Saturday, July 09, 2016

going home

Air France, the airline I'm quite loyal to (for one thing, it partners with Delta and I like Delta), has had its ups and downs lately. One down -- it is struggling with labor issues. Today, for example, there was a general strike (again!) and things that usually take no time at all at the airport took forever. One upside -- I rarely fly in the thick of summer and therefore I rarely experience what I have had now on both legs of the transatlantic legs -- an overbooked flight and a resulting upgrade to keep us all happy.

But all this is trivial compared to the one huge bonus Air France has given me (and from my future bookings, it looks like this is a permanent thing): it has changed the once a day departure from Paris to Detroit. It used to be 1:30 and now it's 3:00.

I cannot tell you how wonderful this is! I would sit in the very last row of a packed plane for this gift alone. My last day, as a result of the push forward, becomes not one of just travel -- endless waits, commutes, struggles with baggage, rushed departures, short nights and in the winter,  trekking out of the hotel when it is still good and dark -- but it it includes a half day of unfettered pleasure. There is no agenda (though I could even visit a museum, it's that good!). There is leisure. On a day like today, marked by brilliant sunshine, I can head out, enjoy a lovely breakfast and walk wherever I want for several hours even and still get to the airport in plenty of time for my flight.

And so on this day where in the past I could no longer sustain an interest in Paris, because there was no time for Paris, I am only half way focused on my trip. Here, this selfie says it best: I'm halfway still here.


Where to for breakfast? Well, I start out toward my favorite -- Les Editeurs. That's a place that is hugely comfortable and it serves reliably good bread product. But on my way there, I pass Le Hibou. It's a cafe that I've always noticed, because it is enormously popular. This morning, it catches my attention for two other reasons: this vignette, which, in my opinion is utterly charming:


And I noticed that where Les Editeurs tables are in the shade, here, the tables are dappled with lovely sunshine. In other words, the lighting is just magnificent. For a summer breakfast, there is nothing better than dappled sunlight.

(To be honest, the bread product -- a croissant and a pain au chocolat for me -- is a wee bit less awesome than at Les Editeurs, but sometimes light can take precedence over food. I have no regrets.)


And then I walk. I have some 90 minutes (because I took forever with breakfast, which in itself tells you how wonderful this morning is slated to be). Where to? Oh where to?

(Look how pretty the skies! How fresh and gallant Paris looks on a July day that has absolutely perfect weather!)


Of course, I head toward the Luxembourg Gardens.

It's just 10 a.m., so only the stubborn few are there now, but oh, how beautiful this park is on a Saturday morning!

(Chairs still empty, but properly set to face a statue amidst a visually soothing bed of flowers.)


(Now there's an athletic duo: dad's carrying a skateboard and pushing his son on a scooter/bike.)


(The play area that Snowdrop loved so much in May now has, in addition to the sand pits, a splash pool.)


(Is there a more serene spot to open a book?)


(The light, the flowers, the greenery -- sensual, soothing, sublime.)


(You know who this is! When Auguste Bartholdi set out to made the Statue of Liberty that welcomes you to the New York harbor, he first created a bronze model as a template. It was placed in the Luxembourg Gardens in the early 1900's. To preserve it against damage, it was removed from the park four years ago and replaced with this bronze copy.)


(Happiness is...)


(Flowers are an ether, a balm. These are close to the beehives of the Luxembourg Gardens.)


I leave the Gardens then and find myself in the neighborhood of kids' stores. I pick up a few odds and ends for my little granddaughter. In one store, I find this quite gorgeous little shirt. Of course she'll love the penguin!


A flower shop in Paris is always visual candy to the passerby. Here, she is minutely tending to the blooms she sells. I think a lot about the flowers I left behind at the farmette. We had several storms that did damage to some of the trees. I'm hoping the flowers stood tall!


This neighborhood cafe is such a no big deal thing, but I'm sure it's a place where these two gentlemen come to chat on a regular basis.


Now this is just an incredible coincidence: I took a photo of these sisters with their dad in this very block four days ago when I was passing through here. That day they were in lovely coats and boots. How the weather has changed in the handful of days!


I reenter the Luxembourg Gardens, cutting through toward my hotel. In this one section, the fragrance of the blooming lindens is so intense that I wished with all my might that there would be an app that would capture that wonderful sweetness.


(You could sit here and just inhale. You need do nothing more to clear your mind.)


(This vast open space in this park is where Snowdrop felt the joy of exploring on her own. It's a beautiful expanse of flowers, water, avenues.)


(The Luxembourg Palace, housing the French Senate.)


(Father and son, reviewing life's peculiarities.)


(She's asking her dog who is noticeably occupying a seat rather than resting at her heels, whether he is satisfied with the state of things.)


And now for my final photo for you from this side of the ocean. It's so good to have had this morning to walk calmly, without haste, without worry.


I return to the hotel, pick up my suitcase. I have 3.5 hours to the departure of my flight and normally this is just the right amount of time. The train comes promptly and the luck of the draw is that it's an express, so I am at the airport within forty minutes. I'm feeling like this is going to be one smooth trip until I step into the airport.

Had I forgotten that there is a general strike again today? First, some security concern has the police reroute everyone bound for the overseas terminal. Okay. I'm a brisk walker. And then comes the wait. I only need to drop off a suitcase (darn Basque rum) -- I have my boarding pass. The line is short, but there are almost no agents. It takes forever. As does the wait for the bus to take us to the aircraft. Once on board though, the issues go away. The captain tells us -- you've gotten through the worse part, getting on the aircraft. Now sit back and relax. And I do.

I'm posting during the layover at Detroit, but very soon I'll be in Madison and Ed will drive me to the farmette where the fireflies dance and whiff of summer is strong.