I spent 4 nights in Sydney, fortunately in beautiful weather, a few showers on the way to the airport were the only indication of the deluge to come after I departed. I again made the obligatory ferry trip to Manly and had a lovely lunch with my sister on the waterfront at Circular Quay following a movie set in France which seemed appropriate.
After a night in Dubai, I reached Paris on April 21 and took possession of the apartment where I have now stayed 12 nights. While different, it is in the same area in the 13th arrondissement where I have now stayed many times and a Navigo decouverte or weekly ticket on the metro, buses and trams allows me to easily move around inner Paris. The first week had glorious sunny weather but it changed on Saturday and has been rather cool and showery this week.
I planned my whole trip around attending the Anzac Dawn Service at the Australian War Memorial in Villers Bretonneux. There were a few showers as we left by coach from Gare du Nord at 1.30am but, soon after arriving at the site just before 4am, the deluge began.
I am told about 6000 were there and was impressed that there were many French people at such an hour in such weather. They still respect the Australians who saved the town on April 25, 1918. While the emphasis was on Gallipoli this year, I guess this will move here in 2018.
I was honoured at the end of the service to be able to place flowers and a card from my sister and me in memory of my uncle who is buried nearby, having been killed at Pozieres in June 1916.
We went for breakfast and to dry out. Fortunately the rain did not return as we were taken to the memorials at Pozieres and Bullecourt then, after lunch, to Fromelles and the Cobbers memorial.
I have toured the Somme before but this trip the emphasis was on Australian Memorials rather than those of all the Commonwealth countries.
The days before Anzac were mainly to overcome jet lag but I did wander in some gardens and visit the Picasso Museum, newly reopened, as well as the Museum of Modern Art.
Last Monday I took a long train ride to visit Mont St Michel.
The day was sunny but cold. It was French school holidays so very crowded and the place is over commercialised but the Abbey was interesting and picturesque.
Tuesday and Wednesday were in Paris and I went to the Chateau de Malmaison
where Napoleon and Josephine lived and Josephine remained living after their divorce and finally died. The furniture was impressive as were the gardens.
Thursday, another train trip to Normandy and a tour of the American landing beach of Omaha and the war cemetery. There were not enough numbers for a tour of British/Canadian sites but I guess one beach is like another and it was interesting to compare the American Cemetery
Our forces, of course, were more involved in the Pacific at that time.
I have had some musical experiences in the evenings as well. A string quartet in La Chapelle with works by Mozart, Schumann, Mendelssohn Bartholdy and Dvořák was pleasant as the sun set through the magnificent glass windows. Dvorak’s opera ‘Rusalka’ at the Opera Bastille on Sunday afternoon was lovely and it was wonderful to hear the Orchestre de Paris play at the Paris Philharmonie. Arcadi Volodos was the soloist for Beethoven’s Piano concerto number 3. By coincidence I have now heard that piece 3 times in one year, in New York and Dunedin as well. Fortunately I think it is great music.
The Paris Philharmonie was only opened a few months ago and is the largest concert hall in Europe. A New Zealand and a Japanese Company were the sound engineers and the acoustics have received rave reviews. I had a front row seat and the photo taken with my phone gives some idea of the modern design.
An organ recital at Notre Dame Cathedral was less impressive. Wonderful setting and I discovered the strange sounds an organ can make but the modern music was not to my taste.
Then last night a chamber orchestra in the Church of St Madeleine with a variety of composers. I particularly enjoyed the soprano who sang “Casta Diva” a favourite of mine.
Rather disappointed the weather has not allowed me to wander the streets and parks of Paris as much as I planned. Some final photos taken in the Luxembourg Gardens.
A very different type of holiday is ahead of me this week on a barge in Burgundy.