Tuesday, May 24, 2016

your Paris

Everyone has their Paris. Even if you are here just once, passing through, perhaps with a group, or alone, you'll always have a personal relationship to the city. Paris oozes with character. The streets, the architecture, the cafe life. The culture, the food scene. The divisions between neighborhoods, so that the fifth arrondissement doesn't feel anything like the fourth and the first has more in common with the eighth than with the second. The sights, the brisk paced inhabitants, the sort of easy but really not that easy metro system. The history! Oh, the history!

All this -- it begs for a reaction and people who visit react. They love it, they feel horrified by the speed of traffic, impressed by the food, or not impressed at all because it really isn't like you would imagine it to be. Oh, the range of reactions to this city!

And if you love it, or even just like it, there are sensual reactions that you have here that belong to only you.

Paris is to me one thing. It is to others something else. We may overlap, but no Paris is the same to any two people.

When I first suggested that my daughters, their husbands and my granddaughter make the trip here with me, I knew this and I pushed for all of them to spend time in the city in smaller configurations (rather than all of us barrelling through it together all the time). Oh, they laughed! We want to do things together! I smiled indulgently.

Today -- our very last day here -- is a classic example of how the city pulls you in different directions and you must give in, you must! Or else you will be disappointed.

The rains are gone, but it is a cool morning. The younger couple is stirring just as I leave to pick up croissants -- at what has become our favorite neighborhood bakery Les Gormandises d'Eiffel (because nearly everyone who comes here thinks they have found the best or at least most favorite bakery). It's the one I return to again and again.

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I'm out just as the neighborhood children are being dropped off at school. I love watching this brisk paced walk -- fathers, mothers, grandmas, walking with kids, perhaps eagerly dropping off kids, so that the adults can continue with their day. [The school day is very long in France by our standards; the kids wont be back home again until toward evening. On the upside, homework is uncommon, so once you're home, you're home.]

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I return to the apartment with a bag full of croissants and breads.The younger couple is in a hurry to be off so that they can sample some places suggested by one person or another.  It's what people do -- they tell you about their own Paris and they want you to try it because maybe it will be your favorite as well. Okay, but I know, I know that in fact their Paris will never overlap with anyone's because, well, everyone has their Paris.

I eat breakfast as I always do, with Snowdrop...

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And after she bathes and dresses, she discovers there's more baguette and so she has a second round.

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(A selfie in the speckled mirror)

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And of course, the minute she is done, she wants to know -- are we going out now??? (She paces from room to room and she cannot be left to her own devices too much because the house isn't really child-proofed.)

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This time the answer is yes, we're going out right away!

We take the metro to the Marais...

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-- the old aristocratic and more recently (as in since the 19th century) the Jewish neighborhood on the Right Bank. The Place des Vosges is so pretty that only on the shorter trips to Paris do I not bother with it. Snowdrop must get to love it too (see -- I'm guilty of the same imposition of my Paris on the little one!).

(Snowdrop runs to her aunt and uncle when she sees them at our meetup point.)

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And she does love this lovely little park!

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Especially the fountains...

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... which, unfortunately, are lower than the ones in the large parks and so she spends a nice few minutes getting herself wet.

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Snowdrop, I don't have a change of sweaters for you! Let's go by grandpa Ed's motto: the fastest way to dry a wet sleeve on asweater is to wear it.

(Two photos that properly belong to a family album: mom with daughters...

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... and the younger couple...)

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My daughter then leads us to a absolutely wonderful falafel place (L'As du Fallafel).

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It's very informal, very crowded, very delicious. The waiter doesn't quite believe that Snowdrop will polish off a plate of falafel, but he's wrong. She really is a terrific eater!

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And then we break up again. I'm going to guide the little girl through her last grand walk in Paris and the kids -- well, you can't even imagine how much they have packed into their plan for the rest of the day. We'll meet up again for dinner.

And so my Paris becomes Snowdrop's Paris now - because she doesn't have a choice! But I try to think of it as her walk. And indeed, even when twice I pause at shops -- once to buy a (cheap) Parisian laminated place mat for her and another time to buy two little Eiffel Tower espresso mugs from a shop I've admired for years -- the sales people focus on her:  elle est formidable, says the gruff looking man at the tabac with the place mat. She is a little princess shopping on the rue Monsieur le Prince! -- says the woman in the little bric a brac shop.  To both, Snowdrop gives a demure smile and a polite wave of her little hand.

And I want to try one more time with the ice cream cone. (Remember? She had little interest in it on one of her first days here.) On the Ile St Louis (the place to get a good ice cream cone), I get a scoop of caramel au beurre salé (thinking if she doesn't want it, I'll finish it off with relish).

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She no longer rejects it, though the licking part still puzzles her. (Yes, it becomes mostly mine.)

And then we cross the river again...

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... and return go to the Luxembourg Gardens -- because "my Paris" will always have the Gardens and here, after all, is where she began to develop a sense of her own Paris.

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Here is where I saw that first big grin. Here's where she took her joyous run. Where she picked a tiny English daisy in the children's grassy corner and where she carried fistfuls of sand back to me so that I could share in her pleasure.

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We're coming to a close of our Paris explorations, even though I know she would like to continue walking, freely, on streets and park avenues, around fountains and tall chestnuts -- open those big apartment house doors for me, grandma! -- I tell her it's time to rest and get strong for tomorrow's long journey home.

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But in the end, towards evening, I relent. Okay, Snowdrop -- you and I are going out for one more walk. No stroller, just walk -- to the grassy fields before the Eiffel Tower that you know so well now.

And this is at once beautiful and difficult: for her, because she wants the freedom to romp and I can't always let go of her little hand and for me, because I do have to put those boundaries on her occasionally and of course because it really is our final walk.

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(A French boy tries hard to engage her in conversation. She, of course, cannot respond. This only makes him persevere...)

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(Here she is, ready to disrupt a game of boules before I whisk her away.)

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(Snowdrop always delights in pointing to the Tower wherever she may be, the minute she spots its beautiful contours.)

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And now we really must return to the apartment. I get Snowdrop ready for bed. (Violet comes to stay with the little one.)

My last photo is from dinner at  Pottoka -- a restaurant that I tried and picked months ago for our final night here.

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Tomorrow we travel home.