Tuesday, December 18, 2012

right and left

Time is an odd thing: there are days when it's of small importance. No deadlines, no storm brewing, no anxious waiting. And then there are days when it makes its presence known. Take this day -- Wednesday: I'm up, but it's the middle of the night still. Hours before dawn. I'll rush to the airport soon, hold my breath and hope that my flight leaves on time because otherwise there is no chance at all of making a tight connection in Amsterdam. Suppose I do make it: then will come a period of time when hours wont move quickly enough. All nine of them, in flight. But again, it's crucial that there be no delays, so I can catch a bus from Chicago to Madison early enough to beat the blizzard that's expected Wednesday night. If time is on my side, I'll be getting off the bus as the first fat snowflakes hit the ground. If Ed is even a few minutes late picking me up, time will feel interminable because I'll be tired and there will be snow.

In other words time will be my friend or enemy on Wednesday. But Tuesday -- it was irrelevant. The hours danced their own dance. No one cared what came in what order and when.

What few photos I have and the handful of comments I want to make on this last day in Europe I'll put together en route and post when I reach Madison. Or more accurately -- the farmhouse. For now, I leave you with just one photo, taken when I crossed the river. To the right bank? Well, not yet: Paris folk will note that this bridge first takes you to the island in the middle of the River Seine. So I'm suspended: between left and right, between Tuesday and Wednesday, between Paris and home.

DSC07053 - Version 2

the left bank

I think, sometimes, that here I have these twins (not identical) and I love one more than the other. I cannot help it. Try as I would to develop as deep an affect for the other one, I always throw up my hands and say -- it cannot be. I love this one more.

But of the two full days that I am in Paris, I'm going to play with one the first day and the other one the second.

So today was with my preferred twin: the left bank of the city.

But here's another curious thing: on neither day will taking photos be an important consideration. The irony of it! On farmhouse days, you get my seemingly never ending, almost identifying that I am alive photos of breakfast. I do like my breakfast and it is a time that I connect with the world outside. Ed and I pick our breakfast spot with great care. But I realize it is less than thrilling to a reader out there not sharing the meal with me. Moreover, sometimes I have no hope for anything more. It's breakfast or bust! Whereas today (and tomorrow) I have Paris! Paris!! -- for God's sake, a photographer's dream city! It's all so photogenic and you can even repeat shots from previous trips and no one will mind (or remember) because any shot from Paris is interesting and fun and here I am telling you that I can't be bothered.

I did make exceptions. And so here are my exceptions:

Breakfast at Les Editeurs. It's not a really typical Paris cafe. Because I'm close to the university, it picks up a lot of academic traffic. Professorial types discussing the mysteries of life, or more likely institutional politics (an academic favorite). And on this day I saw not one but two people with laptops -- something I never ever see in cafes here.

I go there because it's close and it has reliably good pain au chocolat. Note that it's not exactly an early breakfast.

DSC07000 - Version 2

DSC07004 - Version 2

Then I start my favorite-twin walk. And I am just so smitten by the peeks of sunlight that I cannot resist pointing the camera straight at it. A sun salutation!

DSC07006 - Version 2

Here's another one -- a little more subtle this time.

DSC07007 - Version 2

I spend hours, many hours walking and, too, holiday shopping and as usual, by late afternoon, I end up not too far from a neighborhood I used to stay in several decades ago. I still come back here for lunch. Every time. Here's the cafe where I eat -- and this one is as typical as they get.

 DSC07013 - Version 2

So you could tell me that I could have this lunch anywhere and you'd be right. But I love the vibe of this place. It has the most friendly, energetic waiters anywhere (I recognize some of them as being here all these years; in France, a waiter earns a good living wage and it's not unusual for him -- I think the gender ratio is as skewed as it gets -- to stay loyal, even to a small cafe). And as so often, I order  a green bean salad with a simple dressing of tomatoes, olive oil and lemon and it is delicious.

DSC07015 - Version 2

And then it's back to walking, shopping some, thinking a lot. Why is it that walking in cities energizes the thought process? Perhaps the pace: we all race through cities as if to keep up with the traffic, and brisk walking clears the head somewhat, even as you have to multitask while zipping ahead. In a forest, you slowly glance one way then the next. It's contemplative, but not goal directed. You consider a tree. Then the crunch of dried leaves. You listen for the song of a bird. In the city, you watch for cars, for people, for dog poop, all coming at you loudly and at an alarmingly rapid rate, at the same time that you want to keep an eye on shop windows, the light at the next intersection -- all this helps put things on a fast track. Including your thought process.

And sometimes you look up, amazed that here, too, not only in the Midwest, but in Paris, the sky can be very dramatic.

DSC07020 - Version 2

The light is fading now, giving off pretty pink and orange tones (had my mind been on photography, you may have seen this now on Ocean) and it strikes me that this would be a good time to head for the Eiffel Tower. But halfway there, I reconsider. It's out of the way. I have still other paths I want to navigate, other shops to pop into and besides, the light is fading now, quickly, without a polite wait until I get to a place where I can properly admire its beauty. So this is it for the Eiffel Tower on this day.

DSC07030 - Version 2

And now I am on my final leg of the hike and I wonder that I'm not tired at all -- all this walking, all week long, walking, walking. At least there isn't a great distance to cover to get dinner tonight. I had another spell of not wishing to confront a dinner decision. I made a half hearted attempt to call a place from the Polish book, but a recording told me to call back between 3 and 5. Well now, maybe a person with a cell phone can do that, but I'm out on the town, with my favorite twin today.

So I asked my newest favorite person in Paris - Madame at the hotel. The one who said bonne soiree Mme Camic (have a good evening). I was filled with eternal trust toward her and indeed she steered me well. Aux 2 Oliviers. Just on the other side of the Odeon Theater. (As I pass in its shadows, I notice that the pillars barely conceal a kissing couple...)

DSC07036 - Version 2

The restaurant is tiny and full of younger people. One waiter attends to us all, brilliantly, without mistake or hesitation. I order rolls of leek and goat cheese with shrimp and a salad...

DSC07038 - Version 2

And a simple fish with a veggie puree and it is a perfect, fresh and honest meal.

I'm ready to face the next day. As always, I'll give that second twin ample consideration. Maybe someday I'll be fickle and switch loyalties.

Not likely though.