As I am writing a novel and there is not a whole lot of news to impart while I am embedded in the book, rather than lose touch I thought I would give a brief description of my days in and outside Paris.
Due to the fact that Michel, my husband, has his studios in Paris, his filming and editing schedule means that it is not always possible for him to fly south. So, I either work alone at the farm, which is fine because I have less distractions, less pausing for meals and I can spend more hours at my desk, or I fly north. Time together is vital so if he cannot come south, I head north perhaps once a month. Occasionally, I drive but the distance is 900 kms so it is a long haul alone.
Our northern home is east of Paris in the Brie region, where the famous creamy cheese comes from. It is a thirteenth-century property, a commanderie, with stone walls as deep as coffins. It resembles a big old grey box and would have originally been inhabited by Templar Knights. (The Knights Templar were among the most powerful and wealthy of the Christian military orders.)
I call it the Mad Old Chateau because it is rather falling to bits and because its original design included two pointed towers, but they were vandalised during the French Revolution and only half of a tower remains (see below). This is where my office is: the round tower room with unstable floors and swallows nesting in the slanted ceiling.
Only half a tower remains at the Mad Old Chateau. (Left in frame). Today, it is my workspace.
The grounds are less substantial than at the Olive Farm and although we are only twenty minutes from the outskirts of the Champagne region we do not cultivate wine here or indeed anything except vegetables although the inherited vegetation includes several apple and fruiting cherry trees. We have three black sheep who graze and serve as our lawnmowers.
Paris is an hour’s drive or forty minutes on the train from ‘the chateau’. A visit to the capital city is a treat for me, a hit of urban life after so many days amongst the trees or at the computer. A day in Paris frequently with an overnight stop usually involves a visit to Bon Marché and its mouth-watering dedicated food halls, La Grande Epicerie. Le Bon Marché is the funkier version of Harrods of Paris. Here I can browse the latest clothes fashions and spend an hour or so up in their very excellent librarie, book department. Their shelves offer books in both English and French and here on the third floor is a café that looks out over the gardens alongside Rue de Sevres, perfect for a quiet cappuccino, light pasta lunch or a glass of wine while I begin immediately to read my purchases.
I love to saunter about the Left Bank, the old cramped and leaning shops and tiny cinemas screening very old films. Some of my favourite cinemas in Paris are the independent ones: Le Balzac set off the Champs-Elysées shows mainly new films but not necessarily mainstream. L’Entrepot is a cultural experience in itself and is frequently attended by artists and folk working in the film industry. There is a bar and restaurant and a real feeling of being amongst those who are making cinema happen. They showcase new films here and frequently run older ones. I often find myself running there to catch a picture I missed when it first came out. Occasionally Michel and I will meet there for lunch. The Pagoda (a Japanese Pagoda transformed into a cinema) is fabulous and an unexpected treat. The decor and its history make it worth a visit even if you are not in the mood for a film.
Occasionally, I pay a visit to the Cinématèque Française, either to gather research material or simply to see a film – they have excellent thematic programmes and extensive world cinema choices. As a member of the French writers’ guild, I am privileged to have access to their libraries and film archives. It is funded by the culture ministry and houses one of the largest archives of films and movie-documents in the world. It also has a small history of cinema museum and a book/film shop. Its present building was designed by the Canadian architect, Frank Gehry. It is well worth a visit.
The oldest operating cinema in Paris is Studio 28 in the eighteenth arrondissement and I have never been there. So, this is on my list of places to visit this week, I hope. Jean Cocteau and Luis Bunuel were regulars.
I love to go to the Grand Palais. An iconic building, an historic monument with a fascinating history of its own (a hospital in World War One), built for the Universal Exhibition in 1900, it is renowned for the quality and breadth of the exhibitions it stages every year. Its magnificent roof is home to several beehives. I always lift my head skywards and smile at the bees when there.
Interior of Grand Palais
One of the questions I am regularly asked is where to eat. In Paris?! Turn any corner and you will find somewhere tempting but you might not find the Mini Palais. Tucked away in a corner of the Grand Palais, down towards the Seine along Ave Winston Churchill, almost opposite the Alexandre III bridge, there is a stone staircase leading to an entrance that takes you to a small cinema and a sumptuous bar and restaurant. I highly recommend it for both food and ambiance. When in Paris, we eat there regularly.
So there we are. A brief window into one of my days. Back to the desk now and if you are in Paris this week, I might see you there!