Paris in late August has indeed a very different feel to it this time around. The afternoon skies, having breached the morning a deep blue, have a summer haze – wisps of cloud giving some respite from that blazing ball of fire in the sky. Parisians are more relaxed; (or are they tourists?) the holidays, perhaps being the missing link to lost sleep. It seems that the mundane stressors of daily life aren’t so bad; people are smiling and eye contact is a connecting factor among strangers. It’s more tranquille, there are certainly less people around, not quite as many cars on the streets and absolutely more exposed body parts. I do truly believe that it’s harder to be angry on a sunny day; so perhaps it’s that notion that infiltrates these city dwellers for a few months of the year. There seems to be more green, the lanes don’t seem so narrow… it has a more clean and honest feel to it.
On this trip to Paris, we hired a neat, brand new little car. We had it for 48 hours, and it gave me an alternate perspective to what I’ve had before. You know, I actually felt a little bit glamorous, if I’m to be completely honest. On those two days I experienced Paris from a pedestal…grand, leafy trees reflected in the car windows as we passed underneath. Glorious old buildings with their curly window and terrace iron, some even embellished with a deep golden frame. Miraculously, we parked in a barricaded lane right outside our door… for free. Both mornings saw us exit the building with fingers crossed, hoping the car hadn’t been fined or worse, towed. Someone was looking after us there, that’s for sure.
Our logement, was this time different too. Through huge timber double doors we had to pass to proceed into a quiet square, an island of more enormous, friendly trees separating the wide, cobble stoned drive. Leaving the street you enter what seems a sanctuary of peace and calm, the apartment buildings casting a cool, relieving shadow all throughout. Your nostrils are enticed toward pasta carbonara and garlic bread with the incredible smells of an Italian restaurant; their kitchen backing onto the courtyard and difficult to resist.
One thing that definitely has not changed is the familiar burn in the calves upon climbing the six flights of stairs to the apartment. Each time I carried up either A. a 2.5 year old or B. groceries, I both resented and relished reaching level two and (puffing) acknowledging I hadn’t really come far.
The apartment itself was adorable. Spacious with two bedrooms and a lounge room plus the necessities. Every surface clean, the delightful smell of fresh linen in each bedroom when we arrived. Lots of framed things and trinkets up on the walls and on the shelves, tastefully yet oddly decorated by somebody who obviously loves to travel. It was quite pleasant, passing Arlo’s siesta time within this little château; the French windows open wide to the mid afternoon sunshine.
We stayed north of le seine on this trip, preferentially a little closer to Le Marais than last time. With luck, our apartment was just around the corner from a gorgeous little fruit and veg mini market shop type thing, with the most vast array of fresh produce I had seen in a long time. The kiwi fruits, from New Zealand, were perfectly fresh and ready to eat, and the apples, pink lady of course, were the best (and actually the only!) I’ve had in a long time. They even had broccoli; absolutely standard in Australia, but a rare commodity and hard to find fresh here. The pineapple, my god. Juicy and sweet. After some time chilling in the fridge, it was the perfect summer gouté.
This was the Paris I had longed to experience, the Paris portrayed in films that was shaded with a hazy, romantic summer daze. Once we returned the car we had hired, about 30% of this mist lifted upon re-exposure to the streets, the metro and the swarms of people using both. But this is the other side of life, right? Rubbish, the homeless, and humans that are in downright poverty and just trying to get by. Crunching steps on the pavement we were approached eight out of 10 times, by people begging for money. Not panhandlers; these were people actually asking for cash, and walking alongside us until we heard them out. One time a decently dressed 12 year old on a scooter asked very politely for one euro, and this was one of the only times I refused. It was clear he was just out of pocket money…I think.
Again we got to see my beautiful cousins Emilie and Ben and their darling little girl, and we were treated to a delightful lunch with the kindest French man you’ll ever meet, Arnaud, at one of his and Dominique’s impressive restaurants – Georgette. I had the salade de coeurs d’artichauts, champignons, amandes et roquette au sésame, le riz japonais, tartare d’avocat et gambas en tempura, but of course my favourite dish comes very highly recommended – the mi-cuit au chocolat noir, crème fouettée avec glace vanille. For those interested in the menu, and can understand French or use a translator, peruse it here.
To end, some other thoughts:
I’ve had Regina Spektor’s ‘Summer in the City’ in my head for days, so I thought it a perfect name for this post. That’s the audio at the top of this page, if you didn’t realise.
One day I found 20 euros in the Franprix around the corner.
We are going to Disneyland tomorrow to spend one night and two days. I’m not sure if it’s Arlo or his parents who are more excited.
One day we got the train in the wrong direction and after ending up lost in the burbs, had to cancel our expedition and go home due to the time. Boo.
The washing machine broke with most of our clothes in it, saturated and with the door locked. I had to wash everything by hand when I eventually got the door open, which made me very grateful for washing machines.
In the city, there is no wet-based relief from the heat. Just shade, and fans. And climatisation, if you’re lucky.
And, that’s it. Au revoir for now!
This blog is a compilation of some of my thoughts and dreams that have marinated for long enough that I can form sentences with them.
I am the mother of one toddler and one pregnant belly, the wife to one man, a friend to many, a sister to two and a daughter. Recently returned from eight months in Europe, having fulfilled a long anticipated dream of living in France.