Monday, June 09, 2008

from somewhere in Paris, on the Marne: day by day

The sun is making patterns on the wooden kitchen table. I prod the mullioned window open. I know Olivier is out with his daughters and it is ever so pleasant to hear their voices drifting in and out. A garden of birds and family sounds.

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He’s in his jeans now. Minutes ago, he was still in his concert clothes. Aurore has spent the day here with their daughters, in their garden, where roses of all heights and hues of pink and red hug the walls of the two buildings. At other times, she must play her violin, I’m sure, as she is, too, a professional musician. Radio France Symphony for her, oboe at the Paris Opera for him.

The sounds of a Sunday.

So this, too, is Paris!

I’m living in the old carriage house. Here, you can see it from the driveway. It’s behind the house. And that's my bedroom -- just over the large wooden doors. (The lower windows are the cooking and living spaces.)

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You want to see the house of my landlords? Sure. It’s lovely (they bought it in shambles and slowly brought it and the carriage house to its current splendid state). I'm sitting in my favorite kind of garden chair (childhood memories!) and admiring it now.

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When I walk down a block, I come to the River Marne. It joins the Seine closer to the center of the city, but here, it twists and forms almost a full circle. I’m surrounded by it from all sides. A path runs next to it, for the entire ten kilometers of the loop.

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a block from the house

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a family coming round the bend

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nibbling and snacking

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the little ones

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another family

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friends flying

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riverside houses

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children playing

Sunday is my hands down favorite day in France. I am so often alone here (as I am today) that I truly look forward to this day, when I can be surrounded by people. On Sundays, whether I am in the southwest of France, the northeast, or somewhere in between, I am most certainly going to find people. In groups, couples, families – they all spill out into public spaces, and I am, just on this day, part of their world and they are part of mine.

Okay, that’s a general statement about this day. Here’s the flipside: everything stays open, in preparation for the big eating frenzy that takes place nationwide between noon and 2:30. Everything. You need more bread? More wine? More fruits and veggies or prepared foods? Flowers for the table? Cheeses maybe? Shop to your heart’s desire. Until early afternoon. And then the nation shuts down to digest.

So that if you finally make it to your splendid apartment early on a Sunday afternoon, you better hurry up and find a place to eat, because if you go out too late, you may find shades drawn and doors locked for the day and a good part of Monday, too. Digestion takes time.

I hurry into a place that's about to close and order a delicious, big plate of spaghetti with wild mushrooms.

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And in this way, out here near the Marne, I am not 100% in Paris (and this is a good thing). Because Paris is the kind of round-the-clock city where if you cannot find food at some odd hour, then you’re not trying hard enough.

I am here for not quite two weeks. I have a lot to do and very little money left after weeks of travel. This is my time to eat at home and not look for distractions. Posts will be shorter writing hours will be longer. You could say that I am in the French counterpart to my writer’s shed, only it’s a tad more put together here. And there’s running water.

I open the bedroom window to this – a fine day in Paris. But, that’s for another time. Now let me get back to work.

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