Sunday, May 2, 2010

Paris Really Is a Magical City

Today was a hazy, lady day until it was time to go to Paris. We packed our suitcases and in doing so I put away the winter coats and turtlenecks – the seasons, they are a-changing (sort of, it’s actually supposed to be quite chilly over the next few days). With great efficiency, we were ready early enough to go out for a last café, all of us. So here we are at the Taverne terrace, squinting into the sun. Within five minutes it was raining, but then within five minutes more, it was sunny again. I’ll miss Brittany!

Whenever you order an ice cream at the Taverne, you get a totally extravagant treat with it: my mom got a plumed bird, Iris received something very sparkly, and here, Eleanor got a great big Breton flag – she waved it proudly and said “Yea! The American flag” – a declaration she was quickly disabused of. So now she says, “Yea! The Breton flag – our flag.” We’ll work on it (or not).

Oliver, feeling the first stirrings of his yearly Halloween obsession with much talk of ghosts and his organization of a Ghoul Gala this morning, was rewarded with this rather wonderful scarecrow which we called alternately, “strawy” or “paillo” (“paille” being straw in French). He was positively beaming. How does the world know my little guy is Halloweend-obsessed, even in May?

Off we went, then, to take the bus that would take us to Rennes where we would pick up the TGV that would get us to Paris in two hours – just 2 hours! This is the first time I’ve been apart from the kids since we’ve come to France – unusual, since there’s commonly a conference or a meeting at least once or twice a semester. We were all kind of tremulous but Iris promised to be the little mommy, Oliver said he’d memorize his poem for school, and Eleanor declared “I keep my chicken bones for weapons” (see what I mean about her idiom? This is what she thinks about when she’s eating roasted chicken!). I’ll be back in time to pick them up from school on Thursday, but still, I’ll miss their little bodies and the smell of their hair and their declarations and opinions. Mac said tonight on the phone that all was well: they took in a screening of Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang at the Beaumanoir movie theater in town and loved it. All good.

So here’s the view from our hotel, my all-time favorite since forever, the Hotel des Grands Balcons. That’s the Théâtre de l’Odéon that you’re seeing and it’s right there! Place de l’Odéon with all its movie theaters and restaurants and more is down to the right. And yet this is a really quiet street (rue Casimir de la Vigne – who was he?) and this hotel has the best breakfast ever. Our room is tiny, bien sûr, but the beds are fabulous – so happy.

By the time Mom and I clawed our way out of Montparnasse (“Who needs escalators?” the planners of Montparnasse clearly decided) and deposited our bags in our hotel room it was 8 o’clock, and so we relaxed and watched the news. Not so relaxing. This bomb, mercifully diffused, in Times Square, the oil spill in Louisianna – as the news was being broadcast, Obama was making his way down there – thank you, thank you, President Obama. We’ve been following the Greek economic collapse pretty closely because Sarkozy has done so much to move Merkel (Germany) along – but the numbers are staggering: this year alone, it’s 3.9 billion euros that France will put forward, 9,6 billion over the next three years. One can’t help but think of other heroic rescues of Greece (Shelley and all that) – this is just as heroic, but there probably won’t be works of art for it. SO – by the time we stepped out for dinner it was good and late, and even in Paris plenty of restaurants are closed on a Sunday night, but it turns out that the Polidor always welcomes the weary Parisian and/traveler, and so we stepped into this venerable (since 1845) establishment and had ourselves a fine meal of gigot d’agneau avec fageolet. This is the kind of place where there are long tables and they’ll seat you elbow to elbow wherever there’s room for you – the “bain de foule” (how to translate that? A bath in the crowd – although that sounds weird in English – taking in a crowd, maybe?) par excellence. The wine was excellent and conversation turned to the Dead Sea Scrolls (exhibit at the Bibliothèque Nationale!) and favorite movies, and Paris in the ‘60s (my mom gave birth to me here in 1969 – at the American Hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine). It might be strange, but it’s certainly true: we had to come to Paris to have this kind of meandering, nostalgic conversation. There’s something about stepping into, dare I say it, a clean, well-lighted place after walking even a little bit in gray, rainy Paris that makes you feel like this is the meal, and this is the conversation you want to remember. Tomorrow, Paris awaits – a little bit of “Paris, à nous deux” (my dad’s favorite Paris quote) is in the air, but we’re also going to try and practice a new term we heard during a segment on the news tonight: la zenitude. Bonne Nuit!

1 comment:

  1. Yay! Paris! Yes it was gloomy yesterday, wasn't it? I hope it will get nicer this week, but if not, of course, there are restaurants, museums, restaurants around museums, restaurants in museums, restaurants on museums...