Europe 2010: Hanging Out in Paris – September 23

Perhaps it’s because I live on a lovely, quiet island or perhaps it really is the case that Paris is special, but I am reveling in the bustle and excitement of the big city. It’s certainly a contrast from contemplative walks around Killarney Lake.

I can’t say I could live here forever, but I wouldn’t mind trying to make a go of it for a few months. Having just a week here is crazy—just no time to do anything. It’s already Thursday and we leave at the crack of dawn on Saturday morning. Of course we’re going down to Montpelier and then to Spain and Portugal so it’s hardly as if we’re being exiled to Pittsburgh, but still. I hate to leave Paris!

Today I’ve decided to just do errands and catch up on some work—in other words, to be in Paris like a regular person who does not feel compelled to visit a museum or do any sightseeing. I started the day early by taking a brisk forty minute walk past gare Montparnasse to the rue de Sevres. My intention was to take another NIA class but unfortunately, the address on the Web site was either wrong or the class was cancelled. Either way—no Nia! On the other hand, when I rounded the corner off the rue de Sevres onto the street where the studio was supposed to be, rising ahead of me was the Eiffel Tower. It seems that sightseeing in Paris just happens by default!

I gave up waiting after about fifteen minutes and wandered down the street in search of a café au lait (not hard to find!). I turned a corner and there was the golden dome of the Invalides. Across the road in an open square, the stalls of a regular weekly market were thronged with ladies trailing baskets on wheels (very smart way to shop!). The market contained an eclectic mixture of food stalls and clothes. Some of the clothes were very nice indeed; I was tempted by a jacket that cost 80 euros that was quickly reduced to 65 when I looked interested. However, I didn’t have enough cash on me (good thing) and besides, I should keep at least some of my shopping money for Spain and Portugal.

I snapped lots of pictures of the food stalls. I never get tired at looking at the gorgeous arrangements of vegetables, fruit, fish, olives, cheese—it goes on and on. I would love to live in Paris for a longer stint to I could get into cooking. I had intended to cook on this trip but our apartment has just a hot plate in an extremely small kitchen. Also, we’ve just been too busy to have time for cooking! And really, eating out in Paris every night is no hardship.

After wandering around the market for awhile exchanging Bonjours with many of the stall holders , I grabbed a café au lait and started walking back the way I came to the apartment. On the way, I stopped at a print shop to get some of my work printed. I enjoyed doing the entire transaction in French—amazed at how much better my French is getting. Of course, it’s still terrible, but at least I’m feeling more confident about trying. The Parisians I’ve run into could not be more friendly and helpful. What’s this about cold Parisians? I haven’t seen any yet. They don’t wince at my bad French—instead they smile and repeat what I say with the correct pronunciation in an attempt to help me learn. They really seem genuinely pleased that I’m trying.

Several times I’ve been complimented on my accent. They are being more kind than truthful but I appreciate it!

I stopped off at the Musee de la Poste where we went to the Aragon exhibit on Sunday to pick up a catalog for Gregg. We didn’t want to buy it and lug it all over Paris on Sunday. I made a quick call to Gregg and while I was talking a young man tapped me on the shoulder and held up a paper I had dropped. Mon Dieu! It was the address of the woman who had bought the drawing at the opening, folded around her cheque. I didn’t want to think how I would have felt if I had lost that.

I was so grateful I forgot to speak French and let out a heartfelt Thank You! The man just smiled, shrugged – da rien, Madame. I could have kissed him.

After working awhile at the apartment, I set out for the local laundromat. The apartment has a washing machine but I can’t be bothered to figure out how to use it. At the landromat, a nice man took it upon himself to show the foreigner how everything worked. I thought he worked there but no, he was just a guy doing his laundry. While my loads were washing, I set off in search of a manicure. My hands were a mess, not to mention my poor walked on toes.

A manicure/pedicure is the same in any language! The place was run by several Vietnamese ladies who bent over backwards to make me feel welcome. The woman who did my nails spoke some English and she was just thrilled to have the chance to practice. She told me that she would speak English and I could speak French and that way we both could practice! The lady in the chair next to me also helped out as I struggled to put together sentences. If I got the grammar right and the pronunciation close, everyone nodded and laughed approvingly.

It was the most fun I’ve ever had getting my nails done!

After a bit more work in the apartment and a quick snack, Gregg arrived back from the Gallery and we headed out for an evening’s entertainment—a concert of Beethoven and Mendelssohn at Le Sainte Chappelle on the Ile de Cite. The Sainte Chapelle is one of my favorite places in all of Paris, if not the world. If you’ve never been there, put it on our list as the must-see of any trip to Paris. Pictures don’t do it justice so I won’t include any.

On our way to the concert, we were stuck in the Metro for a very hot and dark 15 minutes. The Metro finally pulled into a station and the murmurs in the car indicated that the train may well stay in the station for quite a while more thanks to an impending demonstration related to the strike (just the one day – not really a problem). We hopped out and decided to grab a cab to the Ile de Cite.

Nope – we walked the distance (had to be about 2 miles) from Raspail to the Sainte Chapelle in record time – arriving exactly at 7 pm to plunk sweatingly down and then be transported by the music and the stained glass.

After the concert, we had an amazing dinner on the Ile St. Louis. If you ever go to Paris check out Aux Anysetiers du Roy. Gregg had the cassoulet (to die for) and I had the Duck Confit (also to die for). In Love Among the Recipes, Jennifer pairs a recipe for cassoulet with her visit to the Musee d’Orsay and a recipe for duck confit with her visit to the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries at the Cluny. So if you ask me, I was doing research!

A family was seated next to us – two grown children and their parents. All through the meal we tried to identify what language they spoke and couldn’t. Finally, the affable older man turned to us and asked us where we were from. They were delighted to hear we were from Canada (they have been to Vancouver) and told us they were from Brazil. Ah – they were speaking Portuguese. I couldn’t identify one word – we’re in for trouble with over two weeks in Portugal! I know please and thank you and that’s it.

For the next hour as we enjoyed the rest of our wine and dessert, we chatted nonstop to the people who spoke excellent English. We had lots in common – the younger man in particular was a huge jazz fan and loved modern art. I even gave them an invitation to the show!

Lovely evening all around as afterwards we strolled hand in hand along the banks of the Seine in the damp evening air.

C’etait tres bon.