Thursday, December 13, 2018

from Paris to the farmette

This trip belongs to the ones with countless lucky breaks. Apart from the delayed suitcase, nothing went awry. Connections have all been smooth, pleasant in fact. The weather? Magnificent, especially now, in these last days in France.

True, this morning was chilly for Parisians. They start looping their scarves twice around when the temperature dips to the freezing point and last night it did indeed dip. I was up early enough to feel it.

It's rare that I can get the late afternoon flight back to the U.S. -- the cheaper fares go quickly. But this time I did get it, leaving me with a whole extra morning in Paris. I wasn't going to waste it sleeping.

I want to take several little walks -- the first, to a bakery. Snowdrop has a teacher who is from Paris and when she learned that I was going for a visit to her beloved city, she told me that I should definitely pop into the Bruno Solques boulangerie (bread and pastry shop). She actually passed on many tips and I did with them what we all do when people give good advice -- we mean to follow it, but somehow the days run away with us and so we don't. At least I'm on it this morning! Even before breakfast!

The bakery is in the neighborhood of the university, so not too far from my hotel, but I take little detours, including to the park.  I've spent almost no time in the Luxembourg Gardens. This morning, I am in love with its emptiness: there is only the occasional hurrying person, cutting through to get to work, or school.


I look at this young girl and wonder about her day. Does she have a sweetie? A best friend maybe? Is she enjoying the quiet of this morning as much as I am? Does she love her city, or does she take it for granted, in the way that most of us take our home towns for granted?


(Early morning frost: it doesn't last and the flowers seem quite undisturbed by it.)


The sun is barely up, but that says nothing about the earliness of the hour. A Paris sunrise today is at 8:37. (Warsaw's sunrise is a whole hour earlier, but the sun sets there at 3:23, where as in Paris, you get to see it until 4:53.)

Oh, how pretty are the tones of a winter morning! Hi, Eiffel Tower!


Here's Bruno Solques, the bakery. The teacher had told me it's quirky. I didn't quite understand how a bakery could be quirky.


I understood once I entered the small space. First of all, Bruno presides. He stalls me for a minute as he rushes to the back, where I see him move something around in the oven, releasing big clouds of steam as he opens the huge door. The smell is so yeasty and good that it is hard to even imagine that I will soon have to leave this piece of heaven.


Bruno is a character, but the real funkiness comes through in the decor. The breads, too, are an unusual assortment of crusty loaves and yeasty buns, but what makes you look twice is the huge ceramic animal staring at you from behind the breads and sweet rolls. Giraffes, pigs, unicorns -- you'll find them at Bruno's.


I ask if the brioche buns with chocolate would stay fresh until tomorrow. But of course!! Bruno speaks with exclamation marks. I want to take some back for the teacher who rhapsodized about them back in Madison. And Snowdrop. And Ed.
How many do you want?
I ask for ten, he throws in at least 12 or 13. They come in all kinds of shapes -- some larger than others and they are loaded with the chocolate you'll typically use for your pain au chocolat.

For the rest of the day, my carry-on bag smells of fresh brioche bread.

I walk back through the park. Why not -- it's so very lovely!


I drop off the rolls at the hotel and make my way to Les Editeurs for a quick breakfast.


(Before me, a woman enters with her pooch poking out from her purse.)


The place is crowded yet again. A half a dozen women my age cluster around several tables, talking with great animation. There are, too, the usual serious looking men, the couples, the singles reading the paper, and then there is this large group of students.


Still, you can always find an empty table. I settle in for my one croissant and coffee. If I'm going to be sitting in an airplane for so many hours, I don't need to load up on French baked goods.


And after, I do something that is becoming more and more rare for me -- I walk over to the Right Bank.

(Still on the Left, I am just in love with the sunshine! Such pretty shadows it casts on  this row of houses!)


Over the bridge I go.


The Paris on the other side of the river is like a whole 'nother city to me. It feels crazy loud. Wide boulevards and large squares would be lovely if only you'd remove all the cars, trucks and buses. Commercially, there seem to be extremes: there are the souvenir shops with a million items screaming love for Paris and there are the expensive stores where you'll see no price tag on any item because the people who shop here just don't care how much it costs. The parks are fine and the area around the Louvre Museum is quite pretty...


(And relatively peaceful)


(The ferris wheel is just at the eastern corner of the Tuileries Garden...)


And to be fair, if you walk away from this central hub and meander into the Marais to the east or the tony 16th Arrondissement to the west, or the funky cool 10th to the north -- you're in for a pleasant surprise. But just across the river, the traffic swirls and honks and leaves you dizzy and I am always happy to come back to the relative quiet and calm of the neighborhoods on the Left.


(Narrow streets,  church towers, old lamps...)


And now it's almost noon and I have to hurry.

I have to say, my two bags are unpleasantly full and heavy. This is the problem with traveling before Christmas! Too, the walk to the commuter train, though not too long, is mostly uphill. And there are stairs. The sack with pastries, cakes and breads slips and slides, the duffel bag refuses to stay on my shoulder, the little suitcase has a zipper that is just barely hanging in there. Uff!

And still, we all make it to Detroit just fine.

And finally, to Madison. And, with Ed -- back to the farmette. Lovely old home, quiet and warm. It's always so very good to return to it.