Wednesday, March 29, 2017

fruit, flowers, friends

It's 5; I'm waiting for my friend to get home from work. Did nothing today except flaner, grocery shop and do errands, like buy postcards and face cream, and then a long lunch with old, old friends, Daniel who's 71 and his wife Michele, a former colleague of Dad's who, unbelievably, has just turned 80; her hair just has some strands of grey. We sat outside eating exotic fish. And then I wandered some more. This quartier is wonderful - very few tourists, friendly people, lots to look at. So I look.
I just passed a corner bistro where a woman was eating an artichoke with a glass of wine. Not something you see often in Toronto.
Michele and Daniel. Daniel who's passionately involved in urban renewal just came back from a trip to Detroit to see what's happening there. He said it's beyond belief - mile after mile of bombed-out hell. And not about to get better anytime soon.
The most exotic ranunculus. What is the plural? Ranunculi?

one of the remarkable trees of France

As many of you know, I am an inveterate shopper in junk stores. Never did I think I'd live in the middle of one in Paris - one of the best-known marchés aux puces, le Marché d'Aligre, right outside the door. They start setting up at 6 and people are there to shop right away, almost entirely,  I've noticed in the morning, men. There's an extraordinary jumble of French bits and pieces, African sculptures, old clothes and bedding and books and paintings and ... Could have bought a Hermes portable typewriter that works for 20 euros. Some lovely old dishes. Have bought nothing. It's amazing what the thought of carrying a suitcase does for the shopping.
 Click to enlarge
Yesterday, I went on-line to figure out the bus system; I had to get across town and wanted to take a bus, a much better way to travel than the metro if you're not in a hurry, because the banquet of Paris flashes by outside the windows. I figured out which bus I needed - #29 - and where it went, set out, got lost 4 times just finding the street, and then - the street was one way the wrong way. But finally I found my bus. Getting lost is part of the adventure here, in the rabbit warren of little streets going every which way. I am always lost, and Lynn has no sense of direction at all. But we get around.

After the long ride right through the right bank, had a long walk to the Musee Jacquemart-André, a museum like the Frick, a gorgeous mansion full of great art. There was a special exhibit of the fabulous collection of a Spanish art collector, including this beautiful Toulouse-Lautrec, the Reader, which I photographed from a book. And then, lunch in the humble little café.

Walked to the Parc Monceau that I'd visited once before, a pretty little park where I sat for an hour on a park bench, watching joggers - French joggers! - listening to birds - birds! - and reading the NYT on my phone. Discovered this magnificent tree, officially one of the "remarkable trees of France," a plane tree planted in 1814.
I waited for a bus to take me to Pigalle, where I was meeting Lynn; standing at the stop, a woman from India exclaimed at my colourful jacket, bought for $15 at Doubletake. "And look, there's silver!" she said, touring around me. She told me she'd lived in America and Dubai but here, in Paris, "I have discovered my place, my people. Oh their love of beauty!" We had a great talk about the joys and difficulties of Paris and then my bus came. As I got on, we hugged. "Keep shining," she said.

I will take that as an order.

I'd been invited for an aperitif with a couple from Toronto who have an apartment they rent out in Paris, so was there to say hello and check out the place. It's a nice flat and extremely reasonable, so please get in touch with me if you want more information. Not sure it'll work out for me because it's very far from where Lynn is working, and one of the reasons I come here is to connect with her while she works in Paris. So we'll see. But for someone wanting a reasonably priced and comfortable home in Paris, it's wonderful.

Back home in the crowded metro. It's funny, I'd assumed that Lynn and I would be eating out every night, and instead, by suppertime, I'm tired from a day of walking and she from a day of vetting English speakers, and we dine on ham, cheese, bread, and salad in our little kitchen. While we jabber. We argue a lot about English grammar. Who else can I do that with?

This morning I went to the Franprix across the way to buy groceries - coffee, milk, olive oil. It's a joy to do normal things here, like a French person. Will go next to the vast food market also right outside the door, and then for the most important purchase - wine. My Indian friend is right. I too have discovered my place and my people, except that my place and my people are also in Toronto. No problem with having two places. Or more.

Monday, March 27, 2017

l'internet, pas trop bien

Okay, the internet was working briefly, and then it wasn't. It turns out it's not easy to get good connection in France. So this blog will be sporadic until I'm somewhere where the current is more certain.

The cheese, however, is certain.

we're baaaaack!

Our hostess had to run to the store to get a new modem - and now, we're in touch with the whole world through the little white screen. This addict is happy. In the meantime, I wrote this post this morning:

I had the fantasy that because of the terrorist attacks, tourism in Paris had dropped off and I’d have the city to myself. Ha! Apparently, after the Bataclan, tourism did drop for a while, but I’m here to attest that it’s back. It’s only March, and the city is packed.

On Saturday, a beautiful morning, with a few hours to kill before meeting Lynn at the Gare de Lyon, I walked to the Jardin des Plantes to visit my father. Those who follow this blog know that a few years ago, I brought his ashes to Paris and scattered them at the base of the huge cherry tree in the Jardin, so when I come, I can go bring him up to date. (I scattered my mother at the Canadian Consulate in Trafalgar Square, but both are also in the Necropolis near my home, so I don’t have to go quite so far to say hello.) I had a little weep, there in the hot sun in a lovely park in this glorious city. 
An exhibition at the Jardin des Plantes of Canadian polar bears. (click to enlarge)

At the station, I waited in an armchair in a little lounge area, as someone played the piano behind me - surreal. The sign says, "It's yours to play! The station has put this piano at the disposition of travellers for artistic, fun, and non-monetary purposes."
The French train system is a marvel: Lynn’s TGV fast train was expected from the south at 12.45; it glided in at 12.44. And there she was, my friend since 1967. Another marvel, our friendship, despite the fact that she has lived in France since 1970, the mother of 5 children and now grandmother of 8 and a linguist, a French academic interested in conjunctions and pronouns. And yet we have a great deal in common still, and we laugh like we did as teenagers.

It took some wandering to find the flat in the Bastille district she’d rented for us – right on the Place d’Aligre, where I used to come to the brocante, the junk market. We unpacked and talked and walked and walked and talked. We passed Chez Paul, a restaurant I remembered from my one visit to Paris with my kids, so we stopped and dined there again, outside, mid-afternoon, as incredibly chic people streamed by. We poked about in little boutiques – I bought a t-shirt with a bicycle on it and a scarf. Of course, a scarf, the one accessory you are not allowed without in France.
My beautiful best friend.
I ate here with my kids in 1992 and again on Saturday afternoon.
Our corner bakery.
The view from our window of the Place d'Aligre and its market. Piles of junk, right outside my door.

Sunday, another perfect day, all of Paris out for a walk. We took the metro to the Arc de Triomphe to get the navette, the shuttle bus, to the Fondation Vuitton museum, but once there read the sign: only people with tickets would be allowed on the bus. So we decided to visit next weekend, and instead just flâner – stroll – with a million others, down the Champs-Elysees, stopping to have a sandwich in the Tuileries near the Louvre, a little outdoor restaurant, the sun, ducks swimming nearby, green leaves overhead. And on, through the crowds in the Marais; we walked 14 kilometres to get home. At that point we were too tired to go out for dinner so Lynn made scrambled eggs and we watched TV – American and British shows dubbed into French. The end of a perfect day.
 
The ferris wheel near the Place de la Concorde.
A celebration of Ecuador shuts down a major street - why? Why not?
 The Hotel de Ville - the humble little town hall.
Today is Monday; Lynn has gone to work – she’s vetting the English skills of possible employees at the Finance Ministry. And I am going to walk and walk and walk. And possibly eat a little something.


A typically humble street scene - from my walk today, around St. Germain, along the river, over to the islands around Notre Dame, then the long walk back to Bastille.

And now - Lynn's day at work went well, and we're going to make a simple supper in the flat. We're drinking a 2012 Faugeres and have ham, cheese, unbelievably good sourdough bread and salad, and we're in Paris. Life doesn't get better than that. 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The internet where Lynn and I are staying does not work. The landlady hopes to fix it. I'm writing this on my phone. Paris is wonderful. So is lynn. More anon.