Friday morning: Went to pick Meribeth up from CDG airport. Yay! I brought pains au chocolat from my bakery by my apartment… she gave me amber earrings from Lithuania. They mine it there.
We got her a room at the cheapest hostel in Paris and surprisingly really nice. Well, nice is relative. We are talking about a hostel. It was near Bastille.

Fri. afternoon: Walked to Pere Lachaise cemetery and saw some graves… that of Chopin, Delacroix, Cherubini, lots of French political figures, David, and Heloise et Abelard. If you don’t know of Heloise et Abelard, you should read about them – they were spiritual lovers, united bodily only in the grave. Quite romantic.
We met David (program director) in the street, and all went to the Wells studio for a ‘tour’.
Went to a cafe nearby for Meribeth’s first french cafe experience.

We spent about 3 hours in the Louvre. We actually got alot done – we saw most of the french paintings, some of the dutch ones, french sculpture, michaelangelo, mona, vittoire, and venus, and tombeau de phillipe pot. We actually got to savour a few of them… I thought we did really well, but it was exhausting.
We went out for a real french supper to a restaurant recommended by David called ‘Chez Paul’. It was excellent food, and the waitress didn’t speak english, which made me quite happy. I had escargot, and rabbit with endives, and we had creme brulee. We were sitting beside a couple from Germany.
By this time I had started to warm up to the idea of being a translator for Meribeth, and I found it quite the challenge. To skip between English and French that quickly is really difficult! I would find myself simply repeating things in the same language, which doesn’t help anyone. You really need to keep your mind from thinking in any language at all.
So! Time for the eiffel tower! I had been saving this experience for Meribeth’s visit, so it was my first time to the very top as well.
Side note. When I was in Europe with SRSS chamber choir, I carved my name into a wooden railing overlooking Trocadero. I searched and searched, but alas! no name. They have redone the whole tower – repainted, etc. I think that is unfortunate, but it can’t be helped.
Going up the Eiffel tower is likegoing up any tower. You can see really far… honestly, there is no historical significance in the action of taking the elevator to the top. It was fun anyway… it is really windy up there, and I had a jolly good time. Also, at the top, there are recorded distances to different cities all over the world. These distances are recorded above the window that faces the particular country. I even found Burundi!

Saturday morning: We met under the caroussel du louvre to go to the musee d’orsay. Dearest musee d’orsay is full of art that no one understands. the tourists run around with their huge art anthologies, trying to find the famous pieces. i will admit that i want to approach them, take their book away, and tell them to LOOK at the art and let it speak for itself. It matters not if the art that appeals to you is not the famous art. rrrr.
We spent perhaps one hour and a half, and then were bored. I really think if the museum were organized better, it would be more appealing.
Highlights of artwork for this trip:
Homer – Nuit d’ete (1890)
Fakins – Clara (1900)
Biard – Magdalena Bay (actually I think this one might have been in the louvre)

We got bread, cheese, and wine (all from different places 🙂 ) and ate it in a park

rodin ‘gates of hell’

in St. Germain. The benches were shaped like books, made of stone.
Puis – L’arc de triomphe! This is also my first time seeing it up close, and not from a bus window. It is quite impressive, and the day was very warm. We ended up getting sunstroke while photographing Mr. Gnome. You really can’t get more touristy than that.

These boys were meeting their Mother at arc de triomphe – here, they have spotted her and are running, laughing and screaming. It was a beautiful moment.

We walked along the Champs d’Elysees until it was time to go to Bastille opera to queue for the last performance of Don Giovanni. We arrived at the house at 4:30pm, and Meribeth got a really good youth ticket at 5:30pm. I waited in line longer – until 7:00pm, and got a fairly good ticket as well. Success! I bought Meribeth’s youth ticket off of her because I wanted to sit Parterre (orchestra level). She was in the 6th gallery.

When I sat down, I was alone, but soon was joined by a large group of young people from all over the world. The Norwegian guy beside me explained that they were part of an Opera Europa conference, and all of these young people were members of their local opera houses. They saw one opera per night, and were to participate in discussions about how to bring opera to youth and to the general public. I felt so lucky to be in the middle of these people, and I was disappointed that Canada was not represented. It was good conversation, at any rate, and I found out that this guy is in the Copenhagen Opera Academy. It sounds like a really good program, and there is one teacher there that is good for sopranos. Apparently. Perhaps I will check it out.

We had received a paper at the door, saying that the people who do the lighting were on strike (what else could I expect?) so we were offered a ticket to another opera at half price. Very exciting… and the lighting crew came off strike at the last minute, so we had normal lighting after all.

The whole opera was done in an office setting – Don Giovanni was the boss, and Zerlina and Masetto were cleaning staff. It was very effective and the voices were incredible – especially Don Giovanni, Il Commendatore and Donna Anna (Peter Mattei, Mikhail Petrenko and Christine Schafer). There was a bit of nudity, but it was tastefully done – it IS Don Giovanni, after all! The direction was very creative – really added another element to the opera through the symbolic use of props, and the acting was excellent as well. Really, the rendition of the opera brought it completely off the page and added another dimension to the libretto. I felt sick in the party scene. It was brilliant. Worth every minute spent queueing.
Unfortunately, the 6th gallery ended up being very bad for meribeth, as when she leaned over to see the stage, her glasses almost felll off. But she graciously let me keep my ticket on the ground floor – thank-you, Meribeth!

Sunday morning – Met at Notre Dame for mass. The church was full and incense was in the air. It was truly a beautiful service. I took communion for the first time since being in paris, and they do not serve wine. I don’t know why.
For me, the most remarkable part of the service was at the end. The doors at the back of the cathedral were opened, letting in the pure sunlight, and the priest carried the cross high above everyone in a procession with the altar boys and other church men ( i don’tknow who they are) towards the door. It was so obviously symbolic of bringing the beliefs of the church into the world – it was very moving. Even all of the tourists put away their cameras and stood respectfully as this happened. I was glad to see this.

Meribeth and I took lunch by the Seine, walked around the Marais,and through the marche des fleurs. I took her to my favorite cafe, Cafe Imprevu, by pompidou centre.
We then walked toward the opera house, and saw a chinese new year celebration as we walked.

The Palais Garnier is stunning – if you want to see it, you have to come to visit. Did you think I was going to give it to you on a silver platter??? 😉

We also went inside, and saw all of the grandeur of one of the ‘most baroque’ buildings in europe.

In the library are three centuries’ worth of scores. I am convinced that they must have every opera score that exists! I would like to spend a month in the library, just seeing what they have.
Side note 2: I heard from Meribeth that Dietrich Bartel and Harry Heubner are teaching a Philosophy/Music course next year at CMU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It is Wagner and Nietsche… oh my, am I ever excited!

Meribeth and I attended evening mass at St. Eustache, my church. It was sunset, and very warm. In front of the church, there were kids playing soccer, climbing on the big stone buddha head, and generally romping around. It occurred to me that these kids know how to really play – they do not have to sit in front of a television. Maybe there is hope for the future.

Meribeth is leaving this morning – pray for a safe flight.

This weekend was a really good time for me, because we walked most places, and I was able to see all of the things ‘in between’,,, ie above the metro lines that i usually take. i feel like i know the city alot better. also, from translating, i feel also like i know french alot better, and am better able to switch between the two languages.

i don’t know why my touristy weekend had this effect on me, but now i feel like i am really ready to create a lifestyle here. i want to shop at the organic markets, of which there are plenty. i want to walk more places, especially now that it is warm, and i want to buy a bike. i want to give a bit of money to buskers and SDF. i want to read lots more and help the other people in my program appreciate more art, and speak french with more women than men. be solitary and take pictures of children and lovers. i want to memorize literature, i think – drink lots of water, and sing alot, and avoid cigarette smoke. i really want to do these things – i will try my hardest to live the kind of life i want to. just being in paris is not a lifestyle – you can’t just float along. you have to make an effort.