Posts Tagged ‘dancing’

Who is She?

Saturday, April 26th, 2014

This week I went to the Bay Horse pub in the Northern Quarter. I was with Sir Pubert Gladstone (He requested a pseudonym, so he got one.) who informed me of a ‘lady in a glass box’ located downstairs in the basement. I went to investigate and sure enough, there she was. A blonde, sunglasses-wearing lady staring at a bird in a cage. Who is she? And what was she doing in the basement of a fairly average pub? This lovely lady and a bit of Nick Cave and the Black Seeds have prompted the following story.

Lucy and the Bird

Lucy’s limbs flail as she dances in the corner of the Bay Horse basement to the music that only she can hear. She dances alone in an almost empty room, everyone else settled in booths sipping whisky and beer, conversation underway. She has been here before. Every night, in fact, for what feels like forever. Next to her a bird sits silently and motionless in a silver cage, watching the scene unfold. Only its eyes flick back and forth, back and forth as the clientele pass. Few people notice the bird and those who do are disappointed by it. A dry martini sits untasted on a small mantle next to a half-melted candle and a stack of Jim Beam coasters. Lucy has the same drink every night but never takes a sip. The owners don’t ask what she would like; they simply nod at her and pour. Her blank face shows no response, she simply treats the small glass as a fee for being there.

Lucy is given a wide berth as she dances, her eyes covered in dark, rounded sunglasses. Her peroxide blonde wig is dry and frizzy; fibrous strands pickup static charge as her hands brush past it. Her legs are encased in criss-cross stockings; shoeless, she dances unflinching as her feet stick to years of sticky alcohol accretion.

Upstairs the bell rings for last drinks and the small crowd finish the last drops of precious liquid, pull on jackets and leave. Lucy continues to dance in her corner, bar staff collecting empties and placing chairs on tables around her. A quick mop just for the sake of it, the final glasses washed and put away for tomorrow. The doors are locked and the lights turned off, leaving Lucy and the bird together in the darkness of the Bay Horse basement.

Lady at the Bay Horse

Lady at the Bay Horse

A Weekend in Paris

Monday, September 17th, 2012

This past weekend it seemed as if Paris was having one final attempt at making the most of summer and sunshine and there were lots of events and activities happening around the city. My weekend was full of action which is always enjoyable particularly if it means I get to wander through Paris in the sunshine. Here was my weekend:

Saturday Morning
I have decided I should train for my 16km Paris to Versailles run that Becky and I will be undertaking at the end of the month. So Saturday morning I put on my Garmin GPS watch and headed out into the Parisian madness. I left early as there is no point in running through Paris when there are people around. Both tourists and Parisians are incapable of not being in the way and you may as well walk slowly behind them because you’re not going to get anywhere. I wanted to do at least 16km but wasn’t sure how I would go as I was running on my own and I usually get bored or just give up. I managed to surprise myself, running across the city and reaching the Eiffel Tower in under 7km. I then ran back home along the river, took a slight detour towards the canal and arrived back home having completed 17km.

Running through Paris

That red line is me!

It was fantastic! The key to running long distances is having something to look at. My run took me past the Opera House, the Ritz Hotel, through the Tuileries (twice), along the Seine, to the Eiffel Tower and then back past the Louvre, Notre Dame and finally the canal. I couldn’t get bored, I was too distracted thinking, “Ooh look I’m running past where Louis XIV lived!” That and “Move out of the way you slow tourists/Parisians who are taking up the entire footpath.”

I managed to do the 16km in around one hour and 30 minutes which was very pleasing considering I though I’d stop half way. GO ME.

Saturday Afternoon
I had read about a music event called TechnoParade last year but never went, so this year I roped my friend Marcello into coming with me. It is a electronic music festival that is open to the public and that had DJs standing on top of large semi-trailers and driving through the streets of Paris. These large trucks are then surrounded by hundreds of drunk, half-naked teenagers. I hadn’t thought about that aspect. When we arrived, I instantly felt OLD and as if I had been transported back to Perth and was at an electronic music festival. At least this time I hadn’t paid $150 for a ticket and there was lots of space to stand back from the crowd.

Technoparade

Technoparade

It was an interesting thing to see and there were approximately seven trucks playing different styles of music. They were driving very slowly so you could easily walk up and down the street, listening to the various sets. But I don’t think I will go again – it was very messy, the music wasn’t that great and it is hard to dance while walking! I did spend the entire time thinking, “This would NEVER happen in Perth.” Free music, driving down the streets of Paris, alcohol everywhere, drunk teenagers and people climbing on cars/bus stops/fences/walls/trees/lamp posts. Crazy.

Saturday Night
I thought I would be having a quiet night as all of my friends were either away or busy. I went and sat in the garden of the Récollets and was soon joined by various other residents and the night turned into a late one. The Récollets had been taken over by the Mairie de 10eme (the local council) and there had been activities, art shows, and music performances all weekend. The garden was full of people eating and drinking and at about 11pm a band started playing. It was fantastic music, I have no idea what it was though. There was a group of men playing brass instruments in a very upbeat “Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!” kind of way and then 10 or so girls with fantastic voices and gorgeous smiles singing along. It was exciting, vibrant and made you want to dance – so that’s what we did. You could certainly pick the foreigners from the Parisians – the dancing Australian/American/Italian weirdos and the straight-faced, sullen French refusing to even tap their feet (although the more alcohol-influenced Parisians were dancing too.) It was a great night.

Sunday Morning
My Saturday night did stretch into Sunday morning but I still managed to get up early enough to ride down to the Hôtel de Ville and be one of the first in line to go inside. This weekend was Les Journées du Patrimoine – two days where all of the old, beautiful buildings that are usually closed to the public are open. There are hundreds of buildings across the city that are used as government departments, hospitals, museums, or are privately owned, and on these two days you can enter and see what they are like on the inside. It is a fantastic idea and last year my brother, Ben, and I managed to be at the right place at the right time and went into the Senate. This year I had decided I would go to the Hôtel de Ville – one of the most prominent and most beautiful buildings in Paris that is now the main town hall.

Hotel de ville

Hôtel de Ville de Paris

While you followed a set route to go through the building, you are allowed to explore quite extensively and there are lots of people around to provide you with information about the building. The Hôtel de Ville was even bigger than I imagined and was beautifully decorated with plenty of gold and wonderful floorboards. The floor is always my favourite part of these old buildings – I love the way it creaks.

Hotel de Ville

Fancy.

You could enter the Mayor’s office – a lovely room with a great view but a really UGLY desk that looked like it was from IKEA. If I were the Mayor, I’d ask for a new one. The Mayor wasn’t there which was a shame. I would have liked to ask him if I could stay in France for longer.

Paris Mayor's office

Salute the Mayor!

Morning Tea Time
It was time for coffee so thankfully around the corner was one of my favourite coffee shops – Caféotheque. Unfortunately I decided I needed cake and made the mistake of ordering a chocolate cupcake. It was described as ‘chocolate’ but it was in fact chocolate and orange, a combination that I dislike profusely. Plus it was dry… but the coffee was delicious.

Caféotheque coffee

Mmm… coffee.

Next…
I then wandered along the river as I had heard there would be a market near Notre Dame. On the way, I had to wait for a group of very slow cyclists to pass – there was apparently a bike ‘event’ (I want to say race but they definitely weren’t racing) and I had been watching these cyclists ride past the window of the café for at least 30 minutes. Most of them were plump and over the age of 55, wearing lycra and taking the whole thing very seriously. There were designated people in yellow vests stopping the traffic, which is problematic in Paris as any hold up in the movement of traffic results in a fusillade of car horns. As I tried to cross the road I had to wait for a hundred or so cyclists to pass. At one point a taxi attempted to drive through the pack and a man on a bike with a yellow jacket started blowing a whistle, yelling at the driver and placing himself and his bike in front of a moving car. He was NOT happy. Neither was the taxi driver. Neither was the person who had hailed the taxi. Neither were the people in the traffic jam. Neither were the bike riders. I was THRILLED to be watching this incredulous action – it was absolutely hilarious!

Eventually the bike riders disappeared and things returned to normal and I went to the market, sampled some foie gras but didn’t buy anything. The same market had been there the year before, selling exactly the same products. Clearly nothing changes in Paris either.

Before Lunch
I decided to see if any of the buildings on Ile de la Cité were open and discovered a small queue of people outside the Conciergerie. This was where people were held before being trialled and/or executed and it is now open to the public as a historical monument and an exhibition space. It was open for free and the queue didn’t seem very long so I went inside. I managed to get into the first main space – a large medieval dungeon-like space with an impressive arched ceiling – before I realised that there wasn’t a queue outside because the REAL queue was inside the building. People had clearly been waiting for hours to go and explore the rest of the building and while it would have been nice to see, outside the sun was shining and it was a glorious day. Why spend it inside a dungeon? So off I went.

Conciergerie

Nice arches.

Crêpes
I met up with my friends, Sonia and Guibril, near Montparnasse at 4pm for goûter – the French version of afternoon tea. I love any country that has afternoon tea and really don’t understand those that don’t. Anyway, Montparnasse is known for having Breton-style crêperies and we sat and had delicious sweet crêpes (mine had chocolate and banana) and cider. We sat chatting for a few hours and before we knew it time had passed and our stomaches were grumbling thanks to the delicious smells wafting from the kitchen. So it was round two – this time savoury galettes for dinner. Yum.

Home Time
One of my favourite things to do in Paris is to hire a Velib (the city bikes) and ride from the Montparnasse area, straight through the middle of Paris to my house. It is essentially one long, straight road and the first half of it is on a slight downwards slope. This means you can zoom through Paris with wind in your hair and not a care in the world (except, of course, the traffic on the road but at 9pm on a Sunday night there were hardly any cars.) It is such a thrill, particularly as you reach the Seine and ride over the river and see all of the lights reflecting and dancing on the water. Such a beautiful city.

So that was my weekend. Full of adventure, I learnt lots, I spoke plenty of French and I made new friends. Sometimes my life is awesome.

Fanfarlo are Fab and Deserve More Fans

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Seriously, Paris has a problem. It appears that the technology that we call ‘air conditioning’ or ‘fans’ in Australia has never quite reached this cosmopolitan, fashionable, fast-paced, ‘we’re the best at everything’ city and as a result every time I go to a pub, a concert venue, a shopping centre, a supermarket, a hairdresser, a clothing store, an ANYWHERE I die from heat overload. Yes, I know it doesn’t get as hot in France as it does in Australia but that’s not a good reason to then turn on the HEATING when it is 18 degrees outside and there are going to be hundreds of bodies squished into an unventilated space.

Ready for my example? Here it is. Monday night, Tom and I went to a small concert venue called La Fléche D’Or to see the super awesome band, Fanfarlo perform. We had been to see the Jezebels at the same venue in September of last year and has discovered two interesting facts that allowed us to be better prepared for our second visit.

  1. You cannot leave the venue so it is best to eat beforehand.
  2. It is sooooooooooooooooo hot in this place that you will sweat like a pig, lose 10 kilograms and feel faint for most of the concert.

With our stomachs full, we arrived an hour after the doors opened, therefore reducing the amount of time we would have to stand around sweating/fainting. The support band had only just started, so I was pleased with my timing. I still managed to wear too many clothes though. At one point during their set, Fanfarlo suggested everyone remove all of their clothing in order to keep cool. It was almost a logical idea.

Despite the heat, Fanfarlo were terrific – they played lots of songs from their newly released album plus some of their more well known hits. They were very chatty with the crowd despite the occasional “Parlez en Française!”. Unfortunately, as per usual, the mysterious “No matter where you stand at a concert, half way through some idiot is going to come and annoy you” phenomenon happened. It is amazing – at all gigs that I go to, at some point, a drunken, tall, jumping idiot comes and knocks people over or stands right in front of me, and therefore distracts me from enjoying the music. This happened again, except there were four of them. At least they were having fun and enjoying the music, but one of them was an old guy in a horrible leather jacket who kept telling the crowd that we had to dance like we were at a disco. Ahhh… the French and their discos.

Anyway, we left hot, sweaty but with lovely songs floating through our heads. And it is moments like being at a concert, standing in a busy metro train or walking through large crowds in Paris that I am glad I am an unusual tall blonde and that I stand at least a head taller than most French people. It makes for an excellent view of the stage.

Fanfarlo in concert in Paris

My view.

(One of the) Best Days Ever

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Every now and then days come along that are just fantastic. You wake up and everything goes to plan or amazing things occur that make you laugh and jump for joy. Last Friday was one of those days for me, where I let down my hair and let whimsy take over. Thanks, whimsy. You’re a good one.

Here was my day:
7.30am – I met Becky down stairs for our usual morning run, but poor Becky had to pull out by the time we reached the first corner due to extreme knee pain. So I took it upon myself to run for the both of us, heading straight up hill to Parc de Butts Chaumont, and then down to the canal. Usually at this point we head for home, completing a 7km circuit. But I was feeling good, my legs weren’t tired and I had spring in my step. So I ran on joining one of our other routes and heading to a bridge that has “Cabaret Sauvage” written in shiny lights. By the time I got home I would have completed a 10km circuit. A great start to the morning.

9am – Breakfast. Having showered and de-stunk, I sat down and ate my usual banana, muesli and fromage blanc (it’s like yoghurt but better) concoction and continued to read Le Delicatesse. I am determined to read and entire book en français and have been given a short novel that I am slowly making my way through. I haven’t read much in French in the past as it is hard, slow going and generally frustrating as I realise how few words I actually know. But I am doing it! I am learning new phrases, new verb conjugations and actually enjoying the process. Fun times.

Between 9.30am and 12noon – I worked on some ideas that I have for a new book. I started researching my favourite street in Paris, Rue St Denis, as well as prostitution laws in France. Yes, prostitution. Fascinating history – it has shifted from being an acceptable and socially appropriate career to now being illegal. Despite this, it is extremely easy to spot in certain areas of the city.

10.30am – Morning coffee with half a gevulde koek.

12.30pm – Tom and I met Pip and her boyfriend, Manu, for lunch. We went to L’As du Falafel, one of Paris’s most famous and popular falafel restaurants in the heart of the Marais. As per usual, it was extremely delicious and ridiculously hard to eat as these pitas are stuffed full of falafel, lettuce, and grilled eggplant that just go all over your face and hands. So good.

2pm – Manu wanted dessert (I like this guy) so we wandered through the Marais before settling on le Pain Quotidien, a chain boulangerie that makes very good bread and desserts. I had a mini chocolate tart that fit perfectly in my stomach after my large falafel.

Chocolate tart

Yum.

3pm – Time to do something crazy. Pip talked me into going ice skating with her outside the Hôtel de Ville in the centre of Paris. It is a beautiful setting and each year the Mairie sets up an ice rink that people come and zoom around on. I am the world’s worst ice skater. Really I am the world’s worst at any physical activity that requires me to be balanced and moving at the same time. I stuck to the wall on the side and pulled myself along, my legs like two planks who refused to bend and glide, bend and glide. Pip eventually convinced me to go around with her. I didn’t fall over! I think that’s a positive. And there was a fun and supportive atmosphere amongst all of the less-talented skaters. I was sure to speak in my strongest Australian accent so everyone realised that I wasn’t from these European, ice-filled lands. I’m quite certain that Australians were not designed for ice skating.

Ice skating

Jess "Ice Legs" Davies

Anyway, for just five euros to hire the ice skates, it was a fun way to pass the time. The boys stood on the edge and froze. Silly things. And on my various turns around the edge of the rink, I could have acquired at least seven phone numbers from French men watching and saying, “Bonjour, la blonde!” They must be desperate if they’re willing to go for the dorky blonde who keeps saying “WHOA!” and almost falls over.

4pm – From here we separated ways and headed home. I went online and bought a Le Creuset pot for even LESS than I had seen in the shops! It arrives in the mail next week (I hope.)

8pm – We met Pip and Manu again for dinner Le Jardin D’en Face. We wanted to take them to our favourite restaurant before Pip and I head back to Australia. I had spoken on many occasions of the world’s best chocolate cake that can be found at this restaurant and so there were high expectations. Thankfully dinner (and the cake) were delicious PLUS the waitress who has been there for our past few visits mentioned that she recognised us and asked where we were from, what we were doing etc. When I said we were from Perth she became very excited and said she had lived there for eight months. Of course she had. Every French person between the ages of 22 and 30 has. So now we have a friend at our favourite restaurant. Hoorah!!

10.45pm – The night didn’t end there. The old saying, it isn’t what you know, it’s who you know (or rather it’s knowing people who know other people), came into fruition with Pip having scored us half price tickets to the Moulin Rouge. Pip works in the pub next to the Moulin, and the dancers come in for drinks so everyone is friends with everyone. This is fantastic when you want to save 50-plus Euros and see half naked girls dancing.

Moulin Rouge

Le Moulin

We were allowed to get in through a secret back entrance with a password, gate keeper and locked doors. Very exclusive. Pip’s friend and Moulin dancer, Alex, met us backstage wearing a face-full of stage make up and very dirty terry-toweling overalls. It was fantastic. All of the dancers were wearing these as they walked past with their heads high, shoulders back, looking ravishing from the neck up, and like trailer-park bumpkins from the shoulders down. I need to get myself one.

We were taken to our table as the show began and another friend of Pip’s was our waiter. Once again, this came in handy as he put an ice bucket on our table with three bottles of champagne. Thank you.

So, the show. I have to say I was a bit disappointed. The costumes were fantastic with some great use of colour and they were well designed to cover and reveal the dancers bodies. It wasn’t all boobs – some of the dancers remained covered up for the entire show and only the lead dancers revealed their ‘bits’. The dancers’ bums were more readily on show as most of the outfits involved minimal ‘bottom coverage’. It certainly wasn’t crude, nor was it overly sexy.

The choreography was a bit tired and could do with an upgrade or perhaps return to how it really used to be when the Moulin was in full swing. It seemed very 80s and some of the dancers looked bored to tears. It was the late show and I don’t blame them for being sick of doing the same steps over and over again, but the crowd is expecting some sort of enthusiasm. The girls were definitely better than the boys, with most of the guys looking like their mum was making them do it.

There were a few interesting moments involving snakes and miniature ponies, but really overly I felt the show lacked some sort of spark. Maybe my expectations were too high, but really I’d much prefer to spend that sort of money and go and see a band perform. It was a bit naff. I think the other problem was that the crowd was full of tourists, half of whom didn’t really seem to get into the performance. There wasn’t much excessive clapping and the atmosphere was generally quite flat.

The show finished at 1.30am, our day of Parisian fun over. Tom and I walked home and were finally in bed by 2.30am. It was a long but fantastic day and a great way to say “A bientôt, Paris!” It also made me even more determined to be back here in six weeks’ time for more good times and more good food.

More Mud

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

It is currently 12.15am on Sunday 28 August and I have two woes.

Woe #1 – Underworld Concert

The main reason why Tom and I came to London was to go to the South West Four festival to see one of my favourite electronic groups, Underworld, play. I love seeing them live and have on previous occasions flown to other cities within Australia to see their concerts. So it wasn’t a completely out of the ordinary decision to buy a ticket to a concert in London seeing as it is just a 2.5 hour train ride away. I now wish I had saved my money.

The concert was out in Clapham, an area of London recently targeted during the riots. I wish they had locked up a few more people because I’m fairly certain half of the people at the concert would have been on the streets throwing bottles through windows last week. It was an interesting bunch of people – I always feel out of place at electronic music festivals as I stand in my fully-dressed attire waiting patiently for a certain dj/band to get on stage as drunken 18 year olds flirt, dance and throw themselves around provocatively nearby. I hate Australian crowds, but this was worse. EVERYONE was drunk. Usually it is only about 80% of the crowd – this was 99.9999999% with Tom and I being that last remaining percentage. Not only that, but at least six times during the four-hour period that we were at the concert I had guys with large wads of cash walk past asking the crowd if they’d like ecstasy, cocaine or marijuana. And there were a few ‘Yes, please’s.

Normally I would have just stood to the side and tried my best to ignore the idiots around me but it was a little difficult to move as every step you took resulted in you sinking into more mud. It had been raining for the past week or so in London and if there is one thing that rain, land and lots of people equal, it is mud. It was as if Tom and I had returned to the North Sea and were attempting to mudwalk with a bunch of intoxicated losers. It was awful. I had had prior thoughts of “Maybe I should buy some cheap shoes to wear in case it is muddy” but decided against it. When I arrived and saw what was in store I bid farewell to my Campers and plunged straight in. At least I am now a seasoned mud-walker and I didn’t fall flat on my arse. I did get a bit girly about the fact that my perfectly wonderful shoes were getting covered in mud. So when we were finally in front of the main stage, we picked a standing spot and stood there. The less we moved, the harder the mud beneath our feet.

When we arrived John Digweed, one of my brother’s favourite DJs was mixing it up on the stage and it was good. It was very good. But unfortunately he finished and was replaced with a guy by the name of Laidback Luke. Lazy Luke would be more appropriate – all he did was slop together a bunch of random songs with popular tunes/lyrics/choruses in order to make the audience say “YAY! I like this song!” and therefore make him look good. I felt like an old-woman-mother-figure standing with a frown on my face, not understanding the music of the youth of today. But finally he finished and Underworld came on stage.

Their set was short. And quiet. And there was no encore. And the crowd weren’t supportive and hardly cheered at all and were too busy smoking (there was a stall selling cigarettes); drinking; taking drugs; looking hideous with their ridiculously short shorts, bad hair cuts and general poor dress sense; and being obnoxious. Basically, it was no where near as good as when I saw them in Perth – now that is saying something. I would even rate seeing them at Bondi Beach on New Years Eve with evil drunk Australians as a more enjoyable experience than tonight. Such a shame because I had such high expectations. I don’t blame Underworld at all because they did their best and their music was awesome. But I just couldn’t hear it and was too busy trying to stop a stupid girl next to me from standing on my feet.

We did have delicious indian food for dinner though so I guess that’s a positive.

Woe # 2 – More Rain

We are supposed to be catching a flight to New York on Tuesday afternoon and there appears to be a bit of weather about on that side of the world (aka. a hurricane.) That’s a tad worrying as I don’t really want my flight to be cancelled or delayed as I had planned on being there for my birthday. At the same time, I also don’t want it to rain there because it has rained enough here in London. So hopefully that will all blow over (get it? Ha.)

Bed time.