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.

Paris Diaries: The Rules
Before we go any further, I should probably share with you The Rules by which I live when I am in Paris. They are very simple, but here they are.

1.Do what you want and fuck whatever anyone else thinks. This means if you wake up and don't feel like going to Louvre, but want to just traipse around discovering little side streets, you should do that because you can not fuck up Paris. No matter what you do it will be an adventure of delight and discovery.

2. Since most drinks are as expensive as wine and coffee, you shouldn't bother with anything other than wine or coffee. Hard cider, a drink favored by the Bretons, is also acceptable. Water should be purchased at a supermarchette, where it is the cheapest. If you do order a cocktail, it better be a Kir Royale and not a Long Island Iced Tea.

3.No cellphones, ipods, discmans, or internet usage. The point of going to Paris is to be completely in the moment with sensory distraction. I don't want you to be in Louvre answering phone calls saying, "Yeah I'm in the Louvre on the Da Vinci Code Audio Tour. Can you hear me now?" Telephone calls from your hotel room are permitted as one must check on the cat sitter. Cameras are also permitted as long as you look at the object first and photograph it second. Do not simply look at things through the viewfinder.

4. No audio tours of any kind. This is especially true of movie themed audio tours.

5. No dieting of any kind. You can order and eat whatever you want.

6. Never use the hotel dining room, even for breakfast. Go out and have croissants and coffee even if it just at the cafe across the street.

7. Only sleep with men who have a limited knowledge of English. This way if you blow him off and later change your mind you can always excuse it as a misunderstanding.

Paris Diaries: Personal Jesus

"Now I know that everything watches. That nothing goes unseen. Even wallpaper has a memory that is longer than out own. It's not God in his heaven who sees everything, but a half filled ashtray, a wooden hanger, the statue of a woman named Niobe, are all everlasting witnesses to everyone of our acts." -The Tin Drum by Gunter Grasse

(Forgive the italics but something has gone hinky with blogger, and it won't let me use regular freakin' text. Sheesh.)

Despite my commitment to the me on that is on this adventure, I manage to get to pick up my luggage and get to my hotel room without major catastrophe. The hotel room, in keeping with my completely new adventure, is in Le Marais, a quarter of Paris which I have not explored. The hotel is located close to the Blvd. de Beaumarchais and the Bastille.

I arrived late on Friday night. There were all these little bars packed with people drinking and laughing and smoking. There are little Brazilian cafes advertising mojitos and margaritas as well as, of all things, long island iced teas. Even the restaurants with outdoor seating are still packed. Couples sit outside looking at some random side street while drinking wine chattering as if they are on deadline. Trying to rattle off the story of their lives before sunrise.

Of course, I've been up since 3:30 in the morning having gotten about two hours of very light sleep. I'm hardly in the mood to go out and pretend to be able to understand French while packed into a bar the size of a cat carrier. All I want to do is get to my hotel, take a bath, have a glass of red wine, and fall asleep.

My hotel is huge and luxurious. It is so large it has a long courtyard with rose bushes in it, and the walk to my tower, which was all the way at the end, seemed more like a trek (nor did it seem like any less of a trek when I finally checked out). I was relieved to discover that my room, however, was street side with a view of Rue de St. Sebastian, a perfectly charmingly little sidestreet with a restaurant or two, but mainly residental.Furthermore my hotel room was kitted out with french windows, which I opened immediately to let in the sounds of Paris as I took my bath.

If, or rather when, you go to Paris insist on having a room street side. It is part of the whole experience to realize how different cities sound. Of course wherever you stay in the city is bound to sound different. When I stayed on Rue de Notre Dame de Lorette, I was across the street from a park where children often played. This area definitely had more night life. As I put things away, I heard drunken singing in French and even a bottle or two break on the street. But as you sleep, the sounds of Paris begin to seep into your head. The change begins as you dream while french conversation flits into your room through gauze-y white curtains.

It was a lovely night, and so I stood in the window for a while watching people walk home from bars, listening to their conversations, the snatches of songs, the bickering, the angry click of fast high heels on the sidewalk, the slow soft saunter of lovers hand in hand, the sly insinuating silence of sounds almost heard but only suspected. In an apartment across the street a young man, dark curly hair-square glasses, is drinking from a mug and working on his computer. I look at him and feel some strange affection. For him. He doesn't know that I'm watching. Doesn't draw his curtains or even look out the window. Neither does the woman watching television in the apartment to the left with the giant stuffed parrot in the window. And for a brief moment I feel like the Oracle of Rue de St. Sebastian. I stand in the window obviously watching and yet unseen.

Paris Diaries: I am at One with the Me that is on this Adventure
I decide to leave my old map and notes at home in my apartment. This is a new adventure.

On the plane ride I have plenty of time to ponder who was I last time I went to Paris? Am I different? Am I leaving for different reasons? Why am I doing this? Do I really want to go? Or am I still trying to please the ghosting image of an unappeasable man? And most importantly, am I fatter than I was last time?

The last time I went I discovered who I really was. I discovered myself.

"Who will I find this time?" I wonder.

I have as my travel companions Marv the Killer Rabbit and a slim literary analysis of the works of Franz Kafka. As far as I know, neither Marv nor Kafka have been to Paris before so it's an adventure for all of us.

There are, of course, no answers at this point. The only way to get this kind of knowledge is to go through the experience. And the experience starts as soon as I get off the airplane.

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Another Interruption
I would like to declare a moratorium on airing any X-Files episode with anything other than the real Mulder and Scully not those two cheap Mulder and Scully impostors. Anything else is a cheap X files wannabe that makes my cat cry piteously into her milk. When I see the X files listed, I want David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, I expect David and Gillian, and it BETTER be what I get.

That is all.

Oh and I would also like to suggest that every episode of Full House should be burned.

I'm Sorry But I Have to Share This With You
So this twit I gave my phone number to on Saturday night is talking to me on the phone right now. For some reason he called me and he is telling me about some movie/comic book idea he has. Now I knew I was in trouble when he started with, "So God has all these angels," but when I officially opened blogger and started typing was when he said, "But there is this one Reaper (an angel of death) who is different from all the others, but God doesn't know why."

Can you see now why I prefer men who don't speak my language? It's so much easier to respect them when you have no idea what they are saying.

Is it wrong that I suggested to him that it would make a better children's story? Really?

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