Thursday, March 23, 2017


The hotel desk clerk asked yesterday, as I was checking in -- are you just arriving, or on your return home?
I hesitated for so long that he wasn't sure I'd understood. He repeated the question in English. Suspendu entre les deux, je suppose (suspended between the two I guess...). Then I thought how well this phrase describes my life. Only "the two" isn't necessarily home and Warsaw or Paris. It's home on the one hand and then -- travel.

On days like this one I alternate between thinking I'm nuts and thinking -- this day is so beautiful!

In fact, it is beautiful (though too,  I'm at least a little bit nuts to be here so briefly)! They said rain, but in Paris, so often the rain is just an idea, a possibility lightly realized. Today I easily could have left my umbrella behind. 

Breakfast first. Unhealthy, as always here. And I was too late for the pain au chocolat, which I suppose it's just as well. Do I really need even more bread product?


And then I have a full day of Paris. My flight leaves after 7 and even under the most cautious scenario, I do not have to cut into my time here until early evening.

I visit no museums. I attend no exhibition. There are many that tempt me ever so lightly, but I'll be back soon enough for that. Today is just for walking.

(If you wanted to enter this man's eyeglass shop, you'd have to step over his dog.)


I do not shop for myself in Paris. I do not need anything (I can see the scowl now on my Italian friend's face). But I do occasionally pop into favorite shops. To look. (Here I consider if the collar is of birds or of penguins...)


And sometimes my arm can be twisted. Rarely, but it happens.


My walk, which is not unusual and has been repeated many times in one version or another, takes me (what a surprise) through the Luxembourg Gardens.


Oh, the flowers!


I know you've seen some of these views...


But, of course, you've seen every view there is to be seen at the farmette. The point is to be refreshed and delighted by the changes, by the emerging evidence of a new season.


And there is so much evidence of spring, that I forgive myself for all these pauses with the camera. I mean, spring! The chestnuts have put forth their leaves. Real spring!


All green, a soothing green that makes you smile again and again.


So what else is blooming at the Gardens? For example, these...


Okay, out on the streets again. Passing too many neighborhood bakeries. 


They're making me very hungry, which is perfectly in order because it is close to two and if I am to eat anything at all today besides bread product, it has to be now, before the lunch period is shut off for the day here.

Very deliberately, I am in the neighborhood of Cafe la Varenne. 

Those who have traveled to Paris with me have all been dragged to Cafe la Varenne for lunch. And on each trip alone to this great big beautiful city, I try to make it there as well. It is my Parisian neighborhood love, even as I no longer stay in its neighborhood.

Oh, maybe it's not perfect. It grabs a lot of the government bureaucrats who work up the street and so the prices are higher than you'd find in a more obscure neighborhood place. But the food (especially the specials of the day) is well prepared and wonderful, and the waiters are superb, and it is always, always crowded, and it is the place where I can sit back and smile at my incredible luck in life at being able to come back for a lunch here again and again.

This time I am sitting next to a mother/son duo (the mom's older than me, so this isn't a youthful pair). He has a lot to tell her and he may be the only Frenchman I've come across who doesn't speak in a restaurant voice when in a restaurant. It allows for terrific listening!


They look angry, or sad, don't they?



Perhaps that's the subtext. But in the end, as she gets up, she gives him the most affectionate rub on his shoulders. 

And there is this couple -- well, I hope they're in love, because they look so good together!


Really, like peas in a pod!


Yes, you study the people here, but you also enjoy the food: an appetizer of white asparagus (with thin slices of ham and slivers of cheese)... 


... a vapeur of plaice (a flatfish that is so common in France) over spinach... mmmm!

And did I mention the waiters? 

As I leave, I tell my waiter, who is part of the fabric of this cafe-restaurant, that I am celebrating my return here. I've reached a very impressive number of visits, considering how far away I live. But more importantly, I expect that my next meal there will again be with my granddaughter.
What's her name? Because believe me, I will remember it! 
Snowdrop! I'll see you both soon.

It's getting dangerously close to early evening. And still, I continue my walk. It's so lovely to window-shop on these streets... Here's a store where the kids' clothes are so delicately pretty!



And no, I can't imagine Snowdrop would really need shoes like these below (matching her mom's?), but still, there's something so sweet about their very unnecessary position in life.


This chocolate shop always has some of the loveliest Easter displays...



Toward the Seine river now. This is the time where there is a slight trickle of rain. You can see the umbrellas going up.



And perhaps because I've had too much of good food and I've had such a beautiful if crazily short spring day here, I can't help but think of that song from the movie. If you know the film, you'll recognize the song, if you don't -- well, no matter. I'll print out a few lyrics.

Leapt without looking
And tumbled into the Seine
The water was freezing
She spent a month sneezing
But said she would do it again...

And here's to the fools who dream
Crazy as they may seem...

And so Paris comes to a close for me. Perhaps it's fitting that I should leave you with a photo of the set of blocks where I'll be staying when I am next here...


For now, I pick up my bag at the hotel and walk back, the usual way, past the Luxembourg Gardens. Ed always tells me when we hike that it doesn't matter if we have to retrace our steps because the view is always different heading back. Indeed: these are the same flowering trees that I photographed yesterday, upon my arrival. Different now.



I have several post post scriptums. 

First, there is the matter of my photos: I wish I had used my camera more, but the time here was so brief that I had to limit myself. Taking pictures requires pauses, thought, redirection. I couldn't give it that. Too, I love photographing people and this is especially difficult when you're loaded down (I did some shopping for Snowdrop). I have been asked so many times how is it that I feel comfortable photographing strangers. We are a funny lot. Where would we be if we put away cameras when a person stepped out onto the street?

I was never more reminded of this as when I passed the photo display by the Luxembourg Gardens on my way to catch the RER train to the airport. Brilliant photos of the park  from a few decades back! Of people, enjoying this most beautiful Parisian green space (though the photos were in black and white). If you're in Paris these months, I recommend you walk by and take a look.



Secondly -- I'm on the flight back to Warsaw and I mean to write my post but instead I sit next to a Frenchman, who is really a Pole who immigrated to France some decades back and in the course of our very long conversation (which starts out in French until we both realize we're Polish!) I think about how this stranger understands certain aspects of my life that few others can really grasp: what's it like to leave Poland, then, to live elsewhere and come back, though with one, but realistically two feet still elsewhere.

My sister is there, waiting for me at the airport. I don't know the airport without my sister! We take the bus to my apartment and have a drink together and reflect on all this.