Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Where we are

We are in a small hotel in a little street off the Boulevard de Montparnasse. L'Hotel des Academies et des Arts is a newly opened renovation of an older hotel. Our room is on the fifth floor and looks out over the street, and to the rooftops of our neighborhood.

The building directly across from us is old, and picturesquely decrepit, with peeling paint and dusty shutters. It almost feels illicit to peek into the small dormer windows across the way - look at warmly shining lamps at night, see a colorful potted plant or colorful stickers on the window. You can start to imagine the lives people lead behind those curtains. One afternoon I looked down toward the street and caught a glimpse of a young man sitting at his computer in his undies - oops!

Down on the street we discovered that this building is the namesake of our hotel.

The Academie de la Grande Chaumiere, an academy for painting and sculpture, was a studio workshop where many famous artists came to practice life drawing, sketching while watching nude model. It's still a working studio today, with classes everyday and evening.

Here's a plaque afixed to the building.

Down this end of the street there's a parking zone for scooters - there seem to be scooters everywhere in Paris, zipping past like insects.

Down the other end, toward Montparnasse, there's a much grander building, with planted windowboxes. Across the boulevard is the famous Le Dome restaurant.

This morning, the sun spangled the buff plaster walls of the buildings and bounced off windows in the narrow street.

As the city woke up, you could hear it. We are actually country-folk in a funny way, used to our California rural soundscape. We are used to our coyotes, owls and doves. Here instead, in the city, there is a low hum of traffic that increases with the light. The distant hollow "boop-boop" of the Number Four train in the Metro below the streets. The emergency sirens sounding the distinct tune of the French police.

Garbage trucks, the clang and clatter of recycling disposal. A scooter buzzes past. I hear a higher, wheeling whistling buzz past the window and stand at the rail to look.

Swallows zoom in arcs, diving down the narrow alley - so fast it's hard to hold them in your sight, but then they wheel past the window again, trilling that tin-whistle call - spiraling against the sky. They are the common barn swallow, but in France they're called hirondelles de cheminee - which sounds so much prettier.


Sue said...

G, thank you for your wonderful conjuring of Paris for us - I absolutely LOVE Paris and am plotting my next visit - enjoy it! It is such a special place. And, if you can afford it I thoroughly recommend a visit to Le Dome - I had one of the best meals and eating experiences EVER in that place.

I am so jealous :-)

Have fun.

Gilly said...

Oh, it brings it all back to me, when we went some years ago (with Sue, as it happens!). The Parisien sounds are so different, even the rubbish collectors have a very french clang!

Have a wonderful time, do romantic, silly things and eat some marvellous meals!

Gary's third pottery blog said...

oh wow!

mo.stoneskin said...

Sorry about that, I was just a bit hot, that's all, I couldn't cope with keeping my trousers on.

Tristan Robin said...


you're making me anxious for September to get here!

Unknown said...

I feel like I am right there with you. And I love it. Just love it. Waking up to a Paris morning would be decadent and delightful!

Whiskeymarie said...

So jealous- this all sounds so perfect and lovely...

Beverly said...

Okay. Now I am sitting here and sighing over the thought.

Absolute bliss.

cactus petunia said...

What a lovely slice of Parisian life. Thanks for taking us along!

Pumpkin Delight (Kimberly) said...

Oh, I love Paris. I went back and read all your "getting ready" and Paris posts. Such a great city.

Anonymous said...

We stayed in the Contrascarpe (sp?) neighborhood, across the Seine from Notre Dame.

One of my strongest sound memories of Europe is the "Deeeeee-dah!" of the emergency vehicles. It is probably next in line after the chiming of the church bells.