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she loves Paris

As I did my errands this morning, I passed a newspaper kiosk and heard a man approach the vendor and say, “Toujours en greve?” The vendor nodded. I wondered, until I passed another kiosk and heard exactly the same exchange, in that familiar French tone of frustration and resignation: “Toujours en greve?” Still on strike? Then I noticed – there were no French newspapers for sale. At a time when newspapers are losing gazillions and struggling to stay alive, the French newspapers are on strike. I asked the vendor why. He shrugged the famous Gallic shrug. “Les syndicats,” he said. The unions. That’s all.

I love this country.
I love this city. Spent some time today mulling over this dilemma: if someone offered me an apartment free in London, New York or Paris, where would I want to live for part of the year? It would be a given that all the apartments would be quiet, sunny and central, in Paris exactly around here, in the 5th. I decided I would pick Paris. Because it’s so … elegant here, because of the food and the cafés and the fantastic bus system (though I know, New York and London have that too) and Monoprix. Because I speak, and love speaking, French. Because all my friends and family would be so happy to visit, and we could easily zip over to London to see some fantastic theatre and then come back where the weather is better, if not the political climate. I was born in New York, have family there, love it – but it’s a grid, an organized American system of straight streets and straight towering buildings with barely a bit of sky visible except in that wonderful park. Here, the history, the winding scrabble of streets, around each corner some amazing bit of historical delight, and then cheese. If any of those rich people organizing salons want to offer me a place in Paris, I would be happy to accept.
Here was Madame la Parisienne going about her morning – after rising, a bit of work, checking email and booking herself a place in a half hour free cooking class tomorrow, she went on her promenade in the quartier. First to the brulerie, the local place which roasts its own coffee beans and has a huge selection of coffee, teas and heavenly artisanal jams. With the man’s help, I decided on a robust Java, from India. Then on to swing through Monoprix to see what’s new – there’s something new every day – then to buy groceries on the rue Mouffetard. Today at FranPrix, three kinds of cheese on sale, a chevre, a brebis – sheep’s cheese – and a kind of roquefort, for less than five dollars each, plus a frozen delight for lunch.
Across the street for my first visit, this time, to Picard, which only sells frozen stuff. I walk in there and drool. Freezer after freezer of delices – the most amazing delicacies, ready to go. I bought berries, ratatouille, a gourmet assortment of mushrooms that just needs to be tossed into a pan with some butter, and a dinner of fish and roasted vegetables. The desserts looked incredible. FranPrix was playing Sinatra singing “New York New York,” and Picard – must be the same sound system – had Sinatra singing about how much he loves Paris. Me too, Frankie.
On the way home, stopped at the resale boutique nearby, where I’d left a couple of things to be sold last year. They’d sold and she wrote me a cheque for 35 euros! Unfortunately, on the way out I spotted something I’ve been looking for – a pair of long linen shorts, exactly what a girl needs for looking chic on her bicycle in summer. They fitted me perfectly and cost – 35 euros. So I gave her back the cheque and took the shorts. Then stopped at the bakery right next to the flat, bought half a baguette and a pear clafoutis for dessert. Lunch: Coquilles St. Jacques – scallops and leeks in a cream sauce from FranPrix, heated up in the toaster oven in its own little ceramic dish, with bread to mop up every bit of the sauce and a little glass of red. Then salad, my 3 new cheeses and a cup of Java with a few squares of Lindt dark chocolate mousse.
How could I live anywhere else?
After lunch, a trip on my new favourite bus – the 84. I’m fighting a cold – everyone seems to have a cold, the alternation of very cold mornings and hot afternoons difficult on the system. So I decided to take it easy and go to a park to sit in the sun – Parc Montsceau, on the right bank. Picked up bus map, figured out route – there’s a bus from the Pantheon, a five minute walk from here, which goes to the Parc Monceau via the most fantastic route, along St. Germain and tiny Left bank streets, over the Seine, through the Place de la Concorde and all around the Madeleine.
It’s a lovely park, with bits of ruins and statues dotted about. You can lie on the grass, unlike many French parks – it’s an “English-style park,” they say, which means casual, not as prissy and groomed, so it was full of young people and children, lying and playing in the sun. I sat for an hour reading a French literary magazine about Marcel Proust and watching a grandfather (or perhaps a father) play with two little ones on the grass nearby. Then walked down to the Madeleine – passed a bakery placard which announced that the baker was a “sculpteur en pain,” with many baked Eiffel Towers to prove it – to visit the famous gourmet emporia Fauchon and Hediard – talk about delices! The most expensive of everything. At Hediard, I could have bought a 250 gram bottle of Canadian maple syrup for 18 euros – around $25. Did not. I was tempted to buy a few madeleines, though, in honour of Proust. Did not.
Actually went into the Madeleine church itself, full of giant religious statues, big and cold, but the view from the front steps, down to Concorde and across the Seine to the Assemblee Nationale, is spectacular. As I stood waiting for the #84 back, next to Chanel and Gucci, I saw the Laduree shop, which sells Paris’s famous little macarons, puffy light biscuits with cream filling. I’ve wanted to find Laduree and there it was, on the other side of one of the busiest streets in Paris, with a line-up stretching well outside the door. To hell with macarons.
Now a little glass of a 4 euro wine which is surprisingly good, and after supper, for dessert, my clafoutis. There’s just a pace here, an appreciation of and delight in the senses, all the senses. Though yes, it’s also an infuriating country where everyone goes on strike just for the hell of it. In my imaginary apartment, there would be no strikes. Just friends visiting. My daughter. My son. Frank Sinatra.
P.S. Just read some newspapers on-line and there’s almost no mention of the volcano and airports. Only two days ago, it was front page news, and now, it’s gone. If Anna were booked to fly today, she’d be coming. C’est triste.



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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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