Wednesday, August 23, 2017

I'm back in Warsaw

It is another beautiful morning in Paris.

But I haven't time for it. A flight at 1 p.m. means that I have to be out and walking toward the commuter train by 10.

But I offer no complaints. These three days in Paris have been defined by walking, Snowdrop shopping and leisurely reflection.

The mood of calm stays with me as I stroll to the little square, which is now the confluence of four distinct cafe/eateries, including Les Editeurs -- my default breakfast place, and of course the newly opened cafe-creperie -- Cafe Breizh. (I smile at my last minute purchase from them: a sack of buckwheat flour and their cookbook. The flour, stone ground in Brittany, is a necessity. I tried using our own buckwheat flour back home for the crepes and the taste just is not there.)

(Walking to that little square, Ocean author pauses to snap a photo of cups she purchased a while back for her porch coffee breaks. Snowdrop also likes them for milk and cookie breaks. Note big mustache on Ocean author's face.)


I sit outside for my simple croissant and coffee. I wait patiently to take a photo. It takes a while to have a clear view onto the square.


In the morning, trucks pull up to make deliveries to the growing number of cafe/restaurants here. It has been said of the French that they don't care about the visuals of where they sit for their meal, just the taste and visuals of the food itself. A truck parked in front of their wee table would barely be noticed.

Conventional wisdom has it, too, that for the French, fresh air is always preferable for a meal out, even though the fresh air is not necessarily so fresh, given the curbside trucks and given that the French still permit smoking at outside tables. You have to sit smartly to dodge those bullets!

I remember when a general smoking ban went into effect here in 2006. Smokers grumbled and people said it wouldn't stick. The French are notorious rule breakers -- at least that's the cultural stereotype. And more importantly, the overseers of certain rules are notorious at looking the other way. No, you can't cross a street on a red light, but everyone does it. In Poland, no you can't cross on a red light and you'll get a good authoritarian yelling and a ticket if you do. A French person in Poland succumbed to this admonishment just a few days ago and found it, of course, absurd. Still, in France, the smoking ban inside public spaces stuck. So much for stereotyping.

Which leads me to the topic of cultural understanding. (These observations are mine only. There is no universal truth about people. They are what they appear to be to any one person at any one point in time, subject to change -- given a political shift, a weather patter, technological innovation, a fad, climate change, sun spots -- or anything else that may come around.) I think that Poles understand Americans far better than Americans understand Poles and the French understand both, but just a little.

Poles read about the U.S., they watch movies, and chances are they have contacts there. What does the average American know about Poland?

As for the French -- well, that's more complicated. They get Europe more than they get America. Those who have traveled to the United States, always seem to begin their comments this way: "I liked your country, especially Napa/San Francisco/the Grand Canyon."

So here I am, jumping between these countries, looking for that more complicated picture within each.

Time to travel now to Warsaw. I say my goodbyes at the lovely hotel staff and I walk up the hill. (A block down puts me in the little square with the cafe/restaurants, a block up puts me on the quiet Odeon Square and then the park. The photo below, of the Odeon Square, shows off the blueness of today's skies.)


I cannot resist that sidestep to the Luxembourg Gardens. (They are on the way to the train.) The day is so brilliant!

I bet this bronze man is the most photographed guy in Paris! (It is a statue from the 19th century, celebrating the joys of music, dancing and wine.) Certainly by me. I like joyousness in all forms.


The park is nearly empty. The morning joggers are done with their regiment, the strollers, families, lovers and solo meanderers haven't yet arrived.


It's a beautiful time to take in the quiet of this magnificent park! (Sadly, the leaf miner is at work here, as in the rest of northern Europe. The chestnuts look like they've passed through half of October already! I have noticed that some of the affected trees are being removed and replaced. Ah, but to preserve these magnificent trees!)


The flight is on time, smooth, without problems. In Warsaw I catch the bus to my neighborhood.

I left when it began to rain and that rain stayed here all the days I was away. Trickles of it remain as I get off the bus. But my flower lady is there nonetheless, fixing, straightening...


For me, all that remains is le grand unpack and a visit with my sister.

We go down to the neighborhood that borders the river. There's a great vegetarian place called Veg Deli and we settle in for a beautiful meal...


I'm enjoying a tomato tartare followed by "boczniaki" -- a delicious mushroom dish that tastes vaguely familiar...
What's the name of the mushroom in English? -- I ask.
It's at the tip of my tongue... You know, they cultivate it. It's not a forest mushroom.
I zip out my iPhone for a translation. No, really?? Oyster mushrooms! With spinach, endive, and roasted potato.  Delicious!


It does feel like the vacation inside of a vacation has ended, even as I continue this vacation. Odd, but not at all unpleasant!