Tuesday, April 06, 2010

remembering Paris

This post is written in snatches, during the chaotic hours of the last day of travel. Not all chaos is miserable, but it is true that an excess of it can inspire a headache. The challenge is to contain it.

The day after Easter. We’re heading home. We have quite the pleasant flight from Milan to Paris. With magnificent views of the Alps.


I feel so buoyed by it all that even work seems pleasant: I take out my papers and spread them on my lap for the short duration of the flight.

We land. I gather my papers and stuff them in my pack. I retrieve my little suitcase and we take the metro to Paris.

...Where dusk is setting in and people are out and about.


One short evening in Paris, and then we're gone. We have a very early flight back home. But, one short evening can be one fine evening on a night when the air is crisp, the people are still milling around in a pleasant post-holiday disposition, and the cafes and restaurants are crowded with a seemingly content clientele.

We’re trying out a new little hotel with a new face and an old name (De La Sorbonne, right next to – you guessed it – La Sorbonne) and fabulous prices. We are given a room with a gorgeous view toward the Pantheon.



We are happy to be here, happy with our week in Sardinia, happy to be returning home.

...until I notice, up in that lovely little room overlooking the Pantheon, that my backpack does not contain my black little purse. The one with all my licenses, credit cards, IDs and with all the cash that I had allocated for our stay in Paris.

I don’t leave things. I stumble and break cameras fairly frequently, I worry that I toss away papers I don’t intend for the trash, but I don’t leave things in hotels or airplanes or at the security check at airports. I am too compulsive. I double check and cross check and I zip packs to the very end.

Still, things happen. A passport fell out of my pack on a train ride to Milan four years ago and now (oh, cursed Milan!), on a flight out of that same city, my purse falls out somewhere near seat 18A and I am here and it is God knows where. Dubai maybe?

For one hour we try all available search tools. I make calls, leave messages, send emails. Getting nowhere, I put the issue aside.

It’s late. Time to give Paris at least a half-smile.

Stores are closed, wine shopping has to be put aside for another day, another visit.

We walk in the Odeon area of the 6th Arrondissement. It’s always so lively here. I like that. It makes me believe that in this world, people feel connected to one another in good ways.


We stroll past the oyster stand – Ed is always tempted by it and this time, perhaps feeling just a touch sorry for purseless me, he suggests that we take in a couple of big ones from Bretagne.


Standing on the sidewalk, with a swig of wine from the Loire. Heaven. I grow mellow.

We walk on, trying to decide where to eat. A grocery store is still open. I’m at least able to pick a rosé or two for home, but my heart isn’t in it. Who knows where my credit cards and cash are. Perhaps on a whirlwind shopping tour in Hong Kong. Or Copenhagen.

Again I put these thoughts aside.

We go to dinner at the possibly best comfort food place I can think of – Polidor.

I order a fish terrine and steak au poivre, followed by a tarte tatin. Ed asks for escargot and a chicken with morels. I’m regaining my balance. Life is fine, the evening is beautiful, what will be, will be.





In the wee hours of the morning, we make our way back to the airport. The streets shine after a morning scrub. Paris is fresh and ready for the day ahead.


We catch the RER train and turn our backs to the city. The sun is almost up. Almost.


At the airport, we encounter the French bureaucracy in full swing. Ed grows terse (a rarity). Because we're here, and there is a room with objects left on planes,  but I cannot get to it -- not in person, not by phone. I must fill out an official form and it must be processed and eventually it will make its way to that room and someone will check to see if indeed it’s there. But by that time I will be in Chicago and sending it will be complicated and expensive. And, of course, one has to cancel credit cards and reapply for licenses, because one cannot assume a good outcome.

And so we fly back and I work on the plane and the irony is not lost on me that if I did not always insist on working during flights, I might have my purse in my pack right now.

Still, for a short little interlude there was Paris. In April. Lovely as always, but especially now.

Milan, reconsidered

We wake up to a beautiful day in northern Italy. We have only a few morning hours in Milan, but, despite my reservations about the city, I want to use them well.

I calculate that if we take the tram to the Duomo (the magnificent cathedral, with most certainly, Milan’s best pubic space in front of it), we can pause there for a little while and then walk over to catch the public city bus to Linate – Milan’s smaller airport. (Only DC offers as good a bargain in getting you from downtown to the airport efficiently and cheaply.)

Ed gallantly pulls my little suitcase, we hoist our packs and set off.

Our b&b is by the old canal of Milan – an area worth a stroll at another time.


Not today though. We are still at the tail end of Easter week-end. Not only is the cathedral a destination in its own right, there’ll be people watching opportunities on the square.



We walk toward La Scala...


...and through the quieter streets in back. We come across a gelateria and I cannot resist a cone of what they call seasonal flavors: strawberry and pistachio. Neither strike me as particularly April, but the ice cream is delicious with the strong colors of the warmer seasons.


And now it’s time to head out.

My next post will be tomorrow, from Madison. Even though between Milan and Madison, there’ll be the handful of connecting hours in Paris. I’ll take a handful. There’s something about April in Paris...

P.S. The unexpected twist: what would you do if you lost your purse on-board a flight to Paris?  Freak out? Stay calm and purchase wine?

I'll give an update tomorrow. From Madison. After work. It's as it has to be.