Tag Archives: City of Light

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?

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

 

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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

Friday in Five: City of Rainbows

27 Aug

Paris in summer is all about colour, from temples of retail to temples of grace. These are a few of the fabulous rainbows I’ve loved this week.

What’s more quintessentially Paris than a mandala of macaroons?

I don’t like licorice, but I love the happy colours in these licorice blocks!

Late afternoon twilight sends rainbow shards across the pillars inside Sacre Coeur.

In glorious Sainte-Chapelle, Paris’s little jewel box, the rainbows cast their magic.

Centre Georges Pompidou’s rainbows march defiantly down the streets of Parisian white and grey.

Harry’s New York Bar in Paris splashes its rainbows all over its walls. (It’s the money shot!)

I fell in love with these cute and colourful hand-made African homewares… and am bringing one home with me as my souvenir of a brilliant Parisian summer.

How could a writer resist this alphabet rainbow?

Row upon row of rainbow tassels, in all sizes and shapes!

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Anthropologie in Galleries Lafayette takes a whole new approach to decorating with paint!

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I’m here for one more week in spectacular, welcoming, warm (hot! high 30s most days), beautiful Paris, and will be back next week with more Friday in Five from the City of Light.

Beaucoup amour,

Gracie x

 

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26 May

What a fabulous week I’ve had! I’m in beautiful Sydney, partly for my Other Life work but also to see Vivid in all its spectacle and finery. Lighting-the-Sails-SONGLINES

So I’ve got lots to share, but I’ll be a little late sharing it tomorrow because I want to bring you the best of the Vivid Festival Opening Night. I’m going to quite some trouble to capture some great views for you (I know! After all this enthusiasm, it’d better be good, right?!). darling harbour

 

So check in tomorrow night for some great music, a quote and a person that have really changed my thinking, a bit of cute and a lot of light and colour!

 

Vivid Sydney celebrating the Doctor's 50th anniversary! - Imgur(These are some photos from previous Vivids to whet your appetite!)

 

‘Til then…

Gracie x

Friday in Five

20 May

Got five minutes? Here’s what I’ve loved this week…

Book of the week

The Wife's TaleChristine Wells is a Brisbane author to date most famous for writing delicious historical romance novels under the pen name of Christina Brooke. Her new novel, The Wife’s Tale, combines the best of her historical romance writing skill with contemporary drama, a fascinating mystery and some very poignant commentary on the lot of women – even wealthy, talented, intelligent and feisty women – in 18th century England. Christine’s pre-novelist profession as a lawyer lends terrific authenticity to her courtroom scenes. There’s intrigue, pathos and romance aplenty. I confess I wasn’t much taken with the premise – ‘An unforgettable novel that transports the reader from modern day Australia to the windswept Isle of Wight and the courtrooms of London in the 1780s’. If I hadn’t enjoyed her historical romances so much, I might not have read it at all. But my word, I loved it!

Idea of the weekC'est une merveille

How I love this! An inveterate quitter of foreign language classes, I’ve failed my way now through several language apps and am finally feeling very slightly less incompetent in French after several months on Memrise. But even with my determination to learn to converse in a language other than my own, the cleverness and elegance of this little device – a translating earpiece – fills me with awe. How simple! How obvious! How wonderful, to think we could break down barriers so easily. Sign me up!

 

Pretty of the week

sculptureIsn’t she beautiful?! And not just because her creators are French! Sophie Mouton-Perrat and Frédéric Guibrunet make these graceful, life-size papier-mâché lamps. You can see more on their website here. I’ll be keeping my eyes wide open for them on my next trip to Paris!

 

epiphanot

Word of the week

Epiphanot. (n) an idea that seems like an amazing insight to the conceiver but is in fact pointless, mundane, stupid, or incorrect. I’m afraid I have epiphonots all the time, but at least now I know what I’m doing! More clever new words here.

 

And, sadly, a farewell this week…

Gillian Mears

Award-winning Australian author Gillian Mears died this week. A long-time sufferer of multiple sclerosis, she nevertheless produced Foal’s Bread, shortlisted for the Miles Franklin award and winner of the Prime Minister’s Literary Award in 2012. It’s a stunning book, and I’m sorry we’ll have no more of her work to savour. Rest easy, Gillian.  Photo credit: Angela Wylie

 

Hope you’ve had a fabulous week! Would love to hear what you’ve loved…

Gracie x

Friday in Five

1 Apr

Got five minutes? Here are a few of the things I’ve loved this week!

View of the week

3689783_origIf you’ve not yet read the momentous first meeting between Matt and Pippa in my new novel, A Case for Trust (ha! See what I did there?!), this beautiful video will provide your imagination all the fuel it needs for the setting: a magnificent full moon rising over the spectacular Cape Byron Lighthouse in Byron Bay. The Eastern-most point of the Australian continent, it’s a wild and beautiful spot, a perfect spot for romance, and inspired the very first scene in A Case for Trust! Enjoy the video, and enjoy the story!

 

Pic of the week

Amanda's Moulin RougeAmanda Hamilton’s quirky, through-the-looking-glass watercolours are taking over the world (it’s all part of a cunning plan to bring the world more colour and joy, I assure you!). This one is a particular favourite of mine, from a fabulous series Amanda made last September while we were exploring Paris together. It makes me smile every time I see it!

 

Flick of the week

Courtyard, Palais du Luxembourg 5It doesn’t take much to have me dreaming of Paris. Amanda’s Moulin Rouge does it; and this week, so has Paris, Je t’aime, an omnibus of short films by an extraordinary roll-call of writers, directors and actors.  Through the neighbourhoods of the City of Light, love is ‘veiled, revealed, imitated, sucked dry, reinvented and awakened’. It’s delicious, poignant, visually stunning. And more than enough to have me salivating once again for my soul city.

 

 

Song of the week

La MerOh, look, why not? We’re talking lighthouses and crashing oceans and Paris and romance, and bestselling Regency romance writer Anna Campbell suggested weeks ago that this song, in French naturellement, and by the dashing Charles Trenet, trumps every English version. Also: I get to show off another beautiful (non-French, very Australian) beach!

 

Person of the week

Easter copperThis Brisbane Valley policeman. Easter is very often a deadly time on Australian roads – perhaps it’s the extra weight from all the chocolate, applied to car accelerators – and without our stern copper’s intervention, it could have been very sad indeed for this local pedestrian.

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Have a fabulous weekend! And remember to drop me a line about anything you’ve loved and want to share!

Gracie x

Is it bad…

14 Feb

… that I’m a romance writer and I entirely forgot about Valentine’s Day?

Sorry! But I’ve been busy today preparing for the launch of my new book, A Case for Trust, which is out in just a few weeks.

Belated, I know, but please accept my best wishes for a beautiful day, and a fragrant French bouquet in a bucket.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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