We’re back from France. Needless to say, the trip was fantastic. We have about a zillion and ten photos. So far, we’ve only seen the ones we took on Ezra’s digital camera. I’ll have to take my 6 rolls off to be developed.
We did a lot of walking the whole time. In Paris, we spent lots of time around the Marais, and also walked around the area of the Bastille, Place de la Republique, Latin Quarter, Opera, etc. We skipped some of the obvious tourist stuff. On Wednesday (4/20) we walked through the Marais, visited some parks (Place des Vosges and Jardins Tuilleries), walked up the Champs Elysee (so crowded!) to the Arc de Triomphe, walked around the Centre Pompidou, and picked up our Interpol tickets at the FNAC in the mall at Forums des Halles. On Thursday (4/21) we walked back through the Marais again, and wandered over by Notre Dame and into the Latin Quarter. We went to Shakespeare and Co. and visited with the shop’s resident kitty. Then we went to Maison de la Photographie Europeenne where we saw photographs by Andy Warhol, Gianni Berengo Gardin, and Dmitri Baltermants. Later, we headed off to the Interpol show. I wrote about it in detail on our travel blog, so I’ll just copy most of that here. (If you’ve already read that, skip down!)
[Interpol Paris 4/21/05 show report begins here!] OK. Reading this blog it might seem like I am obsessed with Interpol. However, I just have to say that seeing them at Le Zenith proved that I am not, in fact, obsessed. I can say that because we got to see people who definitely ARE obsessed. The French fans were MAD! I was smashed up in the second row of the pit, and many people around me were SCREAMING and waving and singing along through the entire show. A friend told me afterward that she saw a girl flash her breasts at Paul. Glad I missed that one. I couldn’t see what was going on around me too well after a while because I was pretty jammed in there and couldn’t move too freely!
But I’m getting ahead of myself. So we went up to the music complex where Le Zenith is located around 5:30. It’s quite a nice place–very parklike. When we got to the venue, there were about 6-8 lines set up. Each was 8-10 people deep when we got there. We picked what looked like one of the shortest lines and settled in. It was a really nice evening… sunny and a little breezy and not too hot or cold. I looked around for a few of my message board friends but I didn’t recognize anyone. We could hear the opening band, Spoon, doing their soundcheck. Around 7:00 or so, the security staff started letting people in. There were lots of signs indicating that camera equipment was interdit (prohibited), so we were a little worried Ezra’s camera would be confiscated, but security let him through no problem. The first people in the lines ahead of us ran across the patio area and into the venue. I thought “Why not?” and we ran after them to stake out our spot.
Le Zenith has a large pit or floor area and then probably 50 rows of seats that rise up around the pit and the stage, sort of like an amphitheater. We positioned ourselves roughly in the center/center-right, in the second row of the pit. Food and drink vendors were roaming the small crowd of hardcore fans assembled in the pit and calling out things like, “Vous jeunes filles passionate sont tres soif!” or something… I nibbled on a chocolate PowerBar in preparation for the night’s activity, and Ezra got a sandwich off a vendor.
Two girls standing behind us (one French and one living in London, it turns out) were chatting about various Interpol songs and U.S. cities. After a bit, the French girl said, “Terri?” She turned out to be Alexiel, a girl I’ve corresponded with on the Interpol message board. She was there with Kate, a moderator on the board. They said hello and we chatted a little.
About 6 photographers set up in the area just in between the pit and the stage for Spoon. (Later on, for Interpol, there were about 10.) Spoon took the stage around 8:30. Ezra and I have agreed that they were OK; they played well, but their music just isn’t that exciting to us. The best songs were the really poppy one, which I think might be called “The Way We Get By,” and a cover of a Wire song (I think it was “Lowdown;” that was the best part of their set in my opinion). Daniel stood on the right side of the stage, in black suit and white tie, watching the beginning of their set, and he clapped politely at the end of songs. Then he disappeared. Sam showed up over there next, by the sound guy, snapping photos (as usual). Then he disappeared, too. Then, during “The Way We Get By” (or whatever it’s called), I looked over and saw Paul by the sound guy, smoking, wearing the fedora, and sporting newly dyed bright pinkish-orange hair. I looked back at Ezra, made a face, and yanked on my hair.
Then we waited another half hour or so, during which time a great push toward the front gave a sign of things to come. When Interpol took the stage around 9:30, the place went bonkers. The whole show is a bit of a blur… here’s what I recall, in no special order. They played: Next Exit, Slow Hands, Narc, Stella, NYC, Public Pervert, Leif Erikson, Not Even Jail, C’Mere, Evil, PDA, Take You on a Cruise, Obstacle 1, Specialist, and Roland. Ezra and I agree that it was one of the best sounding Interpol shows we’ve seen. Every song was a really good performance. Paul wore a funny little hat that looked like it might have been one of the Interpol “trucker hats.” It reminded me of the little hat Rik wears in one episode of The Young Ones. Carlos was in full romati-goth suit attire. Paul spoke a little bit of French, but mostly English. When he introduced Specialist he said that he wasn’t sure how to say it in French. He blew a smoke ring in (I swear it) the shape of a heart. At the end of Take You on a Cruise he sang “We leave tonight” or something instead of the final “You treat me right.”
Ezra’s pic. I should have taken some since I managed to stay planted at the front throughout the show, but it would have been tricky to pass the camera across the crowd, and I was pretty busy enjoying myself, anyway.
He looked over toward Daniel’s side of the stage and seemed to be asking if he had a cigarette (maybe he was really asking if he had the ebow for Take You on a Cruise). At the beginning of the encore, Sam took Paul’s face in his hands and gave him a kiss! I think he said something like, “Paul, eh?” Very cute. At one point, Daniel got really into whatever he was playing and shot down onto his knees–at least, I assume he was playing on his knees, because I couldn’t see him down there over Paul’s monitor. The between-song fiddling continues to develop. This time at the end of the main set (or was it at the end of Roland?–maybe so) Paul, Daniel, and Sam played this little bit without Carlos that descended into a wash of feedback.
The French fans are moshers, it seems. What this mainly meant for me, at the front, was that I was squashed much of the time, especially during the fastest songs/the singles, and especially during the encore. I told Ez afterward that I should have taken some names, since I thought after that I was probably pregnant. The security guys poured water into the mouths of some of the kids near me. Sam threw out two sets of drumsticks. The first two, after the main set, went toward the front. One drumstick was coming in my direction, but landed in front of the barrier, and the security guys didn’t pick it up for us. The second set he threw way back into the pit after the encore.
I’m told that both Robert Smith and Billy Corgan (sp? –formerly of Smashing Pumpkins) were in attendance and backstage. Didn’t see either of them.
Afterward Ez and I gathered ourselves, got some drinks, and set out on the adventure of finding Truskel, the bar/club were I’d been told the afterparty would be happening. Unfortunately for the tons of concert-goers who were crammed onto the train, the line we were on closed early for maintenance, so we had to seek an alternate route. We did eventually get there.
At first there was a guy blocking the entrance to the room where the band members were hanging out with their friends, but after a while he moved and people could come and go.
That’s the outline of Carlos in that photo… I swear.
While we were hanging around wondering if we’d get in, if some friends I was hoping to meet/had met were in there, etc., Sam and his girlfriend walked up right next to me. They left almost right away, though. Once we got inside, we saw that Kate and Alexiel were in there, along with Daniel (and girlfriend), Paul (in the usual hat and hoodie), and Carlos. I also met the very wonderful Emilie from Toulouse. I know her through the Interpol message board, and I think she also helps run a French Interpol board. She was super nice to both me and Ezra. Glad I met her! She introduced us to her friend Marie Laure, too.
We didn’t talk to the band this time, but that was OK. It was fun just to be there with nice people who were sort of into the same vibe… and everyone was really nice. It still felt like kind of partying with the band, and we had a good time. There were funky lights (see our pictures) and people were dancing. I particularly remember dancing to the Pixies’ “Gigantic” and Kim Wilde’s “Kids in America.” A girl wearing a fedora put the hat on Paul’s head (on top of the hat and hood he was already wearing) and he kind of danced with her, bopping his head up and down.
Daniel left after a bit, and then Paul left, telling a girl standing next to me that he had to go because he had other friends to see. Carlos was still there partying away when we left around 4AM. He must have closed the place down!
When we left the Metro was indeed closed, so we took a cab back to our hotel and crashed our happy partied-out butts. [End Interpol review!]
So, on Friday we woke up late to find a beautiful day and a street market winding down outside our window. We had lunch at the cafe on the corner and then made our way over to the Centre Pompidou. As you may know, I’ve been wanting to go to this museum since I first visited Paris when I was about 13. It’s a pretty big museum, somewhat along the lines of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, but with more emphasis on French artists (unsurprisingly) and some other Europeans. Highlights for me were the room of Marc Riboud and a few Giacometti paintings–also, the outdoor sculptures and fountains.
Between the lag from the previous night’s partying and all the walking and general museum fatigue, we were pretty pooped. We had dinner at an Italian place in a very cute square in the Marais.
On Saturday (4/23) we took the Metro over to lower end of Montmartre and visited the Gustave Moreau museum. The museum is in his former home and studio, and it’s just CRAMMED with his works. Then we got some lunch and headed over to Printemps in search of a gift for Kim (yes, we were on a mission!). After an arduous (I’m not kidding!) search, we got a little somethin’ for Kim and a couple little somethin’s for me, and then it was off to Nice on the TGV.
We were worried about getting to the train on time, but we were fine. I was glad we’d reserved seats because the train (all roughly 20 cars of it) was packed. We had a lovely view of bits of French countryside for several hours before it got dark.
April picked us up at the station in Nice and took us to her apartment in Roquebrune. Her apartment is a charming little place built into the side of one of the cliffs, so she has a beautiful view of the sea.
Our first full day in the south, Sunday (4/24), was strangely grey and windy. We spent the day with April in Vieux Nice, Eze, and surrounding towns. Vieux Nice is pretty and quaint. We had lunch there and then shopped the winding little streets. The area produces wonderful soaps, perfumes, etc. (you know how nice soaps always say that they’re French-milled?), and April took us to a nice shop in Vieux Nice where we purchased some divine smelling bath goodies. Eze is a winding little medieval village high up on a cliff (aren’t they all?). While the weather was windy and not ideal, on the positive side it gave us a view of Eze that many people probably never see, and it wasn’t terribly crowded.
On Monday (4/25), Ez and I took the bus into Menton, a nice little town on the sea in between Monaco and Italy. We wandered through the little shops and had a bottle of wine at a pricey little seaside cafe (you pay for the sea!). 2/3 of the way through our wine, the wind picked up and clouds moved in, so we chugged through a bit more wine and headed for shelter. We ended up at an Italian restaurant in a cute little courtyard that served us some of the most delicious pasta we’ve eaten in ages. I must tell you–I had fresh little cheese raviolis with herbs, zucchini, and little red peppers. It was absolutely divine (I can taste it if I think hard enough!). Ezra had delicate little gnocchi with scrumptious little mushrooms. So so good. The skies cleared up not long after we ordered, so after a bit of conversation and digestion (and letting all that wine wear off–we had more with our pasta), we set out again toward a park we’d read about.
It’s a grove of 1000 year old olive trees just outside the center of the town. I think it’s called Parc de Pian. It’s so quiet and pretty up there, and of course there’s a lovely view.
The olive grove.
That night we had dinner in Monaco with one of April’s friends, Mike. Mike is a British guy who settled in Monaco a while ago (there’s sort of an English-speaking community there). He manages Formula 1 racing, so we heard a lot about the Grand Prix, how Nascar has done things right business-wise, etc. etc. It’s always interesting to meet new people. The scene in Monaco, even on a Monday night, was something to behold.
I guess here would be a good place to note that Monaco is everything you might guess. It IS the international jet set. It IS Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous with Robyn Leach. We went down to a bar called Rascasse (I think) after dinner. It was just starting to fill up, but the wealthy of all nations with their scantily clad ladies were starting to arrive. One little group came complete with their own photographer wearing a leather jacket with a big multicolored star on it.
We were a little tired on Tuesday (4/26). Tuesday was our day in Monaco itself. We started up by the palace and wandered through the gardens up there. The area right around the palace itself is exceptionally touristy, so we pretty much buzzed right through there. We walked down into the port area where we’d had dinner the night before and then met April at the ballet for lunch.
It was neat to snoop around at the ballet. April told us that Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo was formerly the Ballet Russe. Somehow, it all made sense for me when she said that. Their facilities are quite nice (it helps to be funded by a princess). We met a few of her friends there and saw the studio, costume shop, etc. I took a handful of pictures of the ballet on my camera… maybe I’ll post if they’ll come out.
We have loads of additional photos of the South of France, both from Ezra’s camera and from mine. I’ll have to share more when we get them.