Halley Knigge (Griffin)

Write. Share. Communicate.


5 Comments

Anecdotes from Paris: Dernière partie

Airport fiascos

As smoothly as our trip to Israel always seemed to go, Rachael and my flight home was another story altogether. Tuesday morning we left Tel Aviv with more than three hours to spare before our flight left – but a Hebrew/English miscommunication at the train station sent us nearly an hour in the wrong direction. By the time we figured it out (a security guard kicking us off the train at the last stop on the line) and made it back to Ben Gurion International, we had just 50 minutes to spare before our flight was scheduled to leave.

At Seatac Airport this would have been stressful but not a huge problem. The intense degrees of security in all of Israel, however, ensured that there was no possible way we could get through the numerous security checkpoints, have our bags searched, be patted down for weapons and be interrogated about our reasons for traveling to Israel, and still make our 14h30 flight. After being yelled at by airport security for arriving so late, we were informed that there was no possible way we could get on the plane and were sent to the ticketing offices of Malev Hungarian Airlines to try and change our flights home.

Malev was absolutely no help – the earliest flight they could book us wasn’t until Saturday, a full day after R and I were both supposed to be flying home to the U.S. Unable to take that flight, our only option was to buy completely new tickets, so we headed downstairs to the last-minute flight deals counter. There we found an extremely helpful young guy who informed us of what no one else had – that there was an Israeli airport (among other things) strike planned to begin the following morning. If we didn’t make it out of Tel Aviv by midnight Tuesday, we’d be stuck in Israel indefinitely.

With the help of a colleague, our last-minute flight guy found us a last-minute flight. So last minute that we only had a half hour before check-in was scheduled to close. At $450, it was a pricey unexpected expenditure, but far cheaper than any other ticket options (most running upwards of $800). The only problem remaining being that I didn’t have the money – with only 3 days left of my year in Paris I was down to the last centimes of my budget for the year, and definitely hadn’t factored in an emergency plane ticket fund. I ran upstairs to collect-call my parents for a money transfer while R got our names and passport information into the computer.

Once I’d hung up the phone, I raced back downstairs and our last-minute ticket guy finished processing my ticket. Then he took R’s card to swipe and we got some disturbing news – she didn’t have any money either, but with only 10 minutes left before check-in was to close, had no time to rouse her parents at 4h asking for a money transfer that would (because of her bank) take 5 days to process anyway. She ran back upstairs to call and get the number of her dad’s credit card as I ran to check in and tell the Lufthansa people that a second late traveler might be arriving.

By the time I made it to the gate though, having been rushed through back passages by a kind security guard, it was clear that no second traveler was arriving. What could I do? I had to board my flight, and spent the next 12 hours thinking Oh crap, I’ve left Rachael in Israel. What on earth am I going to do? on repeat. Thank goodness for wine on airplanes, eh?

I made it back to Paris at midnight and crashed immediately. R finally appeared around 4pm with wild stories of her own to tell. With no way to get money for a ticket, she’d called the only person she could think of – the Israeli film actor we’d met during our first few days in Tel Aviv. Let me just say that he is one amazing guy. After knowing R for only a few days, he forked over $450 to buy her a plane ticket to Paris (with promises of Western Union payback transfers, of course). She had another stroke of luck when the start of the strike was pushed back to 6h, to allow all travelers time to get out of the airport – her flight left at 5h45.

Bum pizza

R and I had a lot of errands to run today, it being our last day in Paris and all. Some errands were imperative, like closing our bank accounts and canceling our Internet services, while some were of the more frivolous variety (buying the latest Harry Potter book to read on the flight home). We had a lot to accomplish, but they were all handily located in the Saint Germain/ Saint Michel area, so we were able to get a lot done in a limited amount of time.

After picking up our final grades and diplomas from Sciences Po, and before picking up a Western Union money order for Rachael at La Poste, we stopped near église Saint Germain for a pizza lunch. Since it was already nearing 15h, the dining area of our favorite student-y pizza place was closed, so we took our pizzas à emporter and found a bench to eat them on.

What we didn’t notice when we sat down was that we’d chosen a dining seat directly across from three hungry-looking homeless men drinking beers. I was about halfway into my first slice when I glanced up and saw them eyeing us. We couldn’t have picked a more awkward spot to eat. Not only were we weirded out being stared at while we enjoyed our lunches, but we felt like jerks flaunting our delicious pizzas in front of three guys who had probably gone a while since having a good meal.

We ate half of our pizzas, then carefully consolidated the rest into one box and balanced it carefully on the top of a trash can as we left. We’d considered walking over and offering it to them, but decided it might come off as somewhat insulting and demeaning – after all, they hadn’t asked us for any food or money. As we walked away, I glanced back once and saw the men already diving into our pizza.

Saying goodbye…or not

So this is it for me and Paris – my airport shuttle arrives in just under seven hours, and from that moment on, I’ll forsake all my claims on this city. I spent the day wandering around the city and the evening relaxing in R’s apartment. For whatever reason, we didn’t feel any pressure to go out and have a real “last night” in Paris, or do anything in particular “for the last time.” Over the course of a year we’ve had the chance to do most of the things we wanted to do as many times as we wanted to do them. We felt no need to do it up big, and said our goodbyes to Paris by watching Friends and eating ice cream in R’s living room. It wasn’t the most spectacular of evenings, but it was pleasant all the same.

It doesn’t matter anyway: We’ll be back.

Advertisements


1 Comment

It’s the second Tuesday of 2007, and I’m back in my little apartment in Paris from a two week vacation. Christmas is officially over.

Rather than vacationing in the South with the nanny family, which was alluded to several times, and blatantly lied about several other times, I flew home to Tacoma for a surprise visit. Well, it wasn’t a complete surprise – my family obviously knew that I was coming home – it was my parents who paid for the round-trip ticket (to Paris in August, back to SeaTac in December) after all.

I managed to pack quite a few friends into the short two weeks I got to spend at home, but there were still quite a few people I’d intended to call and just didn’t have a chance to. I only had 15 days – I had to budget my time very carefully, to eat the maximum amount of pho and Mexican food, bake as many chocolate chip cookies as I could fit into the family supply of Tupperware, drive a car for the first time in four months, and hang out with the family as much as possible.

Though I’d expected to feel weird about being back in Tacoma for such a short time, it felt completely natural – especially since the vacation was packed full of the things I always do in Seattle. I went to PNB’s The Nutcracker with my grandparents, cheered at a Stadium swim meet, helped out in the Seabury School library, got dinner on the Ave and hung out with both Tacoma and Seattle friends.

Like I said, it was totally natural to be home. The weird thing is being back in Paris. I think part of the strangeness is the fact that this Christmas was particularly eventful. Wilbur (the family dog) was hit by a car and killed two days before Christmas, which definitely shook things up. Ben is waiting to hear back from a few schools he’s already applied to and is in the midst of the rest of his college applications. My dad is trying to write and publish a book. We threw a party (we’re not generally a party-throwing family). I decided to forsake all of my overly-amorous French boys and try a (really really) long-distance thing for the rest of the year (though I still need to have a talk with one of the boys I’d been kind of casually dating since October – I’m getting really good at giving the “I don’t want to date you” speech in French by now). It was a busy vacation.

Sunday though, I packed up my bags again (this time laden with peanut butter, contact solution and American candy for the nanny kids), and after two planes, a six-hour layover in Amsterdam, two pieces of lost luggage, a train and metro ride, I was back home. This is the really weird part – I feel like I just stopped in to visit Seattle life for a while, but now that I’m back in Paris, I’m back in my real life – everything else that happened in the past few weeks seems like it belongs to someone else’s memory.

Unpacking, yet again:

The truth is that I don’t live in Tacoma or in Seattle – I live in the 2ème arondissement of Paris, France, and I feel completely at home here. I’m back in my apartment, on my street (although I was disturbed to see that a new restaurant has appeared across the street from me – Paris wasn’t supposed to have changed in only two weeks!), and after sleeping for 14 straight hours in my bed, I went shopping at my local Franprix, to restock my kitchen.

I’m back to the life where I walk through the courtyard of the Louvre everyday to get to school, where I have a year-long membership to the Pompidou Center, where we go out for a drink at 23h on a Tuesday night. I’m back to the life where I buy my bread, produce and groceries in three separate locations, and have to dress up before I leave my apartment to go shopping for them.

I feel like I don’t know where I live anymore – do I live in Tacoma, Paris or Seattle? It feels so weird to “visit” my house in Tacoma – but at the same time it’s so normal that it’s weird to feel as settled as I do, living alone in Europe at the age of 21. I don’t know if that’s something I’ll ever figure out though. I guess the plan is just to enjoy where I am while I’m there and not worry so much about everywhere else. It’s 2007, after all – and I’m in Paris!


3 Comments

Today Paul asked me what color the number seven is to me. I guess I surprised myself a little, but he was completely unfazed when I answered immediately with “yellow.” But why would he have been? He was expecting me to answer with a color, and I came through.

I love hanging out with that kid – he’s so incredibly smart and genuinely loves learning new things. We have the most fun and random conversations, and he’s completely riveted when I regale him with tales of the Donner Party, or Black Widow Spiders.

He has a continuous stream of questions popping into his head, and, being seven, has absolutely no hesitation in posing each one to me. From what color I think Thursday is (purple), to how many electronics I have in my house in Tacoma (um, a lot, I guess?), to a description of my favorite day ever (the day in kindergarten when I got to go home early because I had tied my shoelaces together during story time, only to find out that my lost American Girl Doll had been found, and that I’d won a Beauty and the Beast coloring contest all in the same day. It’s a warm memory for me).

Check out this pony from the window of BHV – the disturbing part is that it’s a real stuffed pony:

These rabbits are no less authentic:

Sometimes the more pressing questions on his mind are what kind of food Wilbur likes best (peanut butter and cheese), or if I know any words in Korean (Kamsahamnida, thanks Dad), to my favorite taste in the world (cilantro), to how I feel about Sundays (I love them), or whether I am in love with anybody right now. No matter what I answer, as long as it’s not an “I don’t know,” he’s satisfied and moves on to other more pressing queries.

I thought these guys were awesome. No ladder? No matter.

I think out of everyone, P is the most like an actual little brother of mine – at least banter-wise. He tells me that my sunglasses are ugly, and I tell him that I’m trying to trick people into thinking I’m a movie star. He wants to know if it’s true. I say of course, and maybe they’ll think he’s famous too, since we’re together. I tell him he’s stinky, and he tries to gross me out by eating boogers.

We are constantly trying to outsmart each other – him trying to escape into the upper reaches of his bunk bed without me confiscating his Gameboy, and me of course, trying to confiscate the Gameboy. We take turns reading Lemony Snickett’s A Series of Unfortunate Events and Tom-Tom et Nana, and compare our thoughts after each chapter. He tries to catch me with unfamiliar French vocabulary, and I outsmart him by knowing the words (he’s seven years old – we have similar vocabulary skills).

Sometimes P tells me about the girls he “loves” at school, and in turn wants to hear about every boy I’ve ever dated. He asks me each day for gossip about my brothers, and always wants follow-ups on the stories I tell him – he’s anxiously waiting to hear whether Ben has bought new earrings yet, and when Noah plans to take his driving test.

I found my neighborhood on the little model Paris in the floor of the Musée D’Orsay:

And my building!

We’re also constantly teaching each other. I taught P how to play Mancala and about the joys of Legoland, and in return, I learned the names and biographies of each character in Spongebob Squarepants. I know how to say “You suck!” (T’es naze!) and that French ados say tu peux me re-phone for “call me back,” and P is finally beginning to understand what I mean by constantly referring to things as “sweet.”

We really just have a lot of fun together – whether we’re singing “Jingle Bells” to Georges to get him to fall asleep or playing one of his practice songs as a duet on the piano. For a seven year old, he has a great sense of humor. He mailed E a brilliant fake letter from their feared and detested Grandmère that he came up with completely on his own.

Chère Ella, je t’écris cette lettre avec amour. Je veux te dire que ma radio ne marche plus, et je ne suis pas du tout contente. ~ Grandmère

Dear Ella, I send you this letter with love. I want to tell you that my radio no longer works, and I am not at all happy. ~ Grandmère

The greatest part of the prank was E’s reaction: “Grandmère has completely lost her head!” She bought the entire thing, and the fact that it was conceived by her seven year old brother tickles me to no end. P is pretty twisted for such a young age.

Is it weird that my favorite person in Paris is still in CE1 (like second grade)?


Leave a comment

Chanukah began yesterday at sundown. I was curious about the holiday in Paris after hearing stories about French Jews unable to broadcast their religion, and the huge amounts of security around all the temples on Yom Kippur.

Chanukah is not actually that big of a holiday, though. I think I was more into doing something celebratory than even Rachael was – we were originally going to make latkes with a few friends, but we postponed until Monday evening in favor of checking out a new bar.

Christina and I met Rachael, Thomas (French) and Ricardo (Spanish) near Saint Germain, where we left to walk to the smallest, most crowded, smokiest basement bar I’ve experienced in Europe.

This place, Chez Georges is wildly popular. We made our way past the bar and down a tiny set of spiral stairs into a brick cellar no larger (and possibly smaller) than my apartment, to find five seats at a wooden table. As we sat down, we congratulated ourselves on finding seats, which, according to Thomas, is a near-impossible feat.

Within five minutes of sitting down and ordering a bottle of wine, in walked three people I know from classes at Sciences Po. Over the course of the evening I probably ran into ten to fifteen people I know, which is a pretty rare event in a city as populated as Paris.

For a while we all sat around the table, just drinking our wine, talking and slowly asphyxiating from the clouds of cigarette smoke. Think about it – a teeny tiny brick basement room with only one exit and no windows – there’s nowhere for the smoke to go but into our lungs.

At about 23h, the place started to pick up. Soon the room was completely packed, with ten people crammed at each little table, and the minimal amount of standing room packed with couples and groups holding their bottles of wine and glasses. Meanwhile, the smoke cloud became denser and denser with each breath we attempted to draw.

After a few hours and many bottles of wine, the crowd was ready to dance – a difficult endeavor in such a small endroit. No matter, dance we did. There were people on tables, benches and chairs, packed in the center of the room and lining the twisting staircase to the rez de chaussée (rdc, or ground floor).

Normally, I wouldn’t expect such a dank and polluted little cellar to have such a powerful draw, but this is Paris – the people (patrons and bartenders) are friendly, the wine is decent and the music is eclectic, which is a sure recipe for success.

The playlist slid from an Elvis medley, to swing music, to thirties slow-dance music, to half an hour of Beatles songs, to Klezmer Music, to Judy Garland and around and back again. There’s something slightly unreal about standing in a packed mob with your arms around Parisian strangers while everyone sways together, belting “Let it be” at the top of their lungs.

It’s even odder when the same group grabs hands and begins to dance in a frantic circle, singing Hava Nagila in a smoky basement on the first night of Chanukah with approximately five people of authentic Jewish faith are present in the circle. It’s so surreal that the only solution is to join in with the singing, embracing complete strangers and pausing between songs to make toasts (being sure to always look into eyes of the person you’re cheering – lest be cursed for seven years with a variety of complaints).

Despite the cough I had upon waking up this morning, the red wine drips on my shirt from last night and the horrible bar smell radiating from my coat and scarf, it was definitely a good night. Hava nagila! And happy Chanukah, of course.


4 Comments

Sitting here in my apartment, with a cup of tea, the heat blasting, some really warm socks, and no homework to work on, I’m finally starting to relax a little. The past two weeks have been ridiculous, work-wise, but now (with only 4 more days of school before break) I can breathe again.

Yes, that’s Notre Dame peeking through the tree.

Beginning December 3rd, most of the work of my semester began to pile up – over the past 10 days, I had a presentation and analysis of current events and projects of the European Union, an exposé (basically a speech) on Jacques-Louis David’s painting The Death of Bara, a fiche technique (basically a report), a debate, an essay for my French class and an exposé for my French politics class.

It was a stressful beginning to the month. Today though, I have only five classes (and one final essay) standing between me and Christmas vacation. Of all the work that piled up, my French politics exposé was by far the worst. All of the projects required considerable work, but once I put the work in, I was quite satisfied with the result.

It’s Christmas time in the city

This exposé though, Combien de gauches dans la vie politique française aujourd’hui? (Or, how many leftists in French politics today?) really terrorized me. It wasn’t so much the subject (which was pretty awful, I do admit), but the fact that for this particular class, my entire grade for the semester is weighted on this one exposé. That’s a lot of pressure riding on my analysis of the shock of 2002, Lionel Jospin’s political failings and the ultragauche (extreme left) in France. This was the exposé that I devoted my 21st birthday to, that I stayed up until 5am three nights in a row working on, that I’d practiced so many times I had it timed to the minute (exposés may NOT exceed 10 minutes).

Despite my knocking knees, quavery voice and flub of one of the post-exposé questions posed to me, my professor thanked me with a smile and a “Vous avez bienfait.” (You did a good job). Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of my work, as I had to return home after class to complete an essay for my French class Wednesday.

Today is Thursday though, and I am feeling pretty good. Somewhere in the middle of all my researching and note-taking and typing in French of the past couple weeks, I began to notice a few bizarre things about myself. Or, the amount in which I unwittingly conformed to France over the past three and a half months.

In France, we do not double-space our fiches and essais. Everything is force justified rather than aligned-left. Titles of books, movies, institutions, and anything else with a multi-word designation have only the first letter of the first word capitalized – everything that follows is lower-case. Example, Droit constitutionnel et politique by Olivier Duhamel (who happens to be one of my professors). Oh yeah, and everything’s italicized.

Last names are always capitalized to avoid confusion and usually come first, GRIFFIN Halley, but not always Halley GRIFFIN. Sevens and Z’s are always crossed, and ones are never just vertical lines. We underline important points with rulers (although that might just be us nerds at Sciences Po) and we never omit zeros from dates. January 5th, 2006 is always 05/01/06, never 5/1/06.

None of these things are that odd individually, of course – the strange part is how easily and unconsciously I’ve adapted them. They’re all just simple differences in style – and being that I’m across an ocean from the schools where I learned to write papers it makes perfect sense that the styles should be different. It’s just interesting how naturally they’ve integrated themselves into my American style – which isn’t so American anymore, apparently.

I keep imagining next year and wondering how long it’ll take me to shake all the French out of my schoolwork. Christina will have the chance to reintegrate before I do, since she’s flying home for good next Thursday, so I guess I’ll have to hear about it second-hand.

C is staying with me for a few days and we spent the afternoon at a marché de Noël outside the Pompidou center. We were wandering around, casually drinking paper cups filled with cinnamon-y and delicious vin chaude, and we stopped to look at some artwork by a typical, if unusually scruffy-looking street artist. He looked at our cups and asked, “C’est du café?’ (Is that coffee?) When we informed him that it was in fact hot wine, he winked, said, “Yesss, al-co-hol-ic? Moi, je préfère la bière.” He then opened up the pocket of his dirty coat to show us an open bottle of beer for him to surreptitiously swig in between ripping off tourists with overpriced mediocre paintings. That’s Paris.

It hasn’t snowed here yet – well, except for the dusting of sparkly plastic that’s coating the Champs Elysées.


4 Comments

Sciences Po has been a bit of a hub of chaos lately. Not only has there been an unexpected crackdown on security (we can now only enter the two buildings through one door on rue Saint Guillaume, and not before showing our i.d. cards), but this week is the 75ème birthday of the Association Sportive.

At Sciences Po, there’s the BDE (Bureau des Elèves) which is kind of the technical French equivalent of ASB or ASUW. Aside from orientation though, they really don’t do much. During the regular school year, parties, events and performances are planned instead by the sports association, who are generally pretty good at what they do – at least the party planning aspect.

It’s thanks to our friends at the AS that we’ve had the opportunity to attend at least one party a week (always on Wednesdays). Now that we’re nearing the holidays, they’ve upped the tally to include weekly cocktail parties along with the big blowouts – i.e. tonight’s AS birthday celebration.

Halloween, for example, was an AS party:

As far as planning anything else goes…I’m not so sure that I’m impressed. This week, the 75ème celebration was supposed to be full of events showing off, what else, the sports association. We’ve been getting emails for the past two weeks detailing the events – photo exhibits, parties, sports classes and dance demonstrations. The dance performances were supposed to be salsa, modern, capoeira and l’hip-hop, organized by the teams and their teachers (yes, technically we’re a hip-hop team).

My teacher (Florence “Flo”) decided to do it like an open class – have everyone (who didn’t have a conflicting class) from the two groups come in to Sciences Po this afternoon and take a class with some pieces we’d already prepared. I thought it sounded fun, so I rearranged my nanny schedule a little bit so I could participate. We’d been getting reminder emails all week from the AsSp, and I think everyone (the coordinators, Flo and myself) assumed that at least a few hip-hoppers would show.

We were wrong. I arrived in the Penîche (the room just past the entry hall of Sciences Po, through which everyone who enters the building has to pass) at 14h20 to find Flo setting up speakers with two girls from the AS. I was the first and only student there. We waited and waited, but no one else from either hip-hop group showed up. The sports association girls were in a bit of a panic because there were huge posters everywhere advertising this hip-hop demonstration, and spectators were beginning to hear the hip-hop music and meander through.

At about 14h40 (ten minutes after we were supposed to start), we figured out that no one else was coming. Flo and the AsSp girls were having a harried French conversation about what they should do about the people waiting to see some hip-hop, the fact that I was all alone and they didn’t want to put me on the spot and whether they could quickly recruit some random students to take part. This last bit was clearly desperation speaking – once you know a few Sciences Po students, you know that they’re not going to be jumping over each other to throw off their pea coats and book bags and break it down.

Finally Flo walked up to me with a look on her face that said, “I know you’re going to say no, but…” and asked if I thought we should go ahead and start. What they obviously didn’t know is that I am the kind of person who enjoys being put on the spot. I love performing in front of a crowd, whether or not I was planning on busting out a hip-hop solo show that day. Of course I said yes.

Since the idea of a demonstration class was clearly not going to work, we instead put together a combination to perform over and over. It was so fun. We usually move a lot slower in class because most of the other students don’t have any previous hip-hop experience, but today we were under pressure. The combination was fast-paced and so fun to dance, and we got to throw in some of the break dancing moves we’ve been working on in class.

With just Flo and I working the dance floor – er, great hall of Sciences Po, we didn’t manage to recruit any students to dance with us – but we did draw quite a crowd. There were two boys (one French, one from Michigan) who’d been homeworking in the Penîche and a little old lady from the Secretariat’s office who were our most appreciative audience members. The three of them watched us for the entire hour we performed, even though we were doing the same combination over and over again as people milled through. We shook it up from time to time by entering the room in creative ways, or adding some freestyle break dancing to the end, but it was really repetitive. Even so, those three stayed until the end – when we got a big cheer upon finishing our final poses in our final run-through.

I stuck around to talk to Flo for a while afterwards, and she thanked me for being willing to perform half-solo in front of all of Sciences Po at a moment’s notice. I assured her that I loved every minute of it (I really am just a big fat show-off), and she told me she actually wasn’t surprised that no French students had turned up to take part in the demonstration. The French are so reserved, she told me, they don’t put themselves into situations they’re not in control of – unless it’s a meticulously choreographed spectacle taking place in an actual theatre. The funny thing is, Cassie said the same thing when I told her about the afternoon.

On my way back from the impromptu spectacle d’hip-hop, I found my passage blocked by yet another protest march.

When I first arrived in Paris, I was fascinated by manifestations in the streets. Actually the word manifestation doesn’t really make much sense here in English, but in French, it can describe a protest, march, rally or other demonstration.

My first protest:

I witnessed my first Parisian protest march in August, just a few days after arriving in the city. It was a demonstration against France’s (and Sarkozy’s) immigration policies, and I was pretty enthralled, taking photograph after photograph to document it. I saw my second march barely a week afterwards, and my third a few days after that.

I’ve probably been privy to some kind of protest every 10 days since landing at Charles de Gaulle. If it’s not immigrants and sans-papiers, it’s architecture students, université students, or pompiers (firemen/EMTs). Today it was a performing arts union.

I used to stop and watch each protest for a few minutes – at least long enough to find out what the demonstrators were trying to accomplish. Now I roll my eyes thinking, “yep, I’m in France,” and hurry to the other side of the street before my route home is completely blocked. Strange the things that I accept as day-to-day life here.

••• Paris has book vending machines. Only 3 euro for La Metamorphose or Petits Grains du Bible…


1 Comment

About halfway through the ballet I leaned over to Amelia to ask, “the swans aren’t usually men, are they?”

No, the swans in the ballet Swan Lake are generally female – that’s the whole point of the story. Prince Siegfried falls in love with Odette, a woman under a sorcerer’s curse – swan by day, woman by night. At least that’s how it went down in the original Bolshoi Ballet version in 1877.

The Swan Lake A and I saw today was no traditional Russian ballet. Tchaikovsky was still the composer, and there were indeed swans, but other than that, it was a completely modern ballet.

Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake debuted in 1995 in London and immediately generated rave reviews. In addition to its three Tony Awards, it apparently became the longest-running ballet on London’s Broadway. (And yes, it is the same version of Swan Lake featured at the end of Billy Elliot – furry pants and white-painted bodies included).

Théâtre Mogador

Amelia and I had both really been looking forward to seeing the show, so I made sure to complete enough homework yesterday that we could just have a fun Sunday. The ballet wasn’t until 15h, so we took a walk around the jardin des Tuileries and stopped for a glass of vin chaud in one of the little cafés in the park. On this rainy and windy Sunday, it was a lovely break to drink warm wine with cinnamon with a good friend from home and watch cold and wet people through the windows of the café. From there we headed up rue de la Paix through place Vendôme to the Théâtre Mogador (located behind l’Opéra Garnier).

Rue de la Paix is decked out in white plastic decorations for the holidays:

Being that we are cheap and students, we were only able to bring ourselves to spring for the cheapest of tickets. Our forty euro a piece secured us seats in row XX in the very back corner of the theatre’s balcony. As I completely forgot yesterday to ask Cassie for a pair of opera glasses to borrow, A and I arrived at the theatre hoping to be able some.

When we handed our tickets to the usher, however, we were informed that “le balcon est fermé aujourd’hui.” (The balcony is closed today). We were directed instead to the orchestre, where we found ourselves with seats upgraded by about 65 euro. We were close enough to see the sweat dripping down the backs of the swans (yeah, not sure that was such a bonus). The opera glasses proved to be entirely unnecessary.

The star in the balcony is where our tickets instructed us to sit. The star in the orchestre section is where we actually got to sit.

Despite some initial confusion about the lack of female swans, and the fact that the ballet was set in Britain today (supposed by some to be a kind of satirical commentary on Charles, Prince of Wales and the rest of the current monarchy), A and I were both riveted. Oh, it was so good.

And we had a very good view (except for that one guy’s head):

After the show A and I went to diner at my favorite Arrmenian restaurant on rue Mouffetard, then walked back to my apartment via all of the best Christmas lights we could find. It was a good day.

Lights on rue Mouffetard.