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I love Paris in the … no, just about anytime

When Lynn booked our TGV tickets to Paris, she found that 1st class was only 5 euros more expensive than humble. So we sailed in cushy first class seats north through France, taking off at 7.20 a.m. and arriving 8 minutes late at nearly 11. They announced over the P.A. that we’d be late because of a problem with another train, and apologized over and over again. Eight minutes!

We sat reading the latest “Elle,” also “Paris Match” which had great pictures of Liz Taylor, and “Pariscope” which details everything happening in Paris each week. I looked out the window at the yellow stone villages sticking like barnacles to hillsides, always with a large spire in the middle and sometimes a chateau or two. Miles of lush farmland bursting into green, ham sandwiches I’d made us that morning, a little coffee from the snack bar, and voila, Paris.
Since this is my third extended visit, I’m not gaping and gasping every ten seconds, as I used to; Paris feels like home. We headed straight for the 91 bus, and not even half an hour later were inside the little flat – quiet, bright, just the same. We set off immediately to the rue Mouffetard to buy essentials – coffee, milk, yogurt, cheese, chocolate, salad, and wine – and, most importantly, to the best bakery to buy bread and two slices of pizza, delicious, crispy and rich.
After pizza and salad, cheese, coffee and chocolate, we set off to see the Cranach exhibition at the Luxembourg Palace a short walk from here. Excellent if crowded, beautiful faces, many of his people with oddly distended fingers and toes. And then – no plan, just to walk around St. Germain – rue du Cherche Midi, rue de Rennes, boulevard Raspail. We stopped at Bon Marché, an impossibly expensive store where we bought pantyhose – NICE pantyhose – and across the street for a beer at a café, to watch the streams of people go by. Then to a store better suited to our budgets, Monoprix, where Madame instantly found the perfect blouse and sunglasses at a tenth the price they would have been in Bon Marché.
The bus home – back to the joy of busses 21 and 27, which travel to many of the most exciting places in Paris and back to three steps from here. We’d talked so much, we almost didn’t have the energy to go out for dinner, but finally dragged ourselves to a little Italian place right across the street that, both times we’d passed by, was reassuringly crowded. Well – of course – in the cheerful, busy little room covered with posters of Lucca, we had what Madame said was the best Italian meal she has ever had outside of Italy, and – of course – very reasonable too. Divine.
The skirt I brought with me is now hard to do up. Ah well. There’s a safety pin in my bag.
Saturday dawned so sunny and beautiful – with a prediction of rain all day Sunday – that we gave up our idea of going to a museum and decided to spend the entire day outside. First stop, the Marché d’Aligre, near Bastille, which I remembered from my last trip. What a great place, piles of antique French junk and the French equivalent of Goodwill, a massive pile of clothing on a table with intent women rooting through. I found Lynn a beautiful wool jacket that fits her perfectly – 10 euros.
Even more fun, Lynn’s son Christopher, whom I first met when he was 4 months old – he is now 39 – had arrived from London for the 40th birthday party of a schoolfriend that night, and so spent the afternoon with us. He bought his friend an African sculpture at the market, waited patiently while Madame and I rifled through the bins, and then we found – I know, this is getting boring – the perfect bistro for lunch. We sat on the sidewalk eating the most French meal imaginable, a slice of politically incorrect foie gras followed by frog’s legs which taste like a cross between chicken and fish. The family seated next to us, though speaking French, did not look French, all very large and devouring course after course. “Must be Belgian,” said Lynn.
We kept walking, walking, west to the Place des Vosges, where we sat in the sun in the park, watching the panorama and listening to a jazz combo nearby. It was hot by then, and the streets so crowded I think every single Parisian was outside. We wandered around the Pompidou and les Halles, Christopher left, and Lynn and I fell with relief onto a #27 bus home.
After such a lunch, we wanted a simple supper – went to the Mouffetard market to buy thick white asparagus and, since the gariguette strawberries had newly arrived from Spain, some of those too. And then back up Mouffetard to take an aperitif in the fading sun at the Place de la Contrescarpe, the famous local square where Hemingway and many other writers often drank. It feels sometimes as if this whole city is a stage: so many people are either sitting in cafés watching the crowds, or part of the crowds parading past.
As always, Lynn and I talk and talk, much comparison of Canada and France, last night about the Muslim presence in our two countries. In France, it is now illegal for a woman to cover her face in public; she can be fined. I told her that as usual, Canada is waffling. France is a resolutely lay state. Canada is undecided. I wonder what’s going on with the election – I have avoided the newspapers.
Today, as predicted, cold and wet. We went to the market on the rue Monge, to find the wonderful Lebanese vendor I remembered from last year; we bought stuffed eggplant, tabbouleh and baba ghanoush for lunch, and, from the nice vendor on Mouffetard, two fine bottles of wine for under 10 euros. We have saucisson – dried sausage – and a lot of cheese ready for tonight, too, when Bruce is coming to have an aperitif here and then out for dinner with the ladies.
It’s noon, still gloomy though not raining. France Classique is playing on the radio. We’re about to eat our lunch, which is heating in the oven. Then we may go to a museum.
Or we may not.



3 Responses to “I love Paris in the … no, just about anytime”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Love the pictures Beth and I am not the least bit bored with your description of meals. Keep 'em coming.Ruth

  2. beth says:

    Ruth, I will struggle to keep you happy.

  3. Gazanfer says:

    Dear Beth,

    Stop worrying about the elections in Canada. When I got a hint of your political views about "Islam presence" and ban of bukra between your sips of wine, I thought that in Paris you found not only your mojo but also your perfect man: Stephen Harper. Toast!


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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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