Images: La Vachalcade, Fernand Pelez tribute to poor ethnic children around Montmartre, MAD’S Great Moments of Advertizing, La Louvre picking up sunset colors, a Picasso Minataur (there’s a whole series), typical ceiling at Versailles, Jeff Koons showing off with his then-wife, an Italian porn star and member of parliament, in the infamous Made in Heaven series, a Marc Chagall window on a Jewish Museum, La Tour Eiffel at sunset.
While in Paris, we were invited to join dear friends, Patty and Peter Zimmerman, in U.K. and they offered to bring their car back with us on the Diepe ferry for a Paris visit of their own. Great! But it appeared there are TWO ferries out of Diepe? And what if we were at the wrong ferry, just one leaving at 6pm? Couldn’t get a clear phone call through to U.K. and my email was on the fritz, coming through on occasion with Google+, then back to Facebook. Weird and spooky.
The French trains went on strike the day before we were to catch a train to the ferry. It WAS a one day strike, but uncertainty lingered and when we tried to purchase tickets from a machine, a “helpful” guy missing teeth started to follow us around the huge train station/shopping mall at Saint Lazare, near the spot where some unseen hand stole Wayne’s roller case the night we emerged in the dark, jet lagged, from US/Dublin. Fast work, thief! Lacking clothing was no great trouble as a Kilo store had loads of pants and shirts for Wayne, second hand and priced weight; our precious items were consealed fully under our various clothing items.
So we were shaken a bit but not really stirred and carrying on quite happily when we left Paris for Dieppe and the ferry to England, wandering a day in the ancient and fascinating city, watching a carousel go around, the usual cafe stop for a place to sit and figure what’s ahead, a longish walk and stone tossing into the English Channel, a few sail boats and so wide you can’t see across. Sweet ancient fishing village I could easily scout around another day or so. Some great wine deals I hear. The ferry was a 4 hour ride, quiet, Peter suggested a couple of drinks would get us to them so we tried that and it worked. Huge boat, a bar, diner and gift shop, very few foot passengers; many trucks and cars aboard.
The Patty and Peter style of living in Pevensey Bay includes bicycling, so we bicycled to a castle (!) me falling off near our return when I tried to imitate Patty’s way of getting off. Made the rounds to local friend’s homes with Patty (as she does in Petaluma when here!) to admire family dogs and cats, marvelous views of the Channel and check out how everyone is doing, visits extending on into the evenings with pleasant stops at the best local pub, The Castle, right around the corner, famous American pop tunes playing softly in the background. We took a double-decker bus to Brighton, U.K.’s version of Haight Ashbury, many many veggie and vegan cafes, odd little shops selling minerals and feathers (I brought beautiful examples) and post cards of Jimi Hendrix; so many images of Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe I haven’t seen in years. Shared excellent fish and chips of course, and we HAD to get to a live concert so Peter chose The Hollies in Eastbourne, a fine old theater near cheery bars and restaurants. Turned out to be great fun with a slow start, the theme of “All I need is the air that I breathe and to love you,” haunting my steps for weeks afterward. The guy who replaced the original Holly guy is memorable.
Even went to church with Patty to sing over and over Jesus loves me and meet the best friend her Mum had in her later years (she passed at 98 a couple of years ago). Everyone was quite chummy of course, Patty being the most colorful congregant with her wild red hair and always an interesting hat and outfit. Love and cookies all around as it should be.
Felt cherished in the bed and breakfast we stayed in near Patty and Peter’s small home, a room in the home of the Osterly’s, classic British couple, with a view onto their perfect English garden, fish pond, seagulls fed bread crusts each morning so you see them swooping. Longish conversations with Pat Osterly, mostly about dogs, cats and travel, though we did also hear about the challenges of being a grandparent to an autistic and a aspergers grandchild when Mothering Day came around and family visits came with bouquets of tulips and daffodils. I added the small bouquet I’d been given in church to the mix of flowers in the perfectly spotless kitchen.
Travel with Patty and Peter was lively as expected. Nearly never ending conversation; lots of small farms to visit, one just guys hanging around animals, two were serious and full of delectable products to buy. Attempted to keep up with a nightlife we farmers aren’t used to, stopping for drinks before dinner; where to get escargot (at the corner, Cafe Francouer and I ordered absinthe/pernod with fountain and sugar cube – remarkable!) Loved finishing dinner at 2 minutes to midnight! And the food was, of course, near perfect.
They wanted Versailles and Givenchy’s gardens, but the gardens weren’t open yet so it was on to Verseilles and the overdone artwork that was created to convince the public that Le Roi est Dieu…your king is a God.
Again we walked till Patty and I just about dropped, Peter wanting to go way faster so he was on his own.
Wayne, Patty and I made our way to a river channel and its lovely cafe, eating glaces by the boats, watching mallards and seagulls. As in Paris, fantastic views all around in this huge now public park.
The few days we shared after Patty and Peter left were repeats a bit; back to Shakepeare Books and Jardin des Tuileries, discovering the ferris wheel had been taken down! Back to Musee de Montmartre, this time to study Fumisme, precursor to Dada, and take another look at the moving Valchalcade by Pelez, the activist artists raising funds for poor children by creating parades with the children. Eric Satie playing and I’m lost in reverie about Berkeley in the 1960’s. What do we want to save? How can we do it?
Out along rue Claire, we saw a small group of Hasidic Jews and noticed a Marc Chagall image in a window. Wayne took some images and nearly instantly we were set upon by three soldiers in camo fatiques carrying Uzis demanding to see the images in Wayne’s tablet. Soldiers are on high alert for terrorists since the Charlie Hebdo murders in January. First day on the Metro, Metro News headline read “terrorism is always with us.” Last day’s Metro News mentioned Hollande asking that we put Charlie Hebdo behind us. Hollande says he needs to do more to assimilate – yes, we agree. Just north of Lamarck Metro station is Chateau Rouge, as tough a neighborhood of Africans as ever you’ll see in Oakland and beyond that the Arabic/Muslim neighborhood with its poor and disenfranchised people, not at all the pretty picture we all have of Paris.