Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Perusing Parc Monceau & Bercy Village

Monday, July 2, 2012
Paris, France

Our day began late and I mean really late! By the time we finished breakfast (chocolate brioche with preserves and coffee), I finished blogging and Llew finished checking his email in our computer room on the floor below us, it was about 12 noon. So it was midday by the time we got dressed, hurriedly made sandwiches, carried them with us and decided to have a picnic at Parc Monceau.

DK Eyewitness Guide's 90 Minute Walk in Parc Moncean would lead us on our way. We took the metro there and found ourselves facing the huge, ornate, gilded gates of the park. As we began the walking tour, we passed by the toll house at the entrance of the park and then a vast variety of sculpture. About eight of these marble pieces that decorate the lawns are French writers or musicians, each featured by a bust with a swooning Muse at the base! Theses stylized 19th century portrayals were de rigeur and form interesting period pieces.

Parc Monceau which lies in the northwestern environs of the city is in the midst of a very affluent quartier and is surrounded by gorgeous mansions built in the Hausmannian tradition.Our walk took us in and out of the park as we perused the side streets, each of which is named after a famous painter (Rue Van Dyck, Rue Murillo, Rue Rembrandt--you get the idea). Fanciful pagodas, Egyptian pyramids, even part of a Greek semicircle of pillars are some of the sculptural 'follies' to be found here. We took pictures of many of them, enjoyed the flower beds that were thick with perennial blooms and sat down on a bench in a shady spot to have our lunch as we watched office-goers enter and leave the park for a quick stride-around.

Some of the more interesting elements of the neighborhood were a Chinese pagoda that houses Oriental antiques and a mansion that belonged to a wealthy family of Turkish Jews who made their home in Paris at the end of the 19th century--the Camondos. Their mansion has been turned into a splendid museum which is on my list of places to be visited--the Musee Nissim Camondo. Unfortunately, it is not open on Mondays and Tuesdays, but I am sure we will return to it later in the week.

Just before our walk ended, we found the grand Church of St. Augustin on Place St. Augustin--supposedly the grandest 19th century church in Paris. Again, unfortunately, it is closed on Mondays in July--so we could not enter it. However, the exterior was immensely imposing. Built in the Renaissance style, it is flanked on the left by the Cercle Militaire, an equally grand and superbly sculpted building that houses the French Serviceman's Club and a sculpture of Joan of Arc riding off to victory on horseback in the front.

Although this wasn't an especially memorable walk, we were glad we took it as it led us to Parc Monceau which I had wanted to visit. We picked a truly glorious day to spend out in a park for the weather was simply delightful and our afternoon was a very pleasant one.   

A Soiree at Our Director's Apartment:
No sooner did we get home than I was jumping into the shower to keep our next appointment: an invitation to drinks at the home of our NEH Seminar Director, Joe and wife Nancy.The invitation was intended for drinks between 5.30 and 7.00 pm. But from the time we were ready to step out of the house, everything that could possibly go wrong, did: I had no internet connectivity and was unable to get directions to his place. When we did eventually obtain them, we ended up taking a wrong train by mistake and had to get off and retrace our steps! When we did eventually reach the metro stop, we were unable to find his building and no one around was able to help us. It was just a horrible chain of errors that made me want to turn right back home!

By the time we were ringing the doorbell, it was 6. 45, but Joe and Nancy were welcoming and everyone seemed pleased to see us. Fortunately, folks stayed around for another whole hour, so we did have time to socialize and I was able to introduce Llew to all my new colleagues.

Dinner at Bercy Village:
As it turned out, Llew got to know them better during dinner as many of us made our way downstairs for a meal. Bercy Village, which once upon a time used to house wine warehouses (hence the name of the street, Cour St. Emillion!) has become a snazzy shopping and restaurant arcade with a number of chain eateries as well as more exclusive ones having sprung up there. After much discussion and debate, we went with Les Compagnie de Crepes--a place that made galettes (savory buckwheat crepes) and crepes (usually sweet). We chose the 'formule'--a drink, a plat and a dessert for 15 euros and enjoyed our meal and the company of our new friends.

By 10.00 pm, it was time to get back home. We chose to walk to Bercy metro station past the great stadium where Bruce Springsteen will be performing tomorrow night! We rode the metro home with Jen and got back around 10.30. I stayed up till well past midnight catching up on my blog and thinking that we really hadn't accomplished very much today.

A demain!

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