Thursday, 20 May 2010

Bathing in Champagne

Being in Paris yesterday was a little like bathing in champagne.  With the caveat that I have never actually had the luxury of bathing in champagne.

Sparkling, bright, a little sweet, a little dry, light.   Crisp.  Perfect.  

It must be pollen season here.  My eyes have been bothering me since I arrived.   All I kept thinking yesterday is that on this perfect May day in Paris, there are probably little urban Paris fairies tucked away up in the leaves in the trees, sprinkling pollen on those passing by.   Just a little here, a little there.   Sweet little pollen fairies.   This was my blissful state of mind yesterday. 

I’ve learned that when traveling there are some days that are just really good days and then other days that aren’t.   Those really good days are the days that you cherish and make you think to yourself that yes, this is why I am here, this is what makes it all worthwhile.   I feel lucky that over the course of the past six weeks or so, I have accumulated a good number of these days.     These are the times I will remember when I am back doing whatever life has in plan for me next.   Those times that you think back to when everything in your current moment just sucks.  Yesterday was one of those happy days.

I had a little plan for the day mapped out starting with finding my falafel place.   I wandered the Marais, running into the cute little place that John and I stayed at last time we were here.    From there, not far to rue des Rosiers, a wonderful street at the heart of the Jewish quarter in the Marais.    While I am here to soak up the atmosphere, my real master plan is to make a stop at L’as du Falafel (32 Rue des Rosiers).     I realize fully that I’ve made probably way too many references to this place, but I can honestly say, this is the best falafel I’ve ever had.   My confession to you will be that, until yesterday, this was also the only falafel I’ve ever had.   I just knew in my heart that nothing would ever compare.   I will stop swooning now.   I have been thinking about this day since prior to leaving for my trip.    I know, a little sad.


So, happy little me, wandering around on this gorgeous Paris day, stumbling onto my quaint little street, picturing myself standing in line and perfectly delivering my order.      I know you know what’s coming, so I’ll just say it.    To my dismay, L’as du Falafel is closed.   Metal garage door locked up closed.   It was a Wednesday.    I don’t know if this is a permanent thing, some weird holiday that I have never heard about, or just a temporary day off.    Serious bummer.   Serious.

I decided to suck it up and move on with my itinerary.      Walking down the street I ran into another falafel shop with a line out front and decided to give into my now intense craving.    I did it, but the experience was just not the same.   The Palace of Falafel, or whatever it was, just didn't compare.    I did learn how to correctly say falafel as I heard the guy yelling it down the street for ten minutes or so.  I practiced it in my head for most of the afternoon until somewhere near the Eiffel Tower when my near perfect pronunciation morphed back into my American pronunciation.     I tried.

Despite the disappointment, I took my lunch and headed over to Place des Vosges.  A perfectly perfect green park square surrounded by perfect pink buildings and perfect rows of leafy trees.     A wonderfully peaceful and calming place due to its symmetry, even full of people doing the same thing I am doing.   Students, kids, couples, grandparents, people of all ages sprawled out eating their little sandwiches and pastries.     Sparkling sun, crisp weather, a decent lunch.     One of my top ten moments on this trip.    I made a really expensive phone call to John to gloat that I was having a solo picnic at the exact same spot where we had our evening picnic on our last trip.    




Not wanting to leave, but energized by lunch, I packed up again and headed across the Seine to Boulevard St. Germain.     This is one really long street.  I underestimated just how long it would take me to walk the length and ultimately reach the Eiffel Tower on the other end.   This is due in part to its actual length, but also due to me stopping every five feet or so to check out a new shop, church or café.   So much to see.    Every store front is gorgeous.   So perfectly manicured and both simple and ornate at the same time.       So many adorable baby shops with the sweetest little outfits  in the windows.  I admit, I was sucked in and bought the most adorable Parisian doll.   I honestly don’t know what I will do with it, but it called me from the window and said “buy me”.   I can never turn that down.





The churches were a nice contrast to all of the heavy gold and painting in Rome.   Although still ornate, much lighter, simpler here.     There are actual areas of exposed marble or stone.     I walked into one church,  Saint Nicolas du Chardonnet and someone was literally signing opera.   The entire church was filled with sound.  Gorgeous, rich.  The second church I went into turns out is the oldest church in Paris.   The Church of Saint Germain des Pres.    A lot of history here, but I was particularly struck but how the light played off of the darkness of the interior. 









What a great day so far, right?   I am walking down the street, with zero awareness to time or obligation, thinking to myself how very lucky I am.    Seriously.  I feel blessed that at this point in my life I have an opportunity to do this.    If anyone out there is reading this that has something burning in the back of their minds, I would say to you that there is no time like the present.   We only live once.   Life is short.   Do not have any regrets.

A day of many deep thoughts.    

Ultimately, I ended up walking almost directly in the Eiffel Tower, approaching the base from an angle I had never seen before.   Wandered through and across the Seine again with the goal of finding Champs Elysse.  I don’t know how it happened, maybe the deep thoughts, but I got lost.  And I didn’t have a map.    Although frustrated, I maintained composure, again reminding myself what is the worse that can happen.    Somehow find my way, enjoy the walk back and through the gardens and end up at some point back at home.   Exhausted. 








I’ll end on this note.    At some point on my walk, I started making more mental comparisons between Rome and Paris.    I was thinking that if I had to compare the two to wine, Rome would be red wine and Paris, champagne.    While Rome makes me feel all warm inside, Paris makes me feel light.   I may still be in my honeymoon phase with Paris, so bare with me while I gush for a few more days.  If it helps, by the end of yesterday’s marathon walk, I was actually feeling like I drank a little too much champagne.   Tired, disoriented, annoyed with everyone, a little silly and ready to call it a day.   And, yes, definitely ready for that nutella crepe. 

Au revoir for now.  

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Bathing in Champagne
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