Sunday, August 20, 2017

to Paris

After an intense set of days, I turn to a slower pace, a quieter string of hours, with fewer imperatives.

This is in fact how I nearly always approach Paris. Even when there last, with Snowdrop, I rarely planned for more than one activity in the morning and one in the afternoon and sometimes these were nothing more than a visit to a park, and a ride on a pony or the carousel.

On my own, I wont be any more ambitious. Paris is for gentle observation, for a study of food and manners, for a glance at French life choices, for reflection.

Though it seems a pain to fly to and from Paris now, only to fly back that way later, when returning home, in fact, there's a certain pleasant leisure in the entire experience. I get up without hurry -- the flight is in the early afternoon. I have breakfast -- the full deal today: oatmeal, fruit and jagodzianka!


I glance outside. It's raining and I think this is the only time I will be exposed to rain for the remainder of my days in Europe. Such luck, don't you think? So I leave the umbrella behind and of course get very wet walking to the metro. But I tell myself it's summer and drying off will be easy.

Informed now about special Sunday bus schedules, I know where to get off the metro and where to wait for the final bus ride to the airport. Here, it's this stop -- which coincidentally is very close to where I lived as a very young child. I can tell by the church towers right there, behind the metro station.


Despite the rain, the flight leaves on time.

[OVERHEARD: behind me, three passengers are engaged in conversation. Jean-Pierre (made up names) is older, French, doing business in Poland. Ania is a Polish engineer, working in Germany, about to visit her French boyfriend in Paris. Luc is French, doing business in Poland and with a girlfriend there.

Jean-Pierre is a little new to Poland. Ania explains foods and foibles -- she's very proud of everything and talks in superlatives about the Polish habits. We're very open! Much more so than French people are! Jean-Pierre takes it in, but he's not sure about any of it. He's very France oriented.

Luc chimes in that Warsaw has almost no unemployment. Jean-Pierre still isn't convinced. I heard it's 8% -- he says.
Ania corrects him -- that's Poland. And in any case, it's easier for young people to get work in Poland than it is for young people to get a job in France. Warsaw is much more future oriented than Paris.
Luc adds -- And Polish people are more willing to retrain, to get needed certificates, to learn a language to boost their chances of better work. Look at all the Warsaw people learning English and traveling to London in search of better paying jobs! Show me one Parisian who will go to London to look for work!

I think about Ania's pride in her home country. If I heard an American speaking in such superlatives about how it is back home, I'd consider them to be a tad boastful. Everyone knows America is powerful and rich, that success may not be easy, but if it's attained, the rewards are plentiful. But if you're from a lesser country -- lesser as regarded by the rest of the world -- you are allowed a certain amount of defensiveness I think. A feeling of pride wears well if you're trying to erase negative stereotypes.]

I leave a city that's drenched in rain and fly into one that's done with showers for a while. Sunny and mild, summery and refreshed. Train to the city of Paris and voila! -- I alight at the Luxembourg Gardens.


And I go to my wee little room in the same hotel I've been coming to for such a long time now...


... and I open my window to that lovely little square with the imposing Odeon Theater.


It's Sunday, near evening, and so, like a broken record that cannot jump to a different track, I go to the Luxembourg Gardens once more.


But I do feel like Snowdrop should be by my side. This park now has her imprint on it and all I see are the children her age and I think --I need to do something more... my age.

The Pantheon is just a few blocks away and I know it is open because my phone tells me so and I dutifully stand in line -- not to buy a ticket to view famous dead men, but to climb up to the stairs to view Paris from way up high.

I tried to do it last winter and was told that the rotunda was closed for the season. And today, I find out that even though the Pantheon is open, the panorama viewing closed some half an hour ago. Two failed efforts! I'm not sure I want to try again!

In the evening I stroll leisurely to dinner.


(The quiet facade of the St Sulpice fountain... It's evening now...)


(Through the park... Oh! She is a Snowdrop clone in many ways!)


(Past couples in love...)


There are three good restaurants just at the southwest corner of the Gardens, all in one block, in a row, and I booked a table at the one that had shunned the French custom of taking the summer off. It's called Invictus. People love it and now so do I.

I could talk about the food, but you know, that's no secret: Paris has good food.


So I'll mention something else: two small episodes -- one from the restaurant and one from the walk home.

If you eat out on Sunday evening in France, and especially if you do so at the early side of things, like around 7:30 (my favorite) -- you'll nearly always be in the company of foreigners. It was no different tonight.

I'm sure Invictus relies on this, as much as it relies on the regulars at later hours on other days. Did I mention how hard it is to run a profitable restaurant in Paris?

 A few feet down, there is an American couple. I spoke French to the waiter. No one in the French community would think that this is a sign of Frenchness. Still, a foreigner could be fooled. The American couple talked to each other as if no one could hear or understand. And it was charming.

They were young, excited, clueless, happy, adventurous, confused, and did I mention happy? I imagined a great future for them. I surely believe that they were open to the possibilities. They wanted to learn. And even at the early stages of it all, they found their pod of happiness.

The second episode took place as I was walking back to the hotel tonight. A woman (my age, frazzled, pulling a rolly suitcase) asked me for directions. And this made me happy. Not because anyone who gave it any thought (camera slung over my shoulder) could possibly confuse me for a local. Perhaps I get asked a lot (and I do) because I somehow wear the expression of a helpful sort? Wouldn't that be wonderful? -- here, ask that lady! She'll either know or she'll figure out to help you along! 

The evening walk is beautiful. It's not yet nine and not yet dark when I pass the Gardens.

Paris, in love.


I'm in my hotel room now. It's very quiet, very familiar, very inviting to unwind, to relax!

I think I will.