Thursday, 27 June 2013

jeudi de paris

See, I didn't lie when I said that I didn't take good photos at Anaïs and Téa's ballet concert.  I was one of the volunteer mums helping during the rehearsal and also backstage with the kids' costume change, make up etc so I wasn't quite free to take so many photos.  I think there was a photographer taking proper photos and filming, so I guess I will be one of those parents who will buy every photo her children appear in...

Summer is officially here, but like spring, its very evasive.  In mid-spring, we still had to dress prety much like winter.  See this photo here where we got dressed up to go and watch a dance.  I know I've been promising photos of our new apartment but because its been grey and miserable, I never get the right light for photos.  There are still light fixtures to be bought, so the apartment doesn't quite look complete yet.  But to start, these photos show the street the apartment is on.

Our apartment building dates back to the 16th century.  In the bottom photo on the far right, you see the Collège des Grassins which was founded in 1569, having once being mainly a school of theology and philosophy.  Our building is just to the right of the ancient college.

Every year on the 21st of June, on the day of the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere, city sidewalks, bars, cafes, squares, parks, train stations, public buildings and other public spaces become a stage for musicians, amateur or professional.  It is the day  of Fête de la Musique which was launched in 1982 by the French Ministry of Culture.  It is sometimes known as World Music Day and is today held around the world.  All genres of music are available and all musicians must perform for free, its aim being to promote music.  On this day, everyone young and old, come out to celebrate music.  This being our first with the girls, we wandered around our quartier and bought some Mexican take away which we ate on a bench at a square, watching the very talented and entertaining gay and lesbian choir of Paris sing their hearts out.  They were excellent.

Father and daughter (she has make-up on because she just came from a school theatre performance) appreciating the music while the other daughter's dancing feet can be seen in the background.

Even the former grounds of the renowned École Polytechnique (also popularly known simply as X) opened its doors to a band of young musicians, who between sips of wine and puffs of cigarettes, never seemed to run out of breath!

Why is the École Polytechnique so renowned?  It was established in 1794 during the French Revolution and became a military school under Napoleon in the following century.  Only the strongest students in science and maths get accepted, if they dare to try pass the famously selective entrance exam.  It is today still under the French Ministry of Defence, being one of the grandes écoles that traditionally prepared technocrat leaders of French government and industry.  The school paves the way for high positions of influence in government, industry, research and finance.  Among its alumni are Nobel prize winners and three Presidents of France.  Half of the top corporate enterprises in France are headed by a Polytechnicien.  The school is no longer in the Latin Quarter where we live, but has been moved to the southwest of Paris.  

The school and the grounds contribute to the neighbourhood's reputation as a quartier étudiant (students neignourhood), frequented by students and professors alike who study or teach at the many nearby universities and colleges.

It looks like everyone is ready for summer, except for summer itself.  More than 2 kilometres along the rive gauche (left bank) of the river Seine has been transformed featuring floating gardens, climbing walls for children, teepees, giant blackboards, athletic tracks and other really interesting installations meant for stimulating your children's senses.  In the meantime, get zen by renting a Zzz (for free), a glass-fronted , simply furnished container surrounded by a little garden, where you can pause and contemplate the Seine.  Zen by the Seine.  We really enjoyed our Sunday promenade, despite the light rain.  These are one of the things that are so cleverly thought of in Paris and which makes the city so interesting. 

photo from
photo from

To round off our walk, we went through the Luxmbourg gardens, where there is always a sight to soothe your city-living induced stress.  Watch out for the bees though!

I have a blocked sink to sort out today, can't wait to zen out this weekend.  Think I might rent a Zzz for a little picnic.  Even if it rains, we have a roof, but with a garden and river view.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

jeudi de paris

My two daughters could not be more different than chalk and cheese.  Anaïs loves her bath hot, Téa likes hers cool.  Anaïs loves durian.  Téa  hates it.  Téa  loves cheese.  Anaïs hates it.  Anaïs is creative.  Téa  is pretty straightforward.  Téa  is a tidy-er. Anaïs is not.  Anaïs is an introvert.  Téa, needless to say if you already know her, is clearly an extrovert.  Anaïs is a dancer. Téa  is a runner. 

I could not get any good photos of the ballet concert they were in last Sunday.  So I'm posting some photos of the mini marathon that Téa  took part in two weeks ago.  She had already won the cross country race in her school in KL last year, and she knew it was no easy feat.  The mini marathon was organised by the town hall.  There were some 'entertainment' for the afternoon, and a prize giving tea party scheduled for after the race. A multi-talented talking/singing giraffe was the emcee/cheerleader/entertainer of the day.

This is our quartier, at Place du Panthéon, two minutes from our house; in the background you can see the Bibliotheque St Genevieve where the young and studious come to do their research and on the left is the law faculty.

The Panthéon was orgininally a church built by King Louis XV in the 18th century in dedication to St Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris.  Over time, its use and function has evolved.  Soon after its completion, it was turned into a mausoleum for the internment of great Frenchmen (and women).  It was also where physicist Léon Foucault conducted his experiment to demonstrate the rotation of the earth by constructing a 67-meter pendulum beneath the central dome.  In the early 1900s, Rodin's first large scale bronze casting of The Thinker sat contemplating in front of the Panthéon.  Although it has reverted to being a church a couple of times, today the Panthéon  is a very distinct monument of the city and serves as a mausoleum (the other bring Les Invalides for historical military leaders like Napoléon), restricted to "National Heroes" like Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Marie Curie, Louis Braille, amongst others.  The inscription above the entrance reads "AUX GRANDS HOMMES LA PATRIE RECONNAISSANTE"(translation: "To the great men, the grateful homeland").

Anaïs was celebrating the moment, quite happy to cheer her sister on and let her take all the limelight.

Téa ran in the 7 to 9-year old category.  Here she is trying hard not to be intimidated by the bigger, taller kids...

Can hardly see her above the fence!

But I can see her super fast feet peeping out from underneath, ready to fly!

I'm small, but strong and determined...

Nearing the finish line, she gives her all.

She comes in third happily, and is asked to go onstage with the very musically-inclined giraffe.

Smiles all around, third place is not a bad place to be, it means you have something to aim towards to next year!

At the prize-giving, she meets the son of the mayor.

It was a perfect day; the sun was out, the race well run and at the tea party, there were cakes and lollies.  On top of that, there was a medal to bring home!

Saturday, 15 June 2013

its not thursday, but ...

I was sick last week and was relieved to have my cousin Karen here to nurse me and help watch the girls.  I just felt bad that she spent her few precious days of holiday here not doing much apart from that!

Those happy faces above tell of happy times in Sturget.  We were there during the spring break.  Unfortunately we left before the roses came into full bloom and well before the cherry season.  There are two cherry trees in the backyard and we are never there the right time to appreciate the fruits!  

Back in Paris, with Ivy and Caitlin, we walked our neighbourhood park, the Luxembourg Gardens, and visited the Basilica de Sacre Coeur in Montmarte.  With the weather now being almost 'correct' as the French would say, the artists were all out and about.  

Of course the Notre Dame in our neighbourhood cannot be missed, especially now that the lilies are out.

I took one morning off my tour guide responsibilities to accompany Téa and her class to a reading at a kindergarten.  This being the year they learn how to read, Téa and her camarades  have looked forward to this day for months.  Their being invited to read to a group of pre-schoolers is a fantastic way for them to show off their newly-acquired skills, boost their confidence and motivate the pre-schoolers.  What a great idea.  I loved the question and answer session at the end when the younger kids asked in admiration if it was difficult to learn how to read.  The older kids shake their heads, all looking wise and confident, saying "No, not at all".

Tomorrow the girls are dancing in their end-of-year ballet concert.  I hope to be able to take some photos and share them with you.  Enjoy your Sunday, and to all fathers out there, Happy Father's Day!

Thursday, 6 June 2013

jeudi de paris

I promised to post some photos of Ivy and Caitlin's visit.  Here are the first lot.  They were all taken in Sturget.  The roses were all just starting to come out, we wished we were staying a week longer just to be able to see them bloom.

Today my cousin Karen arrived so we've been catching up and I decided it was time to cut my hair.  To celebrate the nice weather that has finally arrived!

The camera-totting tourist about town and her model, sometimes willing, sometimes not.

In the town of Blaye we visited the citadel which overlooks the estuary.  Click here to read more about it.  

Some other willing models for Ivy.

Visiting JB's aunt and uncle in their summer home in the Perigord area, we were treated to lunch and some tree climbing.

Notice from the photos above that I've put on weight?  Not a big surprise, we spend most of our time in Sturget, shopping for food, cooking and eating...

Time for dinner, so I'll leave you for now, and promise to try and post more pictures soon!