It’s been two and a half or three weeks since my last blog post. Do not worry, even though I have been neglecting my blog I have been busily enjoying myself.
The three days before Christmas (or, more importantly specified, the day of Allie’s arrival) I spent based in the sex shop district at the foot of Montmartre. The geographical location was exceptional, considering that it was an easy walk from the charms of Montmartre’s narrow cobblestoned streets and scenic stairways, an abundance of cute cafes, and the majesty of the Basilique de Sacré Coeur. Since I am, and have been now for some time I guess, a mature adult, the close proximity to these things more than compensated for the innumerable sex shops (well, not literally innumerable I guess, but it would take way more time to count them than you’d really care to spend) and for the repeated solicitations of this one repulsive, prematurely aged and cigarette-stained woman who wanted to know if I spoke “français? anglais?” and whose repeated solicitations always ended: “[incomprehensible mutterings]…sex massage?”
Well as I was saying, despite all this, the apartment was free and well-located, so I availed myself of much of Paris. I came to explore parts of the city that were somehow still previously unknown to me; I went to a small Parisian movie theater; I read Zola in French cafés; I strolled along the Grand Boulevards and increased my knowledge of which metro lines go where and improved my sense of where important landmarks are relative to others.
And all of this was in the three days before Allie got here.
After that important event (i.e. Allie’s arrival) we did more of the same, except better. The company was impeccable, so it was impossible to misstep. Everything we did was fun, and even though much of what we did was the same as what I did beforehand, it was all suddenly much better. The charm of the Parisian cafés was magnified and the pleasure of sitting at one was intensified. People watching was done more expertly, exploration was done more enjoyably and with less fatigue, the ballet was more genteelly appreciated.
While she was here we never stayed at the same place for more than two consecutive days. First we were in Paris, then we went to Lyon, where she felt like she was returning home, then we went to Coulommiers, then back to Paris, Coulommiers, Paris.
We saw her host family from her semester in Lyon last spring. We spent an excellent evening with them where we had lively discussion even though 4 of the 5 of us were varying degrees of sick (Allie, that lucky dog, being the only one completely unaffected).
Allie had the distinct pleasure of meeting Isabelle, my friendly, chain-smoking, occasionally boisterous (although she is a serious-minded teacher) roommate. Allie worked her culinary magic, but Isabelle abstained since for the moment she was on one of her frequent and shortlived régimes.
We spent New Year’s in the 7th arrondissement, where we ate a 7 course meal that lasted 4 hours and after which we walked around the Champ de Mars as the Tour Eiffel sparklingly bestowed us with its meillleur voeux for the New Year and the champagne-drunk French teenagers less articulately did the same.
On her last day I skipped work (actually I arranged to make up my hours on another day) and met up with one of our well-respected French professors who is showing 20 lucky J-term students how best to appreciate Paris. We ate lunch and macaroons and decided it wouldn’t be the end of the world if someday we had enough money to live in the 7th and do all of our clothes shopping at Le Bon Marché and all our grocery shopping nextdoor at La Grande Epicerie.
The day after Allie’s departure my parents and sister arrived. They’re staying at a hotel in the posh 8th arrondissement. Since they’ve been here we’ve gone to the Palais Garnier for a ballet (making it the fourth show I’ve seen there), met up with some Parisian friends of ours, and made a trip out to the Château de Fontainebleau, where the lack of crowds made it a very enjoyable palatial visit. Needless to say, we’ve done our fair share of walking.
Apparently this American fascination of walking around Paris is as old as the very idea of Americans visiting Paris. In a book I’ve just started reading about the history of famous Americans in Paris, I have learned that James Fenimore Cooper, the author of The Last Mohicans, spent a considerable amount of time in Paris around 1830 and once set off with a friend to walk around the perimeter of the city. While the perimeter is larger than it once was I think the trek is still feasible. Perhaps one of these days I will also have to attempt the feat?
There is surely more to report from the last three weeks than I was able to recount in this blog post which has already flagrantly exceeded the 30-minute time-limit, so don’t be surprised if I pepper future posts with some of the events from this exciting (and happily on-going) period. Pictures will certainly be included at a more convenient time.
Wishing everyone a belated happy new year from Paris/Coulommiers.