Paris Journal 2015 – Barbara Joy Cooley Home: barbarajoycooley.com
“Swans!” I exclaimed. Then I photographed them. The day was full of pleasant little surprises like that. We’d ventured out for one of our typical long walks, up through the Champ de Mars, through the garden of the Musée du Quai Branly, and along the Berges de Seine, which have been pedestrianized and sprinkled with entertaining diversions.
The only surprise that wasn’t quite so pleasant was that the security at the Branly’s garden has been tightened to the point that it gives people the creeps, and so not so many people are there. “Vigipirate Alert” signs were posted, and security guards at the two entrances to the garden were checking inside handbags and knapsacks. As we approached, I thought the garden was closed completely, because the opening to it had been narrowed so much.
“Bonjour. C’est fermé?” I asked the guard. He said not at all, it is open, may I please see inside your bag? After he checked it, we went into the garden but didn’t feel like lingering. The place felt like a ghost garden. There were a very few people; nothing like the normal number.
We exited the other side, greeting the guard there as we left. After crossing the road to the riverbank side, everything felt normal again. The tourists were all over the place, and the unlicensed, illegal vendors of Eiffel Tower trinkets were stationed at the likely spots. They did not speak out or aggressively try to sell the trinkets, however. They sat silently and waited for people to come to them. This must be the arrangement they now have with the police, who seem to be allowing the illegal vendors to continue their activity.
A little earlier, just before we left the Champ de Mars, we’d been approached by a couple of those young women who try to scam English speaking tourists. Their ruse starts with them asking “Do you speak English?” This time, however, I saw them coming well enough in advance. I turned on the camera, raised it, focused it, and photographed them. They didn’t notice. One of them then came right up to me, in my face, and tried to scam me. I raised the camera, she covered her face, I snapped the photo, and she called out, “NO pictures!” Tom laughed loudly. So did I. We walked on.
I’m so sick and tired of their preying on the generosity and naiveté of English speaking tourists. They don’t want their photos taken because, of course, their solicitations are illegal. It felt good to photograph them.
Walking on the Berges in the sun, on a warm day with a cool breeze, must be one of our favorite things to do in Paris. We explored the artificial archipelagos whose vegetation grows ever thicker and wilder. We wondered over an elaborate espalier that has been started on the great stone flood wall. All along the foot of that wall, native vegetation has been allowed to grow almost freely. So there are wildflowers.
People were sitting at the Chinese checkers tables, using them as picnic tables. It was lunchtime, after all.
Two odd spaceship-like capsules were on display. They were meant to be individual hotel rooms. Weird. The plaque describing them in French also included a particularly poor translation into English. So I’ll take a stab at it myself:
These survival capsules were constructed in El Mesa, California, in the 70s and 80s. Later, they changed from cable-operated to free-fall systems [for putting them into water]. Today these capsules are obsolete.
Originally, Denis Oudendijk wanted to travel through Europe by boat to map waste flows and to examine their potential re-use: re-thinking these objects, imagining a new life for them, giving them a new function. He needed then a boat that could take this route and it was then that he discovered these capsules.
For their presentation on the Berges de Seine, one of the capsules is equipped with a grand hammock that adapts itself to changing uses. The other has specially designed furniture called “Passengers.” The furniture is multipurpose; one piece is now a library and the other is an electronic hub.
The design rules of Refunc are simple: make a design that looks like it was already there; “listen” to the object and put the least amount of energy possible into redesigning it to be as practical as possible, using whatever material that is available nearby; avoid buying material, use leftovers, and change functionality.
People sat on benches fitted between allées of big planters that were bursting with plants, vines, shrubs trees . . . . the stretch of former roadway is becoming more verdant every year.
Interspersed with people places were art places. A construction fence was covered in blue canvases with cheerful cartoons about entertaining oneself, sleeping, gardening, and innovating.
A huge graphic depicted a city sucking the life out of trees. Big blocks of concrete were painted to look like stark, modern, German housing blocks made of Legos.
Colorful fishing poles were propped up across the way from a wall where children were rock-climbing. Men were sunbathing. People were dining on the barge called the Bristrot Alexander III. For some reason, there weren’t so many bicycles on the Berges.
A pair of swans and a duck with her ducklings were making use of the protected water between the archipelagos and the riverbank. Elsewhere near the riverbank, healthy water plants wafted in the waves. The water in the Seine looks clean this summer.
Nearby, on the Passerelle de Billy, people have started to put those awful love locks on that bridge. The locks have been removed from other bridges on the Seine, because of the structural damage they’ve done, and because they are ugly and they block the view. Please, people, do not attach love locks to anything in Paris! Paris is not about you; it is about all of us.
At the end of our walk, I returned to the apartment while Tom did a bit more clothes shopping at Monoprix. In the evening, we ventured out again, down the avenue Felix Faure, to dine at L’Accent Corse, a beautiful little bistro featuring Corsican cuisine.
Just before we arrived there, we were not surprised to see that Bistro 121 is being replaced by something new. It was a bad sign last summer when that resto stopped taking credit cards. The place has now been gutted, and time will tell what it will be next.
But L’Accent is just the same as it was, with its beautiful Art Nouveau décor whose origins trace from an earlier Parisian bistro.
Our dinner began with a shared slice of paté de campagne (country pate), and continued with a filet de daurade (dorade or sea bream) for me and lamb chops with a honey-based sauce for Tom. The potato concoction that came with Tom’s chops was heavenly.
All of the food was excellent at L’Accent. My fish was hot, moist, tender and delicately flavorful. Tom’s lamb chops were succulent. “Quickly seared on the outside, juicy on the inside, and just the right thickness,” he said.
For dessert, we shared a simple slice of chestnut-cream flan – simple, but good. The drizzle of honey on the plate reminded me that we needed honey at the apartment (an ingredient in my homemade vinaigrette). I asked if I could possibly buy a jar of this Corsican honey?
The answer came back from the chef: yes, for 15 euros. We said, yes, we’ll take it.
That ended the day on a sweet note.
Saturday, July 11, 2015
Scammers approaching (white T-shirt and baseball cap).
Survival capsule/floating hotel room, on display on the Berges de Seine.
Cleaner water and healthy looking water vegetation.
Art along the Berges de Seine.
Rope hammocks for weary walkers on the left bank, looking over at the right bank.