Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Midsummer Music Madness

Oddly enough we had never before been in Paris on the day of the Fête de la Musique, an annual street jam that brings professional and amateur musicians, in fact anyone who wants to play, out into the streets all over town. 

We were eating dinner when suddenly we heard Beatles songs from the street.  This guy with the guitar was playing, and playing well, outside the restaurant downstairs.  We decided it was time to see what was going on in the streets.

The Brazilian spa on the place just south of our street had a band that was taking a break, but the recorded music had us moving anyway.

A couple of young men had set up in front of the church of Saint Sulpice and were also pretty good.
A block away these colorful folks were part of a fanfare, the French term for a brass band,

While at the other end of the block this thrash band was having a great time playing for all the diners on the restaurant terraces.

On Blvd. Saint-Germain most of this band was missing as we passed, but across the street a crowd was gathered and spilling into the street.

I'm sorry not to have been able to get a better shot of this band and the super singer, but the music was sooo much better than the focus.  I wish I'd been able to learn their name, but moving along was the order of the evening.

Around the corner on rue de Seine this duo played inside a restaurant for the crowd in the street
and held us for a few minutes, but we were on a quest; we had to see as much as we could in as short a time and space as possible.

On the pretty Place Furstenberg a Latin group had handed out song sheets to the crowd and everyone was singing along in Spanish.  The singers' voices blended well with the audience and there was a palpable sense of community.

When we had decided to turn left to hear the Spanish singing we missed this band which had been straight ahead; by the time we got back to them they were taking a break.  Oh well, no time to waste, we have to move on.

And so we came across this classical singing quartet, their lovely voices making a change from all the loud instrumental music.

Like another fanfare, this one playing a brass version of "Don't Worry, Be Happy" to accompany us down the street.

It breaks my heart not to be able to show you the enthusiasm generated by this man, who was simply leading a large crowd in singing the songs he had printed up in a spiral bound book and handed around to the dozens, if not hundreds, of people gathered around him. 

The songs were clearly well known to the crowd, who sang enthusiastically along with him.  At the end of each he would call out another page number and everyone joined in on the next one.  the crowd took up the entire width of the street and this biker had to lift his bike into the air while sidling through to get to wherever he was going.

In front of the Institut de France this well-coordinated group had stopped playing for a while and their audience was sitting in small groups on the forecourt, chatting and drinking.

Heading back to find a drink ourselves we passed this café with a band set up in front and tables moved so they spilled out into the street.  We listened to a French rock song about Bonnie and Clyde before moving on.

Back in the Place St-Germain des Près we settled into a table at the Café Bonaparte where this rhythm and blues band played a few songs before taking a break that allowed us to hear the rock band in front of the church.

The outing had taken just over an hour and we had covered an area no more than six blocks in any direction from home.  This little odyssey was being duplicated all over town by thousands of people. Fête de la Musique indeed.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Brides and Beaches

Leaving cool gray Paris for a wedding in sunny Tel Aviv was not hard.  We settled into the hotel across from the beach and went out to discover what has been called the Barcelona of the Middle East.

The bride, my cousin Maya, knows everything and everyone in town.  She steered us to Tapas 1 on Ahad Ha'am Street for our first evening, where we perched at the bar and fell in love with the bartender.  Eric brought us complimentary drinks and desserts, recommended the most interesting items on the menu and generally made us feel happy to have come.

We were even happier the next day when we hit the beach for an hour or so and then got ready for Maya and Omer's incredible wedding.  It was held in a nightclub and we partied until early morning.  Who says weddings have to be serious?

And the next day we took a walking tour of Tel Aviv's architectural history,  from Ottoman style buildings in the early decades of the 20th century to the important Bauhaus neighborhood built by German and Austrian architects fleeing the Nazis.

Much of Tel Aviv has been allowed to run down while newer and ever bigger buildings went up, but a recent law requiring restoration has begun to show effects.

One of the earliest areas, Neve Tsedek, has become the hippest area to live, full of little shops, cafés and restaurants.  This house apparently belongs to someone with a whimsical sense of humor.

I noticed a lot of stenciling on the building walls, much prettier and more interesting than graffiti.

After another day or two at the beach we went to Jaffa for a drink and found ourselves in yet another version of the Mediterranean.  The pretty little bar called Kalamata might have been lifted off a Greek island and set on the top of this Israeli hill.

With the sunset we walked back to yet another great meal at Cantina, a place so good we ate there twice.  That Maya knows her food.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


We hadn't been to Monet's garden in Giverny in many years and might not have gone this week were it not for the exhibition Bonnard en Normandie at the Museum of Impressionism at the other end of the town.  The work in the exhibition was interesting, very unlike the Bonnards I'm familiar with, the interiors and family scenes looking from inside to the outside.  Here he was painting the outside front and center, landscapes reminiscent of Monet, with whom he was quite close.

And since the exhibition was smallish and took less time than we had thought, we strolled down to visit M. Monet's garden.

Whatever memory we had of it was faint and we were overwhelmed by its loveliness.

The sky was overcast and the clouds reflected in the pond, making the lotuses appear to float on them, or on the trees also reflected in the water.

I think I recall that Monet had had the river diverted to supply his pool, and the narrow stream flowed between lily-edged banks.

It's been an unusually warm spring and many of the blooms had been convinced it was summer.

It was definitely worth the walk down the street.