Sunday, December 07, 2014

misty thoughts

The fog rolled in with the first morning light and hid the Chateau from view.

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My immediate thought is -- wouldn't the park, fanning out from behind the Chateau be beautiful on such a morning?

But first, breakfast.

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And, too, the market. In Fontainebleau, Sunday is the big market day and the stalls went up overnight right next to my hotel. I walk through it, noting that our collective breath is leaving puffs of mist in the cold air.

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(do you see his steamy breath?)

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(winter produce)

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(always the greeting)

I want to detour to the park now, while the fog is thick enough to hide anything that is jarring or excessive.

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And though I haven't much time, I pause again and again to take in the sheer beauty of this majestic landscape.

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(can your eyes see through the mist?)

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But the clock moves forward. I want to catch the 11:30 to Paris, so that I can have my big meal of the day there, in the narrow window the French allow for eating. The books say it's a 45 minute hike to the station. Madame at the tourist office said it's a 45 minute hike. I'm thinking -- they're both wrong! I'm sportif! I studied the map and found the shortcut through the park. I can do it in 30!

I leave my sweet and very proper little hotel, I turn my back to the town of Fontainebleau...

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... and I wheel the suitcase, clattering on the cobbled stones of the Chateau courtyard, all the way to the back and to the park that stretches almost to the train station.

The fog is lifting now and I pause for the occasional photo.

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Wouldn't you?

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(like a Seurat canvas)

The park is stunning here, in this section! How can a bare forest be this beautiful?

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But I walk briskly. And  glance at my phone clock. I'm no fool! But what good is a glance at the time? It is what it is. (For future reference, the "shortcut"  through the park is also 45 minutes.)

Finally, I arrive at the station and like a bullet, do the ticket purchase and come out to the platform, just as the train pulls in. Hey, it was one minute early! Not fair!

[In any case, the drama is missing today. Had I been late for the train, I simply would have had to wait two hours for the next one and forgo my lunch in Paris. The rail strike ended this morning. The trains are on schedule, or in my case ahead of schedule.]

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(train station in Fontainebleau)

And now I'm ready for Paris.

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(train station in Paris)

Ask me now what I want from the city this time and I'll mention three imperatives: two exhibitions that I really want to see and one holiday shopping moment that I want to experience. But truly, I'm not bound to an agenda. As surely Fontainebleau had shown me, royal history if viewed under proper circumstances can shake you to the core. As can a walk through a park. It all depends. Moods change with the season and for quirky reason we don't fully understand.

Alright. But today is Sunday and I do want my big meal. (You can tell: there are lots of families out and about.)

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I wheel my suitcase all the way from the station -- the Gare de Lyon --  to the Left Bank neighborhood where I always stay -- that's a good hour's worth of wheeling! -- and I head for Le Procope Restaurant. Maybe you'll remember my writing here, on Ocean, a long time ago, when I was passing through Paris exhausted and flustered after an especially difficult December visit to Poland: I said then -- when you don't want to think about where to eat in Paris, just go to le Procope. And so I settle in to this reliably congenial and efficient place for this French main meal of this day.

I eat vegetable soup and coq au vin and it's good that I'm in Paris, because here, you'll always find the odd assortment of diners, whereas in the provinces most Sunday meals in restaurants are shared with family and so you can feel a bit lonely sitting there by yourself pretending that your own company is the very best thing imaginable, while everyone is in groups spanning the generations.

Not that le Procope lacked its family gatherings: these three adult siblings came together (with a partner and child of the woman) to celebrate their dad's something or other. I'm guessing birthday, but what do I know. Notable is the fact that the young boy (age about 9) really loved his snails and was a pro at fishing them out of their shells.

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This was a larger familial gathering: ages varied from two upwards.

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And then it's time for my 3pm appointment at the apartment that I'll be renting through AirBnB this week. I can't tell you whether these rentals are legal or not. Opinions vary. But I do know that finding a nice, affordable hotel room in Paris is getting to be harder each time I come here and this is the third time that a private rental has saved me from running from the city altogether.

The place isn't ready yet when I get there and so I leave my bags and go out to get some groceries. Not so lucky there: the two neighborhood stores are already closed. Ah well, must make do with the exquisite prepared foods at a bakery a couple of blocks from me: a few salads and a pastry will do for tonight. (Which pastry do you think I chose from this tray?)

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And now I am back at the apartment -- on the 6th floor, with commanding views of the street below and of St Sulpice church in the background. I'm sure I'll photograph them plenty in the days to come. For now, I just want to post a few photos of the rooms. They're lovely and fresh and comfortable and honestly, it is by far the best accommodation I've had in Paris.

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I know the discussion rages about the future of AirBnB rentals (the claim is that they undermine the hotel industry). Honestly, I'm okay if the regulators impose some more stringent requirements and perhaps taxes (and inevitably prices will go up), but for now, they are gloriously inexpensive (or at least less expensive) and so here I am, pretending that I have my own little place in the city. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a pastry to consume.

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