Friday, December 16, 2016

Friday in Paris

Madison Wisconsin is going to be pounded by a winter storm; temperatures are plummeting. The coming of the coldest season has not been a gentle matter there.

In Paris, it's sunny and 50F (10C).

My stays here are easy -- perhaps the easiest of any stays anywhere. There is nothing I have to do. No one to see, no imperatives for the hours ahead of me. (This could be a little disconcerting to a busy person, but I accept it!)

(It's dark when I wake up. The moon shines brightly, a lone figure seems to be sitting at a table, reading...)


Eventually I am up.

And then I agonize over where to eat breakfast and then whether to have a croissant with pain au chocolat or a baguette avec confitures. Strip a person of her essential problems and daily chores and she'll find something else to fret about. Nature made this mistake in programming the human form: she did not make it easy for him or her to just be.

Finally I decide that Les Editeurs is cheaper than my hotel and has better bread product than most cafes around me and so I head there.

(I pass a woman Parisienne walking her dog. You get the picture.)


And then I torture the waitress by going back and forth about which breads should grace my little table.


It's such a lovely day that afterwards,  I take great pleasure in simply strolling the streets of Paris. I do have goals: Christmas is just before me, Snowdrop is getting taller by the day, four family birthdays are coming up. So shopping sets the parameters for my stroll, but it's not a worried hassled shopping. I know what I want and where to find it. Everything about this day is easy.

Walk along with me!

(Passing numerous pastry shops. This cake. Yeah, I want this cake.)


(Okay. You say just a pastry? Then I take this one!)


(A buche de Noel? I chose this one!)


(Parisians will eat outdoors no matter what. Bad weather. Lousy views. Noise. Not important!)


(Much debate as to what to buy for Snowdrop. Not so much for now, but when she jumps sizes. Which is about to happen. This? Or this?)


(Honestly, in that particular store, she would have been happy to just take the paper penguins home!)


(A flower shop I would love to have back home...)


(Oh! Here's an even better one? Damn!)


(Park beauty again.)


(With the most lovely and soothing fountain...)


(The more quiet corners of the Luxembourg Gardens.)


(Preteens, out on the streets. Buoyant!)


(At the Bon Marche department store food halls, the job that seems fun: tasting the various champagnes that come in!)


(Outside the Bon Marche, I pass this waiting family of four: three girls, one mother. The car doesn't come. The youngest takes matter in her own hands. I so see Snowdrop doing this!)


Just this year, a new indoor market opened in "my" neighborhood -- the Marche Saint Germain. I'm sure to return to it in the spring, when I am here a tad longer and staying in an apartment. For now, what I really love are the small eateries that spill out at the sides. They're not set to France's ridiculously rigid eating schedule and instead, serve fresh and honest salads, soups, sandwiches, quiches all day long. It's close to 4 by the time I sit down for a snack of a wonderful salad with bits of smoked salmon.


I do have one touristy thing I've been itching to accomplish, but it turns out to be a bust.

 (On the walk over: a father with a beautifully fussy little girl! )


(I'm in the neighborhood of the Sorbonne, so I'm guessing these are students, doing what students do: talking.)


(A drop-dead gorgeous sky!)


The goal: the newly refreshed and just recently reopened Pantheon, just as the sun is nearing the horizon.


It's not that I'm drawn to the experience of communing with distinguished dead French men (well, out of the nearly 100 there, you will find two women -- one of them Marie Sklodowska-Curie), but I know there is a splendid view from it's cathedral tower and I'm quite willing to climb many steps to take a look. But it's closed for the off season. (And judging by the opening months, the Parisians consider the off season to be very long indeed.)

If I want to admire the Eiffel Tower, this is the best I can do:


On the walk back -- let's focus on grandparents.

(Oh, you make me feel so guilty! It's 50F outside and the child has more wraps than Snowdrop has on a day three times as cold!)


(Sometimes it's fun just to talk about grandchildren!)


Dinner. I've always had this great love of going back again and again to a favorite place in Paris. But you can't sit on your hands and ignore reality. Some favorite places lose imagination. Others close. It's a life's lesson: you can't sit still. So I've shifted again and now, after giving it four separate tries this past year, I'll call Semilla a favorite place.

(Setting out: it's Paris so... lipstick!)


(Walking over to the Buci neighborhood, just a handful minutes from where I stay.)


It's not that I arrive without issue. I wanted to sit there, they seated me here and even the smile of the cajoling waiter didn't soften my feeling of let down. I wanted to sit there!

But the fact is, here was better than there. I have a terrific place from which to watch waiters and chefs alike. And the food.... Oh, it goes without saying that the food is grand. Scallops with endive, a fish with spinach and gnocchi, an apple millefeuille. (Here's the scallop endive dish; in the background a most amazing waiter.)


I could have eaten silently without much attention to the people around me. I almost went that route. But the French gentleman on my right was engaging (he needed a listener for the hour before his wife or was it partner or was it girlfriend arrived) and it was between silence, or being his little sounding board,  or talking to the woman on my left who was a nurse from Wyoming. The nurse won.

It was her second time in Paris and on this trip, she had signed on to a tour-like situation (was it "Paris by Mouth?"). It seemed to be going well for her but what I especially liked was the way she tried to use French. She tried even with me. (She had only a high school knowledge of it and high school happened many many years ago.)

Her tour person came in toward the end of the meal and after having an argument with the French gentleman to my right (they're all habituees who have firm opinions about protocol), he came back to his charge, the Wyoming nurse (who, btw, loved photos of Snowdrop on my iPhone -- she asked!-- but this is not at all why I liked her... not at all!).

We (the tour person, the waiter and I) went through my usual malaise where I am appreciated for my accent but not for my vocabulary. But but, you speak so well! Quit saying that, French people. I'm just okay. I sound good and that throws you. Speak your rapid fire French at me and I am lost! Slow down and I'm good. So   just    slow   down!

The evening ends with my dropping my camera. Sigh. Bang and bust. Usually when I travel I bring along my back up, but this time I didn't. Sure, sure, I can use my i-Phone, but Paris is already very difficult to photograph. I don't need this added burden.

You know I'm not really complaining. I have no burdens at this second. (It will be a burden if I have to replace a camera, but I don't know that yet.) I have a (free) glass of champagne from the hotel before me and lovely holiday music on my computer to enjoy.

I hope you have at least that much to guide you through a beautiful evening!