Sunday, December 11, 2016


Early in, early out -- how wonderful when flights surprise you with a little added time in your pocket.

I suppose I slept some during the long trip -- probably right after taking in the new Woody Allen movie. In any case, the time did not drag. When I was still expecting to be somewhere out over the deep ocean waters, I noted that we were just approaching the very tip of England. Cornwall, if I don't get back to you sometime soon, I at least will have seen you in the perfect splendidness of an aerial view.


France has wisps of mist in low lying areas, but as you can see, the weather over western Europe is pretty much the opposite of what it is in Wisconsin (snow raging, temperatures plummeting) and even Poland (it's raining there at the moment).


I expected to have a long layover at the Paris airport. Nearly four hours. But all that good weather, plus an early arrival tempt me to leave. Had I five hours (that's the cut off time for me), I would definitely take the chance and hop on the train to the city, suitcase and all. I look at my phone clock. Four hours and fifty five minutes until the departure of my Warsaw flight.

I'm off!

Oh, I suppose I could have had the bad luck of a train malfunction. Or something else that unexpectedly would cause me to miss my connection. But unlike taxis or even buses, the train is fairly reliable. If it's an express -- it'll be 35 minutes from airport to city center. If it's a local -- it'll be 45 minutes.

And so I alight in the beautiful December sunshine (and upper 40sF) of Paris.

You'd think there's not much you can do with just an hour or so and with a small but not unheavy suitcase in tow (it is loaded with gifts and stuff for Poland). You'd be wrong. If you get off the train at "Luxembourg," you're right at the gate to the park! This neighborhood is my very favorite for Sunday strolls, but I resist the temptation to just enter the park and hang out. I could use a meal.

I don't want to think where to eat, what to eat, I don't want to be crowded either (that suitcase!), and I don't want to be overcharged and so I head to Les Editeurs, where I so often eat breakfast, but remember having a very fine lunch there last May with Snowdrop and the kids.

(I sit under the big clock, as if to remind myself that as the hour approaches, I must get moving. I order a croque madame and a Badoit -- that's a grilled ham and cheese sandwich with an egg, and a mineral water.)


A selfie!


And then I make my way to the park.

I have to say, the most vivid recollections here are, in fact, of my times with Snowdrop. For example, this is the fountain where she liked so much to romp...


I don't cover much territory and so the few photos I take are of more or less the same area. I take this next one not because of the magnificence of the Senate, but because of the beautiful sky and the people below, taking advantage of the unexpected warmth that this day brings.


This next will be my one picture with a view toward the Eiffel Tower. For all you skeptics that reassured me that Snowdrop would not remember Paris, I cannot tell you how many times she looks at structures that resemble this great icon and she asks me, as if to create the dividing lines -- gaga, it's Eiffel Tower? (The last such question came as she admired a very huge crane that really did have the metal lattice work you would associate with the Tower itself.)


Children and grandparents, children and parents, couples, friends, singles, groups -- a mixed bag of old, young, of Asian, African, Arabic, Argentinian, American, they're all here.

For the French, the hour of the big Sunday meal approaches and so I see a more hurried walk among some, the "time to go home now" pace of a father and child...


And for me, it's definitely time to head back to the airport. I am in luck. I catch an express. I have plenty of time. And the flight to Warsaw -- that's on time too, arriving even a bit early. And as always, my sister is there, waiting and we catch the bus to my apartment on Tamka (the name of the street where I live).

(You could say that this photo, of a speeding tram, the Palace of Culture, and a rather somber passenger, snapped quickly during the bus ride, is like the blur in my heart and soul when I arrive here -- caused in part by weariness from the long journey and in part by my confusion as to which place better represents who I am.)


There, I'm home. Tamka: the little apartment that still smells like someone worked the last brush stroke against its walls just yesterday.


My sister lingers, but she has errands and I say  -- go! I'm fine! I'll probably go to sleep shortly!

Except that in the end I don't go to sleep. I go out again... Mmmm, it's stopped raining! See the Palace of Culture? The Chopin Museusm? My place is against the backdrop of these historic buildings.


I walk over to the local Carrefour. It's a French supermarket chain, but if you have to shop at a big store that has a little of everything, this is a good neighborhood choice.

And suddenly I'm taken aback: at the entrance, next to the carts, there are the wicker baskets I knew so well from grocery stores that I would go to in the sixties and seventies. You know, during the so called Communist Poland era.


And I realize when I go inside that the store is a confusion of the new and the trusted old. And now this brief trip to pick up maybe some milk for coffee and fruit for breakfast is taking forever because I have to read every label of every product so that I can understand!

And then the lack of sleep just catches up with me and I have to give it up and walk home so that I can post here and throw back the covers of my bed and crawl into it -- neat and tidy, fresh and clean, crisp and Polish.