Thursday, October 20, 2011

Postcard from Paris, Day 1: Jet Lag

After the always-a-nightmare overnight flight to Paris, when it's impossible to sleep or even get comfortable in rotten, cramped, coach-class seats, the rest of our travels were a breeze. No lines for customs or luggage, no problems getting the train to the Left Bank. Then we emerged from the Metro at St. Michel into a crisp, sunny day and our first view of the Seine. We rolled our suitcases on the cobblestones to our hotel. We just had time to check in and take showers before we were due for lunch with my husband's colleagues on the Right Bank. 

They took us to an informal little bistro near their office in the 9th Arrondissement. I ordered a mushroom omelette, which arrived resting on a bed of perfect fried potatoes. (I find that eggs are soothing after an international flight.) The first forkful of that expertly cooked omelette was dripping rich French butter. Heaven. I'd never use that much butter myself, but clearly I should. There was a whole forest's worth of woody, chewy mushrooms (chanterelles, I think) in that omelette, too, however, and I sawed away at them with enthusiasm at first. But my steak knife resisted them and finally I became resistant, too. I finished the eggs and potatoes. And I stayed away from fungus for the rest of the trip.

Jet lag set in during the meal, so I kept drifting off despite a Diet Coke ("Coca Light" in French) and lively bilingual conversation. Afterward, my husband set off to work and I began my traditional wanderings. Jet lag and a strange neighborhood meant I walked in circles quite a bit. I didn't get to see nearly as much as I'd hoped, but I did get to see certain things at least three times.

I lit candles in this elegant church, but I have no memory of the name or location.

It must be in the 9th somewhere. When I say that Paris is like a dream, I really mean it, at least on the day I arrive.... it's actually more like hallucination.

Googling indicates that it was the Eglise de la Sainte-Trinité. Ah. That one had been on my list. 

Eventually I made my way to the Left Bank. Can't remember how, but I didn't swim across the Seine or take the Metro, so I must have crossed one of the many scenic bridges. 

I found myself at Deyrolle, probably my all-time favorite shop, which is full of taxidermy and insect specimens. I wasn't planning to visit on this trip, but it magically appeared before me, so I went upstairs. Everyone seemed pleased to see me. Deyrolle is always like a dream:

I think this elephant had arrived since my last visit. It's hard to hide a baby elephant. 

Every time I visit, the animals have been rearranged into new tableaux. My last visit was around Easter, and there were bunnies and chickens everywhere. Now it's more about bears.

This charming baboon sat pensively in a corner:

I was very tired. I decided to return to the hotel for a nap. I turned in the wrong direction from Deyrolle and came upon this pretty courtyard garden behind an iron gate:

After a time, I found the Boulevard St. Germain and followed it in the right direction. 

I was near my favorite patisserie, which was out of both the pistachio and caramel èclairs, quel dommage. (I remember that clearly). I walked past a protest or strike; these are quite typical. It was very elegantly choreographed. Everyone was wearing black or navy, including the police, and both the protesters and the police stood in neat rows. No messy signage. Someone had brought a very good sound system for airing his views, and his companions cheered or pounded on drums in solidarity. Percussion seems to be essential for a good French protest.

Boulevard St. Germain is lined with chic boutiques; I window-shopped. Somehow, a pain-chocolate-almond had appeared in my hand, so I nibbled as I walked. I saw this woman, below, wearing a poncho. I also noticed ponchos in shop windows. I now knew that I couldn't be dreaming. Even I could never have imagined that Frenchwomen could make even a poncho look stylish.

I made my way to our room, as lovely as a picture with its beamed ceiling, leaded-glass casement windows, and inlaid wooden floor. The antiques aren't as antique as they look, but this way they don't break when you collapse into them in a stupor. I napped. It turned dark. And when I woke up, we went to a crèperie for dinner and had more crèpes (nutella!) on the way home. Paris really is like a dream.

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