Sunday, September 16, 2018

and back to Paris

In Warsaw, the intensity of my visit never subsides. I whirligig my way through the days.

The older I get, the more complicated is my relationship to my past. It's that way for everyone, I suppose. You have added layers of insight, but, too, you have more questions. Wise is the person, I think, who suddenly understands that what they believed they knew, is pock marked with half truths and missing information. We, most of us, sail through life taking shortcuts. The demands of the day forced us to not to think things through. We had to work, to take care of our loved ones. But as I return to my childhood unencumbered by those external demands now, I realize there's a lot that I know a lot less than I thought I did.

I am up early. I have to put the apartment to rest. Clean, clear, empty, wipe.

And I have to eat breakfast.


My sister comes over so that we can take the more complicated combination of metros and buses to the airport together (it's Sunday; moving around the central city is less straightforward). But looking at my watch, I see that we really do have a little extra time. Gone are the days when I want to sit at the airport for unnecessarily long periods of time prior to the first departure. The Warsaw airport is close and comparatively small. I don't have kids with me. I can push my arrival there until the last hour.

And so my sister and I hop out for a walk. I propose the river coast because I haven't walked there yet on this trip and in the summer, the beautifully improved banks of the Wisla River are a wonderful place for a stroll. By the afternoon, they will be packed with families and people enjoying a gorgeous, sunny day.



Sundays in Warsaw are uniquely special. Portions of the city empty out, communal spaces fill up. I don't know many people who don't enjoy a Sunday walk.

Most stores are closed. Like in France, Poland likes to believe that a day off from commerce and work is important. Commercial interests have flexed that once cardinal rule in France just a tiny bit. But in Poland the trend is different. The very idea of loosening this once ingrained conviction is being reconsidered. There is pressure to keep things closed. The reasons for this may seem noble and maybe they are, or maybe they're not. Depends on whom you ask.

(Here is a shop in Powisle -- the riverside district of Warsaw where I live -- that is indeed closed, but I can see through the window that it is a very modern play on several themes: the Polish-styled butcher shop is transformed into a "Chip-ster" store. A Pole would find this to be a funny play on words. Put a "c" in front of an "h" and you get the Polish "h" sound. So chipster is really hipster, but of course every Pole knows that "chips" means "chips," hence the haha moment.)


I'll end with a photo of Tamka Street. My street cuts through Powisle like a spear, linking the city center with Praga on the other side of the river (Praga hasn't yet the status of, say, a Parisian Left Bank). But it doesn't do damage to the heart of Powisle. It is a pretty street despite its arterial significance. Or, as I like to say -- we Varsovians like it!

(Mine is the yellow building with pointy balconies.)


So I am a Varsovian, eh? That's the tricky part. I come here thinking I am just looking back, I leave thinking I am thoroughly of this place.

It's a good way to end my Warsaw visit.

As always, I relish a slow transition to my life back home. Stopping in Paris allows me time to make that needed shift. I am going from everything Polish here, to nothing Polish across the ocean. I like to catch my breath before I let go of it all in order to rejoin the world of my beloveds.

(The commuter train from the airport to the city... You know you're almost there when you pass this sight for one fleeting second. I always tell myself: I should take a picture, but it really is there for just one second. This time I was ready for it.)


In Paris I go straight to the Jardin du Luxembourg. Suitcase and all. It's a warm and sunny September day in the city. Everyone is back from vacation, everyone is in the park. Everyone.






Familiar blocks to the Hotel Baume...


In the elevator, going up to my room. A little plate of nuts and dates awaits me. They used to leave me a half bottle of red wine in appreciation for my loyalty, but I told them it's no use -- I rarely drink red wine. So now I get dried apricots and nuts.

Such familiar surroundings! In travel, I like exploring a new town or village. In Paris, I want the familiar.


An early evening walk... Pausing at Mulot's pastry shop, thinking about which cake I would buy if I lived here and needed one for a dinner party...


And all the while thinking of my grandkids back home. One of them is on a weekend trip away from home, another is sick in bed. Life moves forward whether you're there or across the ocean.


I eat a buckwheat crepe for dinner at the Breizh Cafe around the corner. Familiar, comforting. Lovely to eat outside. Lovely to have been in Warsaw. Lovely to be in Paris. Lovely to be going home on Tuesday.