Thursday, April 28, 2011

Dunedin: Dark as ever

Sitting here in an old mental institute, in rural New Zealand, feels a long way from my previous post and further still from all the blog catching up I want to do. Today, the sun is shining brightly and my mother has taken it upon herself to rescue the local bee population from winter starvation and the house is alive with bees she's been feeding. Also, this morning I blearily wandered into the bathroom to be greeted by an adorable, panicked fantail crying and flying repeatedly into the mirror. If you read the link, or if you have any rudimentary knowledge of Maori mythology, you will know how creepy and ominous such a scene is to a New Zealander. (But also, extremely cute).

As for me, I started screaming "MOM MOM MOM"* and ran down the hall, "Mom I need your help right now." My mom stopped watching her bees for a moment, and ran back down the hall with me and we managed to usher the little bird outside, after it flew through half the house, thus dusting us with death.

*Yes, I am 26.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Serge Gainsbourg's House

Serge's old house in Paris has become it's own kind of attraction, due to the love notes and thoughts scrawled all over it. I became interested in him last year while studying French - especially the songs he wrote for France Gall, like this one, which was covered in English by April March and called "Hang up your Chick Habit."

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sacre Coeur!

After a glorious afternoon wandering along the Seine, my hosts Carmen and Nico told me: "you have two options, either we get the bus home from here, or you come on the train for a surprise ..." Obviously, I chose the surprise.

Walking down a bustling little street I was looking around to spot the 'surprise', but could only see tourist shops. The sun was setting, we reached the end of the alley, I looked up and saw this: the Sacre Coeur, one of the most beautiful churches in the world and my only goal for Paris.

I am a lazy traveller, and don't tend to do much 'sight seeing' in the traditional sense. I usually just go to a lot of food related shops and wander streets. In Paris though, I had promised myself I would go to see the Sacre Coeur. Only that one thing. Knowing myself well, cynicism had already set in; usually if I say "I will do this one thing" then that is precisely the one thing I won't do. I had already set myself up to disappoint myself, so it was truly glorious that Carmen and Nico took control and simply took me there. While the sun was setting on the first Spring day no less.

Pierre and I being sacrilegious. I often act the fool, giggle or behave otherwise inappropriately in Christian places of worship, and think nothing much of it. I come from a Catholic background, I feel just fine taking the mickey out of it. Interestingly, I would never dream of behaving in this way in a wat, mosque or synagogue. And I think that makes perfect ethical sense- ownership and context yadayada.

What also makes sense is that my Mom will frequently critique the Catholic church, especially their latest choice of Pope, but gets annoyed with me when I rip into it too harshly. I get to say my family are insane, but you don't.

My favourite example of this, which I may have already ranted about because it is the best thing ever, is when an Iranian newspaper had a Holocaust depiction cartoon competition and some artists in Tel Aviv countered with the "Israeli antisemitic cartoons competition" only open to Israelis, saying: "We'll show the world we can do the best, sharpest, most offensive Jew hating cartoons ever published! No Iranian will beat us on our home turf!"

Night streets near the Sacre Coeur:

p.s. I love how "Sacre Coeur!" sounds like a Captain Haddock curse word.

Paris Part Un

After spending so much time running after Samuel's ancient relatives, Pierre was getting restless, bored and jealous. A horrifying combination of emotions, so we bought train tickets tout suite to Paris where Pierre could finally feel at home. All of this was made possible by the gracious hosting and guiding of Carmen and Nico - a delightful Colombian couple I befriended two years ago who now live in Paris. Pictured below.

I had the exceptional good fortune to arrive on the exact first days of spring, so Paris was alive and bright, and full of smiling, friendly people. Nothing like what the many nay-sayers had been trying to prepare me for.

Above - the park our hosts took us to on day one. Parc des Buttes Chaumont is one of the most beautiful parks I have ever been to and - hilariously - it was conceived of by none other than Napoleon. I never thought of him as one of the world's greatest landscape gardeners.

View from the 'hill' in the park - can you tell what that building in the far distance is?
Below: wandering around beautiful alleys.

Nothing like exotic smack for refreshment!

Bunch of Parisian hipsters I accosted on the banks of the Seine. I asked them to pose with Pierre, and they stared at me in mocking disbelief for a full minute, but then totally did it and were (as you can see) very into it.

They look remarkably like cool kids in my silly little home town in south New Zealand. I mean this with endearment towards both groups, in case there is confusion.

Samuel and Pierre on the train, on the way to a surprise location.

Pierre's ancestral home ! He didn't get too emotional at the time, being a pretty cool-headed 'Parisian' and all, but he was not quite himself for the rest of the evening, preferring to sit quietly, look at old photo albums and think. It was quite touching.