Monday, January 19, 2009

On the Rue de la Paix there was once a cabaret and . . . me too! Those of a certain vintage will remember the old tune and so it was with particular pleasure that I found my way today to the street of song, a spoke off the Place Vendome, one of Paris’ most orderly and gorgeous plazas. The Ritz Hotel is here, as is the home where Chopin died. In its center is a stupendously tall column, modeled after Trajan’s Column in Rome, and topped (this you have to read in a guide book unless you could zoom in on it from that ferries wheel I mentioned yesterday) by a likeness of Napoleon, dressed up to look like Caesar. Oh how he loved to dress up! The column itself is a replica, as the original was brought to ruin by the artist Gustave Courbet and some of his rowdy friends during the 1871 Commune. Not a good move for Gustave, as he was imprisoned for the act, sent a bill for restoration and thus spend the rest of his life in penury.
In Paris it is not uncommon to see little photo shoots breaking out all over the place. Right outside the window of the de la Paix cafe where I had lunch—and by the way it was warm enough for people to enjoy a nice meal on the sidewalk—were photographers taking all kinds of pictures of . . . could that be Mimi?!? She was gorgeous to be sure and I just know there was a cabaret near. So it goes along the streets.
Before lunch, I should mention that I stopped by the Sainte-Chapelle, very near my place and one of the most visited spots in Paris. It is beautiful and the colored windows are every bit as amazing as their reputation suggests. A very special sight within is a 13th century fresco tucked in an apse on the first floor, the oldest wall painting in Paris. There aren’t any crowds looking at this piece. There should be.
I wanted to hear a piano recital tonight, given by Herbert du Plessis on the Steinway at the ancient Eglise Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre, where I had visited earlier. This was a much better performance, as du Plessis is quite accomplished, particularly with Chopin and Liszt, whose works comprised the concert. Almost as amazing as his performance, which really was terrific, was that I stopped at a little bar across the street prior to the concert and began a conversation with the piano player. I was the only person in the place at this moment and let her know that I was off to hear Chopin next door. “Oh, Chopin,” she said. “I love him,” and promptly set about playing one of his more well-known Nocturnes. “Wow,” I said, “do you know any more classical tunes?”, whereupon she ripped off one of the Goldberg Variations! A crowd had gathered by then and she was rewarded with quite a round of applause. I just do not remember dropping by any piano bar of late then leaving while humming a bit of Bach. Of course I returned after the more serious concert and she was still at it with her all classical repertoire. Nice ending.

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