Monday, December 14, 2015

what's Parisian?

Well now, don't hold your breath for a mouthwatering photo of a classic Parisian breakfast. By the time I stumbled down to the hotel breakfast room, all that was left was a baguette. And so I had a classic tartine -- bread with butter and jam. (Don't tell me about early birds catching worms -- I was down at 9:15 -- that's plenty early! Unfortunately, breakfast is included in the price of the room so I did not seek a better meal at a cafe. But I will if, by the end of my four days here, I'll have eaten only bread, butter and jam.)


Well, that's okay. I want a big lunch today. I'll surely have the appetite for it.

I want to warn you, too, that my walk and therefore my photography are all rather random. Some people may do great things when in Paris, but my day consisted of only three tasks: walking, shopping and eating. I had my camera around my neck, as always, but the photos are my own personal statement on what it means to be in Paris.


You could argue that there are many more Parises out there and that the people and things I tend to photograph are surely not representative of the entirety. But for me, the people I see who cause me to pull up my camera are the ones whom I firmly believe are proud to be Parisian. They present themselves as part of the city. There are many others whose national or even city identity is a mystery to me, but what you see here, on Ocean, are people who would not hesitate in their answers if asked "where are you from."

I wanted to remind you, too, that I love this city. It's not that I am a francophile who gets excited by anything that comes from this country. I like other parts of France just fine, but it's Paris that endures for me as the city that I think works magic on my soul.

(A delivery of bread to a restaurant)

Of course, I know that what I see here is a bit of a fiction. I see what I want to see. Things that don't fit my image of the city, I probably don't even notice. (Except these two young men with the baby stroller. It is so weird to see men on a weekday, without the rest of the family, with a baby stroller. It's probably the only time I have come across this here.)


But we all do that, no? We are sensitive to some signals and not others. I suppose if I had to generalize, I'd say that to me, Paris sends off signals of pleasure and artistry.

Where else would you pass a random candy store and see this kind of beauty? All made out of chocolate and sugar?


Or yule logs that are this unusual and this boldly beautiful?


I said I did some shopping today. Not for me. Though in waiting for a clerk to look up something, I did find myself facing a mirror. Selfie time!


I should mention that the weather here is warmer than in Parma. Sure, there is the morning mist, but the temps after sunset are perhaps 10 degrees warmer than in Italy. But I couldn't resist taking a photo of the Tower of Montparnasse in the fog, since this weather pattern has been so much part of my itinerary on this trip. (Note the brave woman who cuts in front of a bunch of cars to make a left turn.)


(...and the older gentleman who does the same -- on a scooter. Do they all believe in an afterlife?)


The sun comes out in the afternoon. Mildly, but unmistakably.


For a few minutes, you could see a totally blue sky. This picture was taken actually not for the blue sky but for the shot of Cafe la Varenne, where I had lunch. If ever you feel anxious about safety in Paris, you can come here to eat. Even in the calmest of times, there are police and guards with weapons all around. (The presidential something or other is just up the block and so security here has always been very tight.)


The cafe has two things going for it: excellent home cooking and phenomenally skilled and friendly waiters. (I order the day's special -- sea bream. It's completely excellent.)


For these reasons it is always extremely crowded at lunchtime.


Outside again, walking, walking... And again comes the question -- what does it mean to be Parisian? Wearing clothes that make a statement with their color or style wise comes to mind. (I was shopping for my sons-in-law and I kept telling the clerk in one favorite spot -- no no, more conservative please! Men in the States don't like to stand out in the way they dress! I really believe that's true. Except for Ed, who likes, deliberately I think, looking ragged and unadorned.)


Okay, one street scene that is more about the street than the people on it:


I also do some Snowdrop browsing. Here's one item that caught my attention. Holiday clothes for girls are all about skirts that have sparkle to them. An example:


And just down the block, I came across love. It comes in many shapes, at many stages in life...


And back again to the face of Paris: well dressed men and women with longer rather than shorter hair and carefully chosen scarves.


I'm back in my own set of blocks to deposit my purchases in my hotel room.


And then I head off to the Luxembourg Gardens. Here are three generations of strollers:


And now, finally, I am in my favorite Parisian park.


And this is where I notice that Paris has, in fact, changed a little since the last time I was here toward the end of October. When I see cafes that aren't quite as packed as before, I think -- well, it's December. It's twenty degrees colder than a month ago. But when I see the Luxembourg Gardens in the way I saw them today, I know it's not just about the weather.

Oh, sure, there are people. Tourists. Visitors. Tennis players. Missing are the regulars. The fixtures. The children with grandparents. The lovers here on a break from school.


The sections of the park around the Senate House are entirely closed off to the public. I loved the park anyway, but I felt that if I had been seeing it for the first time, I might have asked -- what's all the fuss? It's just a park.

Outside again, I passed a group of school children, walking in pairs. Some passerby commented on the wetness of their hair (Parisians notice these things!). Her friend said -- they're obviously returning from a swimming class.



And I come again to the shots of mommies and their babes.


Because they're everywhere. And they make me smile.


In the evening, I pass the cafes, with red faced patrons (from the heat lamps) and twinkling holiday lights...


One more shop to admire (with Snowdrop in mind)...


... and then it's the witching hour (7p.m.) and (nearly) all stores close.

I head over to the tiny L'Antre d'Eaux for supper.

Here's a question: do nice people deserve an extra plug for their work, or should we, in a true free market fashion, judge the services and products we buy only based on the merits of those items?

If your answer is that you are drawn toward stores, restaurants, places where the people are at least as nice as the things they sell (and perhaps even nicer), then I cannot recommend this restaurant highly enough. It's a neighborhood joint and there is a touch of England in it (the place is owned and run by a young couple where the guy (the cook) hails from England. Note adorable Ann-Sophie to the right and the photo of the red bus on wall).


The meal was quite fine,  in a casually home cooked sort of way.

And now it's time to feel sleepy all over again. I'll leave you with the photo of the Senate at night. With the occasional cyclist passing by and the two Christmas trees artfully positioned at each side.