Sunday, December 15, 2013

Paris daze

This is it: it's all that remains. Paris, in a day.  Where to? What now? I'll just walk and somewhere in that, I will find my direction.

Breakfast first. It's already late. I don't want to sit down and watch the sun get close to its zenith. I want to feel that beautiful light on my face, walk in its warmth, outdoors, Paris outdoors. So I go to the Buci market -- just a handful of blocks from where I live, noting the street scenes, always very much with an eye toward everything and everyone around me, because, truly, it's what I love best -- to watch and take back with me something that I've seen...

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It's lively here again, right by the market. Music.

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...and I go to the market cafe and ask if they're out of croissants already. They are. I go across the street and buy the freshest, warmest pain au chocolate I've had in years and bring it back to the cafe, to eat at the counter, with the stand-up crowd. (It's cheapest and fastest that way.)

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And then I turn toward those pretty streets between the river and the Boulevard St Germain -- it's always so quiet here! I love Paris best in the quietest corners.

I step inside a store. Tempted. Always tempted by tablecloths. No! No more! How about a napkin? Easy to pack!


Get outside! Take in that glorious sunshine! This trip has had an abundance of it -- I'm rich with sunshine!

Cross the river...

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The Seine is raging this year! There is a force and anger to it that I do not fully understand. Even as lovers find solace in a stroll by its banks...


I'm in the Tuileries Gardens -- the right bank park that really isn't even close to the beauty of the Luxembourg Gardens on the left bank! Still, it is a place of calm if you stray from the main avenue. Here's a small group, lunching on a bench. They're well prepared -- napkin and all.


And it strikes me now that in the sun, it actually feels quite warm. I unzip my jacket and continue. Where to? Actually, I re-cross the river, back to the left bank. I had checked the special exhibitions at the Musee d'Orsay, just in case I would want to stop by. It's a tough call: good stuff at the museum, brilliant sunshine outdoors.

I give in to the museum. But just one exhibition! Just one, hear?!

Well, a ticket is a ticket -- you pay for the whole museum. So after spending time looking at naked men...

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(these are posters announcing the entrance to the special exhibition: inside there are several rooms pulling together art -- from the eighteenth century through today -- depicting the nude male; themes that emerge -- the hero, the sport figure, man in pain... so different than if you pulled together art depicting the naked woman!)

...I promised myself I'd leave then. But I don't leave. I give in to the draw of two more new (for me) exhibitions: one is the post-impression collection of Van Gogh (in Arles) and Gauguin (in Polynesia) paintings -- it's a homage to Francoise Cachin who died 2011 and who was the first director of this museum and a great lover of its art. The other is a small collection that is a recent contribution. You wont care that it's art by Cezanne, Degas, Bonnard. But I care. All belong to my list of favorites. But enough already! Outside -- I want to be outside!

Where to now? I'm thinking of walking back to the Marais -- the one neighborhood on the right bank that I truly do love.

So it's back across the river, through the Touileries Gardens...

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...and I stay in the gardens for as long as I can, because, inferior (in my mind) that they are to the "other" gardens, they offer calm. You can see that, can't you?

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Calm. Yes, Paris can feel very soothing in places.

And then elsewhere, it's chaos. Terrible awful traffic and cigarette smoke hitting you from the crowded sidewalks, and, too, souvenir stalls, one after another and I can't even see the sun, because I am under arcades (yes, I'm walking along the awful Rue de Rivoli), and Mr. Mayor of Paris, if you could just listen to me on this one -- couldn't you exert your tremendous influence and make this a pedestrian zone? Paris has far too few of those. Fewer than any other city in Europe.

Anything to get out of this madness!

And here's the charm of Paris: you can get out of the madness. It's not too hard. Walk some more, turn a few corners (oh, the smugness of that cafe! Calling itself "the dog who smokes"!)


...walk briskly now, around the Halles, the Pompidou Center once more -- and there.... exhale. In the Marais. A few dainty shops, a gentler pace.

And a moment in the park. Place des Vosges once more. Where the soul regenerates.

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I have been on my feet for more than five hours now, but I do not pause. Or, at least not to sit down. I'm on the island  now between the left and the right banks and it's warm enough that I am tempted. Yes, an ice cream cone. Black currant!


So now I can see that the sun is setting and I have eaten absolutely nothing healthy all day and I am, I admit it, in need of a pause. I do realize that to take a pause in my apartment requires those flights of stairs, but I don't mind. Without bags, it's a breeze.

A quick rest. Packing my suitcase and duffel bag. No longer light, no longer empty. I will for sure have terrible regrets the morning on my final walk down those steps.

And I'm out again! I have one more quick errand and it's all the way in the department store. I say this to Ed, who is Skyping me and he says -- that's far! You want to get what? Oh, a present! Eh, give him some batteries instead and be done with it! Ha ha ha, sure Ed, I'll do that) and I really am on the run now (no photos!) because I do not want to be late for my dinner reservation at Pouic Pouic.

Pouic Pouic. I would have eaten my last dinner at Pouic Pouic even if I'd blown my life savings on lunch earlier. But I hadn't blown much at all on food today. Pain au chocolat: 1.15 Euro. Caffe creme: 2.50. Ice cream cone: 2.50. That's it! And yes, I'm hungry!

So, now I'm there and quickly, let's get to the listing of dinner foods: scrambled egg with a shaving of a truffle, roasted scallops with parsnip puree, mille feuille in salted caramel. Yes, super yummy.




But as everywhere, it's not just the food. It's the vibe. At Pouic Pouic, the waitstaff wears jeans, tables are without covers - so it's relaxed. But it's professional, too. They want you to know they're serious about their food. I tell them, rather shyly, because who am I, after all, just another diner, but I tell them anyway that the minute I learn I'm to be in Paris, I book my dinner here.
Really? That is true?
(I have finally picked up that the French have as many words for yes as we do. Ours: yeah, yup, yo, or - my favorite with my kids: yeppers peppers. These days, I'm hearing a lot of "w-eh" in France.)
The chef will be so pleased! I'll go tell him!
Never assume that a complement is unnecessary.

And that ends the day for me. As usual, worrying about waking on time is completely ridiculous as I always wake up before the alarm goes off. I give myself time to carry my luggage down without a panic, but that, too, is smooth. Of the two -- carrying up lighter suitcases or carrying down heavy ones, the latter is easier.

I have been living just a block from the river... here, in this block (it's still dark when I leave in the morning):

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And so my departure is different from the usual station by the Luxembourg Gardens. My last goodbye is here, by the river's edge.

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Oh, I'm in the holiday season, right? A final wave...

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...a final pain au chocolat at the airport, watching the sunrise from here...


Thinking back, thinking forward... Such a superb trip. So very happy to be coming home!