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Report 2040: Paris au Ralenti (Paris in Slow Motion)

By Doru from Canada, Fall 2012

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Page 6 of 19: Monday, September 17 - BHV;Memories; Temple of Nespresso; a Grand Concert

photo by Doru

Line up at Berthillon!

“Our” boulanger was closed over the weekend. Policy. Good for him! Not so good for us... Of course, rue Saint-Antoine has bakers at every 30 meters, all open seven days a week, but our neighbour’s bread is airier and yet more crunchy. This morning I welcome their return to duty. They also have croissants “naturels”, croissants made with margarine instead of butter, a manna for Josette, who is, as I explain here a few times a day, “allergique aux produits laitiers, intolérante au lactose.”

Today we get started very late and this means that in the morning we only have time to go to BHV for some shopping. The list is short: a “scientific” indoor/outdoor thermometer cum weather station, like the one our host has, and some Nespresso coffee pods. The ones our host left complimentary for me are running out and I have 15 days to go.

First, I have never bought Nespresso coffee pods and I need to know what to ask for: so the mantra is “capsules de café (insert the strength grade, in my case “volutto”, which is marked as 4 on a scale of 10)”. If you buy 10 capsules in a package, you ask for an “étui.” One vendor at BHV advises that some ask for “cartouches” instead of “capsules.” Oh, the sophistication of marketing what is actually prepackaged pre-ground coffee!

Unfortunately, we cannot find exactly the outdoor thermometer I wanted and decide not to compromise on another make. As to the Nespresso coffee, it turns out that at BHV they sell only the coffee making machines; for “capsules” (or “cartouches”?), malheureusement, the only place one can buy them is at Nespresso’s main location, at 119, Avenue des Champs-Élysées.

As it happens, we have a concert tonight, at Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, where we will go one way by métro and return by taxi. Instead of getting off at Franklin D. Roosevelt, we will get off at George V, which is very close to Nespresso’s Coffee Temple.

I am not sure if I have already mentioned the fact that our apartment is endowed with a giant Samsung TV screen and a huge selection of TV/HDTV channels, a great many of them ethnic channels. One of those is TVR International, a channel dedicated to Romanians living elsewhere in Europe. We came across this channel two years ago in our then Paris rental and, by a coincidence, it was the first channel coming live when Josette turned on the TV on arrival here. Since then, when we have the time, Josette watches a variety of programmes and I multitask, as I do right now, writing and also listening to the broadcast sounds. For today, we expect a documentary with the title “Memorial Bucharest” about the barbaric destruction of irreplaceable buildings and monuments under the hated and hateful dictatorship of Nicolae Ceauşescu. (Note: I wrote in some detail about this barbarism in my Slow Travel Bucharest trip report of 2009)

The documentary is dedicated to the demolition of the monastery “Văcăreşti” and of its imposing church, which were located in the same neighbourhood where we both lived and of which nothing is now left. Both the monastery and the church were dating back to the beginning of the 18th century and represented the grandest traditions of religious architecture and religious art in Romania. The documentary was also dedicated to the efforts of those few who, with courage, tried first to prevent the destruction and who, later, faced with the inevitability of bulldozers advancing and tearing downs walls around them, tried to -at least- salvage components of the exceptional buildings. Of the 2400 square meters of murals and iconography, only about 140 square meters were preserved, these already partially damaged. Architectural components were illegally hidden elsewhere, and only some of those survived.

It was not easy to watch, particularly when one of architects involved in the old documentary images was very well known to me: recently I have had with him some correspondence on the fate of a number of Bucharest buildings captured by him in a collection of aquarelles, building that had personal relevance for Josette and for me.

And so, as the documentary ended and I returned to the laptop, another, almost forgotten part of my youth, came back to haunt me and at the same time make me very nostalgic, sentimental and happy. That is when Josette called from the other room to tell me that the following program was dedicated to an actress with whom I used to work at Radio Bucharest, where I had a weekly one-hour broadcast for children and youth. This is something I could not have anticipated in my wildest dreams, but there she was, on the screen, the actress who, 55 years ago, was still a student at the Faculty of Theatre as I was at the Faculty of Journalism, and with whom I used to work almost every week. We were 22-23 years old at the time, the two us and the other young actors and contributors with whom I worked to create the weekly broadcast. Now, on the TV screen, A.M. was the same and yet not; still beautiful in a mature way; wonderfully spoken; elegant; looking directly at me from the screen. Uncanny; I had to come to Paris, to recover this moment of youth!

After so much emotion, how to return to routine?

Well, everything is possible: later today, a young Canadian will bring us to heights rarely achievable. But I anticipate.

In the evening, we are on our way, first to the House of Nespresso. Frankly, I have never seen such a waste of human resources and money. The Nespresso store at 119, Avenue des Champs-Élysées, occupies an entire building. At least two or three clerks greet you at the entrance; two young women, who had probably won the last two Miss Universe contests, escort you to the elevator; three or four formidably muscular guards appear from behind each corner to watch you, smile to you, follow you; decorative architecture scarcely houses a few pieces of coffee-making hardware, espresso cup sets and accessories. Yet, when after this sumptuous greeting one finally arrives at the counter where the “capsules” and “étuis” are being sold, there is a line-up! A slow line-up. A very slow moving line-up. Five or ten people mill around to receive you, and smile to you, and guide you to... wait!

What came to mind later is that “Mariage Frères” likely sell just as much or more tea than Nespresso sells coffee capsules, from a space probably tens of times smaller, and ten times more efficiently.

Sometimes one wonders...

Anyway, I manage to buy four étuis, hoping that 40 espresso cups between now and the return to Toronto will be enough. If not, we will just go back and genuflex again in the Temple of Nespresso.

To be fair, their coffee is pretty good. I have to concede this...

But the apogée of this day of varying emotions was yet to come: at Théâtre des Champs-Elysées we listen to a glorious concert by the Philharmonic Orchestra of Rotterdam, conducted by the amazing young Canadian Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

The programme is dominated by Czech composers: Smetana (“Moldau”) and Dvořák (the 9th Symphony “The New World”). I am not a musical critic, while Josette is a musician by education and profession. We were just two of the two thousand people who acclaimed deliriously the orchestra and its conductor for minutes on end. The public just did not let go. If one knows this 9th symphony, one could not really figure what could follow as a “bis”, to top the final part of this symphony. And yet, Nezét-Séguin and the Rotterdam ensemble bowed to the unrelenting applause and capped the night with the Slavonic Dance #1, also by Dvořák. If this were a piano recital, the pianist would have closed the piano lid. Instead, some time later the orchestra just got up and went. So did us. The orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Séguin will be back here on June 21, 2013. Alas, not us...

This exceptional day could not have ended better: on the way back to the apartment, our charming lady driver regales us by accompanying with her very pleasant, smoky voice, the chansonettes that flow from the car’s radio. Seulement à Paris! Only in Paris!

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Trip Report Pages

Wednesday, 12 September - Arrival and Settling in the Lower Marais

Thursday, 13 September - Making Sense of the Neighbourhood, between Rue de Rivoli and the Seine

Friday, 14 September - Expanding the Teritory and Another Torontonian in Paris

Saturday, September 15 - Rue Cler and Pont Louis-Philippe

Sunday, September 16 - Slow Travel Get-Together

Monday, September 17 - BHV;Memories; Temple of Nespresso; a Grand Concert

Tuesday, September 18-Wednesday, September 19 - Biennale des Antiquaires; Marché des Enfants-Rouges, on rue de Bretagne

Thursday, 20 September - Izraël-Le Monde des Epices; Mr. Pickwick sells Marc de Bourgone?

Friday, 21 September - It is About the Risotto; Intermezzo: Crosswalks of Paris

Saturday, 22 September - The Stravinsky Fountain; Back to rue François Miron; Meeting Dear Friends

Sunday, September 23 - Around the Marais with Friends; Alas, at Night the Rain Starts...

Monday, 24 September - GTG at Café des Musées; Thoughts for a Rainy Day

Tuesday, 25 September - Canaletto at Musée Maillol: Acqua Alta in Paris?; rue du Bac

Wednesday, September 26 - One Can't Fight Musée du Louvre; and More Rain...

Thursday, September 27 - Musée du Quai Branly; Village Saint-Paul&Place du Marché Saint-Catherine

Friday, 28 September - The Impressionists of the Le Havre Circle of Modern Art; Jardin du Luxembourg

Saturday, 29 & Sunday 30 September - Le Temps des Cerises; Sunday Morning Concert

Monday, 1 October - Wonderful Lunch at La Régalade Saint-Honoré; Getting Ready to Return Home

Au Revoir, à Bientôt!

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