Paris

biting off a piece of bread

This is basically a little positive reflection on why I’m actually happy to be where I am (in the Paris area) even though it’s not a total success yet (i.e. still don’t have a job, still don’t feel settled, still don’t have much of a place to call my own).

After T. was here, and our spray-on nylons episode, and our “renting a golf car (is that what you call them?) to clown around the Versailles chateau gardens at pedestrian speed with classical music blaring” episode (which was SO MUCH FUN, even if you can’t conceive it, believe me, it ROCKED!!!!!!!!! we actually had to stop to catch our breath from laughing…at the shocked expressions of 60-year olds watching young girls, looking outwardly very healthy drive around in a motorized vehicle, at their speed…), and our other outings, I decided there are a number of reasons I like this place.

It’s so beautiful. Beauty is a major factor in my life, it’s one of the things that makes me feel alive, that I can be ecstatic about BEAUTY. About Art. About Perfection in some form. It makes me want to BE, to fully BE, it is one of the moments when I feel so alive. Paris is just so damn beautiful. I cross the bridges on the Seine for no reason because there are few things so beautiful as those thirty-two different bridges, with their stories, their achitecture, their own little atmosphere, microcosms of a delightful whole. I love seeing the angles of the Seine and the city from each of them, I love going from Rive Droite to Rive Gauche, I love the feeling of walking over that beautiful river. I get off early from the metro just to be able to soak in the vista. It’s such a walkable river, throughout the city, from one end to the other. One night, T. and I crossed a wooden, antique looking pedestrian bridge from l’Ile de la Cite (one of the two islands of the Seine on which you can find Notre Dame Cathedral and the Sainte Chapelle–one site NOT TO MISS while you’re here) and it was just a little bit misty. Couples were crossing and showing publicly their affection for one another (gotta have a love-hate relationship with that one, sometimes it’s just a bit too much) and the street lamps were the old kind you can imagine at the beginning of a Dickens novel, metal with the octogonal glass top, and an old man was sitting on a little stool, playing an old French tune on his accordion. T. and I just stopped and looked at each other. And just plain stopped. We leaned on the stone ramp of the bridge and looked out onto the black water and the midnight light, the city still moving, but so quiet in the little deserted neighborhood around us, and it was just the most perfect moment.

The live music. I just adore this. It’s more beauty to listen to. I get to listen to the most exquisite music on a daily basis, changing trains, underground in ugly metro hallways, suddenly Bulgarian choir music or the Paris symphony string ensemble, or Peruvian flutists, or Gypsy jazz will just carry me and I’ll be moved to tears where I just can’t go any further, and stay and stay and stay and listen for a half-hour (thank GOD I don’t have a job, I just would have to leave a half hour early) and I always give money. Always. If I’m that moved, there’s something akin to stealing to not leave a little of my wealth behind. It would be wrong. There are two musicians I’m thinking of, both in the Latin Quarter. One is a man who plays in front of the closed up Gibert Jeune bookstore Place Saint Michel, he’s in his fifties or sixties, wears glasses and an old hat of some sort and plays some sort of (pardon me, I’m ignorant of those things) amplified acoustic guitar (does that exist?) where he plays acoustic versions of Led Zepplin songs and other absolute beauties. The other night, we were standing there, and a little Asian girl, in a red coat with hood, tied only at her neck, sped back and fort on her little scooter, with intense focus, while he played the most beautiful song. At the end, we were walking away, and the girl stood in front of him (still shorter than him seated), and told him “you played well tonight”, to which he answered “I was playing for you, my dear. You’re growing! you look more and more lovely every time I see you”. The other man who is unforgettable is the street piano player near Neo cafe on boulevar St. Germain. He has a rickety-looking brown-wood piano and plays jazz tunes, and gives you the choice of fast, medium or slow, and this is probably the only city in the world where whatever he is playing, instantly takes you to that time period…no matter how many years back you have to travel. The city hasn’t really changed in a hundred years in a lot of the neighborhoods…but he’s just magical. A piano. In the street. Unforgettable.

Le Musee d’Orsay. Simply the most beautiful museum, by content and design, in the world. I would now feel wounded physically to have to leave this city and not go at least on a weekly basis (free for the unemployed : I’m NEVER going to get a job with perks like this, I also just found out I get half-price in some movie theatres…guess who just started going more often to the movies than she already was?). There’s just nothing more I can say. I love every inch and every piece in this museum, which is more than I can say about the Louvre and the Pompidou. It is a part of me.

People biting off pieces of their baguettes as they walk. I love this. I see it every day. I don’t personally buy or eat white bread baguettes unless I have guests. Can’t finish it, gets dry in one day, not a huge fan…but I love the fact that people do it, and it makes me feel in some strange way…like I’m home. Just like I am starting to appreciate how I can instantly call, before it happens, when someone is going to get mad (at me or not) and just simply lose it. It’s predictable, and annoying, but at least I’m starting to know the place better and anticipate it. But the baguette thing, I just love.

The people. If you just forget everything you’ve ever heard of the French and the Parisians, you’ll have a wonderful time. Just remember to be polite and patient, always. Then, when you really have a good conversation with someone, you’ll see they’re deep, involved, interesting, and sometimes highly intellectual people. There are the usual creeps and idiots, but there is a wonderful number of insightful, spiritual people that I am lucky enough to keep meeting. And I enjoy that. Of course…I watch out. There are the weirdos. I took the bus last night and we all had a good laugh while we were waiting for the 258 (I was with a friend and we started talking to three other passengers) listing the people who are regular on our line who have issues, and habits, and we realized we all take the bus way too often. So yeah…there are those people too.

There are numbers of things that I hate. Despise. Detest about this place. Some of them are universal to the world, some of them are just very plain French, or Parisian, and really….it’s not worth writing about. There is so much negative out there, I just want to share with you some good things about this place.

5 thoughts on “biting off a piece of bread

  1. If you do get some bagguettes because you are having company, and if you do have some leftover the next day (and it is dry, because it will be) and you decide you that you just can’t throw it away, you can rescue it! Put into a paper bag, sprinkle the inside of the bag with water (flicked off you fingers) and curl the top closed. Place this in the oven set at about 250F for 10 minutes. The bread will be warm and just the right softness.
    Madam Maman

  2. Hahaha! Even before I read who anonymous was I KNEW it was Madame Maman! Hahahaha! (by the way, you can also request a demi-baguette if you know you can’t finish a whole one on your own).

    And: I KNOW THAT BRIDGE!!! When I lived on Ile St Louis, I used to hang out there in the evenings and watch or listen to whatever artist had chosen to perform there that evening. And it let me feel like, even if I didn’t have friends in Paris, I was part of a community of lovers of this city. I loved that little corner of Paris, sometimes I’d walk down to the bank of the Seine and read, walk around Notre Dame, just walk the island… I loved that place!

    Lots of love to you, V – and loads and loads of appreciation to you for taking care of my sis while she’s out exploring the world! (if you had the opportunity to show her that bridge that’d be mighty special to me :-) The island is famous for its ice cream, which is down right scrumptious, but just a warning: the cones are ALWAYS stale!!! Hahahaha (but the ice cream is still worth it, I swear!).

    Love, Mara

  3. Paris is everything you say and more… if you are cynical and jaded and infected by an anti-French virus..go to Paris for the cure.

  4. :-) Fun!

    I’m so happy you felt that way. I think attitude defines experience in Paris especially. It’s very easy to have a bit of a crap time. Mara: I’m going to try the stale cone scrumptious ice-cream at some point…

  5. Sorry, one more comment:
    I saw a ‘thing’ on PBS on Paris and, did you know the Department of Tourism actually hires ‘lovers’ to hang around and smooch! I was so shocked!
    Madam Maman, of course.

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