The hidden marvels of the Parc de Saint-Cloud

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It was one of these evenings of July, after a long day at work, when the weather was still OK and there was daylight way after 10 pm, that I took my umpteenth stroll to the Parc de Saint-Cloud. I’ve known and visited the Parc many many times for the last 20 years and I was sure I knew the place by heart. I mean I thought I knew the place by heart…

Last week I went there again, as usual to oxygenate my lungs and neurons. I found myself making my way up a narrow stony stairway that I had never taken before. As I pushed a green gate, I stepped into a new place, unknown to me up till then. Wow!!!

It felt like I was parachuted onto a huxelian island, a utopia of cedars and magnolias with a translucent lake summoning a tribe of geese to take a fresh dip and a bird cacophony mingling with the exotic scent of flowers to create confusion among the senses. It was an out-of-the-way place you would take a long courier flight to visit, at a walking distance from home. Opposite the majestic centenary cedars, the Eiffel Tower stood visible on the horizon.

The photos here are too silent and too scentless, but maybe they do convey the place’s dignified allure?


You don’t beat this river


“I just believe,’ he said, ‘that the whole thing is going to be reduced to the human body, once and for all. I want to be ready…. I think the machines are going to fail, the political systems are going to fail, and a few men are going to take to the hills and start over…. I had an air-raid shelter built,’ he said. ‘I’ll take you down there sometime. We’ve got double doors and stocks of bouillon and bully beef for a couple of years at least. We’ve got games for the kids, and a record player and a whole set of records on how to play the recorder and get up a family recorder group. But I went down there one day and sat for a while. I decided that survival was not in the rivets and the metal, and not in the double-sealed doors and not in the marbles of Chinese checkers. It was in me. It came down to the man, and what he could do. The body is the one thing you can’t fake; it’s just got to be there…. At times I get the feeling I can’t wait. Life is so fucked-up now, and so complicated, that I wouldn’t mind if it came down, right quick, to the bare survival of who was ready to survive. You might say I’ve got the survival craze, the real bug. And to tell you the truth I don’t think most other people have. They might cry and tear their hair and be ready for some short hysterical violence or other, but I think most of them wouldn’t be too happy to give down and get it over with…. If everything wasn’t dead, you could make a kind of life that wasn’t out of touch with everything, with other forms of life. Where the seasons would mean something, would mean everything. Where you could hunt as you needed to, and maybe do a little light farming, and get along. You’d die early, and you’d suffer, and your children would suffer, but you’d be in touch.”

Excerpt from James Dickey, Deliverance.

Picture taken in Bois de Boulogne, Paris.

Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth*

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There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man’s notion that he is less savage than the other savages.

Quote from Mark Twain, Following the Equator: A Journey Around the World Continue reading “Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth*”

Crepuscule on Palais Royal

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People wonder why so many writers come to live in Paris. I’ve been living ten years in Paris and the answer seems simple to me: because it’s the best place to pick ideas. Just like Italy, Spain…. or Iran are the best places to pick saffron. If you want to pick opium poppies you go to Burma or South-East Asia. And if you want to pick novel ideas, you go to Paris. Continue reading “Crepuscule on Palais Royal”