Tuesday, May 04, 2010


We arrived yesterday after an uneventful flight – uneventful, other than running into a former colleague, traveling on business, and carrying her laptop (as I was mine) in an old Genuity backpack.

Unfortunately, we arrive just in time to hit rush hour, and it took us an hour and a half to get into the city, stalled in traffic as workers on very loud motorbikes zipped between the car lanes.

We had an excellent cab driver, who – taken in by the fact that I can say good morning, provide an address, and ask a simple question  - “Is it always like this?” – with an more or less acceptable accent – thought I could speak French, and kept prattling away at us. Actually, I can speak a bit of French. I just can’t understand much of what comes back at me, unless it’s coming really, really slowly.

Anyway, when my husband opens his mouth, there’s the dead giveaway. While I am wrapping my mouth around “mare-cee” to thank someone, Jim just barks out a peppy, American “mer-cy.”

We’re staying in a new area for us – the Marais – which is the old Jewish quarter, and now a quite happening young-fashionista-gay area.

Coming in from the airport, we passed Père LaChaise cemetery, where I’ve not been, and where Balzac, Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, and Jim Morrison are buried. Maybe I’ll finally get there this trip! I will go in whistling “La Vie en Rose”, the Piaf tune that my mother whistled under her breath all the time.

We are renting a flat for the week, and were met by its co-owner, an Australian engineer ex-pat. The other co-owner, with whom Jim had made all the arrangements, was in the hospital with a bleed-out ulcer. This makes it two-for-two with Paris rental/owner malady situations. Last year, the man we rented an apartment from had a stroke between the time we signed the contract and sent the deposit, and when we took up our temporary residence. (Attention, Paris apartment owners: you may want to think twice before you rent to us. For whatever reason, we may be hazardous à votre santé)

The apartment is very nice – nothing fancy, but comfortable and homey, and in a great location.

Naturally, it has the usual quirks one always finds in the Old World.

The elevator goes to the 5th floor, and then we have to walk up a steep winding staircase to the flat on the 6th.

And the elevator barely holds the two of us. The weight limit is 180 kilos, and we’re well under that. I’d like to see someone with much bulk squeezing in there. Of course, most of the people you see in France don’t have all that much bulk.

Walking up and down the stairs is an option, and we’ve taken it. But the staircases are very winding, and it’s pretty dizzying.

Not to mention that, since the French are pretty conscious of electricity, the lights aren’t on in the stairwells by default, and there seems to be quite a delay before the sensors detect you and light things up. So, the elevator is safer.

We had lunch at a Moroccan couscous joint in the ‘hood. The food was delicious but, unlike my general experience in Paris, the portions were huge. (The two fellows sitting next to us were dining on what appeared to be a side of hog and a gallon of couscous.) But the chicken tastes like chicken used to, before the Perdues and Tysons of the world decided that chickens are best when plumped up on hormones.

Not much initial walking around because we were, of course, in the overnight-flight semi-stupor you always find yourself in after a flight across the pond.

After an out-like-a-light afternoon nap, we were good to go for a longer walk. But not that long. Baby, it’s cold outside. Glad I brought a fleece and a pair of gloves. Fortunately, it’s supposed to get warmer and perhaps – fingers crossed – even a bit sunny over the next couple of days.

Not too many tourists, at least not in our area. I only heard/saw one American family. And we’re batting two for two with restaurants that don’t have English versions of their menus, a sure sign that we’re at least a tiny bit off the main path being beaten by tourists.

Lots of hip, young, fashionably dressed 20-and-30 somethings buzzing around. Many of them, alas, still smoking. And speaking of alas. While today would not have been the day to sit outside in a café – at least one that didn’t have heat lamps – all the outside tables come equipped with ashtrays. Now that smoking is forbidden in restaurants here, the smokers all sit outside. C’est dommage.

We had very nice dinner at a hip, young, fashionable restaurant.

Then we made our still semi-stuporous way back to “our” place, where I now sit in bed, typing my Tuesday post, and about to call it un jour.


John said...

It's been a couple of years, so who knows, but there were two places to eat we went to a number of times in the Marais: Rendezvous des Amis on Rue Sant Croix de la Brettonerie, and Cafe les Philosophes on Vieille du Temple.

There is at least one fabulous chocolate shop in the neighborhood, but I sure can't remember where it was...


Maureen Rogers said...

John - Thanks for getting up so early to give us a couple of spots in the Marais. We have them on our list to check out.

mb said...

I'm jealous!!! Paris, c'est ma ville favorite.

I noticed the same smoking issue last month in Ireland....all outside tables filled with smokers. It was disappointing.

Pere La Chaise is worth the trip...back in the day, Jim Morrison's grave was totally covered in wine/booze bottles and all sorts of other parephenalia. I wonder if the mystique continues??