Posts Tagged 'serendipity'

Monday Morning Music: Zaz in Montmartre

I love running into (good) performers on the street. It’s a sweet bit of serendipity that lifts my mood.

Here’s a ditty by the French singer Zaz. The song, “Les passants,” means passerby.

I thought this might help you imagine strolling through Montmartre and add a little pizzazz to the start of the week. (Thanks PerfectlyParis for the link!)

What are your favorite surprises?

Serendipitous City Stuff

Happy little car on Rue Vieille du Temple

Every spring near the end of the semester, my college would throw a huge party for several days running. (Moderately) big bands played, fun games were set up on the lawn, and (let’s get real), huge beer kegs were tapped.

I especially loved the “inflatable Olympics” apparatus that took over the fields. You have by now probably placed me in my early 30s (you are correct), but have surmised that I am really just a big kid. Why running through plastic obstacle courses or donning sumo wrestling costumes was my year’s highlight, I’m not sure, but let’s just say people who are easily amused usually have a better time in life.

Besides enjoying the all-out let-loose feeling of the festivities, I found my favorite word: Serendipity. Yes, this was the name of the annual party. It means unlooked for good fortune, or “making desirable discoveries by accident.”

Sure, lots of these events were planned, but put a whole bunch of 18-22 year olds in a beautiful campus setting surrounded by a big forest and give them free-flowing alcohol, some unforeseen things are going to happen. (Actually, I wonder now if the college wasn’t looking for trouble more than luck. Wow.)

P1020037 (I have almost the exact same photo of me somewhere around here…)

Some people can’t stand city life. This September I especially sympathize as this is the most stressful rentree I have ever experienced. The crowds, the frenzy, the traffic, two strikes in two weeks. It is sometimes enough to make one go batty.

But then there is serendipity. Lucky accidents can happen anywhere, of course, but the higher density of people in cities just puts the odds at these lucky accidents just a tad higher, in my opinion.

Without even trying, I run into delightful little treats. (Or, do I just take the time to appreciate them? Hmm, discuss).

Like this, for instance: you might not be surprised when I say that I heard some lovely classical music at Bastille the other day. The Bastille Opera is there, of course. Only, the concert wasn’t located in the opera house, at all. Nope, I stayed underground and listened to this mini-orchestra for awhile. (Notice the older woman dancing near the end – I will be this older woman someday, I’m sure).

Or last night, I went to Shakespeare & Co to hear Nick Flynn and Adam Haslett read, followed by some jazz piano afterward. This was an event as part of the big Festival America that will be taking place at Vincennes this weekend. As I was walking back, I ran into some sort of spectacle at the Hotel de Ville. (I love how much goes on at the Hotel de Ville. True public programming. This week’s events are in support of “Coeur des Vies.” Stations are set up at the Hotel de Ville so you can give blood until September 25).

When there was a pause in the acrobatics, I went home, but I appreciated the small random pause in the day. There is SO MUCH I want to be doing in Paris right now, but I have too much on my plate right now to take advantage of everything. So it’s quite convenient to just run into fun things without trying. This bit of serendipity really brings a smile to my face.

I have to give a shout-out to fellow blogger Adam of Invisible Paris and Paris Weekends who really knows this city and all her off-beat corners. He puts together a stellar list of (often quirky) things going on for the weekend. This week I want to do absolutely everything he writes about.

I probably won’t get to any of it, but maybe I can hope for a little serendipity on my side and run into something else completely unexpected.

What have been some of your favorite serendipitous moments?

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TIP: Talk to Strangers (Butte Bergeyre)

Not your typical Paris apartment

A few weeks ago when I was traipsing around the 19th to make sure my favorite places were still my favorite places for a guest post, I stumbled upon a neighborhood I’d never been to before.

Easy to see why. You have to stumble up 100 meters to find it. Butte Bergeyre might just be the most secret hill in Paris.

Luckily I had my walking shoes on and I climbed the many steps to arrive on Rue George Lardennois, the main street of this micro-village. I couldn’t believe what I found: calm, cuteness, and a clear view of the Sacre Coeur.

I passed a community garden, but it was padlocked. I couldn’t tell whether it was still open to the public or not; the sign was so faded it seemed from another era. I wanted to ask the one gardener I saw milling around, but then I noticed he was taking a leak. Hmm. And moving on. (The garden is apparently open from 2:30 to 5:30 PM Wednesdays-Sundays, I later found out).

Community garden of Butte Bergeyre

Right next to the garden stood a small vineyard on a steep hill. Wow! I knew there were vineyards in Montmartre, but not here! There didn’t appear to be any entrance to the vineyard accessible.

Few people were out on the street, giving it that surreal feeling. In due time, however, an older gentleman walking his dog ambled by. Finally! Someone to accost! I just had to know in what magical place I had found myself.

The vineyard and view

“Excuse me, sir, do you know if this is open to the public?” I asked him, waving my arm expansively to encompass all that was before me.

“Ah,” he said, “this vineyard belongs to the City of Paris. They closed it because otherwise it would be overrun with sunbathers.”

No kidding, I thought. A quiet place in the sun overlooking a vineyard with a straight view to the Sacre Coeur. Lots of people would probably be here if this were open.

The kindly gentleman sat down on the bench next to me. I, of course, began peppering him with questions. In turn, he regaled me with a wonderful history.

“See that building?” he said, pointing to a slightly run down square block of a place to the right of the vineyard. “Corbusier’s son designed that.” (Well, that’s what I *thought* he said. Thanks to reader Adam for correcting me. The building is actually the Maison Zilvelli, designed by Jean Welz, who worked with Le Corbusier for a time. Le Corbusier didn’t have any kids!)

The Maison Zilvelli. When I walked to the other side later on, I saw two people working with some sort of sound/video system. Definitely intriguing this neighborhood!

“The most famous designer in the world has a house here, too. [The Australian designer] Newson,” he said.

“And Jean-Paul Goude? You know him?” (Goude is a photographer perhaps best known for his relationship with Grace Jones and a decade-long campaign for Galeries Lafayette).

“Wow, there are a lot of famous people here,” I said.

“Yes, it’s a quartier aussi privilige.”

Who else lives in these houses?

It wasn’t always that way, he assured me. Built in the 1920s, “it used to be a simple neighborhood, but then the Swiss and the Russians started renovating.”

Early in our conversation, he had asked what I did besides wandering around Paris. I told him I was a writer, though wandering around Paris seems as apt a description of what I do as any.

He talked about books. How there were so many out there now. Were they any good? We talked of the difference between New York and Paris. Why do people love that city so much? he wanted to know. I always hear about it, New York this, New York that, but I’ve never been.

“Can you talk to people in New York? People don’t talk to each other any more in Paris,” he said.

“Yes! I know!” I said. “That’s one of the things I miss about New York. The diversity, the energy. I talked to so many different people there. It’s not as easy in Paris.”

Yet here we were, two strangers on a bench, talking.

“You haven’t told me what you do,” I said. Given all he had told me about the neighborhood and its residents, it wasn’t lost on me that he might be renowned, too.

He cupped his hand around his mouth and leaned towards me like he had a secret. “Peintre/sculpteur.”

“I bet you’re famous, too!” I blurted out before I could stop myself.

“Me,” he said, waving me off. “I’m nobody.”

I can’t say I believed him, but I let it go. Did it matter, really? On a bench high above the city, we had given each other a gift. For me, serendipity and good stories. And the friendly anonymous artist? What did I give him? Maybe a reminder of old Paris, where you could stop a stranger on the street then sit talking to them for awhile like there was nothing in the whole world either of us would rather be doing.

My friendly painter/sculptor stranger wouldn't give me his name or let me take his picture. But his dog was willing to pose. Meet Paddy, named for the Irish whisky.

What’s the best conversation you’ve ever had with a stranger? P.S. You know I almost didn’t want to reveal this spot, right?

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paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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