Saturday, June 14, 2008


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grande l'Etoile, petit Citroen

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Eiffel Tower and Dior

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shared ipod

Ten hours in Paris:

One hour: listening to Aurore rehearse with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France. Brahms 4th. Exquisite! No photos. Don’t want to abuse privilege.

Five minutes: breakfast is late. After the rehersal. Out of croissants. Happy to take pain au beurre with the café crème.

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Twenty minutes: enjoying a picnic in the rose gardens of the Bagatelle. More on that in a minute, but here is my lunch of choice (that's true pretty much every day) and this is my view from the bench where I ate it:

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Twenty-eight minutes: waiting for the traffic to clear by l’Etoile so that I can take a photo. At rush hour, this was a fete. A miracle, really, that I could catch that one second during which there would be an empty space. And, to add cream to that unbelievable milisecond of luck, I watch one small old Citroen putting along, right in front. (See photo above)

The balance – eight hours and seven minutes: walking. Covering most every street (or so it seems) between l’Etoile, the Eiffel Tower and the far corners of the Bois de Boulogne.

This is why I cannot stay in central Paris. My work would fall to the side. I would set out for a short stroll and I would be gone the whole day. Walking, watching, photographing. Waiting for traffic to pass so that it would not clutter the picture. Admiring. Imagining. Taking in Paris.

On this day, my goal was the Bagatelle Gardens. Quite a hike from the Philharmonic Hall. And absolutely impossible to find. Somewhere in the Bois de Boulogne. No one can point me to it. I follow empty paths through forests that, in my mind, are more horseback riding friendly than strolling friendly.

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But all roads eventually do lead to either Rome or roses. And the Bagatelle roses are something else. Not surprisingly, the gardens are the site for the international "new rose" competition. So, which of the 100 bushes was the winner this year? Here are some possibilities:

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The bees really liked this one:

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But the judges picked none of the above. The first prize went to this small flowered variety:

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And the "best fragrance" award went to this one:

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I can't post fragrance on Ocean. But trust me, you'd agree. And the handful of people in the Bagatelle Gardens concurred. (Do the Gardens attract such small numbers because they are hard to find, far from metro stops, or because they're off the Paris map? I'm in favor of keeping them quiet, but if you happen to be in Paris while I'm not there, by all means, go look for them. Or if you're rich, take a cab. Then sniff away. It's a heady place.)

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And speaking of rich, Bagatelle is more than just roses. I have plenty of photos of peacocks and children talking to peacocks and older people walking arm in arm and flower beds and such, but that's just too much for one day. I'll leave you with a photo from the Bagatelle Restaurant -- a posh place for that posh side of Paris that I actually rarely see. The right bank people who press their clothes with care and make sure every strand of hair is just so. Every big city has posh people and Paris seems to have quite a few in this part of town and so in the interest of fairness to them (because I'm sure they care), they shall have their moment on Ocean.

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After, I stumbled around until I came to La Muette (the neighborhood of the Marmotan!), where I got lost in windowshopping.

I didn't take many photos. Because GW Bush was in town (why? isn't he lame yet?), traffic was snarled and drivers were more grouchy than usual. I could do a whole post on the time I spent watching everyone jostle for a spot on a crowded square or circle. But in Paris, you can turn a corner and the noise of traffic falls away, behind you. And in front? There's always the Eiffel Tower.

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