Why?

This country has voted, overwhelmingly, to shoot itself in the head. It wants to get rid of the NHS. It wants to be the 51st state of the US. Most oddly, it wants a liar running it. That is probably the most remarkable takeaway from the election. Why on earth would people want to elect a proven liar?

I’ve written before that I think this country has not had an opposition party since the referendum and I think it’s true. Jeremy Corbyn seems indecisive, non-representative and, frankly, not leadership material. If anything he’s effectively led the Labour party to the country’s demise.

Now the government has been given a mandate to enact the single biggest mistake in the history of the planet. With our departure from the EU and new trade deals made with the US how will we ever reach anything like zero carbon emissions? Of course Boris Johnson promises we will. By 2050. Firstly that’s too late but, more importantly, he’s a proven liar.

And prices will rise. On everything. When will the poorest among us realise that the Conservatives do not care about them? The people described as ‘the worst idlers’ by a Tory minister. During the election campaign. Yet still they voted for it. A party that has said it’s PROUD of food banks.

It reminds me of the fact that Donald Trump said he’d run for the Republicans because only their voters were stupid enough to vote for him.

Why didn’t we have a politician, running for office who stood up and asked why people would vote for someone who thought they were stupid? I guess every party but the Conservatives are just as stupid as the majority of the voters. I bet Steve Bannon is rubbing his hands with glee as he casts his evil eye over the UK and it’s supplicant inhabitants.

And the racists have already started brazenly coming out of the woodwork. Nasty, evil little arseholes that they are. I think the collective noun for a bunch of racists is mucus. And the mucus will be running down the streets of England now thanks to this election. It really makes me hate living here. So much.

And people are trying to save the planet. For this lot? Why? Fucking populism and racism will kill everyone before they have stopped being able to breathe.

How appropriate today is Friday 13th.

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Why is there always a dog on my gouty foot?

Today I was unable to walk at all. I spent a lot of time dragging myself around the house on my butt thanking the Gods of the Gym for my new strong arms. The odd times I did manage to stand upright, I had to use a stick and move very slowly, grasping every surface around me. It was not a good day.

The day was made worse because I had to cancel going to France with the Weasels. It means I’ll miss seeing them but also I won’t get to see the mechanical turkeys. It was with great sadness that I wrote and told them.

One bright note is that I didn’t get wet travelling to Battle. A microscopic brightness.

Also, given my almost complete immobility, I couldn’t vote. Mind you, hearing the exit polls at 10pm, my vote wouldn’t have made any difference anyway.

And so my day was composed of dragging myself between the lounge and the dining table. At least I could do some research.

On the lounge I watched TV and dozed. I was never really comfortable but I could have done without Freya sitting on my foot everytime I moved.

Swollen and painful

Meanwhile in London…Mirinda has come down with, we think, whatever Bob brought over with him. Her voice is going and the cough has returned. Hopefully we’ll both be better by next week when we go to Florence.

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Return of the swell

Yesterday my right ankle started aching. By the time we reached home my ankle was swollen and I was dragging it around like an overstuffed sack of coal. This morning I was hobbling. It’s Japan all over again.

I’m assuming it’s gout related and will get worse before it improves. It might also mean I’ll not be going to Cassel with the Weasels tomorrow.

It goes together with the swollen elbow I’ve been suffering for the last few days. Except with the elbow I can still walk. Mind you, when I rest my forehead in my hands with despair, it hurts. A lot.

It didn’t help that I had to go up and down the stairs with load after load of laundry. Still, I managed to work my way through all but one load.

In the meanwhilst, Mirinda and Bob set off for London – Mirinda to work and Bob to potter around Covent Garden before they both eventually headed off for Canary Wharf.

The only time I left the house was to take the girls to the vet for their boosters. This was essential otherwise we’d not be able to go to Florence. I left myself a lot of time. What normally takes around ten minutes took half an hour.

The rest of the day was spent doing WW1 research. At least that makes me forget my own pathetic woes.

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Do you know your surname?

Odd question but quite important when it comes to one’s graduation. I overheard it as an usher directed a student to her seat. “Do you know your surname?” She asked then, realising what she’d said, asked for the student’s seat number.

We were at the Assembly Rooms for Mirinda’s DBA graduation. How apt to be receiving her doctorate in a room which, no doubt, Jane once frequented.

Mirinda’s ceremony was one of eight over two days. It was also the first one and started at 8:30am with registration then gown collection and Mirinda’s was a colourful reflection of her personalty as well as academic achievement.

There was a fair bit of queuing for the guests before we were allowed to file in and claim a seat. Bob and I proved that starting early is a bonus because, being at the head of the queue, we managed to bag two seats in the first row of guests. Okay this was the second actual row because we were sat behind the PhD graduands but even so, our view was excellent.

The view was also interesting given the mayor was sat directly opposite. His chains of office must have proven weighty indeed given his eyes struggled to remain open throughout the hour he was sat there.

Bath bun, Mr Mayor?

What he missed was a number of glorious moments. To be fair, he’s probably attended far too many of these official functions that really have nothing to do with him.

Obviously the most glorious moment of all was Mirinda walking up to receive her doctorate in a strange traditional nonsense whereby the Vice-Chancellor tapped her on the head with a mortar board then another chap draped her coloured collar around her shoulders.

It was all very mysterious and baffling but, eventually, she was made a Doctor and that, after all, was the end of a very long journey that started back in 2010.

Professor Veronica Hope-Hailey read out the names of all the graduands and, I have to say she deserves some sort of major recognition for the feat. There were some remarkable names (Pipobsukavadee, Almutawaa, Phuttichaiwarangkul, Wachiruksasawakul and Johnson to name but a few) and her pronounciation appeared to be perfect.

Possibly the funniest moment came from an unexpected quarter. I was chatting to the first graduand who went up. She was supposed to be the second one but the first one hadn’t turned up. Her name was Quynh Anh Do. She told me, in strictest confidence, that when she shook hands with the Pro-Chancellor, he said “Congratulations. Now get off.” Which, I’m sure, was a little more abrupt than he intended.

Chris Anderson, receiving an honorary doctorate, gave an inspirational speech. His name may not be instantly recognisable but his work definitely is. He created and continues to work on TED talks.

His speech centred around the effect of giving stuff away and how, unexpectedly you can get stuff back. I found it very inspiration. Plus he seems like a very nice person.

Dr Chris Anderson

Soon enough, it was all over and with a great degree of pomp and circumstance, everyone filed out of the room and into the world outside.

We could only get two guest passes but that didn’t stop Sophie turning up to watch Mirinda emerge from the Assembly Rooms in all her glory. Actually, the rain even almost stopped for the great moment.

We then had a short yet very crowded stroll down to the Pump Room. As well as her doctorate, Mirinda also won the Richard and Shirley Mawditt Prize for most outstanding (as opposed to longest serving) student. Richard and Shirley regularly give this award. In fact, Richard set up The International Centre of Higher Education Management (ICHEM), the school in which Mirinda studied.

Mirinda gave a rousing and often humourous acceptance speech to the delight of everyone.

It was then time for Sophie to head back to release her car from the meter to which it was attached. Also, Tom had his maths exam today so she had to head home to console him.

After a few drinks and nibbles and general chat where I discovered that the admin staff thought that I was ‘cute’, we headed out to the Pump Room dining room for a lunch of unintentional epic proportions.

Toasting with neat gin

There was a slight hiccough when I insisted that I wanted an IPA and not a lager. The waitress was under the impression that all beer is created equally and is lager. It was all smoothed over, however, when she realised that I was right.

Then, finally, we headed back to the Queensberry Hotel to pick up Max then drive the long, wet, arduous roads home.

A splendid day for a splendid achievement. I am very, very proud of my Doctor Wife.

I almost forgot to mention that fact that I made Sophie squeal. In all the years of our acquaintence she has never seen me dressed up. The effect of seeing me in my new three piece tweed suit was just too much for her. In fact, she thought she’d be okay in jeans because “Gary will be in jeans.

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Wake in Paris, sleep in Bath

There’s something a bit special about waking up in Paris, the rain pouring down outside, the sun not yet up and ending up in Bath, the sky clear, the sun set and everything once more dark. I might be a bit of an old romantic but I love it. I love being able to do it. And I hate that Brexit will mean we can’t do it. Stuff it, I don’t care if it’s selfish.

So, yes, it was pouring down with rain this morning in Paris. We could hear it through our double glazed windows. It had eased off a bit by the time we climbed aboard our taxi to Gare de Nord. Which was a good thing.

We had an amazing taxi driver. He was, single handedly, responsible for not killing a multitude of invisible scooter riders. Because of the strike, the traffic was awful and scooters, like suicicdal pigeons, darted through and alongside everything, almost daring someone to squish them.

Then there were the bikes and the vans and the buses. It was a nightmare of lights, wet and darkness. How our driver managed to deposit us whole at Gare de Nord is anyone’s guess but he did. An excellent Parisian taxi driver, if you ask me.

Of course the whole Eurostar business was painless. I received the usual star treatment owing to my walking stick. This is rather usual for France but I had to remind myself not to get too used to it as I was soon to return to England where walking sticks, like pregnant women, are invisible.

Not invisible were the policemen on the train. Again. I can only think they ride back and forth. I’m not sure why but it feels a bit reassuring.

Snoozing copper

The other thing that was immediately invisible in England was sight or sound of a taxi. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a taxi rank at a big station in London completely devoid of taxis but today at St Pancras, there was one.

Mirinda was not best pleased. She had me and Bob walk in very strong winds to Euston for a bus to Waterloo. At one point the wind was so strong that it blew my wheelie bag away.

Then, upon arriving at Waterloo, we realised we’d missed the train home by three minutes. Because of the stupid train strike, we had an hour to wait. We went to Carluccio’s for coffee.

Another train home then a final taxi to the house. As Bob said, it was the most public transport he’s caught in many a decade. In fact, he couldn’t remember the last time he actually caught a bus.

At home there was a brief turn around before packing Max and heading to Bath for the graduation. This is the whole reason we’ve been to Paris and back. The reason why we drove to Bath. The reason why Bob is here for a very brief visit.

The Queensberry Hotel is a delight. It’s also a five minute downhill walk to the Assembly Rooms in Bath where the graduation is to take place tomorrow morning. It was the perfect choice for a bed for the night.

It was originally four houses. This explains the extraordinary number of staircases in the hotel. I’d love to stay longer than overnight but not this time.

Bob and I sat in the bar while Mirinda made a work call then we were joined by Sophie who had left Tom at home studying maths for an exam tomorrow. Speaking of Tom, she told us all about his ‘kingdom’ which is in his bedroom. No-one, least of all his mother, is allowed in without express permission. Such a teenager.

Mirinda finally joined us and we all went off for a delightful dinner at Chequers which was just around the corner. They managed to squeeze us in before an 8pm booking.

Chequers

The staff were excellent. The woman in charge was very good and laughed at my jokes. Actually she laughed uproarously when I told her she poured the wine a lot better than our waiter last night. When she asked why I said because he was drunk. She really thought this was extremely funny. Which it was.

After a delicious dinner we headed off to walk Sophie back to her car. We managed to reach the ice skating rink before heading back, leaving her to find her car in the dark. By herself.

Skate Bath

It was a very big day and we soon crashed. Tomorrow promises to be memorable.

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Papa Pompom

I have to say that if one is to be caught up in a security scare because of an unattended package, one could do a whole lot worse than wind up in a room full of naked women. That is exactly what happened to me today. Here’s one. Her name was Venus.

One of the naked women

I had a text from Mirinda asking where I was and I assured her that I wasn’t the unattended package. She didn’t get the joke until I explained that there had been a security scare.

We were at the Musee d’Orsay and Mirinda was starting to admire their exhibition of Degas Art. She is rather a fan of Mr Degas. This is mostly because she was once a ballerina and she still loves ballet. I think she also just likes the style of his works. I don’t mind him even though I’m not especially enamoured of the Impressionists.

Something I am very enamoured of is when someone notices my walking stick and, as a matter of course, moves me by every queue imaginable. We had arrived outside the d’Orsay in a cab and the queue was horrendous. I was sure that Mirinda would once more declare we were going somewhere else. But no, she was determined she was going to see the Degas.

We approach the long, long twisting line of humanity when an official looking woman suddenly appeared and directed me towards a colleague of hers who was standing further away. I approached him and he opened a special lane for me to head closer to the entrance even ahead of the advance ticket holders.

Then it was through the security with a cursory smile and to the ticket booths.

We were inside in very short time, planning our attack. This was delayed somewhat when Mirinda came up against the screaming woman at the cloakroom who claimed there was no room, that it was full up while, directly behind her were thousands of unused hangers just longing to be used.

Because of the infernal strike, a couple of the other exhibitions and rooms weren’t open but the Degas was (phew) so we headed there first. I was trailing behind Mirinda and Bob in his new beanie when I spotted a beautiful statue that I just had to inspect.

Mil huit cent soixante et onze by Paul Cabet between 1872 & 1877

Having had a good look at it I turned and spotted a massive canvas showing some sort of Roman orgy. It had a number so I pressed the corresponding digits on my audio guide and was listening to a delightful explanation when a chap moved me out of the immediate area in front of the painting. I moved a bit but then was almost ejected by a quite short security guard who insisted I move away completely. Which was how I wound up with the nudes.

As soon as everything was cleared up, I found Mirinda and we went through the Degas exhibition unscathed. We then met up with Bob who had been looking at other pictures he thought preferable to ballet ones and went for a coffee and regroup.

We had a few options at this point but we decided to go and catch a boat.

There’s a new thing on the Seine: a hop on hop off boat. It’s a genius idea. And quite reasonably priced as well. So, after drinking our coffee and beer – Mirinda bought us both – we headed down to the BatoBoat dock at Musee d’Orsay.

It was then just a case of sitting back, relaxing and enjoying the view, something which brightened up the longer we were on the river. This was excellent given it had been raining in the morning.

The boat takes you all the way from the botanical gardens to the Eiffel Tower and back as many times as you like in a 24 hour period. And if you’re lucky you might get a good picture of the many famous landmarks.

The boat wasn’t very crowded and the journey was very relaxed. In fact it was a joy.

Back on dry land we headed across to the Hotel Meurice where Bob spent a few nights in utter luxury back in the Belle Epoch. He was quite aghast looking at the menu prices by the front door. I mean €125 for a couple of prawns is a bit much. Not to mention the €1250 for a 2003 bottle of red. We quickly hurried away from this Stupid Man’s Folly.

We had a surprise lined up for Bob and we had to head up towards the Opera Charles Garnier.

Ever since we arrived in Paris, Bob has complained that he hasn’t seen any Christmas lights. Yesterday I spotted a bus advertising Christmas Light Bus Tours. Last night we bought three tickets on one. That’s where we were headed.

We stopped at a cafe for possibly the best millefeuille I have ever had. Bob suggested I give it a score but I said I had my hands full with the creme brulee scoring so would skip any pastry delights. Mind you, it was easily an 11/10.

Actually, tonight I had a creme brulee that I could only give a four…but more of that later.

Then came the low point of the holiday (for me). The ticket for the bus was in the form of a voucher downloaded from an email. The voucher downloaded okay and I was prepared to show the woman on my phone. Ignoring my proffered phone, she pointed to an email address on the wall and said I had to email it to them so they could print some tickets.

This seemed totally ridiculous but, of course, I did as I was told and tried to email it to her. Twice I emailed it to her but she didn’t receive it. I should add I wasn’t the only one suffering from this stupidly overly complex system. An American chap beside me was getting just as frustrated.

Eventually the woman did look at my phone, realised I was Mr Cook and handed me my tickets. According to Mirinda she was petrified because of the looks I was giving her and the seething sense of doom I was emitting. This doesn’t happen often but when it does…

Still, all was well and we boarded the top of the open top bus and froze around the traffic clogged streets of Paris in the freezing cold winds of December in order to see the Christmas lights which, I have to admit, were very good.

Heading towards the Arc de Triumph

The whole trip took about an hour and a half but that was because of the traffic. Later we asked a taxi driver if it was usual for Paris to be so traffic bound of a Sunday night. He blamed the strike and the fact that the Metro was not running. Makes sense.

Frozen solid but warmed by the fact that as we reached the Eiffel Tower it suddenly sprung into full twinkle mode, we made it back to the Opera Charles Garnier. It then took a while to find a vacant cab. The one we did find was driven by a Frenchman who seemed to be obsessed with the new Australian gold rush. He even had a TV programme lined up to show us as we slowly crept towards our hotel.

He wasn’t the only odd person we encountered today. Top of the list was our drunk waiter. We ate at the Bistrot de la Place, not far from the hotel. The food was fine, the waiter very entertaining and the wine superb. The creme brulee was one of the worst I’ve ever had. This was a shame because everything else was so good.

The thing I liked best about the Bistrot was the fact that they had a black and white movie showing on a small section of wall. We could watch it and try and guess what it was. I knew it was Brigitte Bardot but had no idea of the name. We asked the waiter but he got into trouble from the boss for talking to me so we didn’t quite get the title.

However, upon further investigation, I have discovered that it was the 1958 film, En cas de malheur (Love Is My Profession) in whch she starred alongside Jean Gabin.

I have no idea why it was on a permanent loop but it was.

Eventually we headed back to the hotel (about 50 metres) and went to bed. We have an early start tomorrow for the Eurostar.

I should explain the title. It refers to Bob’s new beanie. It can be seen in this photo and should be self explanatory.

Mirinda and Papa Pompom
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Bob was once a great yodeller

Things seem to be returning to normal in Paris after the last few days of strikes. Today lots of things were open and there were crowds. Apparently the lack of crowds on Thursday was because most Parisians stayed home from work.

We managed to see a couple of sites as well as a number of cafes.

Most unexpected was (and I really want one) the Marie Antoinette Barbie.

Mattel was on a winner here

Created in 2003, she currently sells for between $1,700-$8,000 US. The roses in her hand are ‘hand-crafted porcelain.’ It doesn’t say if her head comes off but I assume it does.

And we now know an awful lot about Marie Antoinette. In a stroke of ironic genius, there is an exhibition of her last few weeks (and subsequent celebrity) in the Conciergerie. This is where she spent her last few weeks.

The exhibition shows her as she was, as she was imagined and how her celebrity has grown since her death. It remined me a lot of the cult of Sisi. The exhibition mentions the cult of Princess Diana which erupted after her death. And, to be honest, continues today.

It demonstrates (if nothing else) how celebrity is not a new thing. How people have often romanticised celebrities after they’ve killed them in horrible ways.

I feel an odd sort of familiarity with Marie Antoinette. Many years ago, back in 2000 in fact, we visited the ‘house’ in which she grew up. It is in Innsbruck and is called the Imperial Palace. I distinctly remember the Hall of Giants. I think her perceptions of the world were formed by her childhood and her isolation from the real world.

At 14, when she arrived at Versailles, she was already well on the path. She preferred being alone, hidden in the vast expanse of Versailles, playing with her children and planning happy little Disneyland versions of the peasantry to entertain her.

I do rather think she’d like the fact that, even today, she is remembered as a paragon of style.

Next door is La Chapelle. We thought Bob would enjoy seeing an old building. It was built sometime between 1242 and 1248 in order to house a bunch of holy relics. The top floor is where the relics were kept. Chief among these authentic pieces of Christian hockam was the actual crown of thorns given to Christ by the soldiers in order to mock him.

The crown of thorns cost more than the building in which it was to be held. It wasn’t the only relic. There were 22 all together but, clearly, none were as important as the crown of thorns. The fact that people STILL believe that the crown of thorns was really put on Jesus’ head baffles me completely. It’s even stranger when the myth was first expounded over 200 years after it happened. Still…

Bob wanted to know where the crown of thorns is now given it is no longer in the chapel which was built to house it.

Sainte-Chapelle

The crown was kept at the national library during the French Revolution. In around 1801 it was deposited in Notre Dame. It was quite safe there until this year when fire ravaged the cathedral. Fortunately the Paris fire brigade managed to rescue the very important relic.

I’m guessing there are some Christians who will think that the survival of the crown of thorns is evidence for the existence of god. I think it’s evidence of the Paris fire brigade saving things of little importance in order to preserve the celebrity of Christ.

I originally wrote about Sainte-Chapelle back in 2008. The entry is here.

We walked by Notre Dame on our way to the Conciergerie this morning. It’s all looking a bit sad though there’s some amazing reconstruction going on.

At the bottom of the photo you can see the tops of some new boards with photos and text on them, explaining what happened and what is happening now. They are excellent and we spent a bit of time perusing them. We were not alone. It made me glad we’d seen it before the fire.

Between the Conciergerie and Saint-Chapelle we popped into a very close by resturant for lunch. A rather natty waiter beckoned us inside, sat us down and took our orders. He informed us that he was the best waiter in Paris. He said ‘Oo la la’ an awful lot. His skill at remembering orders was very good.

My duck was delicious though I could only give the creme brulee 7/10. My report is on the Scoring Creme Brulee page above.

Then, as we headed back to the hotel, little known to Bob and me, Mirinda had a surprise lined up. She walked us down a couple of back alleys until we stopped outside an art gallery. A tiny, non-descript art gallery. She went inside. Then, after chatting to the delightfully moustachioed chap sat inside, beckoned us in.

She had planned to surprise us with Yoshi Araki’s latest exhibition which, unfortunately, finished yesterday. We did see the exhibition catalogue though. It was full of fish. It also looked really good. Such a pity we were a day late.

Yoshi was an exchange student with Mirinda’s family for a while a number of years ago. She now lives and works in Paris. Her paintings are very good.

A bit crestfallen, Mirinda led us back to the hotel for a bit of a rest before the highlight of our whole stay. A night at the cabaret. Or, rather, the Diva Kabaret.

Now, I’ve had a lot of nights out and seen a lot of shows. I’ve seen good, I’ve seen bad, I’ve been entertained, I’ve been bored. Tonight has to go down as one of the most entertaining and fun nights I have ever spent.

Tara Jackson being Whitney

The three performers were incredible. Great entertainers all. Okay it was in French, mostly, but that didn’t matter.

That’s not entirely accurate. An English woman and a Scottish man (a couple) were not that impressed. They’d been there since 8pm and the show didn’t start till 9:30. She was pretty grumpy. Then when it became obvious the show was going to be in French, her grumpiness increased.

The interval couldn’t have come fast enough. They were out of their seats and up the stairs before the lights had fully gone up. They really didn’t enjoy it. In fact, she refused to be entertained.

Sweety BonBon shakin’ sequins

On the other hand, we loved every minute. Actually, we were a bit worried that Bob wouldn’t like it but he totally did. At the interval Mirinda said if he wanted to go it was too bad because she wasn’t going anywhere.

I agreed. It was brilliant. The next time we go to Paris (next year, presumably) we have to return to the Diva Kabaret.

Lara Fullcamp singing the yodelling song to a poor German lad

It came out, at the interval, that Bob used to sing the yodelling song to Mirinda and Fiona when they were young. Not dressed like Lara, above, I assume. Mirinda claims he was a great yodeller.

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Your French is very good

I am not a fan of Dan Brown. It’s fair to say I’ve only ever read about a page of The Da Vinci Code. It was as far as I could get before his lack of language skills turned me off. I’m also not a Harry Potter fan. I’ve not read any of them and only watched the first movie. It was enjoyable enough but never really struck me as something I’d enjoy.

Because of the above, I had never heard of Nicolas Flamel, the man who lived for over 600 years and was an expert in alchemy.

Of course, today his house is a restaurant. Mind you, when I say ‘restaurant’ it’s more an epicuran delight. That I know because we had lunch there today. It was a Mirinda surprise which worked really, really well.

Possibly the oldest extant house in Paris

In the real world, Nicolas lived for around 80 years from 1330 and sold manuscripts in Paris. He married Perenelle, a woman who had been married to some quite rich chaps of ill health who, conveniently, died leaving her an increasingly wealthier woman. It was clearly meant to be because Perenelle Flamel is one excellent name.

Of course his legend of alchemy and the philosopher’s stone springs forth about 200 years after his actual death. It reminds me of the Jesus myth given that’s how long before someone decided to write that down as well. Funny what people will believe.

According to legend Flamel met a Jew on a road and he gave him the skills to make gold from lead and gave him the recipe for the elixir of life which, naturally, made him immortal. Though, according to the Harry Potter books, he died sometime in the 1990’s.

Naturally I find all of that intrigingly hilarious and makes me shake my head at the gullibility of people. It also makes me admire Dan Brown a little more for using the stupidity of his readers against themselves.

I suppose lunch at Nicolas Flamel’s was a high point of the day. It was especially enjoyable given the waiter’s comment regarding my excellent French language skills. However, our second visit to the Musée Cognacq-Jay was also marvellous. Firstly because it was actually open (the strike, while still on has waned somewhat) and secondly because there’s been a few minor changes to the displayed collection.

We visited last year so I’ll not go into the place in any great detail. (The link to the 2018 entry can be found here.) I thought Bob would enjoy the examples of woodworking as well as the art on display given it’s almost all ‘pretty pictures’ rather than the stuff I really like.

Unfortunately the modern art display in the attic was either just finished or yet to come because the whole space was completely empty. I say ‘unfortunately’ because I’d have loved to see Bob’s face if presented with something not so ‘real.’

The collection at the Cognacq-Jay houses so many exquisite little pieces that it’s good to have a return visit in order to spot the things you possibly missed the first time. Like for instance the miniature of the Cupid’s Bank Job.

“We strike tonight, boys!”

Apart from the art collection of Théodore-Ernest and Marie-Louise Jay Cognacq and eating in (possibly) the oldest house in Paris, we generally wandered. We wandered the Marais, the Jewish Quarter, the rather trendy shops. It was all delightful.

The weather, which was a bit drizzly today, didn’t stop us. There were no riots though there were a few more people on the street. Mirinda insisted we have a morning coffee in the lively square of St Catherine. It was as lively as anything can be with a couple of old people dragging a trolley behind them, a cat licking itself and a scattered pile of leaves. Still, the coffee and croissant was lovely.

I found a lot of street art to photograph. Possibly my favourite today was the one below which is by TocToc who is also responsible for the skin on my laptop. Actually it always amazes me that no-one asks about the skin on my laptop.

On the way back to the hotel I forced the others into La Favorite for a beer or hot chocolate. I ordered the half litre because I thought that was the small one. My apologies to Bob. Mirinda’s hot chocolate came with sugar. She wondered why when it was very sweet anyway. I grabbed the sugar and said it was for me. I guess the waitress somehow realised I needed it.

I haven’t talked about the weird sugar at our hotel. It comes individually wrapped (grrr) and in various colours. I’ve seen white, brown and pink so far but Bob assures me there are other colours. The sugar has been molded to look like little biscuits. That’s a bit confusing. There’s also not many. As usual I scoop up unused sugar everywhere we drink.

I must include this picture of Bob. He asked me to take his photo in front of the Flamel restaurant for Judy. Not because it was in front of the Flamel restaurant but because he was never in photos that he sent to her. I Whatsapped it across so he could send it to her.

I think it’s quite nice

The umbrella came courtesy of our hotel. It was very handy.

I feel I must also include a photo of my main course from Nicolas Flamel’s. It’s cod. The red thing on the top turned out to be a bit of pickled cauliflower. It was odd because I thought it was going to be a raspberry. I see from the photograph that it’s obviously cauliflower. The restaurant was fashionably dark and it looked exactly like a raspberry. I swear.

YUM!

After a quick beer at La Favorite and a short rest at the hotel, we once more gathered in the lobby before heading up to the Duc des Lombards jazz club. We went last year and were really looking forward to tonight’s show.

Jowee Omicil plays a whole host of musical intruments though, for tonight he settled on clarinet and a couple of saxophones. He was born in Montreal, spent a lot time in Haiti and now lives in Paris. He is a big part of his music. It comes from deep within. He gives an amazing amount of energy to the audience. It’s all about the BasH!

Performing with him were: Randy Kerber, a maestro on piano: Jendah Manga who plays a mean bass guitar: Arnaud Dolmen on drums. They were all intricately entwined. It was all beautifully super jazz. Everything one hopes for at the Duc des Lombards.

Quite apart from the fantastic music and inventive audience participation, our front row seats were brilliant. Total immersion is one way of putting it.

Truly superb Musical Colors.

Mind you, I’m not sure everyone enjoyed the show.

Front row is not particularly keen

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A tour of the closed sites

Silvia Montfort (1923-1991) was a mere slip of a girl of 16 when she joined the Resistance. She had been born in the Marais area and went to school at the lycee Victor Hugo. In 1939 she joined the Eure-et-Loir network under the command of the man she would marry, Maurice Clavel. Her mother died early in Silvia’s life and her father wanted a life in a Gobelin manufactory for Silvia but she had different ideas.

Our hotel is in the Marais and we walked by the house where Silvia was born this morning. After the war she became an actor, a comic, a director, she worked on films and plays and…well, she did heaps of stuff. Unlike us today. Because of the strike, we basically just wandered from unopen site to unopen site.

The strike, on the other hand, spawned a great tear gas ridden riot. Not that we knew about it in the Marais. At one stage we were walking parallel to the Seine when 15 black Marias sped by, sirens screaming. I can only imagine they were off for a bit of quelling.

While we didn’t see anything of the riot, for some reason I overheard quite a few American conversations. There was the couple trying to find a second scooter and the woman who was telling her husband that she had “A bit of fluff on my eyelash.” And many more.

The scooter thing is interesting. Last night we kept seeing discarded scooters littering the streets. Sometimes in the gutter, sometimes leaning against walls, sometimes just lying all forlorn sprawled like some Oktoberfest Kiwi draped across the footpath. We also saw lots of them in operation. Scooters; not Kiwis.

Think city bikes but without a seat and you get the idea. There are ten separate companies operating across Paris and each one has brightly coloured electric scooters. You use the app to connect to the machine than you scoot around the city, paying per half hour. The price varies but it’s reasonable.

The scooters are capable of speeds of up to 50kpm, which is a bit scary if you ask me. Mind you, given the streets, I’m not sure you’d ever get that fast.

A rare sight: scooters in a scooter bay

I didn’t see any charging points so how they are recharged is a mystery. I imagine they have a GPS tracker in them in order to be located. Maybe they then get hauled off somewhere for some juice. Though I haven’t seen a spot where the fully charged ones congregate. It’s all very interesting but a little confusing.

I was surprised there were any scooters around at all. Or bikes for that matter. With the national strike starting today and it was as if the whole of Paris was asleep. The bit in the Marais anyway.

Most shops were open but largely empty, bus stops were collecting only dust and art galleries were closed. We know because we wandered by a few. Mind you, we didn’t wander long, first thing, before stopping at a very French cafe for a coffee.

Coffee and croissant – how Parisian are we?

And we stopped at a fair few coffee/tea shops today. We also ate at a truffle restaurant which was, as far as I was concerned, heaven. They even had truffle ice cream but, sadly, had sold out. I did manage to have a truffle creme brulee though, which was very interesting. In a good way. (There’ll be a report in the creme brulee page soon.) My pizza was divine and worth the carbs.

Truffle-liscous

After lunch and a bit more wandering we managed to find a tourist site that was open. It is a cellar. It is also very old. The pillars which are holding everything up were built in the 13th century and are Gothic. The first house on top was built (after the cellar) for a bunch of Cistercian Monks. The idea was for them to use it as a central distribution centre for the produce they brought into Paris from the countryside. Sort of like the greengrocers still do today but without the arches.

It quite reminded me of the undercroft in Guildford though not in as good a repair. The reason for this, the lady said, was because of the many changes of buildings above. Of course I only think that’s what she said. As soon as Mirinda had told her we didn’t speak French she decided to explain everything in French. Very quickly and with great enthusiasm.

At one point the monks decided there was more money in real estate than vegetables so they decided to rent the place out. It whole block was converted into three separate buildings full of rental properties.

The building continued to change usage until October 1961 when it was decided to demolish it.

It was saved by a group of people who didn’t feel that its destruction was warranted. Nowadays, it is the headquarters of the association Paris Historique, who look after and restore it as best they can with limited funds.

Possibly the most interesting thing the lady showed us was the plan that Corbusier had for the whole Marais area. He would have the whole place completely flattened and a load of cross shaped towerblocks plonked in a gridlike pattern. I rather like his houses, but his plan for the Marais sucked big time.

Before we left, our chatty guide took us upstairs to show us a light well with the original wattle and daub walls and a very long garderobe. It was rather cold. The lightwell not the long loo.

We did see another site. A church. A big cold and unwelcoming behemoth of a thing. It’s the Church of Saint-Gervais-et-Saint-Protais that once had a very old and famous tree outside. The tree has gone (Bob reckons it was worn down with dog’s peeing on it) but, sadly, the church has not.

Mind you, it does have quite a good reason to be so gloomy. In March 1918, a long range German shell landed on it. The bomb killed 91 people at a Good Friday service when the whole roof collapsed onto the congregation. It also wounded 68 others. It was part of the Paris Bombing of 1918, something I’d never heard of until today.

Our day sort of stopped at about 5pm when we returned to the hotel for a siesta. Then, following a couple of beers in the bar, we headed across the road for tapas. I was very keen to go because they serve grilled sardines.

They were delicious

Back in the safety of our room, I had an urgent and abrupt appointment with Mr Toilet. I think the steak tartare from last night had decided it had had enough of my gut and wanted out. There was nothing else I could think of and raw beef does have form. The appointment went on well into the night and completely emptied my body.

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In defence of Communism

The Polidor would have to be one of our favourite restaurants in Paris. This visit, because we had Bob with us, we wanted him to experience it with us. Having checked into our hotel we went for a long, long walk. And, while the food and the bench tables and the lack of booking are all still there, they now accept plastic. The sign which proudly proclaimed that they hadn’t accepted a credit card since 1845 has gone. I saw someone pay with a card.

Needless to say that was a bit disappointing. Though the food and wine were both excellent and the atmosphere was exactly how we remembered. My steak tartare was amazing.

I was sort of amazed that we actually made it. Emile had picked us up in a taxi at 9am, assuring us we’d be there in heaps of time. And, to be fair to Emile, he was right. What Emile didn’t know was that I’d built in a Mirinda Buffer on top of the time he allowed. This meant we managed to arrive with an hour to spare.

Needless to say, the traffic was horrendous. I don’t know if it was because of the train strike or simply because people didn’t want us to go to Paris, but it was chockas. Mirinda was getting a bit toey in the front seat but I was watching the satnav and I knew I had some secret time up my sleeve. I knew it was going to be fine.

And Emile is a very calm driver. He managed to talk to Mirinda for most of the journey filling her head with all manner of things. Like, for instance, how the Communists weren’t that bad in Bulgaria. For one thing they ensured that the rivers were very straight. I guess it’s always going to be much easier when you only have one opinion and everyone shares it.

So, we pulled up outside St Pancras and headed for the gates, tickets clutched, passports brandished. It was smooth as silk, mainly because there wasn’t many people on the train. This might be normal for the 12:24 of a Wednesday Eurostar but we’ve never caught it so…

Everything was simply lush as we headed out of London. There was a moment of confusion when Bob asked for red, white and rose when out meal was served but it was quickly explained away and things just chugged along perfectly.

Happy travellers

At one point I went to the loo and found myself selfconsciously walking through a carriage full of National Police who looked at me with a strange suspicion which I can only imagine came with the basic training.

First thing this morning I dropped the girls around to Sue and she told me not to post photos of my food because it made her salivate uncontrollably. I tried to promise her to comply. In the interests of her sensitivity, I include this photo of my Eurostar lunch.

Finis

Arriving at Gard de Nord, we were whisked through everyone else and given priority status for a taxi. I had no idea why until Mirinda assured me it was because I had a walking stick. I really am quite thick sometimes. Anyone who has joined the long snaking queue outside Gard de Nord taxi rank will tell you, getting priority is not to be sneezed at.

We were very quickly heading down to the river and the pretty little boutique Hotel JoBo, our rooms for the next few nights. JoBo stands for Josephine Bonaparte (whose name wasn’t Josephine). The taxi driver was happily practising his fractured English, telling us about the big strike. I was quite pleased that I could not just follow his words but also joined in a bit as well.

After the mandatory Mirinda inspection of every room in the building, we settled on the one the receptionist had decided she’d like in the first place. Rather than unpack we decided to take advantage of the free welcome drinks in the bar. Well, Mirinda and Bob did, I had a beer, not being a big fan of voluntary champagne.

The JoBo Bar

It was soon time to work up a full sized appetite with a 15 mile walk to the Polidor which we managed in about an hour. It was totally worth it. On the way we passed the sadness that is Notre Dame and lots of lovely little shops that Mirinda is determined to revisit in the daytime.

Having eaten our fills we then walked all the way back to the hotel where we, eventually, went to bed.

An excellent and easy start to Paris 2019.

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