Monday, 24 January 2011

Books round 2

Last time I wrote about what books I've been reading I think I said I was going to read the Millenium trilogy, which I did. I enjoyed the first one (The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo), it was an easy read, engaging, interesting story but nothing mind-blowing. The second and third ones I found tedious, the dragged the story on too long with the plots getting more and more ridiculous. Call me literal minded (as many of you do) but for me books have to be believable, or else a complete fantasy and clearly not resembling real life. So I'm sorry but they didn't really do it for me.
But here's some books I have read, really enjoyed and recommend:
'The Girl at the Lion D'or' by Sebastian Faulkes. About a girl who moves from Paris to a smaller town Janvilliers as a waitress and there meets a married man who she falls in love with. There's more to it than that but that is the basic premise and it has really interesting, beautiful character interactions. A really simple but interesting and beautifully written story.
'Fred and Edie' by Jill Dawson. Based on a true story about a woman and her lover who killed her husband in the 1920's. Told through her letters to him while she is in prison, it builds up a wonderful idea of her character- vain, conceited and self-absorbed. It was even better when I found out it was true. Apparently there was a big media furore around the story at the time. The historian in me wants to research more into the documents surrounding the trial!
'Perfume' by Patrick Suskind. This is the story of a man who has an unbelievable sense of smell, he can smell the difference between milk which was made on a sunny day or on a rainy day for example. And it's the story of his search for the best scent in the world. I've never read anything like it before, it's such an interesting premise for a book. Suskind's descriptions are brilliant. I began to think about smell in an entirely different way and how much it effects an atmosphere. Brilliant.
'The Swan Thieves' by Elizabeth Kostova. This was the last book I read. I knew I would like because I loved her first book 'The Historian'. A psychologist receives a new patient- an artist who has attacked a painting and tries to discover what made him do it. It's a mix of faux-history, mystery and love. So good. I couldn't put it down and now I don't know what to read.
If anyone has any suggestions for what I can read next, please help!

Cabaret des filles de joie

Yesterday was so so cool. Frances took me to a cabaret in eastern Paris. It started at 5pm and there was a brocante there as well (a very expensive one though, not like the ones near me) and families were invited too. I was expecting it to be a family friendly affair, a bit of music, a bit of dancing, a bit of 50's style fun. But it was so much more than that. It was a proper burlesque cabaret. There were 3 different parts to the show. It started with the spectacle and there were about 5 different 'stories'/dances each one ending up with the girl in pants suspenders and nipple tassels. The next part was live music with a rock 'n' roll band and during some of the songs, one of the girls would get up and do a dance. Ending up semi-naked again. Frances and I spent some time deliberating the feminist issues behind burlesque dancing. I know it inevitably is derived from an old subjugation of women, but they all looked like they were having the best time I'm not sure I mind. I wish I had the guts to get up on stage like they do. Any thoughts? You weren't allowed to take pictures so I've tried to find some from the internet:

The lady in the first picture was the MC and she presented the show brilliantly, she was like all these girl's mother, but one sexy mother. She was super cool. Frances and I danced lots to the music too which was really good rock 'n' roll, and just next to us some obvious professionals were dancing who were amazing. I would love to be able to dance proper rock 'n' roll, it's so fast and quick but looks effortless, almost lazy because you have to be all loose while you're dancing. Brilliant. I wish you could capture dancing in a photograph but it's too difficult, especially on my rubbish little camera, so this will have to suffice.

Then last but not least there was a dance competition, some good couples, some not so good, and some plain hilarious. Every round they were given a new brief, and for one for them they were told to dance sensuously with a bit of humour. One couple were so over the top and seductive it was so gross it was funny.

I started a new class today, I've gone up to the next level which was really good. I hope I'll progress more in it, everybody talks in it as they're just that slightly more advanced. So much better. Here's hoping it will motivate me more.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Jazz and poker

The weather's getting cold again. I hope it doesn't start snowing again, I've had enough of snow. Apparently it snowed in Paris for 10 mins yesterday. So with slightly gloomier weather, ive had a slightly more gloomy (well not gloomy, just lazy) weekend. Friday night Anna and I went to a jazz bar by St Michel. Apparently the oldest in Paris - Caveau de la Huchette. You walk into the bar first, which was very empty and we felt a little put out having just paid €14 but downstairs is where the action is in a cave like space. There was a good jazz band playing, everyone sits around the edges of the room waiting to be asked to dance on the dance floor. Mainly middle-aged/older folks who all know how to dance properly. There was one elderly gentlemen, he looked the same age as my grandpa - late 80's - in a yellow and black checked shirt and a black neckerchief who was dancing with such vigour and enthusiasm. It was great. Anna and I tried to join in but neither of us being able to do ballroom dancing, we looked a bit out of place. But we tried. At one point walking through the bar, we walked past an old, very French looking man, who stopped in his tracks to look at us, exclaiming 'Wow wow wow, my god, ahhhhh'! It was so obvious and unashamed, so funny.

Today's been a quiet day, I got up late, found a new route to go running and finished my book, The Swan Thieves. Actually I haven't written a post about books I've read in a while. I'll do that next.
But yesterday evening was great fun. Louise was here as well as Luc, so we had a grand soirée and I cooked. I cooked two of my favourite dishes - chorizo and pumpkin risotto followed by lemon pudding, both recipes courtesy of my mum. And they seemed to be a success so I was happy. Then we played poker. I love poker, I'm a gambler at heart and get so easily caught up in a game, betting more and more. I lost €6 tonight. Pas beaucoup and what's a little money for a little fun 'ey. One drink in Paris costs more than that. Tout la monde etait fatiquée, Romain and Luc had been djing in Belgium the night before and didn't get to bed til gone 5am. They showed us a video of their night - it was good, I hope they play in Paris soon so I can go and see them!

Monday, 10 January 2011

Galette des Rois and the start of a New Year

So I got back to Paris last Sunday, luckily no problems with the Eurostar this time, all was back to normal. And when I got back to the house I was greeted by a beautiful kitten! A beautiful grey kitten with amber eyes called Dr Sanchez. Haha. She is the most cuddliest cat, so soft and friendly. And the girls adore her and she seems to like them, unusual for kittens! At the end of Christmas, for Epiphany, in France they have a Galette des Rois which is a cake with a frangipani filling encased in puff pastry. So tasty. And inside is a little fève, a lucky charm, and the person who gets it becomes king or queen for the day. And I got it in my first one! I was so happy. You even get a little crown. We have something very similar in England, although it's not such a big thing.

Alors, so my first weekend back in Paris and rather than having a ‘wild one’ it’s been a more civilised welcome back. Lydia and I watched Paris je t’aime on the first evening. Quite a strange film with lots of short stories, some good some not so good. But it made me think about how wonderful Paris is as well as look forward to doing some more exploring!
On Saturday we took the opportunity to go to Saint Chapelle and the Concierge which are inside the Palais de Justice on Ile de la Cité. Saint Chapelle was breathtakingly beautiful. It was built in the 13th century to house relics, including the Christ's crown of thorns. It is a room surrounded by stained glass windows up to 15m high telling the story of the Bible. I wasn’t expecting it, and to walk in to the room and be confronted by this glow of colour was spectacular. It’s meant to be especially spectacular when it’s really sunny. For anyone with a penchant for stained glass windows it’s a must-see. Just up from the Chapelle is La Concierge which used to be a prison. During the French Revolution hundreds of prisoners were sent here before being executed, including Marie Antoinette. After that we just ambled around the Ile’s, enjoying being back in Paris, and seeing the hundreds of creperies there are everywhere. Seriously every other shop is a creperie.

Today I spent toute seul and I went to the Musée Rodin which I’ve been meaning to go to for ages as I’ve been told how beautiful it is. And it is. It’s in a beautiful 18th century mansion with a charming garden where you can sit amongst The Thinker and The Gates of Hell. I actually found it better here to be alone as I could see the museum at my own pace, admiring all the sculptures. I even ate my lunch alone, which I think is the first time I’ve ever eaten out alone. But in France it’s very acceptable to do such a thing, it gives you an air of independence. Maybe I’m finally growing up. 

After Musée Rodin I took a stroll around Hotel des Invalides which was built as a home for wounded soldiers in the seventeenth century. It’s an impressive building, especially on a beautiful day, like it was. It’s home to the National War Museum and probably most importantly, Napolean’s tomb. Which is huge. It’s underneath the big golden dome in a crypt surrounded by big tableaux and quotations of his. It’s very impressive. Plus all of this is free for EU citizens under 26. So if you want to go to Paris, now’s the time to do it folks, nearly every museum/gallery I’ve been to is free. All these wonderful attractions you can go to again and again and again (I think Musée Rodin might become another Musée D’Orsay for me in this respect).