Just over a week ago, I returned from a month in Paris. After three days of jet-lag and sleeping and eating at very odd hours here in the states, I began to function again. Everyone asks how it was, and I hesitate. I’m certain they are expecting one answer and one answer alone … fabulous!
|my chair – Tuileries|
I hesitate because it was both fantastic and a little bit disappointing. The fantastic and fabulous included moving slowly through the city and pacing my visits. I spent a leisurely lunch and an entire afternoon in the Tuileries Gardens just soaking up nature and architecture and people. The Musee d’Orsay captured me for a full day including coffee and macarons for lunch and a few tears in the Monet exhibit. It was breathtaking and something I never felt in the Louvre.
My day in Normandie cannot be put into words. You have to breathe it and live it, but it was a highlight of my trip. As was the day-trip in Champagne country where I tasted 8 glasses of champagne in 4 hours. The scenery once you get outside Paris is spectacular and I began to wish for a full week outside the city.
|American Cemetery Normandie|
I wandered the rooms of Shakespeare and Co. with lunch at an outdoor cafe listening to the chiming bells from Notre Dame. And that same day, I experienced Sainte-Chapelle. I say experience because you have to see it in person. Even the post cards and books sold in the gift shop cannot capture it.
|Paris Opera House|
My last day found me having coffee and a lemon tart in the same café as Hemingway, Stein, Fitzgerald, Picasso – the list too long to name them all. Café de Flore. All of the Parisien artists and authors of that era met there for hours. I walked the streets of Saint Germaine de Pres and toured the cathedral, then returned for another café au lait at Le Deux Magots. Between these two spots you would find the authors writing their pages of drivel before something creative and wonderful appeared on the page.
|Cafe de Flore|
Wonderful also included daily croissants and street markets with fresh vegetables and fruits. It included wine and cheese and rainy days and sunny ones. It included walking miles each day even with the Metro. It included music and dancing along the Seine. And getting lost and finding my way again. And a hidden community that beckons you back to the 20’s and a gladiator arena tucked among apartment buildings. Music boxes, street vendors, and artists. And the always present Notre Dame Cathedral and the Tour Eiffel.
Not so wonderful was not hearing English for four weeks. It became somewhat oppressive and definitely isolated me from the world. Not so wonderful are the numbers of homeless sleeping in tents under the quai of the river, beggars on street corners and on the train, mothers with babies pleading for money. It included walking 50 steps to the tracks for my metro train west. And 50 more down when I returned.
It included getting confused with buses, lost among winding streets that suddenly changed name with no warning and frustration standing in front of a store item taking pictures and using google translate to see what I was buying. It included hanging laundry to dry every other day and not having the right pan for pizza after I had bought a frozen one for dinner.
Not so wonderful was the lack of AC during a week of heat. It included a hard bed that hurt my back until I moved to the futon in the office and it included the broken baby toe three days before one of my day-trips. Not so wonderful was not being able to hop in the car and get somewhere in minutes. It included my hair that refused to cooperate in a strange environment. It included trying to figure out pounds in metric and buying two pounds of green beans instead of a half.
Did I write in Paris? A small notebook of scenes but not as much as I thought I would. I finally realized that I was there to absorb and would write it later.
The fabulous always outweighed the not so great and I loved being there. Loved the cobbled streets until my feet complained. Loved walking less than two blocks to a 32 acre botanical garden where I sat and ate ice cream and talked on Whatsapp with my daughter. I was ready for home so apparently the timing was just right.
Would I do it again? No, not in Paris. A big city — noisy, chaotic, nonstop traffic and sirens and refugees and homeless and dirty. I couldn’t wait to get into the shower each night after being in the city, especially the metro. It was good coming home to spacious and still vacant land and farms and cows. I am a country girl at heart and always have been. I’d do France again but outside the city.
|my host Martine when she returned from Canada|