Sunday, August 10, 2014

Thursday: Jardin du Luxembourg, Memorial de la Shoah, La Closerie Des Lilas

The performance today was, as is normal for our trip,  a great performance for a great audience. It was in the Jardin du Luxembourg, which is a big, beautiful park situated in the middle of the city. We were there, briefly, on Wednesday while looking for a public bathroom.

Our bus parked just inside the park gates, and our performance was inside of a large gazebo overlooking a shaded area and beautiful pond. Apparently, there is an active concert series, and the audience gets to see a wide variety of shows and performances throughout the summer. The gazebo has a large stack of chairs along the back, which are dragged out by various audience members to sit. (Which is a difference between here and Pittsburgh - can you imagine how long a stack of public chairs would last at home?)

The performance was interesting. Jennifer woke up with laryngitis. That's a real predicament, because she is a great lead singer and the lead for the quartet, Sidekicks. We need to do an hour long performance, and the three songs that Sidekicks sang were an important part of that. Plus, they're my favorite non-wife quartet (as in, quartet that doesn't have my spouse in it). So, it  required a bit of improvisation and some movie magic to make happen.

Fortunately, with Molly along on the trip, we had a major ringer. One of the songs Sidekicks sang this week was "What a Wonderful World," for which Molly knew the melody. A second song was the Beatles song, "With a Little Help From My Friends," which she also basically knew. There were more than a few differences in the quartet's interpretation, but they had about twenty minutes to rehearse before they sang. (....which, if you didn't know, is not nearly enough time to do this sort of thing.) They pulled it off quite well; if you didn't know Sidekicks, you might not have guessed.

There was a cool guy sitting off to the side and really enjoying the performance. He yelled a huge "Bravo!!!!" after every number. Another guy had a good time videotaping the performance; if he gets us on YouTube, then I hope that he labels the chorus correctly. Several audience members came up to me after the performance to shake my hand. That's always cool.

I've enjoyed people's reactions to our performances in France. They've been appreciative and friendly, and the audiences at our performances have been wonderful. We got another encore call yesterday, which now makes two encore calls in my barbershop career. France has been an awesome place in which to sing.

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After the performance, Molly and I split from our group and left with Molly's aunt, Peggy. Peggy moved from Pittsburgh to Paris in 1970-ish and has been there ever since: done a little bit of acting, a little bit of working, and now works for the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. Her position is combing through the French archives and doing translation work. We've seen her once or twice a year since I've known Molly, so it wasn't exactly like seeing a long-lost relative; however, this was our first time seeing her on her turf, and that was really nice. 

We took a bus to the Jewish section of town and walked around for a bit, looking at some historical sights (a beautiful, old synagogue) and seeing some of Peggy's favorite places. We had wine and wonderful ice cream at Ma Bourgogne, which is a neat little cafe overlooking the park one Place des Vosges. We saw Victor Hugo's house, which was kind of cool, and a cellist sitting outside playing "My Way." 

Peggy's workplace is the Memorial de la Shoah, the French Holocaust museum. We are usually aware of Germany's role in the Holocaust, but the French complicity - the Vichy government's assistance in sending Jews to Germany, and the German occupation's enthusiastic persecutions and murder - is not necessarily understood. I was also unaware that France has the largest Jewish population in the world, outside of Israel and the United States. 

On the other hand, the museum has on its outside wall the names of French people who were involved in saving Jewish lives during World War II, and it was nice to see that. The museum is open late on Thursday nights, so we got to see the whole thing. Interestingly enough, the French national archives did not want to give out the files for the Jewish residents during the 1930's and 1940's, but they eventually reached a compromise: the room in which the files are kept are, officially, not part of the museum but belong to the archives.

After that, we went to a beautiful little cafe, La Closerie des Lilas, which was one of Hemmingway's hangouts. We dined with one of Peggy's friends, who, in turn, was friends with the piano player "on duty" for the evening. It was a very, very French sort of evening: dinner took about two and a half hours. Nobody was in a rush. The conversation swung from topic to topic, mostly in French (Peggy's friend was not an English speaker), with Peggy translating when necessary. 

The cafe was, like most of them, half indoors and half outdoors. The tables were small and very close together. There were potted trees spotted throughout the outdoor area, and the courtyard was fenced in with bushes. Right outside was a statue commemorating a general and from the mid-1700's. It was an adult crowd, except for the table next to us: there was an 8- or 9-month old baby, with whom we shared our potato chips. Obviously, with three small boys at home, small children interest us instead of annoy us. They were replaced by a couple, one of whom was from Boston and visiting for the week, so it was nice to have another American around. After our nice, leisurely dinner, Molly sang a couple of songs with the piano player: "All of Me," "Fly Me To The Moon," and "Mack the Knife." The last one was kind of neat: she knew the first verse, and I had pulled the rest of the lyrics up on my phone before they got to the end of the verse.

After we left the restaurant, it was nearly 10pm. We took a cab back to the hotel, and is went to bed while Molly went down to the hotel lobby and hung out with some of our friends until late-ish.

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Carol told me that the rest of the group looked around the gardens for a couple of hours. There were drink and snack kiosks all around, and most of them sold beer and wine in addition to soft drinks and snacks. A little different from the United States! There were playgrounds,  and beautiful plants, and a few street performers and buskers (the human statue people) in various places. 

The pond was a big, beautiful pond, with boats and ducks and fish. It is larger than you'd expect it to be, but you can say the same thing about the park. We weren't especially close to the portion of the park that we traversed to find bathrooms the previous day. 

The dinner was a beautiful veal, served with an amazing chocolate tart dessert. The restaurant was a smallish place; the chorus filled up the entire inside portion of the restaurant. The decoration was nothing like the previous evening; where the previous restaurant was ostentatious, this one was plainly and simply colored and decorated.

After dinner, people were given free time. A group of people went to the same bar - Indiana - that we did during the previous evening, but they had a rougher time. Apparently, there was a woman there who did not like the singing and the group of people, choosing to mock / yell at them while they sang one song. Oh, well.... there are jerks in every crowd.

On their way home, they got very, very lost. What should have been a fifteen minute walk turned into a forty-five minute walk. They figured that, once they got sight of the lighted-up Eiffel Tower, they were lost. The Eiffel Tower was in the entire opposite direction, and they should not have been able to see it. C'est la vie.


Molly went downstairs after we got home, to look around and hang out. I didn't; I went to sleep.

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