|The view from the Trocadero Gardens the day before we climbed|
|Credit to Monsieur Jacques Bousiquier. I'm not sure what's going on with the pink sky.|
|Kids Hanging out in the shadow of the Sacre Coeur's dome|
|Human Lily in Contemplation of Water Lily|
|Modligani's portrait of Guillaume's elegance|
|Chanel 1923, by Laurencin|
|Enough madness in Montmartre for us|
|About to explore the Latin Quarter. Reading as ever. It gets irritating sometimes.|
|Brass band clearing the street on Ile de St. Louis|
|La Charlotte's Wall|
While that sort of traveling wasn’t explicitly “Parisian”, we made sure that our culinary experience was authentic. Or rather, I made sure. Amy’s taste is not for the heaviness of French food, and so we catered to that some nights – Thai, Mexican, Moroccan, and macrobiotic veggie restaurants all appeared on our dinner docket, and Amy found fish two other nights.
But, as stated, I ensured that at least one of us tasted the best French cuisine had to offer. Twice I ate steak tartar - raw beef, essentially, served looking like an uncooked burger but tarted up with onions, capers, and other spices on these two versions that I hadn’t had before, making this the best steak tartar I ever ate; I had French onion soup several times; a croque madame and a croque monsieur once each (elegant ham and cheese sandwiches, the first one with an egg on top); we both ate crepes twice, once for dinner dessert, once for lunch; one day for lunch I ate rabbit; and the coup de grace, as it was, the best meal of the trip for me, was the foie gras/pot au feu combination, or in other words, goose liver paste and then a beef stew. This eaten on our second to last night, in a restaurant called Le Tresor, the Treasure, in Le Marais. Something about the way the fig marmalade offset the sticky texture of the bitter paste, how it all melted in my mouth, how it all revolted Amy on three different levels, made for a delightful Parisan meal.
|I'm not sure what part of that could gross anyone out. Mmmm.|
There’s a lot I love about traveling, much of which was covered on this trip. I love planning for trips. I love taking the train. I love seeing new places. I love feeling like a foreigner, and I love blending in to the anonymous crowd at the same time. All these things, and those covered above, the food, the sites, the exploration, all are part and parcel of getting on the road.
But I also love that feeling of displacement, that mentality that one must adopt to travel. The feeling of not being where one belongs. This displacement opens one up to see ordinary things as extraordinary, to regain an awareness of the world’s strangeness. Standing back from the fishbowl of everyday life, the traveler can glimpse the little things that add up to make life whatever life is, in all its weirdness and tragedy and joy and glory.
These little things, they appear in moments, in encounters, in quiet spaces. We found the moments most when eating, where our most direct contact with others came. In the macrobiotic restaurant, we sat in tight quarters next to an American and his French female companion. He had white hair stretching back into a pony tail and down into a full facial beard, and he stretched his conversation to talk about his political views, favorite French directors, traveling itineraries, ex-girlfriends’ tattoos, and down into the finest detail. His companion took it all in far more grace than we managed to, I starting to break out laughing right towards the end of dinner as he pulled out series of magazines he brought with him when he traveled to show her.
Or there was Halloween night. Dia de los Muertos, as we went to a Mexican restaurant recommended by our Mexican-American friend in Luxembourg. Both of us were somewhat sick, each in our own way, and the Mexican disappointed. What didn’t disappoint was the performance of the two girls sitting behind me. Young girls, about my age, Mexicans, clearly good friends, they spent the whole dinner looking at their phones. Texting, checking email, updating facebook, I don’t know. If there’s a set of circumstances that sums up the world we, Amy and I, live in, it’s sitting in a Mexican restaurant in Paris, feeling ill, while two Mexican girls living in Paris spend their whole dinner on their phones. Sigh.
Not all of these moments were happy ones. As we went to cross Place de St. Michel, we heard a thud and then saw a man fall down on the sidewalk. A bus stopped in front of him. We missed the collision, but it appeared that the man walked into the bus which had tried to run the light. There was no Jordan Baker around to explain what happens when two careless people crossed paths. Anyway, we stood and watched and wondered while others attended to the man, who appeared to have suffered a blow but was moving all his hands and legs, and with no signs of bleeding. We crossed the streets with much greater caution for the rest of the week.
But then there are moments of silly confusion, rather than the grim sort. The group of elderly Italians in the metro station who couldn’t figure out the tickets, and so we spoke broken Italian to them, they spoke broken French and English to us, and finally, unable to find a complete Italian sentence beneath my French, I showed them that the ticket machine actually worked in Italiano. “Bravo!” said a joyous man in the group, and he cupped my right cheek in gratitude. The cheek glowed in warmth for the rest of our metro ride.
Or like the middle-aged American who came on to Amy at the Musee d’Orsay.
“Vous etes Parisienne?” he asked.
“Non, je suis Americaine,” she responded with a smile. I walked back over to her at this point. He saw me, broke into a grin, and said, “Oh, me too. You know, I picked the wrong person, but gotta practice that French.” We encouraged him to keep working on the French.
Really though, when I talk about moments, I don’t mean any of this. I mean the opening into a peace of mind, into a harmony with the breath and with the air around, a quiet space. Many people find their quiet space through spirituality, or through rural towns, or through nature.
|For example, a slice of nature in the middle of the Seine|
|View from Montmartre|
|The soupy fog - can you see what's behind it, just visible?|
I hoped that we might somehow rise above the clouds when we reached the top, but I obviously did not take any meteorology classes in college. The cloud was thicker from the summit, so that we had to strain to regain what we had seen 500 feet below. We took one quick tour around the top of the tour, had enough, and did our best to descend as quickly as I could.
I apologized to Amy for not checking the weather before booking our tickets, even though I booked about a week before. “It’s ok, we didn’t have to see everything,” she said. “The rain’s kind of nice, anyway.” I smiled, relieved that at least this, the one major duty of our stay, wasn’t a failure with the audience that mattered. (And I tested her feelings on the rain by leading us to walk to the Orsay, about a half-hour trip.)
I also smiled because I thought about the next time we would have to deal with the Eiffel Tower. Probably, it will be when Amy’s family comes to visit next summer (right guys?). In any case, I will be more than capable of buying them the tickets online in advance. And Amy will be more than capable of leading them up to the top. After four times, I think I’m well through with the damn thing for a while.