Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Tuesday 11 November 2008

Armistice Day, 2008Armistice Day, a public holiday in France. I've said all I want to say on the subject, and since it was a beautiful day and the museums I had it in mind to visit were closed today, I decided to take a bike and explore Auteuil, passing the Arc de Triomphe en route to see if there was anything happening. The main national event of this 90th anniversary was a ceremony combining commemoration and (since France is currently presiding over the EU) reconciliation at the vast cemetery at Douaumont near Verdun, so the only sign I saw today was a blaring police escort for what looked like the Australian Ambassador.

Facade, AuteuilAuteuil retains something of the air of the village it once was, attracting litterati away from the smoky, dirty city in the 18th century - there are traces of Benjamin Franklin and John Adams here. Now it is an upmarket residential area, with most of my guidebook's interest focussed on architectural details, with examples from Guimaud (who designed the iconic Metro entrances) as well as some extraordinary 1920s flights of fancy, and some (currently inaccessible for repairs) Le Corbusier.

But other things caught my eye as well:

- a family making the most of a no doubt rare midweek opportunity for papa to take the children to buy the day's baguette (baguette safely stowed across the hood of the buggy; but the toddler, allowed to stand on the back axle, surreptitiously nibbling at it)

- an ornate but (I suspect) futile sign forbidding people to play ball games against the wall of the church

- an interesting opportunity for deconstructing a trade name

- that apparently in France there aren't so much beauty parlours (too frivolous?) or clinics (too medical?) as Instituts de Beauté: serious enough to be reassuring without being forbidding, perhaps

- more and more museums: in the immediate vicinity there's a Balzac museum and the museum of Radio France, and on the way back to the centre, I spotted a sign for a Musée de Vin (on rue des Eaux, ha ha ha), and near les Halles there's also a dolls museum.

And in the evening, I actually went out to dinner with some other people (this is rare for me), with whom I'd been sharing facts and opinions on an internet messageboard for years, and a very pleasant meal it was too.

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