Rain in St Germain

Today was a domestic day. There’s a list as long as my arm of things that need to be done now that I’ve moved into my apartment, so I was up fairly early and headed out in the drizzle to start checking things off.

First priority was bread for the day – the closest boulangerie to me is an outlet of Maison Kayser – a little expensive at €1.20 for a baguette tolbiac, but it’s good quality. I’ve seen cheaper boulangeries down among the shops around rue de Seine and rue de Buci , and one of these might become my local. But Maison Kayser is very convenient.

Down on Boulevard St Germain, the scooters were zipping along the slick street, showering pedestrians with spray. Even by 10am on a grey Saturday, the covered terrace of Les Deux Magots was filled with tourists. Monoprix on rue de Rennes had the electrical goods I was looking for – a kettle and lightbulbs.

I got back to the apartment to find my Pass Navigo had arrived by post. At last I can by a monthly pass and not bother with individual metro tickets. A small victory on the way to becoming integrated into life in Paris.

A Twitter exchange during the week had suggested the place to shop for new business shirts was rue de Turenne. So once more I ventured out into the rain, grabbed a metro north across the river. At Chatelet there was a poster advertising Iceland – a reminder of the dream I had last night when I visited Sigurdór there and we swapped music and tried to steal a fishing boat.

Sure enough, between the puddles on rue de Turenne, there were at least a dozen tailors and menswear shops – importers, prêt-à-porter, tailors. Beh,à peu près tout, quoi. And a few were even open. After talking to the manager (who looked Italian, like all managers of menswear stores throughout the world) in Cotton Park on rue des Filles du Calvaire, I picked up 3 shirts. The guy asked if I was from London. When he learned I was a New Zealand, he replied “Ah, oui. Long trip.” in English. He gave me a loyalty card in the hope that I might buy ten shirts this year. Long trip indeed.

The plan to jump straight back on the metro got a little waylaid – I ended up under the arcades at Place des Vosges (a great place-to-go-in-Paris-when-it’s-raining), and slipped through the puddles in the garden of the Hôtel de Sully to rue St Antoine. Realising I was halfway home already, I risked the grey skies by wandering westwards through le Marais – stopping to pick up some veg and sausage to fill my Kayser baguette at the Marché Baudoyer by St Gervais.

Along the quais beside the Seine, only a few brave bouquinistes were open for the tourist trade. The rain continued. Viewed from the Pont Neuf, the the city still managed to show off its autumn colours despite the general dampness. Crossing back onto the left bank with my bag of shirts, sausage and vegetables, I was soon home in time to assemble my sandwich for lunch.

Menn Arsins

Menn Ársins – Þögnin heyrir allt
From Menn Ársins (Self-Titled) Free mp3 download [Buy album]

There’s a lot of bad news coming out of Iceland at the moment. So, in an attempt to warm the suddenly frosty relations between the UK and Icelandic governments, here’s some good news: Menn Ársins have just released their first album.

Menn Ársins (“Men of the Year” in Icelandic) were formed 3 years ago, and since then have developed nice line in artful pop – some songs sung in English, most of them in Icelandic. The group reached the Icelandic semifinals of Eurovision with their song If You Were Here (watch the video on YouTube).

Recorded at Lundgaard Studios in Denmark, this debut disc puts emphasisis on good pop tunes, with arrangements embellished by extra instruments such as the trumpet on Þögnin heyrir allt and the string section on Póstkort. Although the band initially was formed around the songs of singer/guitarist Sváfnir Sigurðarson, all four musicians contribute to the writing – for instance 12 Steps to the Liquor Store was built from some jazz material that bassist Sigurdór Guðmundsson had been working on for other projects.

I particularly love the subtle piano line that underpins Augun Opnast (apparently this means “Open Your Eyes” in English), and the video is equally understated:

I’m not totally neutral in posting about this album – Sigurdór has been one of the longest-lasting online correspondents on this blog, and not only is he a fantastic bass player and all-round Jaco Pastorius expert, he’s also a rather talented amateur photographer, and took the photo used on the cover of the album.  His Flickr site is worth a visit for some evocative images of Icelandic landscape and people.

Several mp3s are available free from the Menn Ársins page on Last.fm, and you can hear more on theirspace. And you can help rebuild Iceland’s foreign currency reserves by buying the album online.