Thursday, May 21, 2015

Paris: the heron in the tunnel

There is a heron which lives in the tunnel of the St Martin canal underneath Paris. It has taken up residence in there every winter for seven years, and flies silently ahead of the boat as it navigates the tunnel in and out of the lights from the boat and from the light wells. The video is at half-speed, and uploaded in HD, so best to watch full screen or really the bird is not much more than a speck. I tried to use one of Jordi's and Montserrat's Sybils as soundtrack, because it seemed as though the creature had a kind of chthonic, sybilline quality, but it was heavy and portentous and all wrong, and I ended up using a fluffy bit of Debussy I found on the computer's sample music, which is much better.

It was one of the most delightful things that happened while we were there. Almost as much so as going out on our last evening, our wedding anniversary, when a great fierce shower of rain came down, and we sheltered under a café awning and watched it tear down the river while the opposite bank was in bright sunshine, then the sun came out and we crossed the Pont Neuf, and I invited Tom to buy me some earrings in a small jeweller's shop to fix the memory. He was wearing a jacket and tie and I was wearing a longish green dress I've had about 20 years - all the time we've been married in fact - which is altogether a fairly unusual sight, and we only looked ever-so-slightly like a superannuated version of Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle, and as we were walking down the Quai des Orfèvres, an American lady coming the other way smiled broadly at us and said to her companion for us to hear 'Don't they look so good together!' Then we heard pretty music in the Sainte Chapelle, and I cried at Pachelbel's Canon and Tom cried at the singer singing Schubert and Messiaen, then we repaired to the Orangerie on the Ile St Louis where I dipped bread in Tom's oeufs meurette and without being asked they brought two spoons and lit a candle in my apple crumble and caramel Berthillet ice cream, and assured us a lot of people ordered two courses and shared the starter and dessert. We ended the evening unbelievably tired, full and happy.


There are still one or two more posts' worth of pictures from Paris, but in fact I find I'd rather like just to post about some home-based stuff, which is good too, and perhaps have a bit of a break, so perhaps I'll come back to them later.


Stella said...

As always, a great pleasure to read your words and look at your images. Surely the description of your promenade and remark of the passing woman ranks among the all-time best romantic moments......indelible!
Many thanks for treating us to the tour.

Sabine said...

Pachelbel's canon. That inside the tunnel would be quite a feast. But then Debussy heron is just as amazing. Thank you.

marja-leena said...

Oh, this is wonderful! What a great anniversary celebration for you both. I've enjoyed every bit of it, with a touch of envy even that you saw so much. We were there a week and did not cover anywhere as much. Now I have a longing to go there again.

Thanks for sharing your pleasures with us, Lucy!

Ellena said...

Yes, the heron sighting is a delightful surprise but the tears accompanied by music you both shed to give thanks for blessings you have together is what stirred me up most.

Catalyst said...

Yes, you two definitely know how to celebrate an anniversary.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Your slow-mo video of the heron in the tunnel and perfectly chosen music is as good as, or maybe even better than the actual experience. As for the miraculous rain/shine event, surely that's proof of heaven's congratulations on your and Tom's anniversary. I wish there was a photo of that moment, rain on one side of the Seine, sun on the opposite bank! And that someone had photographed you both walking along in your Higgins & Eliza finery. Ah, romance!

Anonymous said...

Bird and music beautifully paired. Seems you and Tom are too.

HHB xx

Zhoen said...

Where the natural and man made meet and live together.

Isn't that wonderful, that the two of you inspire?

Fire Bird said...

that heron in the tunnel is quite spellbinding

Lucy said...

Thank you, people.

I am aware this post sounds very smug and self-congratulatory, but there it is. I am not among the wretched of the earth and I do count my blessings. I wish I could have thanked the lady who paid us such a nice compliment, but I'll try to remember to compliment strangers myself in the same way, which I have in the past.

Roderick Robinson said...

Boy, you packed a lot into that day. Justifiably. And things conspired to make you happy - in Paris which, despite its attractions, I've always regarded as a somewhat heartless city.

If only it weren't for the heron. You may remember... but no, this isn't the time for evoking nature red in tooth and claw.

Schlaf' gut.

Lucy said...

Robbie - in fact it was two days, the canal trip and la Villette - and a bit of time in the Tuileries - on the first whole day, then the second we had the concert and dinner. That morning we'd walked to the two islands to book the restaurant and check timings on foot (we're quite organised like that), and had rather made the mistake of not only going into Notre Dame but into the trésor museum there, both of which experiences were utterly grisly on so many levels... That afternoon Tom actually gave in and had a kip, and I went for a walk round the Bourse area which was quite interesting (lots of antique coin shops) then happily stumbled upon Galerie Vivienne, so all in all the day got better as it went on!

But yes, it always surprises and gives me pause for thought how continually steeped in violence, blood and betrayal Paris has been in the last couple of hundred years, more even than most western capitals perhaps,yet still manages to charm with its beauty. Heartless, I don't know. One of its attractions is that physically, topographically, it is quite compact, the heart in that literal sense is quite concentrated, though I'm also interested in discovering its many other subsidiary centres and their different characters. With London it often seems to me that while there are wonderful places to go and see - the BM, V&A and National Gallery all inspire me with a warmth that no Parisian museum can - there always seems to be a lot of dull, dusty noisy in-between to get through.

As to the notorious rudeness and coldness of Paris's inhabitants, not only as perceived by foreigners, especially Anglos ('contempt' seems to be a word a lot of Americans use about the French in general and Parisians in particular) but sometimes by Parisians themselves, I have to say in my limited experience I've not really had to complain of it, perhaps I'm just lucky, or go to the wrong places! The only place I would say we felt it was in the big science and technology institute up at la Villette last time, which seemed to arise from the rather unfriendly impersonal bigness of the space, the preponderance of noisy school parties, and just possibly, the roughness of the surrounding area.

In fact, we were often impressed by the cheerful good grace of many people providing services: the boat crew and the musicians, for example, were going over very well worn bread-and-butter performances, but they still seemed to have plenty of warmth and enthusiasm for it and for their colleagues, and appreciation of our appreciation.

Another thing, of course, is that in the centre at least, it really is a very international place. In the big attractions you scarcely hear any French (more Chinese than anything else), and perhaps more interestingly, in restaurants there are many mixed groups, perhaps French hosts with international guests, and plenty of lingua franca English.

Herons: I don't recall any particular gruesome episodes involving herons, though doubtless they are savage brutes, you don't have a beak like that unless you aren't afraid to use it. Perhaps you're thinking of that pelican that swallowed a duck in St James's park? Someone I recall described that as very Rabelasian. But then ducks can be evil little gits too. But anyway, who said beauty had to have anything to do with kindness?

Roderick Robinson said...

This involved a duckling and I posted many years ago. A duckling, I mean (no evil little git) and a lump in the heron's throat. With the assembled middle-classes gasping in unison: "Oh, no."

It's been ages since I was in Paris. Probably the occasion when we took a diesel from Pontchateau (Drefféac's nearest town) to Nantes, thereafter the TGV. Not a good idea, really. You need to stay overnight (as you did) to adjust to Paris's rhythms. Then to get used to the buses, otherwise you resort to the Metro (and see nothing) or walk everywhere and end up knackered before lunchtime.

Yep, Paris is planned, London not. And if you're not careful in London you tie yourself to the West End. Clerkenwell, where I used to work, has fragments of old London. Also Greenwich.

I'm presently doing Hay, sorry to be scrappy in the face of your magnificent response.

Lucy said...

Robbie, ugh, poor little innocent duckling! Herons round here seem to stalk the fields as much as water, I imagine they eat frogs and voles etc, they must just eat anything. Reading about Haussman's remodelling of Paris, which is what gives it such cohesion, that was pretty damn ruthless, and maybe contributes to the sense of heartlessness, and one can't quite look at those elegant mansard roofs without the passing thought of those old people left to fry to death under them while their elegant youngsters swanned off on les grandes vacances in the last heat wave. On the other hand Haussman's work was necessary to make the place clean and healthy and all that.

Buses are a good idea, once we took the topless buses (they were, we weren't) which were good as you can hop on and off anywhere and see a lot, except we got choked with pollution.

Enjoy Hay, don't worry about replying!

Avus said...

Delightful post, Lucy and you and Tom seem such soul mates.
(I, too, have been known to cry at Pachelbel's Canon

the polish chick said...

what a beautiful post. happy anniversary!