Friday 26th August
Well, despite my earlier experience in Paris, when I let my naivety and perhaps my curiosity get out of control, I have revisited Paris a few times. It is not however my favourite part of France, I prefer the countryside, the small towns and villages, especially in Burgundy, La Bourgogne. But Paris does have a special allure too, the wonderful wide boulevards, the art-deco Metro stations, but most of all the street characters you only seem to see in Paris; the bohemian arty types, complete with blue Gitanes packet in hand, the chic Parisienne women with their elegant clothes and little white dogs on pencil thin leads, the teenagers who seem to have buckets more style and individuality than you see in London, and the whole jazzy feel of the place which is unmatched anywhere. Whenever I go, I like to do one of the cemeteries, Montparnasse or Saint-Denis or Pere-Lachaise; I love wandering down the rows of little crypts, and gazing at the statues or reading the inscriptions, it’s always so peaceful and still, right there in the middle of bustling Paris. I have also explored again and again the Art Galleries and Museums, though I have never managed to do the whole of the Louvre, it is just too big, and whatever time of year it is full of tourists. My very favourite though is almost a secret – it’s hardly mentioned in the guide books. Nestled by the river in the Jardin des Tuileries is L’Orangerie. It is quite small, and has only a few exhibits which seem to change quite often, except the reason for its existence in the first place. It is the home of, and was chosen to house Les Nympheas by Claude Monet, the Water-lilies. And nothing can prepare you for them. You go downstairs, and there in two huge elliptical rooms are the most incredible two paintings I think I have ever seen. All around the walls in one continuous three hundred and sixty degree sweep are the lilies, floating on a deep blue green lake. And you have to just sit on the benches in the middle of the room and stare in wonder at them. Close up, you can see the wild brushstrokes, full of greens and whites and pinks, but stand back and the whole thing calms down, and comes to a different sort of life altogether. And no amount of description can come close to being there. It is the main reason I return every few years and I never revisit now without going there.