Friday, December 4, 2009

Paris

I am sitting here in our little flat in Monmarte, munching on fig newtons, and listening to the rain hit the little ceiling window, so peaceful. Monmarte is beautiful, and Paris, well, it most certainly is Paris.

Our journey began stateside at noon, when we set out to Newark. Nothing unusual to note except I set off the metal detectors as usual...when the female officer came out with the gloves though, I began to think "cavity search" and got a little nervous, lol.

Our flight was an arduous one--I was worse behaved than the children on board. I was in the middle of the row, which always makes me a bit claustrophobic, but God had mercy on me, and the gentleman I was sandwiched in between got up and sat with a friend a few rows down, so Mark and I had some breathing room.

I was very impressed with Scandinavian Airlines, to say the least! Service on board was impeccable, with nice, smiling Flight attendants, *2* full onboard meals that were actually good, complimentary wine and liquor with your meals, free beverages and snacks through the flight, pillow and blankets, and private movies, games and music for each seat, not to mention what I liked best of all--an overhead TV showing us the route and all particulars of our transAtlantic course--I found it fascinating and comforting, knowing exactly where we were, as we went up over Canada, the Labrador coast, and finally, to Copenhagen. Although I got squirmy and had to pace the cabin every two hours or so, it was as good as a flight as we could experience.

When we landed in Denmark, I have to say, I was floored. The people are ALL drop dead beautiful, and the airport was very new and modern, and ECOCONSCIOUS-- these people seem to be light years ahead of us in terms of their eco awareness...I was very impressed, but then as I looked around, I began to become uneasy...here we were, these two disheveled and dumpy Americans in the midst of a race of mannequins, and I justed wanted to get on board and go LOL

Charles DeGaulle airport was more my speed with the grime and variety you get accustomed to for an international airport. The variety of people was very interesting, from the French, to Spaniards, Arabs, Swedes, Germans...a real melting pot...put me right at ease!

Our flat in Monmarte was about a half hour away, so we got a taxi ride through the outskirts...lots of graffiti, and litter...made me feel like I was in Brooklyn!! "Newer" Paris in nothing to speak of. I was happy to see the French drive on the proper side of the road as we do LOL (now, now, don't get offended my dear English friends!).

Unfortunately, due to a miscommunication, our flat wouldn't be ready until 3 pm, instead of 11 am, so we had to go across town and drop off our luggage at the rental office, since we weren't go to be dragging our suitcases everywhere with us until we could get settled in...at this point, I was completely undone...exhausted, and irritated. Mark saw me turning cagey and we decided to go get a nice meal at a local restaurant recommended by our "host" so off we went, and found ourselves in the middle of a very jolly and somewhat boisterous group of Parisians at lunch time. Our language barrier didn't seem to bother them in the least, and they were quite friendly and cordial to us, contrary to many myths I heard in the past of the French treating Americans abroad like dirt...not true as far as we can tell.

After eating a very nice and large lunch of steak, chicken, baguette, fries, salad, and chocolate tart with expresso, we were off to the Sienne to walk it off and see everyday Paris...we stopped in some beautiful little markets, and tucked off into a wonderful park with a statue of Louis the IV...or the V?? I don't know, it was one of the Louis'!

As 3 pm approached I was completely feeling the 28 hours we had been awake and traveling, and I could tell Mark was also by the way he nodded off in the cab while sitting straight up--quite a remarkable feat!! Aside from our taxi driver trying to rip us off for a double fare because we didn't understand French, everything was smooth, and we met our "hostess" Jen at the flat smack in the middle of Monmarte. She showed us how to operate the various appliances in it, handed us the keys, and off she went. I was looking forward to nothing more than a nice hot shower, change of clothes, and maybe a nap, when we discovered we had no hot water...this really pushed me over the edge, and hot or cold water, I was going to get CLEAN here. I felt like a complete dirtbag walking around Paris in what now felt like dirty pajamas, and I wasn't having any of that, LOL. So, I took a shower that was so cold, it could have rivaled the Antartic, and if I was about 20 years older, had the potential to kill me by putting me into cardiac arrest...but, hell, at least I felt awake after it!

We began to explore Monmarte, and I have to say it is just as quaint and beautiful as I had pictured it to be...now, don't get me wrong, there is an element of tourism going on, but thankfully, it has been ruined with any "Ripley's Believe it Or Not" shops or cheesy wax museums.

Artist circle was in full swing, and all the gang was there, hawking their paintings, portraits on the spot, and caricatures...The Church across the way was hosting a Christmas Bazaar, and all of the local children there were dressed in Victorian Garb and went through the streets singing french Christmas carols...until they stopped in the square, and after a long prayer, all of the trees in the square lit up to symbolize the start of the Christmas season...it was absolutely stunning and Mark and I sat at the cafe across the narrow cobbled street and wined, dined, and enjoyed the whole event. The cafes all had overhead heating installed so that their patrons could continue to dine outside no matter the weather, and this seems to be all of the demand, since Paris is now nonsmoking indoors, and still is home to literally LOADS of smokers...I was secretly impressed by their old fashioned ways, for such a cosmopolitan city...fashionable thin people, who love their old fashioned foods, wine, and cigarettes or "tabac" as it's put everywhere...I was definitely digging them. No political correctness here!

As we sat eating saumon aspic (salmon), beef, and noodles, a local artist named Alan struck up an interesting conversation with us, telling us about his life here, his younger years traveling the world, his lost love in Cambodia, and his eventual return home to France, and his life in Monmarte...he finished our conversation with doing a pencil portrait of me, which I felt was far more flattering than what I really look like...he insisted it was the exact likeness, and I laughingly thanked him for such a kind interpretation of me, as probably I had been, 20 years previous!! He snootily informed me I have no wrinkles and "very lovely skin" so the portrait was quite accurate. God love that man!

At some of the local artists and resident's advice, we headed down to Rue Abbeuse, where the tourists don't go to, and all of the locals hang out at. It was a party in full swing, and we hit several local bars/cafes, and chatted it up with them. They were surprisingly open about what the loved and hated about their beloved city, and I was again, impressed they would share this with traveling Americans. Yet, they did.

After all the food and wine, and lack of sleep, I felt it hit me sharply like a drug, and I could barely keep my eyes open by around 9 pm...Mark literally had to drag me back uphill to our flat, where I instantly fell asleep, and then promplty awoke at 3 am...not knowing where the hell I was, and completely dazed...so here I sit now, 6 am, happy, but still tired. I'll try to get a little more rest soon, since we will be armed with our Metrocards...and ready to start doing some more exploring of this fascinating old city...

That's it for now!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Old Stone cottage and wildflowers

 "Old stone cottage and wildflowers" by Hilary J. England, oil on canvas, 8" x 11" Lest you think I have moved to some r...