Saturday, 19 October 2013

“From bikini to beanie ...” (part II)


(Part II)

Tuesday, 12th of March 2013 (Paris, France)

At 1.05 pm she tried again and yes ... the next door opened for us.


Now, walking up to the 4th floor (I think) we were only a few steps away from Madame Piaf.

Greeted by Bernard Marchois and Edith's singing ... “Allez, venez, (Olga) Milord! ...” felt a bit more than a coincidence to me.

At first I was in a kind of shock.

Unable to focus, my “merry-go-round” eyes travelled around the room touching all that once belonged to this great singer – sensing its energy rather than seeing the details.
At some point I found myself lost in someone's past.
Was it hers, was it mine or maybe ...
Who knows?

Upon entering the second room, I could feel my chest overflowing with emotions and so I went back to the other room to retrieve a packet of tissues from my bag.
As I leaned forward, a waterfall of tears with the sound from my grieving chest was beyond my control.

Est-ce l'émotion?” ... asked Bernard in a very unemotional tone of voice.

Oui” ... I replied.

Together with the tissues I pulled out of my bag a small present for him, that I nearly forgot about.

C'est un cadeau pour vous d'Edith.” ... (I said)

When he thank me for a nice gesture, I felt a need to re say that it wasn't from me, but from Edith (through me).

As he removed the wrapping exposing the CD of “Brahms violin concerto” by Ginette Neveu ...
She was with him.“ ... he said, while pointing to the photograph of Piaf's big love Marcel Cerdan placed on the small round table right next to us.*

I know.” ... (was my reply)

Edith with Marcel

*Edith Piaf was very fond of Ginette Neveu. Ginette and Marcel Cerdan were travelling on the same plane to the USA when it crashed, killing everyone on board.
The story behind the idea of this gift is not quick to explain and it goes back to the year 2010 with the final touch taking place only a few weeks before my departure.

After my emotional release I was able to actually see what was there ...

... her famous little black dress, the cross (necklace) that she would never perform without, the shoes to fit her tiny feet, a huge teddy bear (received as a wedding present from Theo) together with a much, much smaller monkey seated on the bear's lap and a collection of porcelain plates among many other items on display.

                                                                                      Edith with Theo

         (see link at the end ... "A quoi ca sert l'amour" - sung by Edith and Theo)


Our time was over at 1.30 pm as the next group of people came through the door.

The whole visit felt like a fleeting moment, and the dream that became a reality felt like a dream again.


                                              .      .      .      .      .

My next destination was Pere-Lachaise cemetery, but not before having something to eat first.
On my way back to the Cafe Menilmontant I got side tracked by a contemporary jewellery store.
Well, I am a woman after all and I wouldn't dare to disappoint my friends who filled my Parisian piggy bank for a self chosen birthday gift.

Not expecting to actually make a purchase as yet, I was surprised to find something that had my name on it.
To prevent a potential let down on my behalf to my female readers, I have decided to included a photo of the “hard to resist” ring and earrings with cat's eye and amethyst stones.

Now I was back at the cafe, which was much busier at this time of the day.

While enjoying my delicious vegetarian lasagne with a goat cheese and another espresso (which I can not hide), I tuned in to a quiet chatter floating in the air occasional interrupted by a sound of “cutlery versa crockery”. I felt so at home.
(see link at the end)


Before catching the metro, I popped in to a local florist to buy some flowers for Edith.

From what was available, I chose two bunches of pale pink roses and and a bunch of (believe it or not) yellow wattle*. In my opinion, a touch of native wild Australia seemed to complement very nicely the bouquet of tamed roses.

I am sure Edith would like it too.
*Golden Wattle is formally adopted as the Floral Emblem of Australia.

Upon reaching the gates of the cemetery I was greeted by a sign with a message of closure to visitors until further notice because of the weather conditions.

While hoping that what I was reading wasn't true, an older lady with a teenage boy confirmed that my translation was correct ...
C'est la deuxième fois que je suis venu pour savoir que c'était fermé. Et vous avez acheté les fleurs ...” (It is a second time that I came to find it closed. And you bought the flowers ...)
If she only knew that I also came all the way from Australia.
With the flowers in one hand and umbrella in the other taking photos was out of question.A trip back to my appartment was a must and then ... Lets see.

A stroll along the Avenue des Champs-Elysees and a visit to the top of the Arc de Triomphe sounded like a great idea!

Before catching a metro I stopped to buy a local paper as a souvenier.

Vous devez rigoler quand il neige.” (You need to laugh when it snows.) ... were the vendor's words as I gave him the coins.

Charles de Gaulle Etoile” ... this was my stop.
Up and out following the crowd I found myself on the familiar path.


Arc de Triomphe closed due to the weather” ... Was I suprised?

Disapointed “yes”, but suprised “no”.

Dusk was around the corner and the snow kept falling down as I began my “memory lane” stroll.

It was interesting to see that despite the weather many cafes had their outside little tables and chairs set up as usual only to be covered by snow.

Who was going to be game enough to sit in “minus degrees” fresh air?!

I guess some men are hot!

As I got closer to the first roundabout I recognised a cafe across the road.
Yes, this is definitely the one. The one where I had a cup of coffee back in July 1982.

Surrounded by dusk with a fifth coffee under my belt I made my way to the nearby Franklin D. Roosevelt metro station. It was time to go home.

By now Place Pigalle was covered in the darkness of an evening sky reflected in white snow beneath my feet.

I was hungry and looking forward to a yummy meal.

A “Festivo & Co” restaurant (see link at the end) across from the earlier mentionned pattiserie was open and looked inviting.

I picked a table next to the heater. The more warmth the better!

Being pescetarian there were two items on the menu that caught my attention.
Approached by the waiter (who appeared more like an owner) I asked which fish of the two was tastier.

This one, but it takes longer to cook.” ... (was his reply)
That's fine by me as I am in no hurry.”

It was fun sitting, sipping wine and observing life as it happened inside and outside the restaurant.

There were friends sharing a meal, middle aged men having their dinner with a glass (or more) of wine and the newspaper by their side, as well as a lady from a shop up the road* having a glass of wine and a chat before heading home (I guess).
*I saw her a few days later working in one of the shops.

The snow kept on falling and the heads of people without umbrellas were decorated with a gentle layer of snowflakes shinning under the street lights while the white mounts on their shoulders reminded me of Napoleon's epolets.

My first full day in Paris was nearing its end with a beautiful steamed fish, wine, the sixth and last espresso ( no more) in a company of the local people. 

Even if you are on your own you are never alone. At least not all the time and the moments spent in your own company are equally valuable. They are the yin and yang of our lives. Please note that alone is different to lonely – one can feel lonely while in a presence of colleagues.



Back in my 6th floor abode (aha ... one espresso for each floor) I was reflecting on the day's events while waiting for a heater to create a bedtime temperature.
It all still felt like a dream and there was no one to pinch me.


                          (see link at the end)
It was 10.30 pm and I started to feel tired and ready for sleep.

Cuddled by the warmth of my two heat packs brought with me just in case, I gazed at the Parisian sky before falling into a deep sleep together with all the snowflakes.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring ...

Links to ...
Song "A quoi ca sert l'amour"              

Cafe Menilmontant 
Restaurnat Festivo & Co

My Montmarte apartment

Photo of Edith Piaf with Marcel Cerdan from "Photobucket"
Other photos of Edith Piaf from the Google search "images for Edith Piaf"
Remaining photography by Olga Kulanowska

Saturday, 5 October 2013

“From bikini to beanie ...” (part I)

(Part I)

Tuesday, 12th of March 2013 (Paris, France)

I decided to get up at 7.30 am after a night of tossing and turning, and far too frequent “wakening ups” to the songs of Edith Piaf replaying in my head.
I climbed down the ladder from my bed and walked up to the window to take a glance at the morning view.

As I moved the curtain I was greeted by gently falling snow on already white roof tops. I couldn't believe my eyes.

What a wonderful surprise!

What a treat! ...
... and a challenge for my hot weather loving body to be faced with a -6 degree C.

I felt that starting a day with a hot bath was a great idea to get my circulation going before sticking my nose into the cold.
After overcoming a slight fear of climbing a somewhat wobbly ladder, I was then presented with yet another acrobatic test - getting in and out of a deep seat-bath.

However every challenge tends to attract a reward, and this one had two.

Apart from the joys of the hot bath, I was also bestowed with an uninterrupted view of Serge Gainsborough staring at me silently from his more luxurious bath tub.
Once my body absorbed all the heat I said a quick “adieu” to Serge and promised to meet him again tomorrow. Right now my priority was to find an Internet cafe and I had no time for romance.

Rugged up as best as I could I was ready to step outside.

 (Looking out onto the courtyard from the 4th floor.)

(The red shopping bag hanging down from the window serves as an "outdoor fridge" - brings memories from my days in Poland.)

The patisserie across the street was going to be my first stop.
I had no problem with getting a croissant and a few other things, but when it came to the Internet cafe – they suggested to ask at the deli further down the road.
On the way there, I decided to try my luck at the corner newsagent/coffee store. Unfortunately the owner wasn't able to help me either and as I was about to leave ...
What time is your appointment?” ... a young man standing next to me asked while fiddling on his phone.
I turned towards him with a feeling of great relief and gratitude for his random act of kindness. He not only took time to find the address, but also a metro connection to make my trip easier. I really want to thank him so much for helping me out!

(Two top small windows with shutters belong to my appartment.)


                    (See if you can find them on this picture.)

Filled with joy, I felt like Mary Poppins twirling my umbrella under the falling snow on my way to the metro station at the Place Pigalle.

The air was cold, very cold. My face felt slightly frozen and I could barely feel my blue finger tips sticking out from the tip-less gloves.


I decided on a quick defrost with an espresso before catching a train.

It was a family run cafe/bar (on the Rue des Martyrs) with its regular clientele and a welcoming atmosphere, which made me feel more like a local rather than a tourist.


After a bit of fun with buying a multi trip ticket, I was finally awaiting a train to Menilmontant and I could feel the excitement rising as the time to my appointment was getting shorter.

I arrived at Menilmontant with enough time to find the museum, which (if I remembered well) was located close to the station.

By now the snowfall was stronger and a cafe across the road looked very tempting.
I decided that another espresso wouldn't kill me and also someone there might be able to point me in the right direction (meaning the museum).

                                                                          (See link at the end)

I picked a table tucked away in a corner close to the bar. It felt cosy and warm.
Moments later I was approached by a friendly waitress with a lovely smile.
Un espresso avec petit pain au chocolat, s'il vous plaît.” (I placed my order in French)
When I asked her about Edith Piaf's museum she pointed to the side street and said ...
La deuxième rue à gauche. Il n'est pas loin.
While relaxing into the atmosphere of the place I pulled out my journal to catch up on writing.

Before too long a second cup of espresso (yes, I am naughty) had been brought to me by the same waitress.

It was fun seeing her buzzing around (the fuzzy figure on the photo) while attending to the customers. She had such a wonderful bubbly energy.


Even though the museum was only a couple of blocks away, I decided to find this place earlier to avoid the possibility of yet another unexpected surprise.


By putting my mind at rest I was able to wander around the neighbourhood for the remainder of the time and snap a few photos.

I have to say that photo taking wasn't the easiest task with a miriad of snowflakes generously falling from the sky and my poor umbrella juggling skills.


It wasn't long before my body felt cold again and the only thing that kept me warm was Edith's song “Milord” (sounding by now like a broken record) while awaiting the invitation to ... “Allez, venez, (Olga) Milord! Vous asseoir à ma table; Il fait si froid, dehors, Ici c`est confortable.”   (See link at the end)


    (See link at the end)

The time was 12.45 pm and I felt a touch of emotional nervousness while entering the code that would open the door to number 5, Rue Crispin du Gast.

The whole thing felt a bit like a dream.
A beautiful dream!

Shortly after, a French lady from Toulouse joined me in the foyer.
When it got closer to 1 pm it was she who entered the intercom code - there was no response from Monsieur Marchois.


Even when assisted by a passing concierge, the outcome was still the same. It looked like our watches were not synchronised with that of Monsieur Marchois.

While my head tried to stay calm and positive, a cloud of fear had touched my heart just so slightly.

At 1.05 pm she tried again and ...

                                                             (to be continued in 2 weeks)

Links to ...


Song "Milord"
Edith Piaf Museum     
Cafe Menilmontant
Photo of Serge Gainsborough contained within my photo ... author unknown
Remaining photography by Olga Kulanowska