul. It wouldn't be so bad but getting Bondi up and down 82 winding polished stairs several times a day is not a great experience: I actually have to support him at the collar all the way down because it is so slippery. Bondi doesn't like the cramped lift at the best of times, so this is not going to help at all :-(. Posted by Picasa

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