Sunday, August 25, 2013

Paris, continued

Waiting for Rain

Paris weather is so unpredictable. It'll storm, it'll rain, no it wont, maybe it will, tonight, no - tomorrow...

I hadn't packed an umbrella (because back then, "it wont" was pasted all over the weather websites) and so I go to Monoprix to buy a cheap one, not wanting to buy a cheap one at premium prices once the drops start falling.

It is a lot cooler outside. The race toward autumn has begun.


Something usual and unusual about breakfast today. Usual, because it is at Les Editeurs -- a frequent choice for me.

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Unusual because I'm actually meeting someone for it -- someone whom I haven't seen for eight years. She was once a law student and she has made that wonderful (and I admit, rare) transition to friend and lo! She and her niece and sister-in-law are in Paris and so am I and suddenly it's so easy to get together for breakfast, even as back in Wisconsin, she lives a world away (Madisonians consider Milwaukee to be a world away).

During this delightful breakfast meal, I watch her ten year old niece and I think back to the time my girls were that age and in Paris. I listen to all the enjoyable things she has been doing and though there are museums in the mix, there are also trips to amusement parks and bike rides and I think -- wow, I should have let my kids loose in such a park way back when they were small. I bought kid books on how a child might look at Paris sights, but they were more likely to have funny sketches of surrealists and existentialists having a grand old time having shouting matches at the Cafe les Deux Magots. They somehow neglected to point out wading pools and climbing structures at the Jardin d'Acclimatation.

Spinning through memories of those trips, I feel slightly better as I recall that we did eat plenty of ice cream and, too, we did go up the Eiffel Tower and if you know me, you'll know that that definitely is not a Nina thing to do. (I hate heights in opens spaces.)

Thinking about my girls, makes me want to hurry out and shop for them: they are at an age where thoughts often run in this direction as spending time with them is rarer and taking trips together is rarer still. (On my way to this certain place for them, I pass a little shop with the perfect sale of the ideal fall teaching skirt and so now my students will see me at least one day teaching in something other than chinos or corduroys.)

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At the store where I'm sure I can find something for daughters' gifts, it takes me so long to decide (after they get to a certain age, the words -- who knows what they like  these days-- become more and more real), so very long,  that madame truly must pass to sainthood for not throwing me out, especially after I changed my mind and had her unpack everything and start all over again.

Rain or no rain? Not yet? Okay, let me walk to my favorite lunch cafe (as if ten thousand others couldn't do the job equally well) on rue du Bac to see if it miraculously opened after a summer fermeture.

It has not.

I amble on toward the Eiffel Tower because this is how I do thing here -- I take a point somewhere at the edge of the city and say to myself -- I'm walking in that direction today (at least initially).

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(Things passed along the way include a stand with the wonderful chanterelle mushrooms and a cafe that dazzled the eyes. Oh and children -- these two were having fun in the non-rain.)

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On rue Cler, I come across the closing market and I think -- this, too is a good lunch place -- a nicely crowded Cafe Marche, where families linger after a meal that probably ended at least an hour ago.

Here, too, I consider the children. Much has been written about children in restaurants and speculations abound as to why French children know not to have tantrums and fits at these family meals, but since I have the pleasure of glancing at this rather large family for the whole duration of my salad eating (with warm goat cheese in a crepe)...

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... I got to see that the dynamics are, in fact, quite complicated. A little brother disturbs the play of his little sister while the older girls (cousins?) are absorbed in their own story. The little sister pouts and you can see that wail forming in her troubled soul. She stomps over to her beloved mother, but the mom will have none of it. This is a restaurant! -- she says this with the same severity as if it were church and the priest was about to deliver something reverent and important. The girl, wanting justice, gets a reprimand instead. She returns to the table and resumes her play. Her brother moves away. The struggle is now to get the attention of the older cousin. (Something of a Renoir moment again, don't you think?)

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(Even though French kids really do not do tantrums in restaurants. Maybe the price -- a scowl from beloved mom and no promise of justice -- is too high.)

The Sights 

At the Eiffel Tower,  I stand and gaze appreciatively for two minutes, then turn toward the river...

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...passing this Cafe, which I actually know of, for the simple reason that I heard that Obama ate there.

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Oh, mustn't forget the candy store along the way. Simple but beautiful display of macaroons.

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At the river's edge, down below the rush of traffic, I'm impressed all over again with how Paris does life. There are barges with beds of plants and greenery and comfortable deck chairs.  The barges are connected by bridges so that you can walk through them, as if in a garden, pausing for a while...

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...or, you can admire the vegetables grown on some...

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...or, if you are a kid, you can climb the ramparts...

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...or play with your skateboard or swing at a ball, or do push ups on exercise bars. All that, to keep you excited about the outdoors. Even if you're stuck in Paris.

Of course, my eye is toward the sights.

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And when I climb up again to rejoin the rush of traffic (which actually is quite tame, as it is the weekend), I'm struck with how incredibly exciting this city is is at all times.


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And romantic. (Now who am I reminded of? She's snuggling, he's reading a book. All I need to hear is "okay, gorgeous" in French.)

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While Julius Cesar looks on...

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Finally, a couple of "this is so French!" photos. First, the pastry of this trip: I've gone from buying my favorite to simply photographing my favorite. It's a longer lasting pleasure! So, the winner from this time around is this:

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And then, a "random man on the street" shot: to show you what a Parisian may do when it's still summer, but just slightly on the cool side. (And BTW, this would never play in Madison, Wisconsin.)

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Good Fortune

Dinner: tonight I eat at the place that captured my heart several trips ago. If I can get a seat, I will always book it -- it's steps from my hotel and it is bursting with energy (and especially after they've come back from their vacation). So here it is, my fairly new love -- Pouic Pouic.

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(Only a brave couple chose to eat outside -- rather than not eat at all. The photo was taken before they sat down.)

There are many many great things about the dinner (the price is one of them), but I'm going to highlight something that I will so try to replicate at home: on their tuna tartare, which itself is esconced in eggplant and who knows what else, there is  scoop of olive oil ice cream. The Best. Period.

For a second course, I had gambas with a lovely sautee of various cabbages...

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...and then, for dessert, a most wonderful macaroon around a chantilly cream, with strawberries and a rhubarb coulis.

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I leave so very satisfied and walk shaking my head at the incredible good fortune of being here now, this evening, at this moment. (Below -- the block of my hotel. With the view toward the Odeon theater.)

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P.S. Thank you to all of you who have written such lovely and generous comments. I am always so sorry that I do not attend to them individually when I travel. They mean a lot to me, but I already spend so much time on the computer that I force myself to get off the minute I put up a post.