Tuesday, September 18, 2018

the end of the trip

Solo travel is terrific if you like to have conversations with yourself. Most of these are fun. Some are a little bossy: Nina, you really should not order two bread products if you can only eat one! I mean, how hoggish!

As I make my way for a Monday morning breakfast at Les Editeurs, a cafe restaurant just two minutes from my hotel, I once again face the Paris breakfast dilemma. At home, it's so simple! I eat the same thing. Ed laughs, you may laugh, but I am content. But Paris poses a problem. Should I shop around? When I do, the croissants are often not as good. Okay, assume les Editeurs then. Order their "Le Petite" (the little one), and they give you two croissant type products OR a baguette with butter and jam. Along with a grand creme (big milky coffee) and a freshly squeezed juice, it's a good deal at just under 10 Euro. Except that I don't want two croissant products. I've tried to bargain for substitutions, but they wont budge. Even ordering jam for your croissant leaves them scrambling to figure out if there should be a surcharge. The jam is for the baguette, madame. Order what you want a la carte, and you're paying way more than 10 Euro.

Do you see why Paris is such a total retreat for me? I mean, my anxiety is about how I should order breakfast at Les Editeurs!  Life should always be so simple and trouble free! At home, I can never just fret about bread product. If I can't be helping my daughters with their kids, I'll be worrying about stalled farmette projects. Or, Ed and I will be watching news analysis and fretting about where this planet is heading and what we should do about it. Or, I'll want to finish my Great Writing Project.  But in Paris, I worry about croissants.

On this particular morning, I order Le Petite and ask them to please just bring me one croissant. Yes, I know I am entitled to two. Just one please. This is such an unusual twist that it brings the proprietor to my table. Madame, you should at least get a half a slice of baguette! I insist! With jam!

How I love Les Editeurs...


So what does one do with only one full day in Paris? Me, I just walk the neighborhoods around me. That's it. I note that there is an exhibition at the Musee du Luxembourg and it sounds kind of interesting, but I see it's in place until January. I will be back in Paris in December with TWO full days in the city. I'll catch it then. Today, I walk.


Crossing the St Sulpice square, with that imposing church that looked old and grimy until they cleaned it up last year, I see that an art class in in progress. University students. I watch them draw.


Because it is a school day, I bump into a lot of young people all day long. My path takes me past an elementary school at lunchtime. Some kids go home. I watch this pick up, marveling how no one, absolutely no one is picked up by car. Favored mode of locomotion? Feet, followed closely by scooter.


And inevitably I cut into a block where there is a favorite store with kids clothes. These days I always go there. It's still lunch time. There is a high school just around the corner and so I see multitudes of students coming and going. Where to? Can you guess?


Some have packed lunches, some pick up baguette sandwiches at the bakeries in this block. Equipped with food, the young people, scores of them, head to the Luxembourg Gardens.


They disperse and spread out. On benches and chairs pulled together in groups. On the grass, where the sign says: yes, you can sit down here! Some have their smart phones out, but most do not. They just talk. Snowdrop, who loves to talk would fit right in.


I leave the park, wanting to leave my parcels at my hotel before the next leg of my grande promenade. I know I want lunch. You can't go all day on a croissant and a piece of bread. I do what I rarely do these days -- I stop at a place on an impulse. It's the cafe that spills out onto the street right by the Odeon Theater (so just outside my hotel). It's always full of French people. I suppose it's a little tucked away from a beaten path so tourists rarely find it. It's very charming in a Parisian kind of way, with small wobbly tables on a cobbled square, surrounded by parked motorcycles. There's not a menu in sight. Tables, chairs, people. Not too many waiters, so be prepared to be French and wait without complaining. Still, on this warm, beautiful day I'm thinking it could not get more perfect.


As always, someone will talk to me. When you're on your own, you look approachable. A woman at another table looks at my plate and asks me how I find the cod on this day. Another one comments on my shopping bags. They have kid store markings. She congratulates me on a morning well spent.


(If you think I'm a bit excessive with the selfies in Paris, well, there's a reason. I am drawn to people photojournalism, even as this is getting to be more difficult in France, as the rules here are much different -- stricter -- than, say, back home. True, no one pays attention to the rules (if they even read them) and cameras click at the rate of a metronome on overdrive, but still. And so, although I love watching people, I really do try to be modest in the number of people photos I take. Were it not for the laws, you'd be looking at gazillion photos of Parisians. Instead, you get more of me -- the filler person, just to give that people perspective. I apologize.)

In the evening, I go to Semilla. You, who are the loyal Ocean readers may remember that on my last night in Paris these days I always go to Semilla. There will come a day when this will change, but for now, it is my "goodbye Paris" place. And the staff is always energetic and the food is always fantastic. (Mirabelles are plums that are ever so common now in Europe. I rarely see them in the US. They appear on this tart, along with cremes and flavors I can't possibly remember now.)


Yes, the moon shines brightly over Paris on this night. (The block of my hotel...)


And now it is Tuesday morning. Here's a look out my window away from the Odeon Theater. Equally lovely, especially on another pretty day.


I get a tad mixed up with some computer stuff in the morning and when I look at the clock I decide that I should skip breakfast and get to the airport.  In Paris, it's a good idea to give yourself plenty of time. You never know. Still, as I walk to the commuter train station, I am a bit wistful: maybe I should have at least paused at a bar for a shot of espresso and a bite of croissant... Look how lovely that short pause can be!


I walk past the gardens. Next time I see this guy he may well be snow covered!


At 9:30 in the morning, the park is nearly empty. Too early, even for tourists. You'll see the joggers and, too, the people who cut through on their way to work. That's all. A quiet Jardin de Luxembourg -- that's my last glance at Paris.


The commuter train ride to the airport is not uneventful. Half way, the engineer comes onto the loudspeaker and tells us the next stop will be the train's last stop. There is only that statement, in French. There is a lot of commotion and uncertainty, especially among those with suitcases. Now what??? These trains run every ten minutes and they empty out a huge number of people at the airport. Even if you were to send a dozen buses to the train station where all has come to a grinding halt, you could never keep up.

This is why in Paris, you need to give yourself time. Time not to panic. Time to review the possibilities. Time to follow those who seem to know where to go and what to do. (Out of the dozens, possibly hundreds of times I've taken this train, it is only the third time that "an event" has caused the whole system to shut down, so the probabilities remain low of it happening to you, but not nearly as low as you'd like.)

Needless to say, it all somehow worked out. Some people learned that a special train would be leaving from another platform, I followed them there and before too long I was at Charles de Gaulle. Where I had an inferior breakfast. So what. You can't always have that perfect croissant from Les Editerus in life.


The ocean crossing is uneventful if you discount the two violent episodes of turbulence in the middle. This is no longer unusual. Rare is the crossing without at least one such episode. I actually spoke to the Delta captain about it, as we were both taking a break at the same time in the same space. He agreed. I can count on one hand the number of flights I've had in recent years without this kind of turbulence. That real dip we took? I checked and it had nothing to do with the prevailing winds but was the result of an oceanic storm below us. An impressive guy. You're not bothered by any of it, are you? -- I asked. He laughed.

I have heard that our messing with the climate will cause even more such rumbles in the air. Our penance for ruining the planet. Ed would remind me that I am a contributor by going to Europe several times each year. I retort that the average person drives so excessively as to more than make up for my packed-with-passengers flights, and that new technologies are really going to make this issue a thing of the past, and that we have to fly so that airlines will spend the money on such technologies, but he's not convinced. We go back and forth on this a lot.

And speaking of Ed, guess who is at the airport in the evening, waiting to take me home...

Tomorrow, tired from travel but refreshed from the trip I return to my routines.