Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
During my days in London I deliberately chose not to look at all the Bromptons in use, didn't shop for a new one, and managed to remain philosophical about my loss.
I prefer to remember the sorts of places I've been with William in our 3 years together. To New Zealand, to Utah, as well as to the Ballard Public Library and on my friends' sailboat for a day on Lopez Island.
Here's my great little bike at Lake Annecy.
We've had a great run and I miss my baby bike, badly on some days.
But it's "keep calm and carry on"
Maybe I'll replace Wm with a Wm the Second. Or maybe I won't.
It's really not about the bike.
I don't know who will buy my stolen bike. But honestly, whoever you are, all you're getting is a black bike of dubious provenance. What you'll never, ever get, is what that little bike let me do and see. Lowlife, What goes around, comes around. And I hope my Wm bucks your sorry ass off and lands you in the gutter a few times before he's sent to the scrap heap.
William the Conqueror, you rocked!
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Oberon and Titania were half feral, Bottom a delightful clodhopper, and the 2 pairs of mixed up lovers becoming crazier and more dirt covered as they chase each other through the woods. Puck was also a barely controlled creature.
Even the Pirymus and Thisbee performed by the clodhoppers at the ending wedding feast was actually enjoyable.
This is the 3rd play I've seen at the new Globe, and they've all been wonderful.
And we got a little cloud cover by the end of Act 1, so no one in the audience fainted.
Turns out it was great fun, terrific front row "no seats" view of the cast.
I think I'll always go groundling the next time I'm here.
Monday, July 15, 2013
Sunday, July 14, 2013
The weekend has been a scorcher for the region and I've had little desire to do anything "touristy". Instead, I spent most of the day lying on my friend's sofa, reading Baghdad Sketches by Freya Stark, a female English travel writer writing in the 1930s.
At the time she was active the "streamline style" of this 2013 poster in the underground was all the rage.
Everything old is new again.
Friday, July 12, 2013
It's another hot day in London.
It was a worthwhile tour to do. I'd happily do another with this company if they're as good as this one.
Thursday, July 11, 2013
It's a terrific show of work inspired by some of the most ridiculously gory martyrs of the church who figure so predominantly in the National Gallery and who are, year by year, becoming more obscure to all us non-religious types. I had to see the wonderful installation about St Catherine of Alexandria, with its almost roulette wheel interpretation. After all the gory and puzzling medieval art in German churches, this laugh out loud exhibition really hit the spot.
St Martins is on one side of Trafalgar Square, near the National Gallery.
In the nursery song, it's the one that says:
"I owe you a farthing, say the bells of St Martins."
Unfortunately you can't buy postcards of the majority of works here, so it's sort of a self defeating policy, as its usually about image rights.
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Not cheap, but I brought lunch at Marks & Spencer's before getting on the train, so that helps.
Last time I was here I saw War Horse and it was wonderful.
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
The whole place is a place that's so inspirational. I came out at 5pm closing time knowing that Beatrice Potter meticulously recreated several outfits in the V&A in The Tailor of Gloucester.
I also saw a wonderfully touching multimedia exhibit on the Camden music halls that longer exist.
I also appreciate just how knowledgable the docents are. One of the special shows at the moment is a 1980s fashion review called Club to Catwalk. Today was members day, so not open until tomorrow for the general public. The V&A's costume collection is substantial and the galleries were mobbed with mostly young women dreaming of a career in fashion. I can relate to them. I was all over the textile books and lovely things made from Wm Morris designs in the store. It's something about London that I've always loved. There's a real love of fine fabrics and skilled craftsmanship that distinguishes this city.
I have a real soft spot for these so pretty romantic C18th French portraits that meticulously portray the fashion of the day.
I think it's called the Devonshire tapestry and came to the V&A as a tax payment in 1957.
I went back after the one hour tour to listen to the audio guide, which explained courtly love, the bear and boar hunting of the time, the music of the era and how it relates to the story of Sir Gawain.
I missed the V&A on my short visit here last year, but today I just indulged the day in its extraordinary collections.
Monday, July 8, 2013
It seems so strange to be speaking English again, with others for whim it's their L1, as we TESOL's call it.
St Pancras is across the street from the British Library, where I will find a cafe and check prices for their special exhibition on Propaganda.
I just bought a 55 pound week's pass for regions 1-6, which covers the trip to my friend's house, as well as bus and tube til next Sunday. I'll burn through this transport card very quickly.
In less than an hour or so, I'll be in "Blighty" where 33 years ago yesterday, my daughter was born in London, and a city that is very special in so many ways.
I'm visiting an old friend from the days when our daughters were toddlers. My friend's retiring from a long teaching career at the end of this week, and lucky woman, she'll be a grandmother early next year.
So many bittersweet memories ahead.I actually bought William from Brompton dealer near London Bridge, 3 years ago, almost to the day. I was celebrating my newfound freedom from a job that had lost its zing, and reveling in my first big solo trip as a woman on her bike. Sad I'm not bringing him back for a ride in London. I had my severance money back then and I used a big chunk of it to buy the folding bike.
Still, I'm back.
"Failure is the tuition you pay for success."
"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."
And my dad's favorite:
"Don't let the b*****ds get you down."
It felt strange not to be fighting my way through this mob without my folding bike, but that's the way it has to be.
I left the hostel at 6:30am this morning, walking one last time through a rough neighborhood, streets littered with stale baguettes and a large suitcase, perhaps stolen from the very station I was leaving from. Paris is always such a contrast to the lovely villages that for the rest of the country.
I don't hate Paris, though, despite my misfortune and being suddenly, woman not on her bike.
I will surely be back.
Sunday, July 7, 2013
It's a green building, the solar panels on the roof are powering the building. There are a few things that need to be fixed inside, like room lighting, wall hooks and an incorrectly installed shower head in my room: 204, and it's still unfinished, but it's an ambitious attempt to turn the tide on the squalor of this poor immigrant area of Paris.
Fortunately the long hours of summer daylight here makes the neighborhood seem relatively safe. Apparently the hostel has been underwritten by the local council as they badly want to change the perception around here.
I hope it works. The location is very good, which is the reason I chose ton stay here.
Tomorrow I go to Gare Du Nord for the 9:13am Eurostar to London. I bought a small hand trolley today for 17,00 Euros so I can transport my baggage as effectively as possible without my bike.
I am planning to stay with a good friend, and I'm sure that too will help cheer my mood.
And I like London a lot.
Who knows how Lucienne Calmettes died, but perhaps her widowed husband Robert Calvet eventually had a happy life, after erecting this tomb for his dead wife.
That's not true, though, because you have to accept that a big sophisticated city like Paris has an underclass of "have nots" who are shut out, and this do what they need to do in order to live. I'm just a very fortunate woman who had parents to raise me, and who valued education so much, they sent me to college, where I learned about Oscar Wilde and Collette, and all the famous people buried in Pere Lachaise, so I got the ticket into the middle class. I'm now a teacher myself, and I've worked with adults who never had the advantages I did.
So, I just enjoyed the atmosphere of this classic early C20th restaurant with dark wood panels on the walls, engraved glass at the bar, and a pressed tin ceiling, along with the guy sitting next to me who was dealing with his ciggie craving by keeping an unlit one between his lips as he worked on his laptop. Such stereotypical French behavior, straight out of a J-P Belmondo movie from the 1960s.
Food was bistro good, wait staff professional and I could look out the window at 4-storey buildings with oeil-de-boeuf windows in their attics.
It distracts me from being depressed and that's good.
Here's a great stall selling wild mushrooms and green beans.
I picked up some cherries and apricots and a slice of apple tart to eat later. I also did a little clothes shopping (this is Paris after all, and I now have an extra 33 lbs of space in my return luggage as I no longer have a bike to pack home.
I didn't buy anything too spectacular, just a pretty striped sailor top, the classic Matelot style from Brittany. Plus, for 5,00 Euros I bought a cute polka dot cotton scarf that will go nicely with my sailor shirt. Unfortunately, as it's Sunday, all the interfering little boutiques in the Marais, site of this market, will be shut, so I've contented myself with looking at Parisian women and how they dress smartly even when it's pretty hot. If I lost some weight I'd have a lot more choices I know, but there are plenty of women here who aren't thin yet look pretty good. They'll be my inspiration when I get back to the US.
At Oscar Wilde's tomb, topped with this sculpture by Jacob Epstein, I heard people puzzling over who he was, why he was in a French cemetery, what the tomb meant, etc. I guess the single red rose still gets placed anonymously on his grave. If they'd thought to look, there was one there, on the verso of the statue, which has been sandblasted and is now protected by a Perspex wall. Apparently there's been a lot of vandalism of the tomb, and the angel's private parts have been smashed off. You can still read the traces of obscenities scratched on the stone.
Wilde, likewise, is just another C19th writer they might vaguely remember from high school English lit class.
Pere Lachaise is full of family tombs that have been vandalized or that are falling down, stained glass smashed, water bottles thrown in the crypts.
It's sad to see all the effort these long dead people put into being remembered. There are tombs here for men killed in the Great War, which will be 100 years ago in 2014.
There are new monuments there too, most to the memory of French people who died in concentration camps, or died as resistance fighters in World War 2.
The cemetery police come by and kicked out a group of people I passed who were picnicking on the grass near a shaded bench. Well, at least the read French well enough not to picnick in the garden of Rembrance, which I think may contain cremated remains.
It's a curious place. I looked all over for Sarah Bernhart's grave, but couldnt find it where indicated on the cemetery map and didn't bother trying to find Edith Piaf or Collette or any of the Impressionist painters buried there.
I developed an appreciation for French artistic and literary culture when I attended university, but I have to assume that for most foreign visitors to Pere Lachaise, it's just a creepy old graveyard. It certainly reminded me that time waits for no one and that I shouldn't spend too much time trying to fix the past and staying pissed off about yesterday losing my bike to a Parisian thief.
Saturday, July 6, 2013
Well my little bike is gone, and I can't do a damned thing about that.
Of course, I'm crying as I write this post. I feel very lost without my mate and as I'm traveling alone, it's a very private sort of grief.
I will grieve for a while, and then get back on my bike, somewhere else, I just don't quite know where right now.
A bientot, Mon petit copain.
It's sort of unbelievable how quick they were. I never saw them. Now I guess I need to find the local gendarme and file a report. Likely pointless, but I will try to recover some of my loss from my travel insurance.
I'm in shock. I made it all this way, a day away from leaving for London and the bastards got me.
It was chained to the lamppost to the right of where the two men are standing.
Friday, July 5, 2013
This is the "bike parking" the checkin woman at the hostel said I could use.
The moveable chain link fence is a particularly fanciful touch.
I've only used it once, at Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof, the nifty bike cover that makes William "disappear", and then I realised the Germans didn't care.
So tonight I used the cover again, (those Brompton people thought of everything), and Wm is now spending the evening as an unusually shaped piece of luggage next to the sink in my room.
There is no way in hell I plan to leave my bike overnight on a street in Paris, and expect to find anything, except a cable lock snipped in two, the next morning.
I have been to this city before. Most recently I was here in September 2012 at the end of a cruise in the Greek Islands. Most memorably was in 1978, when I worked in Paris as a nanny. That gig pretty much set my course for life, making me a beer budget sort of person with a taste for champagne. It's certainly the reason I feel at home in France.
So, because I don't need to do the "incontournables" (the unmissables), as the Office of Tourisme's Paris est A Vous! guide I got for free in the hostel, I can go exploring based on my geographical location.
The pen in this photo points to Rue Pajol, which places me within easy biking distance of Montmartre and Batignolles, as well as the big flea market at St-Ouen.
So my rough plan is to spend Saturday north of the Seine, and Sunday south, in St-Germain-Des-Pres and Montparnasse.
Of course, as I'm traveling on Wm the Conqueror, I'll find a way to ride past the biggies, like the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame.
I know how bikeable Paris is. It's the home of VeloLib, and I've already been sharing the marked bike paths with people on these rentals.
Last time I was in Paris with a bike was in July 2010, and I rode fully loaded from La Villette, in the 19th Arrondissement, basically the NW part of Paris to Versailles, via the Bois de Boulogne, which is in the SE part of Paris.
It was an amazing thing to be able to do.
It's also a perfect Summer's day today, and the city looks magic, despite the urban grittiness.
But that is a fantasy and I accept it.
After close to 3 hours having to tolerate an annoying toddler crawling under the table we shared, playing with the window shade, dropping his toy cars in my direction hoping I wanted to play cars with him for the next 2 hours, yelling out "vache!" Every time we passed a herd of cows, and watching Mamam give her son several smacks on the side of the head and telling him to knock it off, I needed a meal, preferably with wine. All I'd eaten was a croissant and coffee in the dining car and that was done primarily to get a break from the child.
I know of a fairly recent book about how French mothers raise their children to be proper little angels, willing to eat raw onion without complaint and born potty trained if you can believe it. Sort of in the same league as that silly book about why French women don't get fat.
Well, today's ineffectual and exasperated Maman put a lie to such hyperbole once I saw her give Junior a good one on the right ear. I already have my own theory as to why French women don't get fat. A, too many of them smoke, and, B., well, they are surrounded by good food everywhere so they don't need to binge because it's never going to go away.
Well, on the Blvd Beaumarchais I decided to chain Wm where I could see him, booby trap the bike with my helmet in case of a smash and grab attempt and go have lunch at a Languedoc restaurant that was still serving its midday formule at 2pm. It's always cheaper to eat the plat of the day at lunch, rather than wait for dinner, so that's exactly what I did.