Monday, October 01, 2007

Paris notes, one last time

The morning light comes late now. Maybe 7:30? Later? I’m trying out a new left bank hotel. Small, on a quiet street in the 6th arrondissiment. Or, have I crossed over to the 7th? A room onto a quiet street lets me listen to it waking up. Like last Friday, when the knife sharpening cart (I'm guessing here) rolled by and the sound of the bell came in so clearly through my upper floor window.

But it’s Sunday now and I wake up quickly, finish last night’s post and wait for my companions. We’re setting out for Versailles .

I have not been there in more than twenty years. I tended to choose crowded Giverny over crowded Versailles. But I am curious now how it looks. As if twenty years could do anything to change the place!

We catch a fairly early train. Along with so many others. When Louis XIV contemplated visitors coming to his palace, he did not anticipate Sunday visitors on the last day of September, in the year 2007. The rooms aren't large enough to contain us all. The bottlenecks are tight.

I choose not to linger, not to contemplate the art, the furniture. I give a nod to each room, I read who slept and partied where...

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...and move out onto the gardens.

At the back of the palace, you can look one way and see this:

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…and in the opposite direction to see this:

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In the early hours of the day, the visitors are taking in the interior spaces. I head for the park. So warm in the delicate sun! In the public spaces, just outside the gates of the chateau, the park draws families, lovers, cyclists, picnickers.The scent is of Autumn.

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I am enthralled. A French Sunday. A Parisian Sunday, really, even though this is no longer Paris.

At 1:30 we make our way to a restaurant in town – Le Chapeau Gris. It's not recommended anywhere, it just looked right (town listing on the Net). We see long tables of many generations lingering, as we will linger, over a large Sunday meal. This is not a time to hurry or to eat light. It’s a time to take a real pause and listen to stories that take abit longer to recount. All in the space of a wonderful three course meal. With a bottle of rosé wine.

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In the late afternoon we return to the Chateau grounds. There are more buildings to explore, Marie Antoinette’s little park, all of it, sprawling, offering the opportunity to walk and take note.

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In the evening, we head back to Paris. An omelet, one last glass of wine.

I walk by crowded cafés and ice cream vendors. I look inside and see a bin of pistachio. I was seven when I first traveled to Paris. By train, from Warsaw, on my way to my first visit to the States. I woke up then to a bright day on the left bank. On the Place des Invalides, an ice cream vendor was selling cones. Vanilla or pistachio. I had never seen green ice cream before. It was a long time before I could put the ice cream's sweet taste out of my mind. Creamy texture, unusual color, easy to love. Like Paris.