A Canadian Canary Visits Paris: Incomparable Dance, Theatre, Jazz, Classical and Contemporary Music*

The Opera Bastille, designed by Canadian architect Carl Ott was the venue for a sensational production of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker ballet.

The Opera Bastille, designed by Canadian architect Carl Ott was the venue for a sensational production of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker ballet.

Music, theatre and dance in various forms have always been very healing for me – whether as a performer or as a member of the audience or as a remote viewer/listener via an electronic medium. While my primary motivation to travel to Paris in winter was to attend to wonderful wedding of my fabulous French friends Carole and Gildas, my second priority was to experience as  many performing arts productions as possible.  I was definitely not disappointed! “There are at least 800 performances on any given night in Paris!” Gildas informed me  of this fact during a mystery tour I took with them. (More on that in a subsequent post.)

My first big performance outing was on New Year’s ( called Old Year’s in the Caribbean) Eve. Thanks to Carole, who had secured a ticket for me several months in advance, I was off to see The Nutcracker Ballet, a traditional Christmas favourite entertainment in Canada, as well as in France.  It had been more than 30 years since I last watched this special 19th century spectacle on stage, and here I was in Paris of all places to see it again.  Well, I was beyond delighted!

I have been fortunate to see the Rudolf Nureyev choreographed nutcracker many years ago in both Ottawa and Toronto.  To see it in Paris was definitely a dream come true!

I have been fortunate to see the Rudolf Nureyev choreographed Nutcracker  Ballet many years ago in both Ottawa and Toronto. To see it in Paris was definitely a dream come true!

As I seated myself in the second balcony, I was amazed at the exceptional view I had of the entire stage at the Opera Bastille.  And I could also see the conductor and all the instrumentalists in the orchestra pit.  This well-loved ballet held the 3,000 viewers in the sold-out space  in awe for about two magical hours, with one 20 minute intermission.  I particularly enjoyed watching the harpists in the ‘pit’, as well as the conductor’s baton guiding the musicians through Tchaikovsky’s renowned score.  But of course, it was the dancers who stole my heart and everyone else’s, with their beautiful, precise, flowing movements, demonstrating their strength and agility in this challenging physical art form.   Yet it was more than that.  In Nureyev’s choreographed production, it was evident that the enchanting tale of The Nutcracker was also relayed through the dancers’  facial expressions and mimed  injections of humor, with which the audience could easily identify. The entire Corps De Ballet  and the students in the dance school of the  Paris Opera Ballet gave me a wonderful New Year’s gift with their world-class performance of a timeless tale. I left the opera house in a dream-like state, as is fitting a New Year’s Eve in the City of Light!

The Theatre Chatelet is located in the 1st arrondissement of Paris, alongside the Seine River.

The Theatre Chatelet is located in the 1st arrondissement of Paris, along the Seine River.

During the following week, I was well occupied by outings with Carole and Gildas.  However, when Saturday January 3rd arrived, I was determined to see the world première of An

There are 2,500 seats in the Theatre Chatelet, more recently called Theatre Musicale de la paris.

There are 2,500 seats in the Theatre Chatelet, more recently called Theatre Musicale de la Paris.

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The stage is set for the opening act and the piano is ready to be played!

American in Paris musical before it closed and headed to Broadway!  Again, Carole had tried to secure a ticket for me, but the house was completely sold-out on that last weekend of its run at the Theatre Du Chatelet.  However, she advised  me that rush seats with limited sight lines of the stage would be available for only $10 Euros.  Well, on that Saturday morning, I was at the ticket office as soon as it opened.  I was able to get a ticket with a caution that I might not be able to see the entire stage.  In my mind, something was better than nothing for an occasion such as this!

The  walls of the Joe Allen Restaurnat and Bar are adorned with posters from Broadway musicals and plays!

The walls of the Joe Allen restaurant and Bar are adorned with posters from Broadway musicals and plays!

As I had a few hours before the 3 p.m. start, I wandered around the Halles area of the first arrondissement.  It was a very rainy day and quite cool, so I was glad of my boots, wool coat and hat as I braved the elements with an umbrella for shelter. I was also on another mission:  I went in search of a well-known American

The renowned American Joe Allend Restaurant and Bar is located in close proximity to the Theatre Chatelet and the the Duc de Lombard Jazz Club.

The renowned American Joe Allen Restaurant and Bar is located near  the Theatre Chatelet and Le Duc des Lombards Jazz Club.

Café, as well as the location of a jazz club, called Le Duc Des Lombards.  I lucked out on both counts.  It was really just by chance that I came upon the Joe Allen Restaurant and Bar. I had an ulterior motive too: once I found it, I had hoped to meet the Canadian chef for which the place is famous – Graeme Bent.  My cousins from Nova Scotia are acquainted with his family, so I had hoped to say ‘hello’!  However, he was not in at that time, but I did enjoy my chicken Caesar salad with a mild apple cider on the side.  The place was packed, and by the time I finished my meal, I had to run for the opening of the theatre at 2:30 p.m. so that I could find my seat.  I made it on time, although I did get turned around once and was courteously redirected by a friendly Parisian, who understood my French perfectly!

A polite usher confirmed that it was not possible to take photos once the performance had begun.  This is a standard practise in most theatres these days.  For the same reason, I could not get action shots at Opera Bastille for The Nutcracker.  While I noticed that people did use their smart phones to capture memories from the stage, I respect the rights of the artists, as I wish to receive the same consideration for my own creations.

I was thrilled to discover that the sight lines for the stage were quite good, except for far stage left.  As it turned out, very little of the action took place in that area, so I felt well satisfied by my $10 Euro investment!  The plot is a well-known one, as the original film version starred Gene Kelly, and most people know at least a couple of the tunes, such as ‘I got Rhythm’ and ‘S’Wonderful’.  As the production was set in English, I could easily follow it, while French speakers referred to moving lines of translation above the stage.  Sometimes I looked at it and chuckled to myself.  As I have learned, it is often challenging to translate an idiom from one language to another; they tend to lose meaning.  However, the overall sense of the action was not lost on anyone.

Here I was in Paris, watching a musical written by  Americans George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin, which really created a picture for me of what it may have been like  just after World War II and the end of Nazi Occupation in this City of Light.  The romantic leads were truly incredible: both are professional ballet dancers with fine voices and a great command of the stage.  You can read a complete review here.  They succeeded in thoroughly convincing me about their love for each other despite the challenges of post-war Paris,  as an American GI who stayed behind and fell in love with a French girl of Jewish ancestry.  The stage setting also depicted Paris as it would have looked during that era, and the cast cleverly moved the props on and off the stage without having  to make any big scene changes.  Without a doubt, I was entertained and instructed by these talented professionals, and of course, the music was so uplifting.  The whole creation transported me to another time – in Paris!

It was beyond a thrill to attend the world premiere of An American in Paris on its last weekend in the City of Light.  The show was then heading to Broadway, NYC!

It was beyond a thrill to attend the world première of An American in Paris on its last weekend in the City of Light. The show was then heading to Broadway, NYC!

As I was on a ‘high’ after that magical show, I thought I would try my luck at Le Duc des Lombards, which was located about 10 minutes away.  Unfortunately the two jazz performances were sold out that night, but I was able to return on another evening a few days hence.  I headed back to my cozy AirBNB apartment in Montmartre on the convenient Métro, as I had big  music plans for the next day too.

 

Notre Dame Cathedral is a prominent landmark on an island in the Seine River.

Notre Dame Cathedral is a prominent landmark on an island in the Seine River.

Because Sunday January 4th 2015, was actually the Christian celebration of Epiphany (when the Magi, (aka Wise Men) visited the Baby Jesus).  I made my way to the world-famous Notre Dame Cathedral for the international mass to take place at 11:30 a.m. Although thousands of parishioners and visitors filled the immense sacred place, I was able to get a seat very close to the area where priests conducted the liturgy and the  soloists lead the

One of the amazing stained glass windows in Notre Dame Cathedral.

One of the amazing stained glass windows in Notre Dame Cathedral.

congregation in songs of praise – some of which were in Latin, while the rest were in French! As well, I enjoyed the choir’s rendition of J.S. Bach’s Cantata  BWV 123 for Epiphany: ‘Liebster  Immanuel’.  Although it was very chilly inside, and there was a slight distraction from hundreds of footsteps of tourists admiring the architecture around the perimeter, I was completely mesmerized by the voices and the beauty of the setting.  One of the  largest stained glass windows has been in place since the 13th century and parts of the organ date back to the 17th century!  I felt very joyful when the hour-long service was over, even though I was shivering!

The Epiphany display at the front of Notre Dame Cathedral wa a joyful sight to behold!

The Epiphany display at the front of Notre Dame Cathedral was a joyful sight to behold!

I have already reported about my next musical foray: ‘The Flute Project: Guitar and Flute’ which took place at the Trinity Church on Thursday January 8, 2015.  You can read about that moving performance here.

Yes, I actually did sing a little too:  that surprise performance took place during the happy occasion of the wedding of my French friends Carole and Gildas on Saturday January 10, 2015.  I had slightly modified a couple of verses of ‘La Vie En Rose’ so that the song focussed directly on them.  My a capella performance is referred to here.

It was almost the end of my visit when I got a taste of jazz , for which Paris is famous since World War II.  My return to le Duc Des Lombards jazz club in the Halles district of the first arrondissement with a reserved ticket was a fitting grande finale to my musical adventures in Paris.

Kavita Shah from NYC captivated the audience at the renowned Le Duc Des Lombards Jazz Club. Photo taken from page 9 of Le Duc Des Lombards French Quarter 5th edition Programme 2 -31 January 2015.

Kavita Shah from NYC captivated the audience at the renowned Le Duc Des Lombards Jazz Club. Page 9 copied  from Le Duc Des Lombards French Quarter 5th edition Programme 2 -31 January 2015.

I arrived at 7:30 p.m. on Monday January 12th for the first performance of the evening by Kavita Shah, a New Yorker of East Indian origin.  When I walked in to the intimate venue, the place was already close to its capacity of 65 seats.  A group of businessmen dined and casually conversed while technicians ensured that everything was in order on the small stage. Other jazz enthusiasts seemed to be seated at their favourite spots.  A friendly waiter took my order for mint tea. He also confirmed that photos were not allowed.  When Ms. Shah arrived, she passed casually among the crowded tables and smiled at everyone.  She then went upstairs for a few minutes and then quietly came down to take the stage while she watched her fellow musicians: drummer, pianist, guitarist and double-bassist as they warmed us up with the first selection.  Then she spoke to us in both English and French and told us about some of her own compositions and how she had fused eastern melodies with mystical stories.  The blend of jazz with unfamiliar  foreign musical influences resonated sweetly in my head.  Her clear soprano voice, pure in tone, seemed to melt perfectly into the timbre of the various instruments.  Sometimes I could not distinguish the sound of her voice from the guitar or piano when the notes were in unison. The whole room was spellbound by her low-key demeanor and superb talent. I was carried away be the loveliness of the music and her clarity of the words in each song.  I was completely ‘blown away’ by her duet of ‘La Vie En Rose’ with the double-bassist.  The  two diametrically opposed ‘instruments’ complemented each other despite the extreme differences in their harmonic qualities.  Suffice to say it was a very ‘funky’ upbeat presentation of this French classic. When they finished to loud applause, the double-bassist announced that the song was dedicated in love to the people who had lost their lives in the terrorist attacks  in Paris the previous week.

That was about the quickest hour and a half that I ever experienced in my life!  The show was over all too soon.  I could easily understand why critics call this tiny salon one of the finest jazz venues in the City of Light.

As I reflect on those wonderful and varied artistic performances, I feel truly blessed to have been able to partake of this amazing aspect of Paris life during my short time there. Now I dream of returning for more!

* This piece is dedicated to Leng Sorhaindo, renowned Dominican piano teacher (retired) and accompaniste extraordinaire. She asked me several times about my musical experiences in Paris, with great interest. As a singer, I am privileged to  be associated with  this exceptionally talented musician and supportive friend.   Thanks Leng!

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A Canadian Canary Visits Paris: Food, Fabulous French Food!

Bread is a ubiquitous  staple  of countless variations in France!

Bread  (le pain – pronounced ‘pan’) is a ubiquitous staple of countless variations in France!

I expect that everyone knows that France is famous for its gastronomie, among other things. My culinary

Here is a little visual to make your mouth water!

Here is a little visual sample to make your mouth water!

experiences in Paris took me almost completely off of my established tropical régime  (diet)  of bountiful fruits and vegetables in Dominica.  But that was part of the plan and I was well prepared to sample some different flavours and textures, without any regret!

Because of my environmental health challenges, I tend to avoid common processed  and/or refined foods (bread, milk, sugar) that can give me allergy-related problems. However, it was impossible NOT to eat ‘French’ bread: the scent, the texture, the taste and its appearance at EVERY meal broke me down at least once a day.   YOLO (you only live once!), as some of my friends would remind me.

This rich pumpkin soup sustained me for the better part of a day!

This rich pumpkin soup sustained me for the better part of a day!

As I am not much of a meat eater, I fared well with hearty soups:  a pumpkin variety and popular zucchini were rich, energizing and filling as a midday meal.

I'd never had zucchini soup until Paris.  I did benefit from its popularity while I was there!

I’d never had zucchini soup until Paris. I did benefit from its popularity while I was there!

For protein, I did ingest abundant eggs in omelettes and galettes (a savoury crêpe),

French omellettes suited me very well; with home fired potatoes and salad, I was satiaited for many hours!

French omelettes suited me very well; with home fired potatoes and salad, I was satiated for many hours!

occasionally chicken or fish dishes  and mild goat cheese (chevre). I did break down one Sunday afternoon between outings to have a big  traditional dinner:  delicately seasoned pork charcutiere, mashed potatoes and green salad. It reminded me of one of my late  mother’s special concoctions, so of course, it was divine!

As it was still the yuletide season, I appreciated sweet Clementine oranges from Spain and Corsica, which brought back childhood memories of discovering this tasty foreign fruit in my stocking on Christmas morn.  Bins at every grocer and market were spilling over with this Vitamin C rich fruit and I purchased them frequently at very reasonable prices.  I also gorged on apples; while not likely organic, I peeled off the skin and ate them with the chevre and oat cakes for a light supper snack.  Speaking of which, I was able to find organic oatmeal and local honey, which I cooked  into a hot, sweet porridge to start my day when I stayed in a lovely AirBNB apartment in Montmartre.  (Details to follow in a subsequent post).

The cheery staff at the Solar Hotel served me an organic cafe au lait every day!

The cheery staff at the Solar Hotel served me an organic café au lait every day!

But for the first week of my stay, I was situated at the Solar Hotel, where a 100% organic breakfast was offered

The bright dininig room at the Solar Hotel was set fronm breakfast: the organic apple juice was already on the tables!

The bright dining room at the Solar Hotel was set for breakfast: the organic apple juice was already on the tables!

every day as part of its ecological philosophy.  There, I was able to enjoy French foods that had not been treated with pesticides:  cider-like apple juice and compote; jams; yoghurt; croissants and breads; hearty granola;milk; tea;coffee; hot chocolate; sugar; and honey. While there may have been other organic offerings around the city which escaped my notice or knowledge, I did happen upon a pizzeria in Montmartre( Pizza Pink Flamingo), which offered this Italian delight with an organic crust, and other chemical-free toppings, when available.  It was located only a few steep steps from the famous Sacre Coeur cathedral, and did very well from the tourist business! While it was winter, fresh vegetables were scarce, but I was able to eat mesclun (green salad mix) every day. If by chance they were grown in greenhouses, then I would hope that they were organic!

Okay, I admit that I did not suppress my sweet tooth: that would have been a distasteful thing to do in Paris! I didn’t overdo it but I did succumb to the sugary flavours in a few  delectable desserts: the carrot cake at the Joe Allen  Restaurant and Bar was hearty, nutty, spicy, creamy, and rich: a meal in itself!

The Carrot Cake at the Joe Allen Restaurant almost disappeared from my plate before I remembered to take a photo of it!

The Carrot Cake at the Joe Allen Restaurant almost disappeared from my plate before I remembered to take a photo of it! I tried it at my second visit to this popular American eatery.

Isn't this incredible?  This is a traditional French wedding cake - made from macaroons, which was served and Carole and Gildas's wedding!  More on that event later.

Isn’t this incredible? This is a traditional French wedding cake – made from macaroons, which was served and Carole and Gildas’s wedding! More on that event later.

Macaroons, for which France is famous were too sweet for me, that is, after I had eaten two!  Little patisseries (pastries) with coffee perked me up with a café au lait on the side for a mid-morning break. Generally, I avoided bakeries as there were always  other temptations everywhere I turned.  Chocolat chaud, thick and creamy with a biscuit and a bitter chocolate square on the side proved to be the perfect mid-afternoon energizer.

Hot chocolate was the perfect  afternoon pick-me-up during my fun-filled days in Paris.

Hot chocolate was the perfect afternoon pick-me-up during my fun-filled days in Paris.

After a delcious chicken ceasar salad at the Joe Allen Cafe, I refreshed myself with a few glasses of water from that carafe.

After a delicious chicken caesar salad at the Joe Allen Restaurant and Bar, I refreshed myself with a few glasses of water from that carafe.

I also drank lots of tap water, as it did not taste as if it were heavily chlorinated.  I also caught on to the French habit of  asking for a carafe de l’eau (carafe or glass of water) with every meal or even just a coffee.  That way, I stayed hydrated, despite the winter cold.

And as for those extra calories, well, I might now understand why most French people stay slim!  It may be the wine (I only had a few sips of alcohol at the wedding), but it must also be the hundreds of steps or stairs that one encounters everywhere(Métro (subway) access, buildings with no elevators, hilly Montmartre, parks on different levels, basement toilets in restaurants etc.) or the quick movements necessary to cross wide boulevards before the light changes or the collective inclination to walk fast (and keep warm)! I even picked up my pace and was glad of my prior physical conditioning in Dominica.  Therefore, I have NO guilt  about(and nothing to show for)  any of the fabulous foods that I relished in Paris!!!

In Paris, a cafe and a plate of patisseries is sure to provide a mid-morning boost!

In Paris, a café and a plate of patisseries are sure to provide a mid-morning boost!

This Crepe Breton is actually a galette, made from buckwheat flour. It contains spinach, fresh cream, and the soft egg on top. Delicious!

This Crepe Bretonne is actually a galette, made from buckwheat flour. It contains spinach, fresh cream, and the soft egg on top. Delicious! Mild apple cider (2 %) complemented the meal perfectly.

Groom-to-be, 'Chef' Gildas prepared a tasty omellette for Carole and me. It fortified me for the three hour mystery tour that followed our 'dejeuner'.  More on that adventure in a post-to-come.

Groom-to-be, ‘Chef’ Gildas prepared a tasty omelette for Carole and me. It fortified me for the three-hour mystery tour that followed our ‘dejeuner’ (lunch). More on that adventure in a post-to-come.

This was the first of an unknown quantity of  cafes au lait that I enjoyed during my visit to Paris!

This was the first of an unknown quantity of cafes au lait that I enjoyed during my visit to Paris!

A Canadian Canary Visits Paris: the Palace of Versailles, an Extraordinary 17th Century Creation!*

Gwendominica is completely mesmerized in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palais Versailles, a 17th century marvel southwest of Paris.

Gwendominica is completely mesmerized by the Hall of Mirrors at the Palais Versailles, a 17th century Chateau southwest of Paris.

When bride-to-be Carole and I stepped onto  an RER train in central Paris bound for  Versailles on a foggy morning in late December (my second day there), we had

Louis XIV, a.k.a 'The Sun King' was an extraordinary man, to say the least. He was a long-lived powerful monarch who apparently had a number of reasons for identifying with this brilliant planet.

Louis XIV, a.k.a ‘The Sun King’ was an extraordinary man, to say the least. He was a long-lived, powerful, and highly creative monarch who apparently had a number of reasons for identifying with this brilliant star and using it as his emblem.

no idea that thousands  of residents and visitors would be of like mind! This was to be my only excursion to a suburb of Paris, and I was curious to experience  a historic site that many people had highly recommended that I see while in the City of Light.

But when we first arrived at the Palace of Versailles, we collectively gasped at the  very long line of people patiently waiting their turn to enter ‘the State Apartments’ section of the grand complex.  While I held a place in the queue, Carole went off to another line to buy our entrance tickets.  We were both thankful that I was wearing my brightly coloured Rasta tam and canary yellow Canadian ski jacket, as it did prove to be highly helpful when she returned to the growing, moving line of darkly attired bodies and easily spotted me in the massive crowd.

I wasn't the only one enthralled with the Hall of Mirrors...

I wasn’t the only one enthralled with the Hall of Mirrors…

A smal section of the queue who waited patiently to enter the Palais Versailles. Thank goodness it wasn't raining!

The seemingly endless winding queue generally waited patiently to enter the Palais Versailles. Thank goodness it wasn’t raining!

While I waited for her, I gazed around me in complete astonishment. Yes, I had previously learned bits and pieces about Louis XIV, the ‘Sun King’ (as my former professor at Alliance Française de la Dominique, Carole had introduced me to this memorable monarch!). But I had really no idea of his power, influence, personality or creativity until I ‘set foot’ on the grounds of his palace.  Of course, the massive structure was not his doing alone.  Obviously, the highly skilled and talented artists, artisans, sculptors, builders and landscapers of that  era could design and construct beyond the capabilities of most people, I daresay, even in the 21st century!

After a three-hour wait, we finally approached the entrance way.

But after all that time spent shivering, a bathroom was my first priority, once inside.  I trembled with the chill and was thankful that the sun started to shine (appropriately!) as I could not shake the feeling of cold that penetrated my very being.  Thankfully, my lovely friend had gone off in search of food a little earlier, and brought back the most delicious sandwich I have ever tasted in my life!  It was a warmed soft (tortilla) wrap, containing three types of mild, barely melted cheeses ( I recall Emmenthal as one of them), which were covered in a mildly piquant sauce. That quick meal succeeded in reducing the shivers and hunger pangs for a few hours!

The Chapel was my introduction to the splendor of the rest of the Palace.  I only wish I could have heard the notes emenating from those organ pipes!

The Chapel was my introduction to the splendor of the rest of the Palace. I only wish I could have heard the notes emanating from those organ pipes!

Now that I was comfortable, I concentrated on the massive ‘rooms’ and ‘ornaments’ which were everywhere to be seen: in all directions, as well as above me.  I quickly observed that many of the hundreds of people around me had their mouths open.  I don’t think they were being intentionally rude:  tilting one’s face upwards towards the decorated ceilings and then absorbing the stunning artistry of the paintings overhead

In every room, there was a good reason to look up! This scene was located in the Mercury drawing room or 'bed-chamber'.

In every room (salon), there was a good reason to look up!Each ceiling depicted a scene related to a different mythological god or goddess, angels or demons!

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Elaborate busts, ornate doors, marble table tops…if I hadn’t seen this with my own eyes, I would have sworn the setting must have appeared in a dream!

compelled visitors to “drop their jaws” in amazement and awe!  I am not well versed in mythology, but anyone who is would truly delight in the depictions of the gods that Louis XIV preferred. It was truly incredible that this long-lived and long-reigned king had turned his father’s hunting lodge into such an opulent abode.  It certainly defies the extent of my imagination and I know I am not alone, as evidenced by the thousands who viewed the site along with me that day.DSCF3771

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The King’s Chamber must have been the epitome of comfort (and privacy!) for Louis XIV!

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Imagine the coördinated efforts it would have taken to light the candles on the chandeliers in those days!

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The Queen had her own ‘salon’ too. But do you think there was only one beloved? I am not going to tell!

Carole did make every effort to explain so many pertinent details to me.  But I was so taken with the grandeur of the place that I could only nod, then gawk and gape some more! I simply marvelled at this structure and its elaborate contents.  But I did also  naïvely wonder how or if a building of such proportions with its elaborate artistic displays could ever be built in today’s world. The ‘Sun King’ certainly was a creative visionary, and he couldn’t have been worried about the cost of his mansion, even in the 17th century!  There is definitely more to that story, so if you’re curious, I am sure you will search for the facts!

After more than an hour, I felt satiated by this artistic feast and was now in need of some fresh air. Carole suggested that we spend a little time in “the Gardens,” and I eagerly agreed.  We found a little food hut that offered hot chocolate, so we sat down (finally) for about 20 minutes and sipped the sweetness, while giving our weary legs a much-needed rest from  the many hours we had spent standing up!

Carole poses with the stately Palais Versailles behind her.

Carole poses in  ‘the Gardens’ with the stately Palais Versailles behind her.

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The trees along the pathways in the Garden of Versailles were perfectly symmetrical and evoked a feeling of serenity in me. The canal is on the far right.

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Gwendominica stands by the Dragon fountain.  The Sun King certainly loved mythology!

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The Apollo fountain is situated between the Palace and the Canal.. Louis XIV apparently identified with this sun-god! The Grand Canal is in the background.

After that little break, we both felt refreshed and decided to take a walk by the Fountains around the grounds, even though it was the middle of winter!  We were not deterred, and as we walked around, I was mesmerized once again by the natural and created beauty: stone sculptures, fountains, the mile-long ‘ Grand Canal’ and perfectly pruned rows of trees. As I breathed in the fresh cool air, I became entranced with the stillness and the silence. It was late in the day,we were almost the only people there. Occasionally, a bird chirped or a runner passed beside us.  Sometimes we spoke and other times we retreated to  our private thoughts.  My mind drifted to an earlier time:  I could almost visualize Louis XIV and his court strolling around the grounds in any season to improve health and well-being. Our leisurely saunter took us along the small body of water to its opposite side.  At this point, it was quickly becoming dark. When I glanced at my watch, I saw that we had been on the move for over an hour!  There were no artificial lights, so we  turned around and hastened our steps back to the Palace where we exited the gate and walked a short distance  to take the train back to the city.

It had been a very long day and we were both pleasantly exhausted.  As I look back on that magical experience, I realize how lucky I was to have  had a good look  and a new appreciation for the artistry of a fascinating time and place in France’s history!

*This piece is dedicated with gratitude to my dear friend and former French professor, newlywed Carole! XO