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LA Phil Plays Paris’ Pleyel

Et maintenant, Paris. For me, the centerpiece of our tour. No city has the heart, the culture, the magic. It is a place where locals say “Bon appetit” to strangers, where a stare turns into a head-turn, where a smile turns into a wink.

We landed from our chartered flight at Charles de Gaulle airport and took a bus to the hotel, only a few minutes away from l’Arc de Triomphe:


We arrived early evening and all scattered into the City of Light. That night I joined some friends and enjoyed a delicious meal of ratatouille, pommes frites, green beans and duck steak at Chez Omar. A wonderful time with lovingly prepared food. Following the dinner, a few of us stopped by a bar with a quaint jazz trio entertaining the whole place; thoroughly Parisian.

The next morning, after a quick chocolate resupply mission for home, I made my way over to Montmartre to take a quick walk around. Always a fascinating place, it proved to be overflowing with character. I counted 6 different cups and ball “games” on the street directly below, and several people standing around, waiting for someone hapless to fly into their webs:




Then I started the climb to the Sacre-Coeur Basilica, the highest point of the quartier:




At each stage of the ascent, a different show of one kind or another. This one, a gifted acrobat:




Finally, the top. Inside there is strictly no photography but I used the nearly silent electronic leaf shutter on my handy Fuji X100 to its full advantage:




As an aside, this camera is a true extension of the photographic eye; quick, easy to set without looking, discrete, and ultimately a wonderful tool that dissolves the barrier between subject and observer. I wholeheartedly recommend it to any person regardless of their photo-technical ability.

I had arranged to meet a few friends from the night before at the Pompidou to see the special exhibition of Dali going on there. We had purchased our tickets in advance to secure our place in the shorter of the two lines. Slowly progressing, it was a little more than one hour to get to the sixth floor:




There was a rumor in the line that once up to the top, there was an additional 1.5-hour wait to actually get into the exhibition. This rumor proved to be true. I decided that I would rather go out, back into the city, than wait in line more for this exhibition, so I left the museum and ran across the Seine to catch the premier performance of four new bells in Notre Dame, named Jean-Marie, Maurice, Anne-Genevieve and Gabriel:


After hearing the consort of bells with its new members, I walked north on Quai des Grands Augustins, lined with vendors selling old books, posters and knick-knacks:




I headed towards one of my favorite places in Paris, le Pont des Arts. A wonderful meeting place (arranged or spontaneous!) dripping with history. At this time, the city was promoting a “Locks of Love” public art event:






I traversed the bridge and walked towards the Opera, through the Louvre plaza. Mostly hidden from sight but audible to all was a cellist playing his heart out, enjoying Bach and a luscious acoustic the archway provided:




Just a couple hundred feet away, across the street, was a man with two rods connected with string and a bucket of soapy water. A simple enough combination, but one that enthralled all who passed by:




The clock was ticking: time to play another concert. This one was at Salle Pleyel which went under four years of renovations ending in 2006. The result is what is generally considered to be an extremely easy and clear acoustic in which to perform. Here is a view of the hall from the back of the chorus section:




And backstage, a poster advertising our concerts:




The concert was a smash hit: it was a powerful experience to perform La Mer for this French audience. Six curtain calls later, we went back out into the open arms of Paris.

Monday, we checked out of our hotel and hopped back onto the bus to the airport. Terminal 1 at CDG is very compellingly designed, with a central hub for ticketing and arms that reach out into the terminals:




All in all, an unforgettable experience. One stop left: Manhattan. See you in the Big Apple!


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