Wednesday, January 29, 2014

To Paris and Back Again

Wintery skies

We took a long weekend in Paris, where we enjoyed several delightful cultural activities, on which I report here. First, though, it has to be said that visiting the grandchildren was the primary objective.

Breakfast at Emily's. All one needs on the table: fresh flowers, a bowl of fruit, coffee, bongo drums and Zinnie.

Quinn turned five this week and Zinnie will be two early next month.

One thing I always enjoy doing while we're at Emily's house is visiting the local farmer's market in Le Pré Saint Gervais. It's open several times a week and consistently has the best seasonal produce available, as well as excellent cheese, good fresh fish and deli meats.

Cheese counter

As much as I like life in the country, it does seem a big treat and adventure to travel in to the capital where there is so much to do, see and buy.

Organic vegetable stand

While we did some shopping, Jos took the kids to the playground next door.  The weather here is still very mild.

Beautiful buildings surround the children's play area

Jos is in a new show in Paris. We were given a couple of tickets and very much enjoyed going to see Walden, playing in Gambetta, a part of Paris I had never explored before. It is a short bus ride from Emily's house. The show is a multimedia event, live music and imagery with readings from Thoreau. At the beginning of the evening, photos taken of Walden pond over an entire year, from a camera mounted on a tripod in a fixed location, are projected onto the back wall of the stage, and they very slowly cycle through all the seasons. It was somewhat mesmerizing.

A scene from Walden

On Sunday we were invited to lunch at our friend Nelly's beautiful apartment in Saint Germain des Prés.We took Quinn with us. Emily and Zinnie joined us afterwards. Nelly lives in my favorite part of Paris, and from her apartment, which is on a very quiet dead-end street with a charming park at the end, you can walk to all the major museums, the Jardin de Luxembourg and the river. People who know Paris well divide themselves into Left or Right Bank enthusiasts. I count myself as a definite Left-Banker.

Rick, Nelly and me in her library. Nelly is an art teacher and has an enviable collection of art reference books

Nelly wanted an excuse to visit a museum... we happily obliged. We decided on a show of Etruscan artifacts at the nearby Musee Maillol.

Maillol museum, one of our favorites in Paris

With Zinnie needing a nap, and Quinn stuck at knee-level, unable to see into the display cases, it was probably not the best choice. We enjoyed it a lot, but only as we raced past.

The biggest cultural event of our very cultural week was a concert at the Salle Pleyel, Paris' main venue for symphonic music. Jos and Emily had given Rick tickets for his birthday last November for a very special event, which we have been anticipating ever since. They went along with us, as well as a large group of their friends and creative acquaintances. Among them was Daniel Pennac, one of the most successful contemporary French authors. He's a very nice guy. Currently an animation made from one of his books, Ernest and Celestine is up for an Oscar. Enjoy the trailer:

The concert was The Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel. It is a Venezuelan youth orchestra with graduates of El Sistema, the incredible free musical educational program created in 1975 by José Abreu. The musicians are between the ages of 17 and 27. Dudamel, who is also currently the music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, is a graduate of the program and has been their conductor since he was 18. He is one of the most famous conductors in the world and is only 32.

By some fortunate chance, we sat right in the midst of the Venezuelan embassy personnel and the great man himself, José Abreu.

José Abreu, founder of El Sistema

If you do not know about this program, which offers free musical training and instruments to Venezuelan barrio children, you are, in my opinion, missing one of the most hopeful stories of our times.

The orchestra played four encores to enthusiastic standing ovations

These are kids, but the music is of the highest professional quality. Take a few minutes to enjoy this video taken in London a few years ago. You get a little history along with your music:

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful time!
    I enjoyed the video. So much good work going on with the kids in Venezula. So Impressive!!