Archie, Spike and the Dame

On this particular occasion the purpose of being in Paris (or Paris, France as it is known to my American readers) may have been to present a keynote speech to a European Congress with a global audience, but how often does a cat get a chance to turn tourist in one of the world’s premier cities?

So, with a few hours spare, the challenge was to set sail for the horizon in search of a few iconic structures…

…top of the list being Archie, Spike and the Dame.

Getting off the RER train at Chatelet Les Halles presents the immediate challenge of navigating an underground maze by shear guesswork. Emerging into the sunlight doesn’t necessarily provide a dazed and confused cat with any clear points of visual reference, as a multi-coloured pompous do of a centre seems completely at odds with the tradition of central Paris architecture. However, 40 years on and Le Centre Pompidou is still confounding the critics with its inside out aesthetic, combined with a sense that the original scaffolders remain on some French-like extended strike for no particular reason other than they can…

Then, with directional senses recalibrated, the gauntlet is seized and an early victory is sensed… it couldn’t be, could it? Is this the famous ‘Dame’ of every hunchback’s dream?

Sacre bleu, non, it turns out to be the 13th century Gothic jewel of Paris, Sainte Chapelle, housing a mere 1,113 individual stained glass windows (as Trump might say “That’s a lot of stains, we need to make America truly stained again, I’m going to make America the greatest stain on the planet!”)…

Stunned by the historic beauty of lesser known facades I stumble along parisienne walkways until my gaze is arrested by a dramatic set of flying buttresses… maybe this is the infamous ‘Dame’ of Paris? But sacre bleu, it is merely the 16th century Gothic architecture of the stunning Eglise Saint-Eustache, located at the entrance to the ancient Paris markets now known as Les Halles

Fearing the song lyrics “There is nothing like a dame…” becoming a true reflection of a failed search, my attention deflects toward another potential icon… could this monument before me possibly be the ‘Archie’ of my search? Sacre bleu, non monsieur, this is merely Carrousel Arc de Triomphe facing the Louvre, and providing quite a precarious position for parking one’s chariot, however many horses it takes to get you up there.

Arch near Louvre [2]

As for the ‘Spike’ of this story? It may be said that pyramids don’t count, I guess, otherwise Pyramide du Louvre would be difficult to surpass. If it is a clash of the historic and the modern, then this is certainly where you will get the point…

But, surely ‘Spike Jnr’ (aka Place de la Concorde) offers us a more convincing claim to be the ‘Spike’ that they come from all over the world to see? Not only that, but it also looks like it could provide a gateway to an arch-like discovery of monumental proportions…

Plas de la Concorde [1]

As spiky protuberances go, surely something dwarfed by a lamp post isn’t staking a claim to be a top draw when it comes to worldwide recognition of Paris landmarks?

Eiffel in distance [2]

At least this could be a mystery worth shining a light on…

Eiffel in distance [3]

In the meantime, the real ‘Archie’ of the title steps up to the plate, as we gaze up the Champs Elyssee to the Arc de Triomphe

With one success in the bag it is only a matter of walking a few hundred metres to the south before the ‘Spike’ emerges in the full glory of the Eiffel Tower

Eiffel [4]

So, finally, where can you find a grand old ‘Dame’ when you are in the centre of Paris? Having located the Eiffel Tower just try following the river as your newfound starting point…

Notre Dame in distance

… and those twin towers will surely emerge to reveal the grandeur of a Notre Dame sunset…

Notre Dame [1]

Notre Dame [2]

Until we speak again, after miles of walking around the city of love, all that is left to do is trust in the instincts of the locals, and… take a leap of faith…

Statue taking a dive!

Revered Cuisine

Who could possibly resist Magret de canard roti et sauce aux cerises? That is pan fried duck breast and cherry sauce for the less travelled gourmands among you…

It may well be supremely complemented by a glass of Mouton Cadet Bordeaux, but it is always important to be aware of the derivation of what you eat. On the very morning of this feast I surveyed the environs of my Paris hotel only to be somewhat dismayed by the attraction of the currently topical plastic flotsam and jetson for the local duck population…

But, I was quickly reassured that my wildfowl actually walks on water before adorning my plate!

Until we speak again, remember that only in Paris can we revere that which we may subsequently devour… allegedly!

Keep it, change it

If there is one thing that exercises the bureaucratic brain cells of Town Planners it is ‘change of use’. After all, it might just disrupt the delicate equilibrium that only they can divine from a mountain of procedures and committee-based decision-making.

Spoiler alert for all planners… when places first emerge, anywhere on the planet, they tended to aggregate around a few houses, a church, a pub and a some commerce-based building. What they never thought they needed to get the whole affair up and running was an office full of planners and councillors to pontificate on and guide the great new adventure. If they did I would offer a suggestion for its shape, size and sense of relative importance (with a clear and present indication deep down in Cardiff Docks)…

What's left of the docks?

Which brings me to a lovely example of ‘change of use’ a mere few steps away from the above luxury office space. Way back in 1868 a Norwegian Church was constructed between the old Bute East and West Docks, as a place of cultural and spiritual solace initially for sailors of the Norwegian Fleet that frequently used Cardiff as a port of call.

It was originally clad in iron, being known as the Norwegian Iron Church, with a forward-thinking design that would allow it to be dismantled and moved as needed. For obvious reasons when viewed today, it later became known as the Little White Church, and now occupies pride of place overlooking Cardiff Bay, some half a mile from its original location.

Norwegian Church

So, the original design came to be tested in order that it could find a new berth. However,  the demise of a religious need over time also resulted in the very same building undergoing a successful transformation (or ‘change of use’ as the bureaucrats would have it). Who said there are too many coffee shops in the world these days?

Norwegian Church [3]

The old building has a strong link with a great son of Llandaff, and descendant of Norwegian stock, as Roald Dahl was baptised in the very building back in its original location, worshipped there as a child, and returned to sponsor its preservation in the newly emerging Cardiff Bay world of pleasure.

Norwegian Church [2]

Until we speak again, spare a thought for the Little White Church, and how the world has transformed from fire and brimstone to latte and cappuccino!

Cardiff Sharks?

No, it’s not another one of those failed rugby league franchises emerging yet again to demonstrate the wrong way of playing the egg-chasing game in the capitol of the union. It’s more to do with scary visions at 29 degrees, wandering around the neighbouring Bute East Dock on a hot afternoon in Cardiff

While fisherman shelter in their army-surplus rigs on the wrong side of the dock, the creatures of the deep quietly lurk, as if sheltering in natural fjords…

Unbeknownst to the slumbering fisher’s of men from far afield, locally we have developed our own fishing rod technology capable of dealing with the challenge of the Cardiff Sharks

Crane

Then, all of a sudden the calm surface is broken, as if Loch Ness had suddenly relocated 500 miles south…

Fish [3]

Fish [4]

Ducks scramble to take up anything that might resemble protection from what lurks beneath, clearly taking turns at being lookout…

Ducks on pontoon

But for one poor creature, carrying an anchor strapped to your legs is surely going to be an obstacle to survival…

Bird Anchored [1]

Because, if you can’t be fleet-footed or quick on the wing the Cardiff Sharks will know… and then you’re GONE!

Gone!!

Until we speak again, Juno used to occasionally be intrigued by the scent of Cardiff Sharks, wafting on the breeze coming from the direction of the dock.

Plotting an escape

 

 

Dockside posing

There I was minding my own business just chillin’ down the docks, when yet another photographic genius thinks they can creep up behind and choose me as their artistic muse…

Well, come on then social media tyrant, wrap your pixels around this…

So you think you will hoover up all of those meaningless ‘likes’ on the back of my majesty? I’ll just try a nonchalant turn of the head…

Well that’s enough; even though beauty comes naturally to some of us, I’m out of here.

Until we speak again, it looks like the cool cat has been flipped the bird!

The Strolling Bones

So, the Rolling Stones are strutting their septuagenarian bones into town. Was that Mick Jagger who was recently seen standing outside a building originally constructed way back in his youth?

Rolling Stones logo [2]

It may be a stadium-sized rock event, but for the music-loving masses I guess that still means only the few are going to get any satisfaction. However, I doubt the band are in any danger of being mobbed these days. At their age, if they were, it would just as likely become the ‘Pick the Bones off the Carcass Tour’

For those of us less interested in attending such events these days, there is still a price to be paid. As the old saying goes, you can’t always get what you want, and I’m not sure that it’s only rock and roll when most things turn to plastic…

Rolling Stones logo [1]

…most disconcertingly the very glasses used for celebrating the avoidance of taking out a mortgage in order to buy a ticket for the gig! For one night only (a Friday night at that!), they will be replaced by the dreaded plastic cups, designed to put all self-respecting imbibing afficianados off their leisure pursuit of choice.

As for this curmudgeon, I saw the Rolling Stones live in Leeds Roundhay Park back in 1982, and I doubt the song list has changed much since. So, it will be a quiet night in serenading the wine cellar…

Wine stocks

Until we speak again, as the shepherd said to the dog: “Let’s get the flock out of here!”

Circling in numbers

Anyone for Coffi?

Now that the sunshine has arrived, fancy a seasonal Turkish meal at Bosphorus down Cardiff Bay? Tough… it’s gone! And, just when Cardiff is beginning to drown under the tide of coffee shops, it’s been replaced by… you guessed it…

Outside [1]

Outside sign [1]

At least it is a local confection, not just another national chain (though I still pledge my allegiance to Coffee#1). Stepping inside, this does happen to capitalise on its location, with a light and airy feel, as well as seats outside…

Inside [1]

And, if you are prepared to part with something approaching London style prices, there are some interesting twists on the coffee menu…

Menu sign [2]

The Gingerbread Cappuccino and Hazelnut Bueno Latte were certainly two temptations worthy of taking out a mortgage on…

With occasional live music (currently only on Bank Holidays) for those needing to be entertained, and the offer of giant pasties for the peckish, this looks like a worthy addition to the Mermaid Quay pleasure emporium.

Inside looking out

Or, if you are a bit strapped for cash, there is always a timely reminder of other ways to satisfy some of your needs…

Inside wall mural

Until we speak again, any clue as to where I am going to get a proper Turkish Kofte Kebab these days?