Friday, March 25, 2016

the goal? to walk, to look, to eat, to shop if that is what has to be, to eat, to walk... in other words -- whatever the day may bring

Perhaps I would not be happy with too many days like this one, where nothing need be done, no demands are placed on the hours before me, no imperative set, no destination articulated. But my oh my, when they come, interspersed with the busy weeks I'm used to, they are in fact spectacular.

There was a wetness to the morning, but that was fine -- I started out late (damn photo loading) and indeed, by the time I got to my standard breakfast cafe (les Editeurs), I felt that just one pain au chocolat and a cafe creme would do -- it felt not too far from the lunch hour.


I could, I suppose, grumble at the occasional sprinkle outside -- if you want to see gray, you're going to see gray...


... but in truth, it never was more than a sprinkle -- not even enough to warrant an umbrella. And the temperatures climbed to the fifties F (upwards of 10C) and back home, Ed tells me he woke to trees covered with a thin layer of ice, so I consider myself lucky indeed to be on this side of the ocean today.

I popped into a kid store and made up for an absence of color outside with a fistful of color inside.


And I suppose I should include this photo of a rather colorfully attired woman. You don't see many so over the top on the left bank, but nor does she especially stand out. Funny how that works.


And speaking of popping in, I guess I should note that I popped into the Luxembourg Gardens as well. Not for long, but enough to take in the greening of the spaces there.


Just outside, I ran into countless high school kids out for lunch break. They're never easy to photograph -- they move so quickly! -- but here's a small group waiting to cross the street. At this age, they break from the fashions of their youth and the fashions of adulthood and indulge in an interim period where they're all in the uniform of choice -- either leggings (with or without a skirt) or jeans.


Oh, well, to be complete, I must admit, I visited a clothing store for adults as well.


I don't typically buy clothes here for myself, but I have some days that may require a fresh approach to a wardrobe in May and the clerk was lovely in making me feel like everything I tried on was meant to be.

And now it's time for lunch. Where to? Oh where to??

My motto today was  -- keep it cheap. In this corner of Paris, one possibility is the Cafe Madame. It really is a humble place where no one looks especially tony or well coiffed.


They don't have a big menu (which is good) -- just a few sandwiches and crepes, but it's a fine place to eat a Croque Madame, because they use good bread and they don't overwhelm your plate. And so I have my last lunch here much the same way as I had it on my first day, accompanied by a glass of rose and a bottle of bubbly water, though the meal today was better and half the tab of the Cafe du Metro one (of last week).


As I prepared to leave, two young women sat right next to me and I was oh so tempted to stay and listen in. My sister, who is a language whiz, says the best way to get more fluent in any language is to listen all you can to others who are fluent. Still, the day was turning rather pretty and I was happy to be up and out again.


A couple of shop displays for you. First, one from a chocolate store -- it's a very creative if somewhat abstract chicken. See her yellow feet up in the air?


Then, I went into a bookstore and found this display of very young children's books on eating. I almost bought one for Snowdrop, but children's literature here often runs toward the macabre (wolves eating the protagonist bunny, monsters coming to the table to eat your food, resulting in your hunger and possible demise -- that kind of thing). Still, it should be noted that training on eating starts early.


Okay, the sun is really coming out more often now. Ask her, the woman on the bike.


It feels so lovely and dramatic, too...


... that I think I must go down to the river. When the sky is beautiful, you really do need to stand over the Seine to see it at its best.


On the way, I pop into Monoprix, which I guess one might compare to a Target back home. Finally! A dress that looks like it can take rough play! I put it on the conveyor belt.


And let me include this photo of bread baking, to remind us how much French people love their long baguette.


I then went into one last store, where, among other things, I looked at spring scarves. This is where you separate the sheep from the goats: Americans don't know how to wear scarves and French are born knowing what loops to make and what folds to spread and tuck in which direction. I'm positive it's genetic, though it's not been studied, of course.

You tie it like this, then fan it out in the style of Yves St Laurent, she explains, never once understanding that the minute I go home and try this, my hands will stick to the cloth, the fabric will bunch and in the end look like it's been run through the washing machine seconds ago.


Well, no matter. She felt good, I felt good, resulting in a purchase, of course, which probably made her feel even better and it made me feel better, at least until the moment when I sit down to do the accounting once I get home.

And this is when I remind you that tomorrow I am traveling home. There's an evening in Paris to recall and a whole day of travel to discuss, but I'll leave that for tomorrow's post. Until then!

evening in Paris

Perhaps some day I will think that I have walked all these Parisian blocks too many times to feel a thrill from walking them once more, but I have not reached that point yet. As I set out last night to cross the left bank for a dinner not too far from the Eiffel Tower (which itself is nearly an hour by foot from my hotel), meandering this way and that, pausing at a store now and then (making the walk more than twice as long as it should have been), it struck me how this kind of hike through Paris is always very lovely and too, very calming (as opposed to, say, in New York, or in fact so many other cities of this world, where "calming" does not seem the choice word to use in describing a walk through them).

I had my camera with me, of course, and used it now and then and I'll let my photos guide us along from my starting point at Odeon, to the restaurant Pottoka -- a wonderful, tiny place, where the chef brings to the table the flavors of the Basque region of France.

It's just after five when I cross the Carrefour de l'Odeon (down the block from my hotel). And now here's a storefront that always makes me smile. These days it's a small food and wine store. You always wonder how places like this survive -- but they do. And that's such a good thing.


There is a popular clothing store nearby and I stop in. I am a tiny bit exasperated with how girls' clothing here is nearly always very pretty, as if every day is a cause for celebration. To the two dresses for Snowdrop, I add a pair of pants and a jeans shirt from the boys section. What strikes me in this next photo is how big Snowdrop is getting. Those are not infant clothes anymore!


I pass scenes of friends, neighbors running into each other all the time. A pause for a chat. I suppose what struck me here is how colorful men's pants tend to be.


Crepes remain a popular street food.


Another lovely storefront -- this one is from a chocolate shop.


A stop at another children's clothing store -- one that tends to be bolder in tone.


And I realize right about now that I have yet to have my daily coffee. No wonder I kept falling asleep on the flight over! Not too late! There are SO MANY cafes to choose from! I stop at a tiny place that's appropriately called "Corner Cafe" (Cafe du Coin), where people are stopping not only for a coffee but for an early evening drink with perhaps a plate of cold cuts. I stick to my coffee, standing up, at the bar.


... and I enjoy watching neighborhood men and women pause for a moment before the evening fully unfolds for them.


Outside again, I pass a small park. I'm delighted to see these:


And now the light has faded. It's just past seven. And still, the storefronts are lit and so I remain charmed by them. An old fashioned pharmacy...


... a bread and pastry shop:


And now it is 7:30 and I am at Pottoka:


The menu is small but it's wonderful. As usual, I have a tough time deciding. I go with the specials in the end. The first course is made grand by the quality of the cheese and bacon (the fried brioche is nothing to sneeze at either).


Basque cuisine is interesting in that it's heavy on the meats but also equally focused on the sea. I order what is just out of this world -- scallops with white asparagus and Parmesan, with a large large handful of fresh morel mushrooms throughout.


I choose one of the lighter desserts: it's all about mango!


When you eat alone, you can really indulge in people watching and at Pottoka this is especially good because the tables are rather close. I'll give you just an impressionistic image of this young couple: they take their menu studying very seriously!


Too, their wine drinking!


I can guarantee you that I'll be back at this restaurant soon. An absolute new favorite.

I start the long walk back to my hotel.


First I veer toward the Eiffel Tower, passing a very lively cafe-bar, with your classic very agile, very professional waiter.


I turn now toward the river bank. If you think that Parisians have been avoiding outdoor open gatherings -- think again. (It's nearly ten at night.)


Walking along the river at night is always very beautiful.


Across, on the right bank, you can just see the Obelisk from the Place de la Concorde. And of course the Ferris Wheel.


As I pass the Assemblee Nationale, I see that it, too, is lit to stand in solidarity with Belgium..


I'm on the lively Rue de Buci now, just steps away from my hotel. Very lively. With a deliberateness that is palpable.


And now I am nearly at my starting point, the grand walk through Paris behind me. For today!