Friday, September 18, 2009

Parisien(nes) for a Day

Sitting in the Jardins du Luxembourg in Paris and feeling wonderful. The park is perfect today, quiet and reminiscent of our time here with Emily, our granddaughter. This was her favorite spot in Paris and it's easy to understand why. If there wasn't a brown tinge around the edges of the leaves one could imagine spring being just around the corner instead of autumn.

September 18 2009, Paris, France 4:30 pm

We are following Rick Steves' suggestion on packing - five days worth of clothes each. To enforce this we bought new (on clearance which explains the ever popular moss green color) carry-on bags. They are light and small and actually kind of cute.

Eventful flights from Richmond to Philadelphia to Paris with safe takeoffs and landings being the most significant events. Philly was chilly, and we had 5 hours to killy (sorry), so we stayed inside and read and relaxed, and had a very good early dinner at Cibo, one of the airport restaurants. We were not concerned with wrecking our appetites. The flight to Paris was full and either we humans are getting larger (possibly) or the seats on the Airbus A330 are smaller and packed more tightly against one another (probably), particularly front to back. If anyone had lowered their back seat it would have been like one of those domino chains. Nothing to report that would change any stereotypical (and correct) beliefs that transatlantic air travel in coach is to be endured, not enjoyed.

After clearing passport control and customs (when did that become so easy in France?), we made our way via tram to the train station, bought tickets and boarded the RER B line, and 25 minutes later exited the Luxembourg station, a 3 minute walk to our Paris apartment; home for the next 4 days. We turned the corner onto Rue Soufflot and were rewarded with a head-on view of the Pantheon, just at the top of the street. With the jardins behind us, the Sorbonne and St. Michel to our side, and the Pantheon in front, we realized what a marvelous location my younger brother and his wife had found.

Lucy met us halfway up the street outside a 24/7 internet cafe named "milk", right across the street from the apartment. The apartment building is typical of the area and has huge doors and brass handles set on marble. We had always wondered what they concealed. This place keeps getting better. Hugs, kisses, and rearrangement of the bedroom completed we were asleep within minutes as Rich and Lu went to do some touring.

Four hours later I was sitting in the Jardins, rested, relaxed, writing my journal, smoking a cigar and feeling very much at home. I could live here. The Jardins du Luxembourg are a peaceful wonder and a magnet for walkers, joggers, strollers, and tourists. On this Friday afternoon there were young lovers holding hands, hanging on every glance and word the other speaks. Lots of dogs (and owners) and mothers wheeling baby carts. The palace is on one side and attracts a group of same-color-shirted tourists (kind of clash with the flowers), but I was drawn to the Medici fountain, truly beautiful. We are heading to the land of the Medici soon, and this fountain is a little tease.

Kat was awake, Rich and Lu had returned and we plotted out our first night's activities (Rich had posted on the wall a Paris map complete with labels and ideas - more later on that).

We opted for a simple (hardly) beer at the "Academie de la Biere" not far from the apartment. Our waiter (an Ed Norton look alike but named Matt), couldn't have been friendlier, as he tried his "Monty Python learned English" on us as we tried our high school French on him. Kat was able to trade Holy Grail quotes about shrubbery and I was (as usual) lost. I was also lost by the new "beer snobbery" that has replaced the "wine snobbery" with which I was so comfortable. I couldn't pick out the "high-low sweet-tart salty-fruity notes that contrasted so well with the deep rich resonating peat bog mud-flat lines" in my 33cl $9 glass of sludge. Rich could and he was happy and that was a good thing.

Our last stop was a sidewalk crepe stand in St. Michel, by the fountain. I know it is the height of touristy, but they make a delicious spinach, feta cheese and egg crepe, that lasted the walk back to the apartment. It hit the spot. So, a full day of traveling, reuniting with family, and new sights and sounds behind us, we headed off to dreamland and looked forward to waking to the gentle sounds of Paris coming alive.

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