Together in Silence
Nominated for best documentary short at the Paris Short Film Festival, Together in Silence is a reflection of the 3-day terrorist siege in Paris, January 2015. The first attack was at the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical news magazine focusing on liberal ideals. The attack on the publication served as a symbol against the far-left agenda and sparked the phrase “Je Suis Charlie”, a societal endorsement of free speech and expression. This short film portrays the unity of the community in perilous times as more than 15,000 gathered in the center of Fontainebleau just a day after the siege. And in silence, they show that together they are stronger. Beautiful yet stark images show the people of the Paris region marching to show their support of the publication and all those who lost their lives.
John Baxter and The Lost Generation
It was the late autumn of 2013 when we first met Australian-born author, journalist and filmmaker, John Baxter. This was a very demanding but exciting time for John as he was releasing three new books; Paris at the End of the World, The Golden Moments of Paris and his Kindle single, The King Kong Syndrome. After several months had passed, we returned to Paris and met John once again. Only this time we joined him for his literary walking tour of the neighborhood of Odéon, home to many of the great artists of The Lost Generation of the 1920s and 1930s.
As we set off through the streets of Odéon, John began with the story of Sylvia Beach and her supportive role in the progressive community of American expatriate artists who influenced the modernist movement, otherwise known as The Lost Generation. Their creative explosion was also supported by Eugene and Maria Jolas, who founded Transition, an influential Parisian literary journal that served as a platform for avant-garde writers, visual artists and political activists. Transition was distributed primarily by Sylvia Beach’s Shakespeare & Company Bookstore. Also instrumental in publishing the works of these writers, were the American publishers and founders of Black Sun Press, Harry and Caresse Crosby. With eloquence and whimsy, John details their scandalous liaisons, decadent and bohemian lifestyles and sadly the tragic demise met by many, all while making us feel as if you were just “let-in” on a big secret.
So, if plans for a literary walking tour through Odéon or Montparnasse are not on your bucket list any time soon, you can always experience the next best thing through John’s book, The Most Beautiful Walk in the World - A Pedestrian in Paris. Historical, factual and fun, John brings the reader through the neighborhoods of old Paris while introducing the names and faces of the famous, the notorious and the noteworthy.
Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris
When in Paris… sometimes not having a plan and just showing up can lead you to a wonderful surprise and an unforgettable experience. It was sunset when we passed by the main entrance to Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, taking casual notice of the movement of people congregating toward the doors. Since it was the end of the day, we thought it was somewhat unusual, so we wandered in to see for ourselves. As we drew closer to the main altar we realized that a mass would soon begin and so we too settled in, gazing about in full anticipation. We expected to participate in a traditional mass but were rather treated to the vespers service, a sunset evening prayer service. Vespers opens with the singing or chanting of the words (in French) and continues throughout the ceremony, interchanging between the priest and the choir. Understanding the French language is not necessary. Simply behold and listen. The innate beauty of this special ceremony is a profoundly moving experience and one that you won’t soon forget.
Today, the cathédrale is a sparkling crowned jewel, as well as a collective symbol of faith’s bright energy, hope never-ending and indomitable will. Badly damaged during the French Revolution, the cathédrale and many it’s treasures were either destroyed or plundered. The statues of the biblical kings of Judah (erroneously thought to be the kings of France), located on a ledge on the facade of the cathédrale were beheaded, however, the great bells were spared from being melted down. Sadly, the cathédrale came to be used as a warehouse for the storage of food.
In 1829, the great French poet and novelist, Victor Hugo began writing Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre-Dame), largely in part to create public awareness about the invaluable importance of the cathédrale he so admired. His novel was published in 1831 and was met with enormous success, thus leading to the monument’s salvation and major restoration, undertaken in 1845 and lasting 20 years.
Long considered an artistic masterpiece of Gothic architecture with stained-glass rosette windows, towers and gargoyles, the cathédrale is the most popular French monument visited by 13 million people each year. By ascending the 387 steps in the South Tower, you can enjoy a 360° panoramic view of Paris. Requiring less stamina, is a visit to the archaeological crypt which was built to protect the ruins and elements from successive buildings, discovered during the excavations in 1965.
Access to the cathédrale is open and free of charge every day of the year. Visit their website for directions, opening hours, services, concerts and events.
So When in Paris…
A DAY AT LE GRAND PARQUET
Widely recognized by professionals as one of the finest sporting venues in Europe, Le Grand Parquet is situated on the edge of the Forest of Fontainebleau. Once the private hunting grounds for the kings of France, the forest is a historical reminder of man’s long standing relationship and special bond with the horse. Today, the forest continues to cultivate that alliance at the Le Grand Parquet, with its pristine trails and reverence for the sport both enjoyed by horse and rider.
This open air theatre is also where the Societé Hippoque Francaise (French Horse Society) tests young horses and sport ponies ages 4, 5 and 6 in the disciplines of Jumping, Eventing, Dressage, Coupling, Endurance and Hunter. Over the course of several days, the riders and their young horses dazzle and demonstrate their excellence in equitation and sport while keeping us closely watching on the edge of our seats.
With the training and conditioning of the young horse well underway, the results at a competitive event can vary. Just as each horse is unique in its own personality, so is their level of maturity and readiness. Adding to the challenge for the horse and rider are the courses and jumps designed with fluctuating degrees of difficulty. While most horses are well behaved and confident, others can be a bit skittish and insecure. This is where the art of horsemanship comes into play. These accomplished riders remain calm and in control of these youngsters who may suddenly spook, refuse a jump or take to the course with lightning speed! In spectating these sporting events, you are offered a glimpse into the dynamic of these world class riders and their potential champion steeds. Theirs is an effective and powerful communication, each moving in perfectly balanced harmony and graceful execution. More moving is the combination of exquisite beauty, sensitivity and superior athleticism common in the soulful spirit of every horse. They simply take your breath away.
The equestrian events at the Le Grand Parquet are sponsored by the Ville of Fontainebleau and are free of charge. The stadium also offers a gourmet restaurant overlooking the grand course as well as lighter fare, refreshment stands and equine vendor booths available throughout. So if you’re horse-crazy like we are, be sure to make a day of it…or perhaps two, at the Le Grand Parquet located at RN 152, route d’Orléans in Fontainebleau.
GETTING AROUND ON 2 WHEELS
Autumn in Paris is the perfect time for a bike ride adventure. With its narrow streets and tiny pedestrian sidewalks, traveling by bicycle is a great way to see the 3rd and 4th arrondissements of Paris. Once the preferred district of French nobles, Le Marais was nearly ruined by the French Revolution of 1789. Following numerous transformations, Le Marais has emerged from a working class and immigrant neighborhood to one of the most desirable and affluent areas of the city today.
Amidst it’s thriving Jewish, Chinese and Gay communities, this vibrant neighborhood hosts an abundance of art galleries, trendy restaurants, nightclubs and fashion boutiques. For the art and history lovers, the treasures of the Maison de Victor Hugo and the recently renovated Musée Picasso should top of the list of “must see and experience”! And if biking isn’t your thing, you can always cosy up at an outdoor café with a glass of wine or apéritif and watch the world go by.