Sunday, October 14, 2012

Undercover opera and other adventures

I have quite a jumble of things to catch you up on, so this post will probably be a bit bitsy. First off, the beloved guinguette is no more. I didn't go to the guinguette too much in the early part of summer, because it rained so goddamn much, but since getting back from holiday, we were down there most weekends. On the second-to-last weekend there was a pretty awesome swing dance battle, and on the last weekend of all I managed to score free wine for the girls off the manager, who I'd somehow got on bisous terms with just by showing my face around the guinguette so often and chatting to him. He beckoned me to follow him up to the bar, and when I returned triumphantly bearing a bottle of rosé, my friend Laura asked what I had to do to get it. "Erm," I replied, "I suppose he held my hand for a sec". So there you go, I'm a hand-holding whore for wine. A far cry from my early 20s when I would refuse any free drinks for feminist reasons! Guess that's what getting old and poor does to a girl.

A daddy-daughter dance at the guinguette
View of Pont Wilson from the guinguette
As I've said before, the demise of the guinguette (a few weeks ago now) spells the end of summer in these parts, and it has lived up to the legend by raining pretty solidly for the last week or so (except Friday, Friday was lovely). So for the most part, we've had to get our kicks in more indoor settings. In an unrelated fact, I've had a run of three or four weekends where we've been out pretty much till the sun's come up, with way too many shots consumed for ladies in their late 20s/early 30s.

Caroline and Philippa gear up for a shot with a naughty name

The sight of all that whipped cream is enough to turn your stomach. The shot was actually quite nice, but I refused to lick the trail of cream up from the bottom of the glass, as you're meant to. Did do the shot with no hands though!

On Thursday, Philippa's parents were in town from Australia, and she invited a big group of us out for dinner at Mama Bigoude's a fun and funky crêpe house, where I last went with my sister. "Meeting the parents" is one of those quirks of expat life. At home, I wouldn't think someone who invited me out for dinner with their parents was weird or anything, but it would be rather unexpected to meet the parents of a girlfriend you've only known for six months or so. Here it's much more normal to meet parents or other family members if they come into town and I think as much as anything it's that you want your parents to meet your friends and be able to visualise your life when they're so far away and know who you're talking about when you mention such-and-such a person. You also kind of want them to know "hey, I'm doing well, I have friends!" because it isn't always easy to a) make friends at all and b) make friends that you actually click with, rather than just hang out with because hey, you need someone and they're there. The crêpes were yummy and it was great meeting Philippa's dad (her mum was ill and couldn't make it, unfortunately) and hanging out with everyone. The vibe at Mama Bigoude's is all about fun and frivolity and we had a good night.

I walked past this graffiti on the way to the restaurant. It says (don't know what the initial "l" is there for if anyone wants to enlighten me) "we shouldn't say happy birthday to Luna by writing on a public space", but the weird part is the Sept 11th date and the cartoon of two planes flying into the smoking twin towers. What's with that?

Downstairs at Mama Bigoude. The chandelier is decorated with balls of wool and knitting needles.

Our group plus crêpes! Clockwise from left: Laura, me, Johanna, Caroline, Marcia, John (P's dad), Philippa and Mark

Yesterday I started off the day by watching the F1 qualifying at the Korean Grand Prix, and then had to rush to get ready and out the door for an entirely different cultural experience. Braving bucketing rain in my split-sole shoes (d'oh, but I did have heels in my bag to change into later), I headed across town to the opera, where they were having an open house event. In the morning, you could tour the opera behind the scenes, the costume stores etc., but we missed out on that and arrived in time for the afternoon dress rehearsal. We got some of the best seats in the house (for free), right in the centre in the first floor balcony and settled in to watch the show - Verdi's Rigoletto.

I had expected that a dress rehearsal, especially with an audience, would be treated as a dry run of the actual performance, i.e. they would just go straight through whatever happened. However, after the opening dance number, it didn't take long for the conductor to step in: "Excuse-moi, mais non." "Trop tard ?", Christophe, playing the Duke, replied. He had come in fractionally too late for a cue and they began the song again. It was fascinating to see the actors receiving notes from the conductor and stage director on everything from how they were singing to how they were moving. In a particularly funny moment, the Duke and Countess Ceprano practised a move where he spins her around, pulls her in close and she breaks free. She kept getting tripped up by her long train, and the actors mugged it up a bit for the audience, with Christophe the Duke jokingly wanting to recommence each take by kissing the Countess.

We only got to see the first act (twice), which ended with a murder and abduction. Talk about a cliffhanger - I now want to get a ticket to see how it ends! The worst seats in the house are pretty cheap, but I've heard it's quite hard to get tickets. They only play three dates! It seems an amazing amount of work for just that, but I suppose there's not the population to support long runs, so they have to keep changing and draw in a loyal crowd of season ticket holders plus people who might go to see one or two operas a year.

Staircase in the opera house

The opening scene with the Duke about to whirl the Countess around

Some of the cast take five on the side of the stage while the director (in the centre) gives notes to the actors. He had a microphone so we could listen in.

Can you spot the Duke hiding in this scene? Pretty good camouflage!

Sinister masked men arrive to abduct Rigoletto's daughter. I enjoyed this song, which you can watch here, starting at about 3'30".

Finally, after a short nap, I got ready to meet Liz, her boyfriend David, and Charlie at a cool wine bar Liz had been raving about. I'd tried to find it the week before, but Liz gave me completely wrong directions (see, it's not just me). Packed into a small space were about 350 different bottles of wine, and the friendly and knowledgeable staff helped us choose the perfect wines. I started with a sparkling Vouvray, moved on to asking for a "dry but not too acidic rosé" and then a "light and fluid red, easy on the tannins" and was very happy with the wines I was served. Can't remember what they were unfortunately! It was great catching up with David and Charlie, who I haven't seen in ages, and after the aforementioned all-nighters, I was glad to have a civilised soirée and get back to bed by 1 am! It was nonetheless tough to wake up again at 7 to watch the grand prix, but after all, I didn't have to get out of bed for it.

This photo was meant to show my peacock headband (a present from Liz), but I soft-focused it out

Can kinda see it here
Just a few of the wines on offer

Liz and David left me this surprise photo while I was in the loo


  1. Sinister masked men? It ,looks more like the teddy bears' picnic!

    1. All masks are pretty sinister!

  2. "Adventures" - it's catching, hee hee...
    M xxx

  3. You look very pretty in your peacock headband :)

  4. "I would refuse any free drinks for feminist reasons!" LOL! Glad you're over that phase! Although I understand sometimes refusing a drink because you're pretty much being bought for 15 minutes of conversation with that person. Would that be considered prostitution? : )

    And I know the name of those naughty shots you gals were taking! Little coquines, you!

    1. Ha, yeah, I'm still a feminist, but you'll no longer get a lecture on equality and the modern woman if you try to buy me a drink! I did get into a flaming row once with a bf because some other guy (friend of a friend) bought me a drink in front of him and he acted like such a cock about it, like someone else came and pissed on his territory. I was mucho angry.

      Takes a coquine to know a coquine!

  5. 350 different bottles of wine packed into a small space: sounds like a fun night out to me!

  6. I once bought a woman a drink and look what it got me! (42years of Bossyi)

  7. Aww I've always wanted to go to a guinguette, there are few just outside of Paris I'm going to definitely try and fine one next summer!

    1. Love the guinguette come to tours, if im still here otherwise whatever. There is all guinguette all the time in summer

    2. Think i should add that im tipsy and on ipad otherwise think i just sound like an idiot there


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