A well done story, very entertaining. Starting in the 1980s a student fleeing their art academy after traumatic events ends up in Paris as au pair as the Berlin wall falls and many attacks take place in Paris. A former teacher of that student is in Paris in 2015 during the attacks. The parallel and the connection between the two is the framework for weaving the story. Dutch book, not available in English translation I think. Gave it as a present to my sister and a friend afterwards. Picked it up in a book store in Groningen, Godert Walter, when E and I were spending a weekend in that city.

France is a highly centralised country. That also shows in the road signs. Along the motorways you seem to be able to head towards Paris at every junction. E and I often joke about it when en route in France. It turns out to be true off the motorways too. We camped in Gigny-sur-Saône, a vilage of 500 people on the eastern edge of the Bourgogne. We weren’t in the village proper even, but in a hamlet near it. Right outside the campground there was an aging road sign. Pointing to Paris obviously (400km away). And to Lyon (125km). Both pointers aren’t of any practical navigational use for the many narrow countryroads in the region. Every time I spotted the sign when leaving the campground I had to smile.

Paris in the past week was far from empty, but it was quieter. Making for a pleasant visit: the terraces of restaurants and café’s were filled but there always was a table available for us. And enough traffic and passers-by to do some people watching from behind your coffee.

Coffee at Flores bistro, Boulevard Hausmann. Image Ton Zijlstra, license CC BY SA

The metro wasn’t as packed as I remember from previous visits. Metro stations didn’t have crowds at all, regularly allowing me to take pictures devoid of people. The trains we took between Paris and Versailles where we were staying were almost empty even.

Gare d’Invalides. Image Ton Zijlstra, license CC BY SA

All in all a great way to visit the city, busy enough to get a feel for the city, but not so busy you feel rushed along by the people around you, allowing us to set our own pace.

Andy Warhol gets a kiss from Edwige Belmore while a lady takes her coffee
photo Ton Zijlstra, license CC BY NC SA

I took this picture at the end of January 2008 while visiting Paris with E, having just left my last job formally that day, and starting out on my own. We were having coffee in the 4th Arrondissement’s Café Beaubourg, next to the Centre Pompidou that we visited. I liked the curved backs on the chairs, both inside and outside, and they still have them 13 years on. Then my eye fell on the art on the wall, which I now know is a series of images where Andy Warhol gets a kiss from French punk icon Edwige Grüss-Belmore, from a 1977 issue of the magazine Facade. I liked the composition of the straight lines of the artwork, the curvy chairs and the lady drinking coffee underneath it at the end, in clothes that match the colors of the environment and looking into the camera fashionably bored.

In the printed version I cut off the pillar on the left edge of the image.

Now that we haven’t been able to travel much and the daily scenery isn’t much different from day to day, I’ve taken to browsing through my Flickr photo archive where I keep over 30.000 photos of the past 16 years. Last week I printed a number of photos to put in the frames on the window sills of my home office. I will be posting some of them here this week.

Today I read a Guardian article about the iconic bookshop Shakespeare and Company, across the Seine from the Notre Dame in Paris. It made me remember our own trips to Paris, and Elmine browsing the mentioned bookstore. I thought about having a box of nice books sent to our home, as a souvenir now that we can’t visit other cities for inspiration ourselves. The website was clearly not equipped to deal with the Guardian readership taking the article as a cue to order something the same way I did, so it took all day to get through and place an order. (Peter, they also suggested ‘Ma vie à Paris‘ en francais, not in English though)

The Shakespeare and Company bookstore, photo by Zoetnet, license CC BY

While trying to order I thought about how there are other cities we love to visit. Could I order a box of interesting and beautiful things from several cities, and present them as gifts to E to travel in our mind? Cities such as Copenhagen. Maybe I thought, I can have something shipped from a Danish ceramics artisan we appreciate, Inge Vincents. We have several things she made in our home, mementos from different trips.

Inge Vincents’ store on Jægersborggade, when we visited in 2012

But I cannot order with her, because Inge Vincents uses Instagram as her only sales channel online. Instagram doesn’t allow me to scroll past the first few images without an account, let alone interact with the poster to request a quote. It’s something E and I have seen with a wider variety of artisans. Do they realise their shops are within walled gardens where not all are able to visit? How many missed sales will they never notice?