It's Saturday, and we've officially landed in Paris. Our time in the "countryside" was lovely and relaxing, but let's face facts: we're city people and we were starting to get antsy.
After a final baggage lug up four creaky flights to our usual Paris apartment, we had a nice chat with Kristin (my friend who owns the place) and then headed out in the Marais. Walking these streets immediately feels like home; it's not just the familiar spots (MAGMA! Cafe Attitude! Bataclan! Franprix!), it's the whole vibe of the place. I've always identified with the Gertrude Stein quote, "America is my country and Paris is my hometown." It just somehow is.
And there's nothing that says Paris quite like this sign:
Ah, reliable public transit that actually goes places I want to go! How I've missed you.
Of course, there are less-than-favorable Paris transit sights, as well. I mean, who doesn't love the "my scooter can go anywhere, even through this open air flea market, down the sidewalk, and against the flow of traffic" people?
We had a five mile walk ahead of us, so we decided lunch was in order. I ordered a simple tomato salad, hoping they'd be in season. And luckily, I was right:
It was a busy afternoon in Bastille, in part because of the gorgeous, sunny weather, but also because we happened to hit the once-a-month artist's fair on Richard Lenoir. I had a lovely chat in French with an artist who reminded me so much of my dear friend, Melissa, that I just had to buy a small piece of her work. It's a perfect gift for a certain Paris-loving girl I know (hint, hint, Frannie!).
We wound our way through the narrow Marais streets, popping into shops we can't afford (at least not on this trip), and making notes in our journals for future adventures. In one of the galleries in Place des Vosges, I found this handsome fellow and just had to take a photo for John. He looks a bit like La Lolz, non?
When our legs were about to give out, we decided to take an ice cream break (bien sur!) and were thrilled to find this place.
They craft their ice cream cones to look like lush, frozen roses -- true works of art! Scott had tarte tartin (apple pie) and caramel. I had caramel and chocolate chip. They looked like this.
In a truly "worlds colliding" kind of moment, I looked up from our cafe table to see that we were enjoying our ice cream on the same street we live on back in Philly:
Of course, our Lombard at home overlooks the Pig Bunny, and this Lombard overlooks, um, this thing:
Also, the people watching on this Lombard is SO much better. After missing about a dozen moments that I would have loved to capture on film, I started just sitting there with my camera at the ready, waiting for awesome things to happen. It didn't take long.
OMG, I love this girl's style. She just might be the French-iest person I've ever seen in real life:
These adorable little French girls broke into an outright gallop when they saw the sign for the ice cream shop:
This man hearts dancing. And trust me, no one (including that woman trying to pass him on the left) doubts his commitment:
What is it about French girls on bikes? They tear around the city, skirts and hair flapping wildly, and yet somehow never look anything less than chic:
Check out this guy walking his little boy home for dinner. He's so fabulous, I can't help but wonder what he does for a living. Artist? Architect? Professor? It's so much fun to make up little histories for these colorful Marais characters:
Honestly, I could have sat there on Lombard all day, but it was getting late and we had a craving for hot dogs -- the awesome French kind, sandwiched in a crispy baguette and baked under a layer of gruyere. Mmmmm! We found some just down the road from our apartment, and tucked in to eat them in our pajamas, with the evening breeze blowing in from the balcony. If there is a heaven, I'm pretty sure they serve these hot dogs there.
Now we're planning the rest of our adventures over a bottle of champagne that was gifted to us by Kristin. I'm going to hand off to Scott for tonight -- bonsoir, mes amis!
Ahem! Well, there's not a ton to say abut the facts and figures of the day, mon pretties. What Lauren neglected to mention were some of the SHEER TERRORS that Paris has to offer: namely, the Rue de Rivoli west of the Pompidou. I like to live in an illusory world where Paris, one of the major world cities of our time, is somehow untouched by globalization! Oh, what rude awakenings occurred today! For those familiar with Apocalypse Now, I give this warning: never get off the Marais. Seriously, the section of town between the Louvre and the Marais is like a hypermall on French crank, which is worse than simple American meth because it provides a feeling of massive global power. Like, just don't do it. I'm saying. Take the 1 to Louvre-Rivoli at least.
The reason we were trekking so far afield on our first day is that we were in pursuit of a mythical bar I had once been to on my first trip to Paris back in 2001. I sat across from the Louvre and drank and wrote poems and it was fantastically bohemian. I had to had to HAD to discover this bar once again, this mystical oasis which bequeathed so many memories to me. I may have driven Lauren mad with just how many mentions I made of this place.
Well, we can go there tomorrow. It's called Le Fumoir and it's world-famous. Wonderful. This is exactly like how my dad and I, on a trip to Vancouver in 1995, discovered this small coffeeshop chain called Starbucks and I was so thrilled to pick up one of their travel mugs, a timeless souvenir of that exclusive trip. Or how I heard "Alive" on MTV and decided, back in 1992, that Pearl Jam was totally my band. Ah well. Still, memories persist, and we'll probably stop by for a drink. They advertise something called "brunch," but it seems to have the same sort of relation to the American version that French pop music has to Justin Timberlake, so it's probably best to stick with pastries for breakfast.
Strolling around the Marais, though, it struck me that the new globalization might not be so bad. I mean, sure, does Paris need that many H&Ms and the Gap next to the Starbucks on Sebastopol is gruesome. But walking through the crowded streets and popping into shops made me completely comfortable with being an American in Paris, as long as they didn't expect any dance routines. Paris truly is this global cosmopolitan mecca that we only find in the States in the Village in NYC, maybe. So many nationalities, so many different stories playing out, so much genuine diversity there. My first trip to Paris was the play of the Apologetic American who bowed to all the stereotypes, who did his best to subvert all the expectations of a stupid American tourist etc. etc. The second trip was in December of 2008, and I think all of us were still like children locked in a cellar for eight terrible years and finally released, so we were all eye-blinking and wondering if Obama's election meant that we still had to lie and say we were Canadian...
...this time, though, I don't know if it's the political transformation or the more even playing field or the World Cup in a week or so or my own personal maturity or whatever that thing might be, but I felt like a citizen of the world walking there with my wife (WITH MY WIFE!!!) and being all, "y'know, I'm an American, and that just means our flag's different and we're probably not getting out of the first round in South Africa, and we do things different back home and thank God for that." It's just a thing now, rather than being a Thing.
I'll close out with one note of total schmoop: how cool is it that I get to share all this experience with my wife. We had toyed with the idea of the Greek Islands way back when (and what an accidentally prescient choice that was!), but there really was no choice but to be here for our honeymoon. It's a home, and we've slipped into its ways (and lovingly mocked its foibles) with such ease. It's wonderful.