Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Allons enfants…

After New York City and Ireland, for my husband and me, Paris was our favorite vacation spot.

It’s not as if we were big Francophiles. Or big Francophones.

Mais, non!

But we lov
ed Paris, and traveled there four or five times.

The City of Lights was definitely on our short list of places where we planned to spend a golden month in our golden years, more or less going native. (I.e., I would make sure I had enough French to limp along with a limited vocabulary delivered in the present tense. Jim would nod and smile and wait for the person on the receiving end of my fractured French to start responding in English.)

We were never in Paris for Bastille Day. Our time of year was spring.

The last couple of trips, we stayed in flats – one with a view of the Eiffel Tower out the living room window (spectacular at night when the light show went off), the other in the Marais where we pretty much got lost every time we stepped toe out of the building we stayed in.

What did we do in Paris? Mostly we walked around – it was nothing for us to put 10 miles a day or more on. Jim wasn’t much of a museum goer (to say the least), but we occasionally stopped in at tourist places. When we took our nieces Molly and Caroline, we did more touristic stuff, but even then, Jim took a pass on half of it. (No Louvre, no Bateau Mouche for my boy.)

Just walking around Paris was quite enough. And stopping at cafés for a kir royale. And figuring out where to have lunch. And buying baguettes and Côte d’Or chocolate bars.

Quite enough. (And what I wouldn’t give for it now.)

While we were never in Paris for Bastille Day, on two trips our day of departure was V-E Day.

Our hotel was a charming place at the top of the Champs Élysées, and our room overlooked the Arc de Triomphe. (Oh, yeah, that was another thing we did in Paris. When we stayed in that hotel we’d sit in the window for hours watching the traffic hurl around the monument. Amazing what you can find to do when you have nothing to do.)

On the day before V-E Day, there was a small ceremony at the Arc – something to honor old veterans, I think. But on V-E Day itself there was a BIG CEREMONY, with the President of France doing something or other. Although we never saw this, we did see the preparation, which included snipers on the roof of our hotel, and all sorts of security all over the place.

Alas, we always had to leave for the airport just before whatever was going to happen happened.

So I’ve never been in Paris for any real celebration.

This has been a difficult year for the French, what with Charlie Hebdo and the other terrorist attacks in their country. I’m sure that this will be much on their minds – and on the minds of their gendarmerie – as they set out to celebrate Bastille Day.

I’m not all the up on French history. Most of what I know about the French Revolution came from A Tale of Two Cities and Hilary Mantel’s novel, A Place of Greater Safety. I do know that it took them a while to find that place of greater safety, what with the Reign of Terror, and the many political upheavals of the 19th century. Not to mention two world wars in the 20th, plus whatever it was that happened in Vietnam and Algiers.

Aujourd'hui, I wish the French a glorious day, with plenty of liberté, égalité,and fraternité to go around. And plenty of sécurité as well.

At some point, I’ll get back to Paris. For one thing, I did promise Jim I’d leave a soupçon of his ashes there. Just not yet. And if it turns out I don’t get there, we’ll always have Paris.



1 comment:

Frederick Wright said...

I've been to Paris many times, both for work and for pleasure, and do very much the same as you describe. I'll take friends to the obligatory tourist stops but the heart of my trip is always just ambling, aimlessly wandering the city. Poking around in bookstores. My written French is rather better than my spoken French. Still haven't been with my spouse, but he'd love a weekend in Montmartre.