Sunday, February 1, 2009

When Allen Edmonds introduced their own walking shoes a couple of years ago, I bought a pair. They were expensive as walking shoes go, but it remains one of my best investments ever. They have taken me countless miles across many lands. I still keep a cheap supply of gym shoes from Dick’s Sporting Goods and use them every time I go out on an exercise walk. But the AEs carry me everywhere else. In Paris, they are invaluable to me. That is because I try and walk everywhere within reason and with the uneven surface of so many cobblestone streets I just could not move around in regular shoes and the gym shoes don’t really look so great in most restaurants. Anyway, this Sunday was a day for meandering along the Left Bank where I stopped in the early afternoon for a bit of rare entrecote and, of course, a pitcher of vin rouge. Venue for this was the attractive Brasserie Le St. Andre, just off Boulevard Saint-Michele. These little cafes seem to be frequented by a regular clientele, judging from the number of individuals who sit around reading the paper and sipping a libation of choice. Near here I came upon the Musee Eugene Delacroix, where the great French painter of the mid-1800s lived during his last years. There is not really much here except three rooms containing some of his furniture, sketches, letters and a few oils. There is pretty little courtyard in the back and the house itself is on the scenic but tiny Place du Furstemberg. I should note that even though it is quite chilly here (in the 30s) the courtyards, parks, sidewalk cafes and other outdoor arenas are amazingly full of folks bundled up a bit but enjoying life en plein air.
It has been several years since I purchased a CD of the Canadian tenor Ben Heppner but I listen to it regularly. Tonight he sang in the opulent Palais Garnier, the famous Paris Opera House and put on quite a nice performance. Accompanied by pianist Thomas Muraco, he belted many gorgeous arias by Schubert, Strauss, Verdi, Puccini and others.
The house itself is dazzling beyond description, built during the Second Empire when Napoleon III had charge of so many things that made Paris the glorious city it is today. I had a terrific front row balcony seat, about eye-level with the stage and sat between an English woman and a couple from New York who have a place in Paris as well. They were great conversationalists and when I took my seat and looked up at the absolutely wonderful, colorful and whimsical ceiling, I asked them how Marc Chagall painted it. In the tradition of Michaelangelo? Standing on a mighty tall ladder? Did he paint it on some kind of canvas or paper and then glue it on? Both parties admitted that while they had been coming to this place for decades they had never contemplated such a proposition. The couple from New York promised to go home and research the matter and get back with me. In any case it really is a show stopper to gaze upward at. The concert was very rewarding, and worth the somewhat steep ticket price. The Cafe de la Paix, part of the flagship Intercontinental Grand Hotel of Paris, was a good choice for a pre-concert stop as well.
I have purchased a rail ticket and reserved a room in Normandy for the next couple of days, with plans to arrive midday Monday and return to Paris late afternoon Wednesday. This has been a definite on my agenda right along and I have been waiting for a decent forecast. It is mixed for early in the week, so we shall see. I have no idea whether I can hook up my laptop from Omaha Beach, so there may be an interruption. I hope not as this has become a daily challenge for me, and one I am enjoying—for now.

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