Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Perhaps a posting about the Ile would be helpful, and so I borrow from Access Paris, one of many books I have at hand. In it is the following paragraph (with my edits for brevity): A world apart from the rest of Paris, this once bucolic cow pasture is jammed today with grand 17th century town houses and fashionable shops. Somehow it remains a peaceful oasis in the heart of a bustling city. People have only lived here for 300 years, yet today the island is the oldest preserved section of Paris, bisected by a single commercial street. Only six blocks long and two blocks wide, the Ile is an isolated village with no subway stop, four small hotels and a baker whose ovens are fueled with wood (adjacent to my apartment). A proud independent breed who do not always take kindly to interlopers, this was the first quarter in Paris to chase out the Nazis during the Liberation. Its former residents include Apollinaire, Balzac, Voltaire, Zola, Cezanne, Courbet, Daumier, Delacroix, and George Sand. When Louisiens leave the island they say they are going to Paris, or “to the continent” for a voyage that is less than the length of a football field. The place retains its own identity and charm and remains one of the most exclusive addresses in the city.
For me, today consisted of small lunch and followed by a leisurely stroll along the one little street, then a walk around the periphery of the island, about 15 minutes in all. In the late afternoon I suited up for my daily exercise walk, heading to the Left Bank and ending up along the bustling Rue Mouffetard, one of Paris’ most noted passages. It is a mixture of tacky and sublime, with the latter winning the day. Only foot traffic is allowed at one end, and that is where one wants to move deliberately so as to savor the scents from the dozens of little shops and market places: rotisseries of succulent meats, tables of cheeses, fruit markets (I bought fresh raspberries)—just a visual feast of goodies. I will be back again and again to this little rue.
Right across the street from me is the tiny Theatre de I’Ile Saint-Louis, where tonight I heard my second piano concert, this one featuring a somewhat promising young man by the name of Amaury Eidelwein. It was an ambitious program with a Mozart Fantasie, a familiar Rachmaninov prelude, two pieces by Scriabin and the formidable Beethoven Sonata op. 53, the Waldstein. Judging from my two visits, I would say this place is something of a hill, for artists on the way up, or for those past the peak and headed in the other direction. Both sorts need support, I believe, and as long as I keep these performances in perspective (these are not Orchestre National performers—they are not UBS Chamber Music Festival of Lexington performers‚ then it makes for a nice couple of hours, usually to be followed by a dinner close by.