Three days in Provence

One of my college roommates is visiting us, and one of his priorities was to see Provence. A  very good priority, don’t you think? And as I’d never been down there, we were happy to take in a new part of France.

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Lavender! It’s all over Provence.

So last Friday we took the morning TGV (the fast train) to Avignon, rented a car and toured around, taking in a number of the towns: St. Remy, Les Baux, Gordes, Sur la Sourge, and Roussillon. We stopped in at the twelfth century Sénanque Abbey and visited a Roman bridge, that at 2,002 years old, made the abbey seem like a recent establishment.

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Drop everything and jam

Another unexpected text? Another unexpected opportunity? This time of the musical variety. Sounds good!

Ten days ago (I’ve been meaning to write this up for a while, but an unexpected trip to Rome and a visit from a college roommate have kept me busy) I was with my writing group at my place for our weekly writing meet up. We’d already done three of our 45-minute timed writing sessions and downed plenty of coffee when a friend who was having her CD release show that night texted me, asking, “How comfortable are you with jazz piano?”

Truth is, long long long ago, I played some jazz in high school and college, but jazz bass, not piano; my piano studies were always classical. And since those days, I’ve played mostly pop music, which is much simpler: simpler harmonically… simpler rhythmically… simpler in every way, really. But hey, I’m not going to say no, right? So I told her, sure, I can fake it–what do you have in mind?

Turns out her pianist was sick and she needed someone to fill in at the show that night. Okay. Sure. No problem. A flurry of texts and emails followed, chord charts got printed, and I managed a quick listen to a few–but not all–of the songs we’d be doing.

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Jenn Whiteman, singing and playing guitar at her Latimer Road EP Release show.

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Highlights from the Doodads

It’s official. The Doodads have wrapped up their season of making music in Paris for this go-round. We had one more gig after Fête de la Musique last Tuesday–playing for the end of the year party at my girls’ school. That was a fun time, but really just a little coda to the great night that Fête was.

Here’s a compilation of moments from the evening. Enjoy!

A little night music

Forty days, including today, till we say goodbye to Paris; and the goodbyes are already piling up. I’ll probably be mentioning that a bit from here on out as we see people and places and experience things for the last time in this season of our lives…

What will I miss most about Paris? I get that question a lot, and there are a lot of things on the list. But right up at the top is playing in a cover band, easily the most unexpected part of living here. (You can read all about how it came about here.)

No doubt about it, a highlight of playing in the band has been all the different venues we’ve played: The Australian Embassy and the Paris Polo Club. The American Cathedral and the American Church. A few different cafés and restaurants. Indoors, outdoors, on a boat–and last night, at La Javelle along the banks of the Seine, a fun venue with food trucks, wood-fired pizza, foosball… and us. It was underwater not that long ago, but you’d never know it now.

Yesterday was the longest day of the year, which means Fête de la Musique, which means the Doodads‘ biggest gig of the year. And yeah, it pushed us to #6 on the Paris rock band chart on Reverbnation! (I’m sure Bruno Mars will be calling any minute now to ask us to back him up.)

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Getting ready to rock under grey skies. Only a few drops fell as the rainiest spring in 100 years gave way to summer.

We played a bunch of our standards, including Brown Eyed Girl and Psycho Killer, a few by the Beatles and Tom Petty, and even some songs my kids know, like Price Tag and Uptown Funk.

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Drop everything and go to Rome

My phone buzzed and a message appeared: “How difficult is it for you to get to Rome?”

When you get a chance to see a friend in the Navy who’s been deployed and out to sea, you take that chance. And when that chance means a rendezvous in Rome—just a two hour flight away—you take that chance.

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The Colosseum always impresses… from every angle.

The girls and I were out to dinner in the heart of Paris when Mark’s message came in. (I know, I know, you’re not supposed to text during dinner, but I make exceptions for far-flung friends sending unexpected messages that they happen to be on the same continent.) He was going to be in Rome in a week, but just for a day. A quick web search turned up some flight possibilities. The one wrinkle: he wasn’t sure of his schedule—in particular which day he would be free. Hmm. It seems that making sure old seminary friends get their chance to meet up in an ancient European capital isn’t exactly the U.S. Navy’s top priority. So over the next few days we kept the com channels open as best we could—internet access isn’t always possible for those underway on a Navy vessel—to see what his schedule would actually be and what flight would make the most sense for me.

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My kind of football fever

This just in: Europe is going nuts with football fever. (That’s soccer to all of you in the U.S.) Actually, it seems like Europe always has football fever, but even so, things are really hot in Paris right now.

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Which team am I rooting for? France–sure, why not? But Team Jeff de Bruges, the chocolate football club–now, that’s my kind of team! 

The Euro 2016–the UEFA European Championship–kicked off last night with France defeating Romania. And for the next month, the park at the foot of the Eiffel Tower–the Champ de Mars–has been transformed into a great big “Fan Zone” with giant video screens for football fans from all over to gather and cheer on their favorite teams. I haven’t checked it out yet, but I’ve seen some of the effects: tons of police all around the area, signs all over the surrounding metro stations directing visitors to the football mecca, plenty of streets cordoned off. One friend who lives nearby told of getting frisked getting into his neighborhood. Another told of all the cars being towed from her street the night before everything was set to begin–and of seeing frantic car owners running down to the street in vain attempts to stop their vehicles from being taken away.

Like I said, I haven’t gotten to experience the Fan Zone yet, but I did manage to catch some of the game. Last night my band had a gig at the Australian Embassy right around the corner from the Eiffel Tower. And the game was on, of course. For a non-fan like me, it was the perfect way to experience a game that lasts for hours and ends up 2-1: by playing lots and lots of loud music while the game was on a big screen near the stage. Every so often I’d glance over. Yep, they were still kicking the ball back and forth. Time for the next song! And when anything interesting happened, hey, no worries, mate! They would replay it so many times, it was impossible to miss.

So: go France! And go Jeff de Bruges! Our chocolate is already just about gone. Time for some more….

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Still receding…

This morning I did a loop around the bridges near our apartment. The water from the recent flooding has definitely gone down, but the roads along the Seine aren’t open yet.

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Yeah, that roadway is still wet and not far above the current river level.

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This is the same road, looking the other direction. Still very wet and lots of mud or silt or whatever on the road. But at least you can see the ground under the trees.

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The view last Friday (June 3).

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The tip of the island is barely above water level.

Floods… and fire?!?

As if floodwaters aren’t enough to deal with, how about a fire at the Louvre? Don’t worry, Mona is fine–it was a small fire at a construction site next to the Louvre–but really, enough is enough! They’ve been closed for days, they’ve had to move their artwork in basement storage up to high ground, now a fire… what’s next? (One of my daughters says there will probably be a heist.)

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Read the story here. And cue the “Paris is burning!” headlines.

Drying out

Sighted in Paris today: honest to goodness blue sky. Distinct shadows. And it was warm. Or at least warmish.

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The Seine is still running high, but the water level is slowly dropping and plenty of people are still out getting their photos of the swollen river. The Louvre and the Orsay remain closed due to having to get their artwork stored in the basements moved to upper levels. And closed roads along the river mean traffic is still bad in places. But all things considered, things could be a lot worse. (I’m sure those who run river cruises and have restaurants on boats think things are bad enough.)

Paris underwater

Rain.

I know all about rain–I’m from Seattle. I know about storms and floods–in western Washington State they’re not exactly unheard of. But even though there’s water everywhere around Seattle, it doesn’t have a river running right through the  middle of town.

Paris does.

And after what has felt like a continuous deluge over the last week, that river is running high–higher than it has since 1982. The Louvre and the Orsay are closed today, moving their artwork out of basement storage. The RER C, which runs along the Seine, isn’t running now. Roads along the river are underwater. All this and strikes all over the country (but that’s another story)!

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See those trees? They run along a road just above–er, now below–the Seine near our apartment. Yeah, that road is closed today.

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And there’s where the road reemerges.

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You’ll need to use a dinghy to get to your houseboat.

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Message in a bottle?

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The menu boards outside Le Maxim’s aren’t exactly legible anymore…

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The Zouave statue indicates how bad the flooding is. In 1910, the water got up to his shoulders!

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Another view of the statue.