Tag Archives: Paris

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: Time to fly

2 Sep

Oh, Paris, it gets harder and harder to leave you – but tomorrow I’m headed home to my own beautiful place, with fresh memories to tide me over.

I’ll always have my old favourites, like dinner at Polidor, where Ernest Hemingway’s napkin still resides, and the elegant and gracious Place des Vosges, my “go-to” for reflecting, people-watching and writing. And I have to be out at least one night on the hour, to watch Madame Eiffel dispense her sparkly love over the city:

 

But this week, I was on the hunt for new discoveries and, as always, Paris didn’t disappoint!

Fans!

Who knew? I packed one in my handbag mostly just because I found it while looking for my passport and decided I should try and get some use out of it. Then I arrived in Paris and found that fans are as “right now” as they’ve ever been. At the opera, in the cathedral, on the metro. Painted, tasselled, ruffled. Featuring Mona Lisa, Montparnasse and Monet.

FanMy cheapie, picked up in Hong Kong a decade ago, got a serious workout and started to fray, so I’ve updated it with this lace beauty, handmade by the artisans of Bruges. Elegant, effective, lightweight – and not just for Paris, I’ve decided!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s dance!

Wander along the Seine on any summer evening and you’ll have to pick your way between all the picnickers enjoying a balmy twilight with their baguettes and vin rouge. But on certain nights in certain spots you might stumble upon a more romantic way to see in the sunset!

And still on the dance theme…

In a little boutique near Palais Garnier I found this gorgeous window full of used pointe shoes, with brief messages from their former owners. Such a simple display; so many dreams realised and, perhaps, broken. Ballet, mBallet shoesusic, storytelling – these were things I’d forgotten mattered, from my youngest years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tucked away in the Marais…

Wandering through almost any arrondissement in Paris you’ll find alleys and courtyards and passages – and doors! So many beautiful doors! I could dedicate a whole blogpost to the mysterious and magical doors of Paris.

PassageI’d seen plenty of ornate passages in previous visits, but tucked away in the Marais I found this beautiful, open, airy passage filled with wonderful stores. What I loved most, though, was the trailing vines which, with the soaring glass walls and ceilings, suggested a tropical haven in the middle of this most chic of cities.

 

 

 

 

 

And magnificent Magnum!

Finally, emerging from the back of the Marais and its little streets of synagogues and historical libraries of ancient artifacts and quiet, shady rose gardens, I saw the temptation to end all temptations: Paris’s divine Magnum store. My photo does it no justice, so I’ve included this link so you can view the magnificence yourself.Magnum

To be honest, with all the sequins and glitter and precious metals paraded in the shopfront windows, I was too intimidated to go in (and anyway, I was running a little late for a concert, which is a much more acceptable excuse for my gutlessness!).

I’m not a huge fan of ice-cream, and particularly not ice cream that comes in a packet on a stick, but the window displays were drool-worthy in their own right.

 

 

 

And so: some new favourites from Paris, off my usual beaten and beloved tracks. But that’s one of the things I love about this city – there are surprises and delights literally on every street, and it makes me somehow bigger and braver when I return to my Real Life.

And that’s what I’ll do tomorrow… but now I’m off to Opera Bastille for opening night of the American Ballet Theatre’s The Sleeping Beauty – and I’ll report back on that next week, if only to keep my Paris summer magic alive a little longer!

Au revoir,

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

 

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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City of flowers

4 Oct

One of my favourite things in Paris? The flowers. Oh, the flowers…Paris florist 1Paris flowers

Paris hydrangeasParis dahlias

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