September 28, 2007

That meal was ridiculously good in a wonderful old hotel, a little scruffy and laid back but wow, were they serious about the food. The best lapin I’ve ever tasted (and I’m mad about the stuff) cooked in prunes, sublime duck with a green pepper sauce, chevre ice cream – that was amazing. Never had anything like that before, fabulous smoked herring, wonderful vegetables and prune everything for dessert, which only Alan and I could manage – one feels a certain responsibility in these circumstances to try ones best! It completely reassured me about French regional cooking which I thought had become mired down in traditional intransigence. No folks, there are naughty creative people down here doing shocking things to food. God bless them. Here’s hoping that our friends in the cardio/thoracic fraternity back in Auckland are sharpening their wits and their tools in anticipation.

Today we get on the canal boat. We went down to the Canal HQ yesterday and gave some rather strident Australians a hand getting tied up and got enough information from them to get fairly excited.

Must go and sort stuff out. A bien tot



September 27, 2007

Monparnasse station to organise billets for Sunday to Agen. TGV direct – yahoo! BUT , this means we are leaving Paris which is sooooo difficult. Mind you, I don’t recall any time that I’ve felt “ready” to leave Paris.

Metro to Boubou – Centre Georges Pompidou. An extraordinary exhibition of GONZALEZ work. He, a Catalan artist, from a family of gold and silversmiths. Beautiful and very clever pieces of jewellery and beaten silver work. Then, obviously he met Picasso, Miro et al and began to make sculpture. His drawings, so clever and expressive, a similar feel to Henry Moore, although Moore was working a bit later. What was it that this generation of Catalan artists of the time had apart from their geographical proximity?? There is a gutsiness and toughness that must have been an expression of the political/social climate at the time in northern Spain.

Then Campbell, hereinafter to be known as “the patient” has a rather too intimate experience with a work of art – an installed piece which invites the viewer to enter and explore, and on exiting, he discovers accidentally, a design flaw and cut the top of his head rather dramatically. Blood pouring down the face, paramedics arrive with wheelchair, oxygen and full resucitation equipment! (They’ve obviously had previous experience with American visitors having incidents and suing. They are NOT taking chances). It got to be very funny indeed. How delightful our gallant gallic paramedics were, and didn’t they love having their pictures taken hard at work! Alan P made quite a point of ensuring that the wheelchairs and equipment were well in shot. Would that some of the petty bureaucrats that we encounter from day to day here were as charmingly solicitous!

Then upstairs to the permanent collection. The old one, two, three, Picasso, Matisse and……all the rest of them. Magnificent Soutines, Modiglianis, Braques, Dali, Klee, etc etc. It’s so difficult to leave the gallery where there is so much art that has been so important in ones life. We’ve seen many of them before, but each time, in the flesh they are just so bloody compelling I’d just like to camp down there for a week and take my time working through it all.

The more contemporary section (where the aforementioned bloodletting took place) was a real shot in the arm. I realise that I’ve become so cynical about so much very contemporary art. Just too much try hard superficial, reworked, third hand ideas and statements rarely worth the airspace or headspace – but at this level I feel reassured that it’s still really happening.

……..a little like the food really. So many terrines, cheeses, pastries, vins, ordinaire and extraordinaire, breads – and SO little time.

We are all developing aches and pains from walking virtually all day on concrete – but what can you do. It just has to be done. I’m sure this is part of the explanation for the French paradox. We’ve also all hit the wall of jet lag. Went to bed last night at 9 o’clock!!! What a waste, but we were all too exhausted to wring another drop out of the day.

We are all having a fantastic time

Took the metro to the Place des Voges – an exquisite quadrangular structure of one storied galleries, porticoed all the way around. Once the home of Victor Hugo and other assorted literary luminaries. Lots of smaller dealer galleries and the usual crap coffee. On our way back down to the Café Pont Neuf to meet brother Kim and his girlfriend Diana on their way through to Toulouse we stopped and sat on the fake grass outside the magnificent Hotel de Ville where they have set up a huge screen so that the locals can watch all the rugby games, gratuite. The rugby stuff is everywhere here. Amazing signs and graphics. The French are incredibly imaginative with their advertising and propoganda – lots of humour. They are also crazy about the all blacks, thinking them completely invincible. An extraordinary “brand” here. One of the really prestige Franch clothing labels is Eden Park?

Today we took the TGV to Agen to pick up the canal boat. Basically travelling through half of France in the process –very fast. This is such a big country. Sundays in the countryside are very different from Paris. EVERYTHING is shut down but we did manage to find a restaurant for a meal tonight and methinks I detect a wonderful experience in the offing. Tonight will tell. We shall find out in a couple of hours.

Wednesday 26

September 26, 2007

Mon dieu – this is all so exhilarating to be back on the streets of Paris, especially staying in St Andre des Artes. Our body clocks are completely out of whack and we’re exhausted, but somehow Alan and Merilyn and I manage to walk for at least 10 hours. It just starts as quick run around the corner to grab a pastry but………isn’t that St Sulpice/the Cluny/that bloke who walks about with a rabbit on his head…….and so it goes. Ande spent most of yesterday in bed horrendously jetlagged, – 24 hours and VERY little sleep but it is odd how an amble through the Tuilleries and some wonderful art to chase recuperates one…..

L’Orangerie, which has been closed since we first came here together in 1995 – finally reopened and what an intense experience. It REALLY was built just to house orange trees, but then for someone who built the Louvre as his town house, with the Tuilleries as back yard that’s probably not altogether surprising! Now housing the most extraordinary Monets– two huge “water” works in purpose designed oval shaped rooms, each in four panels. Massive amounts of overpainting, emanating from a focus of light in the centre.. Also, the beginnings of abstract expressionism as he layered the paint up and the gestures got bigger and bigger and BIGGER…..and less, of everything. It’s so easy to get blasé about his work as it’s so ubiquitous, but damn! this is good stuff.

Two glorious Modiglianis, one of Paul Gulliame, who’s collection is housed here and the other, an unnamed woman – a very small painting of her head and the beginnings of his elongation. She probably really had a very long neck and this sent Modi off on a tangent from which … never to return. These were done before his wonderful “mannered” works. A very powerful and graphically complex Picasso. Fantastic intelligence at work.

The surprise of the day was a room FULL of Soutine. We’ve never seen more than 2 of his works together before. En masse, they’re a revelation. He must have been one of the most expressive, the most “dangereuse” of all the expressionists. The same willingness to let go of conventional structure as Van Gogh.

A wonderful meal down by the Seine, made up from bits of wonderful cheeses and saucisson and tomatoes and incredible bread and wine that was ridiculously cheap, not at all up to muster but tasted fabulous by the river opposite the Musee D’Orsay.