Saturday, August 22, 2015

from St. Petersburg to Paris

A shorter post for you today. Much of my time is devoted to travel and our last days of the trip are moving ahead too quickly for a lengthy contemplation here.

A last morning in St. Petersburg. A breakfast that has settled into a routine...

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... then a troubling packing hour (fitting largish and fragile items into a carry-on? What was I thinking!) and a sigh of relief as the suitcase manages to zip shut. I even have time for an hour-long walk before the cab picks us up for the airport.

Where to go? I'm feeling somewhat wistful -- there is so much I still hadn't seen! Should I fit in a museum? There are two completely empty ones around the corner -- one dedicated to the history of the Siege of Leningrad, the other to modern design. Or should I go back to the food halls and get a marzipan pickle for Ed?

No, I wont rush my last walk. I'll just take myself through the neighborhood...

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(I passed her fruit stand every day)

... along the embankment that is now so familiar that I know every tilt and crack in the sidewalk (and there are many).

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(you know the bridge, the cathedral, the Neva River...)

I veer into the Summer Garden. This is where Diane and I started our exploration of the city last Saturday. It's fitting that I should end with it now.

Oh, but how empty it feels on a weekday morning!

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Only the regulars make it here now, enjoying the unusually beautiful weather. Regulars -- what do I know about regulars?! All I see are the patterns and I make guesses based on them. Well, let's end with those patterns and I'll let you do the guesses. Familiar themes now to all of us.

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One last look at the beautiful domes -- with the trolley lines to remind us that the city is home to many.

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We leave this beautiful place and catch our flight for a three night stopover in Paris.

Paris. Dreamy, hazy Paris. It takes real Waldo talent to identify the Eiffel Tower as we fly over it (hint: look for the Montparnasse Tower to the left and work your eyes due right from it).


It's early evening by the time we're on the ground. I have a race with my friends who want to take a cab to town: I'll take the commuter train, you take your cab, we'll see who gets to the hotel first.

My train ride into the city feels summery. It's a warm set of days here -- I see that even now the thermometer is registering 31 degrees C (that's close to 90F). Moreover, even though it's Friday eve, there are no rush hour crowds. The city always feels less frenzied in August. So many people are away on vacation!

I alight at the Luxembourg Gardens.  I have my suitcase, I'm racing my friends, but it all doesn't matter -- I want my few minutes in this glorious park!


My travels here in the cold months make me long for that moment when the park is awash with flowers and chestnuts and all the trimmings of a summer evening.


So you could say I started my day in a park and ended it in one too. How fitting for me!


Now onto my familiar hotel and a familiar tiny room (and yes, I got to it first!)...


And now all we have left for the day is our evening meal. I opt for a neighborhood place that's a twelve minute walk from us -- L'Antre d'Eux (how would you translate that -- "our lair?" Something like that).


It's a tiny eatery, run energetically by a young couple -- the kind of place that you remember for the proprietors as much as for the food (both make you feel really good!).


My dining companions aren't hungry (silly them: who eats a bad tray of airplane food when you know you'll have a dinner in Paris!), but I make up for their weak appetites. We all have the eggs with chanterelles, then I go on to a chard gratin, finishing off with a strawberry verrine.



It is a beautiful evening in Paris -- perfect for outdoor dining. There is a hush in the air now -- partly because it's August, but, too, because we are in a quiet neighborhood.


Perhaps because I want that Parisian balance, I leave my friends after dinner and go on to walk through the Bucci neighborhood -- just a few blocks away. This is a place that reminds you that Paris really does not close down any time of the year. There are a number of restaurants and cafes packed into a couple of blocks (including this newbie!)...


... and they are always spilling out with people, especially in the evenings, whether it's winter (with heating lamps warming the patrons outside) or summer (no lamps needed! Air Conditioning? Eh! An American habit!).

When you travel to contrasting places, you have to make peace with yourself as you make abrupt changes from one to the other. In this familiar, crowded neighborhood I find my own peace.

I'm ready for Paris now.

The moon shines brightly...