Paris Diaries: The Enforced Cultural Death March Begins

Trip Stats:
Overt Come Ons: 0
Theoretical Come Ons: 0
Injuries: 0

I don't go anywhere I intend my first day in Paris. It's overcast and a Saturday so I know I can't hit any of the tourist attractions. The Louvre, Notre Dame, th
e Musee D'Orsay will all be packed. I decide to try and find a bakery on Rue des Archives mentioned in the Food Lover's Guide to Paris and also to rediscover a jewelry store from my first trip to Paris. (I bought a pair of earrings there and in the middle of winter lost one. I was hoping to replace it.)

First I head to Place des Vosges. There I stumble across a live jazz band and a very friendly painter who sells me a lovely little watercolor and invites me to "come to him with any questions." All the artists in France are in the employ of the French Tourist Bureau and get paid by the government to seduce female tourists. I am absolutely sure of this. This artist, unlike all the others I saw in Paris, actually had talent. Unfortunately, he had lived in Washington and was fluent in English thus removing him from my "dating" pool. Still I note him in case I get lonely and need someone to talk to.

Although I somehow fail to discover the bakery, I discover the Marche Enfants Rouge on Rue De Bretagne which dates back to 1620. I wandered through remarking on displays of strawberries so fresh I could smell them from yards away. I purchased some goat cheese and a bottle of wine from a very disapproving Parisian Fromagerie. Also in the market was a bookstall offering books for one Euro. I bought a copy of Zola's Nana in French in what I can only call a fit of overwhelming optimism. After all, I could barely understand the first sentence, but it was one of my favorites. The first book I read after I returned from Paris the first time.

I walk until I am absolutely exhausted before I return to my hotel room to freshen up before a brief dinner again at Place des Vosges. I had a delicious steak with bearnaise sauce and a glass of Saint Amore outside watching the sunset on the square before hobbling home to sleep. I should go to the Latin Quarter-it is after all Saturday night, but I don't have the energy. Instead while girls in heels head out of the hotel, I am heading back in to collapse with Marv. Even the man across the way who was working the night before is gone, out somewhere in the Paris night.

While my first day was overcast, my second day is outright rainy. My mother gave me a
book of 50 Paris walks. I'm not sure why a woman who worries about me walking too much would do this, but I decided I would follow one of the walks. Although I discover a few charming little side streets, I also run into a pack of seedy characters on one of the backstreets by Notre Dame. The street here was narrow with no sidewalk so there was no way to avoid walking near them as I passed. One of the older french men tried to kiss my head as I pass, while the others yelled at him. Although they didn't seem dangerous, it did shake me a bit and I walked on quickly. (It seems that every time I go to Paris I must have one run in with a french dirty old man.) When I got to Notre Dame, I discovered that there was a bread festival going on. I wandered close to the main tent wondering if it was worth muscling my way through the knot of tourists blocking the doorway when the smell hit me, an indescribably lovely smell that was closer to taste. Flour and butter and eggs were all in the air and almost on the tongue.

There were four main stations and while I couldn't recognize what kinds of breads the others were working on, one station was working on a huge detailed chocolate Eiffel Tower. I cursed leaving my camera at home (for fear of rain) before I remembered that Paris is about being in the moment. Although the Doberman wanted lots of pictures, pictures can not capture Paris. No camera could capture the smell in that tent, the focus and energy of the chefs, the skill and patience of assembling all those small pieces of chocolate, no finger licking allowed. Or the smell of the roses that surround the Thinker at the Musee Rodin. Or the most ridiculous frog sounds that emanate from the pond right outside of Marie Antoinette's bedroom window at the Petite Trianon. Or the sound of the drunken French people wandering home on a Saturday night. The nose wrinkling smell of a fromagerie. The sweet smell of good chocolate that can penetrate doors on the Rue de L'Opera. You just have to be there. Paris is a city about indulging the senses unlike New York which is often about trying to shut them off. (Especially in the summer.)

I wandered past some of the other tents, but none of them had the energy, the spectacle and smell of the main tent.

I took a rest and sat at a cafe before I pushed on following my Paris Walk. I ignored my old friend, the statue of St. Michel and pushed on to the end of Ile de la Cite to the Square du Vert Galant and the Pont Neuf. The Square du Vert Galant is very disappointing. A small patch of grass. It is at this point I decide to ignore the Paris Walks for the rest of the trip. The walks themselves are too draining for me to do anything else while I follow them. The guidebook also seems to be screwing with me, listing restaurants and cafes that no longer exist.

By the time I get back to the hotel, it is almost pouring. Still, I can not dine at the hotel. I end up at the restaurant next door to the hotel. They serve a lovely steak au poivre which I devour, and it is served to me by a very cute and seemingly nice waiter. The American couple next to me engages me in coversation, and I make a few recommendations to them. It's their first trip to Paris. Like all Americans, they seem surprised that I am alone on my trip to Paris.

It's the city of love, of course.

But it doesn't bother me here. Another couple is celebrating their fortieth wedding anniversary. When the waiter snaps a picture of them, the husband poses stiffly as if posing for a Victorian military photograph rather than a wedding anniversary. None of this bothers me here. I'm perfectly happy to sit and have dinner and contemplate what I will do the next day on my own. I'm beginning to feel like a slacker for not going into Notre Dame or visiting St Michel. I decide rain or shine, tomorrow I shall go to the Louvre.

Before I leave the restaurant, I notice a postcard hanging by the front door that asks "Ou sont les hommes?" (Where are the men?) It's an excellent question, but not for tonight.

Comments: Post a Comment

    This page is powered by 
Blogger. Isn't yours?