Tag Archives: Arts

Friday in Five: City of Gardens

16 Sep

Still in Paris. Not really, but I think this time perhaps I really did leave my heart there. One last Paris post, and next week I’ll try and return to my Writer’s Life.

But first: Paris gardens.

I do love the formality, order and scale of Paris’s beautiful big gardens. Take a wrong turn near Place des Vosges (perhaps my favourite Paris garden), and you can stumble through a doorway and into this:

My kind of backyard: Centre des Monuments National

My kind of backyard: Centre des Monuments National

 

But perhaps some of the most charming Paris gardens are the ones that break with the symmetry, the rigid lines and hedges clipped within an inch of their lives, that typify the French landscaping style made famous by King Louis XIV’s favourite gardener, André Le Nôtre. (If you’ve not yet seen A Little Chaos, I recommend it with all my heart. Enchanting. Alan Rickman. Kate Winslet. Matthias Schoenaerts. Stanley Tucci. Gardens. Music. Romance. Drama. What’s not to love?!)

Here are a selection of the Paris gardens that charmed me without resorting to all that restrained and stylish magnificence!

At the Institut du Monde Arabe, an exhibition of eastern landscaping traditions is accompanied by this garden purpose-built on the hard Paris pavements. Roses, olives, citrus, herbs - and at its heart, water. Always water.

At the Institut du Monde Arabe, an exhibition of eastern landscaping traditions is accompanied by this garden purpose-built on the hard Paris pavements. Roses, olives, citrus, herbs – and at its heart, water. Always water.

 

When space is an issue, pretty flowering shrubs in pots outside stately doors made vibrant with blue are about as beautiful a garden as you need!

On a busy Paris street, pretty flowering shrubs in pots outside stately doors made vibrant with blue are simply beautiful!

Another style of street garden - and these lovely plants you can take away with you, if you can bear to disturb the display!

Another style of street garden – and these lovely plants you can take away with you, if you can bear to disturb the display!

Tucked away behind Grande Mosquée de Paris is this charming little courtyard garden. The hot mint tea is fresh and sweet, and the sunshine's free.

Tucked away behind Grande Mosquée de Paris is this charming little courtyard garden. The hot mint tea is fresh and sweet, and the sunshine’s free.

Not a lot of ground for a home garden? Not a problem!

Not a lot of ground for a home garden? Not a problem!

 

 

The Gothic/Renaissance glory of Hôtel de Sens is offset perfectly by its tidy but carefree jardin.

The Gothic/Renaissance glory of Hôtel de Sens is offset perfectly by its tidy but carefree jardin.

For a snooze with a view, nowhere beats Jardin du Luxembourg, especially when the season is just starting to turn.

For a snooze with a view, nowhere beats Jardin du Luxembourg, especially when the season is just starting to turn.

This Parisian passage is part hanging garden, part jungle, and all gorgeous!

This Parisian passage is part hanging garden, part jungle, and all gorgeous!

Of course, gardens don't have to be just pretty. They can be productive as well. I can't think of anything much more productive than Renoir's Paris garden, with its row up on row of lush vineyards!

Of course, gardens don’t have to be just pretty. They can be productive as well. I can’t think of anything much more productive than Renoir’s Paris garden, with its row up on row of lush vineyards!

And finally, when you're done tramping the streets and parks and gardens and metros of Paris, it's delicious to come home to an apartment balcony with your own little plot of paradise!

And finally, when you’re done tramping the streets and parks and gardens and metros of Paris, it’s delicious to come home to an apartment balcony with your own little plot of paradise!

 

I live by the seaside now, and no longer have a garden, or at least, not one that needs any contribution by me! Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I so love Paris, and miss its garden finery.

Time to stop pining! My little part of the world has its own splendour!

‘Til next week,

Gracie x

Friday in Five: Ageless City of Arts

9 Sep

I’m hanging onto my Paris vacation as long as I can! Can you blame me?

paris-sainte-chapelle

Tuning the harpsichord pre-concert in Sainte-Chapelle.

Let’s talk about the arts.

Privileged to attend the opening night of American Ballet Theatre’s The Sleeping Beauty at Opera Bastille as well as concerts in Notre Dame and La Madeleine and Sainte-Chapelle, I was equally privileged to hear a busking violinist on the metro whose skill as he plied his bow all the way from Concorde to Bastille matched that of the (tremendously impressive) ensemble players in those more acoustically-conducive venues.

I’m not saying the arts offerings in Paris are necessarily better than the arts offerings in any other great city.

I’ve seen some amazing theatre and dance in New York. Attended a spine-chilling requiem performance in London. Am even now trying to work out how I can afford to travel to Sydney half a dozen times next year for the STC subscription program, and can’t wait to browse the Indigenous Art exhibition in Melbourne in a few weeks’ time.

louvre-ceiling

The neck-cricking ceiling in one Louvre sculpture gallery.

But there’s something about consuming the arts in Paris that feels different for me. I can’t be ambivalent or arms-length. I can’t be detached. Somehow I experience music and dance, fine art and literature, even graffiti, differently there, my emotions and sensory sensitivity closer to the surface. I walk around Paris soaking up its arts and am almost constantly on the verge of tears.

Perhaps it’s the physical environments. I spend as much time in the Louvre wonderstruck at the building itself as I do the magnificent art collection it houses.

 

And there’s nothing quite as wonderful as hearing medieval church music soar into the nave of the cathedral for which it was written. Unless it’s the magic of Mozart or Vivaldi or Haydn floating above the fountains at Versailles.

versailles-fountain

Versailles’ fountains are somehow more ebullient when they’re synched with Vivaldi, Mozart or Haydn.

garnier-theatre

Palais Garnier: rich, lush, exotic.

It might be the insouciance with which Parisians will wear jeans to performances in the gilded splendour of Palais Garnier, and turn up in vintage couture to the austere and fiercely-modern Opera Bastille. They seem at once innately aware of the statement they make through their clothing choice, and entirely indifferent to how anyone else interprets that statement. And why not? It’s not about the fashion, after all. I don’t know why I spent so long agonising about whether my sandals were suitably appropriate footwear for a ballet premiere.

 

paris-bastille

Opera Bastille: its sleek interiors are almost spartan.

It’s surely in the care Parisians take to decorate their metro stations, below and above the ground:

art-deco-metroand the way they embrace emerging art forms as passionately as they preserve the tapestries and sculptures and ballet notations and musical instruments of generations past. It’s in the way the Seine bouquinistes and street names and corner plaques still venerate the writers – Hugo and Balzac, Zola and Voltaire and Beauvoir and Camus – in the face of weekly incursions of English-language poetry slam.

jesuischarlie-jpgWhile news of a foiled terror attack near Notre Dame yesterday made sudden sense of the occasions when the police presence around the cathedral seemed much heavier than usual (and it was always heavy), it reminded me too that in Paris, freedom of expression through the arts has survived attacks and atrocities through millennia.

This ageless city has always emerged bright and sparkling and vivid and confident. May it ever be so.

‘Til next Friday,

Gracie x

Pull up a stool in the Calypso Bar!

2 Aug

The Calypso Bar opens tonight, with the first of our weekly guests treating us to cocktails, gossip and her desert island essentials!

Why the Calypso Bar? Hearts on Hold is set on Gozo, said to be the true location of the mythical island of Ogygia where, in Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus washed up on the shores and was saved by the goddess Calypso.

Our Hearts on Hold heroine, Cate Boyd, is struck by the tragedy of Calypso’s fate, doomed to give up the man she loves to the perils of the sea. If you want to find out why Calypso’s story means so much to Cate, you can find an excerpt here.

In honour of Hearts on Hold‘s stunning island setting, we’ve named our guest bar after Calypso, whose grotto home was renowned for its wonderful banquets and exotic elixirs!

So chill your cocktail shaker, pull up a stool and join me here in the Calypso Bar each week as I talk to some fascinating guests about writing, love, and their desert-island essentials (books, music, cocktails… and their favourite people, of course!).

Joining us this week… Kendall Talbot talks about the men she’d love to be stranded with!

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