Everything you can imagine is real – Pablo Picasso
Woody Allen was right with Midnight in Paris. The young man’s great love for a city and the art of imagination that allowed him to connect with the cultural and intellectual Parisian giants of the past, is totally believable. You might be able to connect to WiFi on every street corner but Paris does not need electronics to feel connected. Maybe it’s the warm and established architecture or the many Vesper lookalikes that fly around the streets, narrowly missing pedestrians. Or maybe it is the cafes that are full of conversation, coffee and cigarettes. So many Lygon streets, so many Acland streets that stretch as far as the eye can see. And these eating places are all full, no matter what time of day or the week. We wonder if there is anybody working.
Within a short time of arriving, Ellie has totally impressed us with her natural use of the French language in negotiating lunch, coffees and hotels. Whilst we were all still recovering from the 24hour flight/metal tube experience, we embraced the challenge of walking from our totally French Hotel to the Sacré Coeur basilica of Montmartre with its sweeping views of Paris. In the basilica, a service is taking place and the Nuns, in full regalia, are chanting.
With the guidance of our local Parisian friend Axelle, we were to learn so much more. The nuns for example, are known to Axelle in her role as Deputy Principal of a large catholic school. She describes them, as how do you say? Persuasive: good at selling. We have an unexpected moment at La Madeleine where Rob has a music heart experience, at the sight and sound of a massive pipe organ. The organist is playing a modern piece using jazz chords which surprises and delights. All the more interesting is to learn that Axelle attends this 900 year old church and finds a supportive and progressive community.
Over the next few days Axelle guides us through places away from the tourist trail. We confess that we have been to Paris and not seen the Mona Lisa but we have walked from one end of Paris to the other, with a little help from the Metro. We have encountered the Impressionists and been face to face with Monet, Picasso, Van Gogh among others at the Musee d’Orsay. We have enjoyed Lichtenstein at the Pompidou.
As with all travellers, we have adopted local landmarks as a sign that we are near to our temporary home. Our local landmark has been L’Opéra and our little French hotel has been our central refuge where we have regrouped and rested.
Body and spirit fatigue aside, we are beginning to acclimatise to this European adventure and will allow the imagination to work its magic as we make our way down to Grenoble on a TGV train, where we join our good friends, Anne and Rob.