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Report 1877: De retour à Paris; Doru's 2010 Journal

By Doru from Canada, Fall 2010

Trip Description: A return to Paris, living "la vie parisienne" like the Parisians do...

Destinations: Countries - France; Regions/Cities - Paris

Categories: Vacation Rentals; Attended GTG; Opera; Shopping; Sightseeing; Independent Travel; 2 People

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Page 1 of 20: Meeting Saint-Antoine, the Neighbourhood

The flight from Toronto, with Air Canada, was quite pleasant. The 777 has less leg room than the 767, but it is adequate. The in-flight Air Canada service was at its usually “efficient” but impersonal level. The food was OK and the “Flight Director”, I guess the new title for the purser, was at his most annoying: he kept coming on the public address system much too often with all kinds of trivial announcements and to advertise the duty-free on board. He was also waking up those who were lucky enough to be able to sleep, and interrupting the on-board entertainment system, which goes blank every time “the Director” talks.

I very seldom watch movies while flying, and I am quite embarrassed that I have to confess it, but on this flight I watched “Bollywood Hollywood”, a movie otherwise I would not have gone to see even if I were paid to do it. But, surprise-surprise for the snob: the movie turned out to be very funny. The movie was filmed in Toronto and I was able to identify many of our city’s landmarks. As an aside: after the Cold War "eased off” somewhat, we started to be shown in Bucharest all kinds of movies from the more “progressive” countries, or featuring actors who were engaged in the peace process as seen from Moscow, and so, in addition to some French and Italian movies, we were allowed to view also Indian movies. One of them, with Raj Kapoor, left an indelible impression on my mind: the movie was so colourful in comparison with the drab, grey ones the Eastern Bloc was producing! And then, there was Raj Kapoor singing “Avara hoon”, a song I remember to this day with which I impressed many years later, in Toronto, the parents of a friend of my older son’s. Zoroastrians with Indian roots, they could not get over the fact that I could sing this quintessential Indian song, and with lyrics too:

Aawaara hoon, aawaara hoon

Ya gardish mein hoon aasmaan ka taara hoon

Aawaara hoon

Gharbaar nahin, sansaar nahin

Mujhse kisi ko pyaar nahin, etc.

But I digress...

We arrived in Paris to a glorious, sunny 22 degrees (73 F) and it remained unchanged so far. Intellicast says 22 C until next Tuesday, so the outlook ... looks good!

The taxi stand at CDG was in its usual chaotic state, mostly because of the narrow sidewalk than to any other reason. The drive to town was slow, much slower than we remember from other trips, because of the heavy traffic, but the driver fought it successfully on the ring routes, and later in particular the “no entry” signs all along Rue de Rivoli, to bring us successfully through the narrows streets and to the apartment. Forced to stop not quite in front of the building, the driver insisted on bringing himself every single one of the four suitcases and carry-ons. He received a very nice tip for this courtesy.

We successfully used the codes required, first to open the gate, and then the door to our wing of the building. In the lobby we met the narrow elevator (two people of modest size are comfortable, two people with a bit of a more generous built –“avec de l'embonpoint” or “bien en chair”, the French would say - will enjoy unavoidable intimacy, but who’s complaining?) Having handled successfully the security at successive doors, and having made it to the door of the apartment after four judiciously planned trips with the tiny elevator, we are inside the apartment, with tall, sunny windows on both sides: Rue P. on one side, a wide, spotless and sunny interior court on the other. Two bedrooms, a living room, a nice, large kitchen, a very large shower, the latter by appearance brand new. The furniture is ... eclectic. The kitchen is very well equipped and supplied. Two bottles of wine are waiting the red on the kitchen table, the white, chilling in the fridge.

Settling in, unpacking.

I continue checking the amenities and, oh! cruel fate: the WiFi system doesn’t work. The laptop with its French AZERTY keyboard is a pain although I manage to figure out all critical differences. The laptop does not sport the tracking point with which I am used to navigate (only Lenovo seems to still produce laptops with tracking point; everybody in my family uses either the old IBM X-series, or Lenovo’s newer versions).

At the accompaniment of the radio, tuned to 101.1 FM, our classical music station in Paris, I press on. Since I need to communicate with the owner, I start my own laptop and I find that I can surf on an available unsecured network. I can communicate! I send an SOS to the owner; I email N.L. By the end of the day I will decide that the unknown local unsecured network is good and fast enough for me and I spare the (very grateful) owner, who does not live in town, the expense of sending somebody over to try to fix the problem.

After a bit of beauty rest for Josette, and just rest for me, I must have a coffee, so I mercilessly wake up Josette and we head downstairs, to the “built-in” café, a place with an amazingly eclectic set up: not two chairs, or tables, are the same. We think that we could have contributed some of the chairs we disposed of when we sold the house and downsized to the condominium. Walls are covered with posters; the clientele is mostly very young. The coffee is excellent (here “coffee” is really “espresso”, but the roast is quite different from the Italian). More about this café later.

Thus encouraged and energized, from the café door we take a right to find ourselves in the Rue Saint-Antoine: a beehive of shops, stores, teeming with people, mostly young people. Immediately it is evident, and we both agree on this, that there is a marked improvement in cleanliness and in the feeling of safety compared with previous visits in the area. Sidewalks are full of people, and clean.

In short order, we start an initial provisioning: we find lactose-free milk at both Monoprix and the G20 Supermarché. We raid the nearby Rue Saint-Antoine for cheese (for Josette sheep, which is OK for her lactose intolerance, for me Beaufort de l’Alpage), jambon, baguette, and we have the best little meals in the world, my jambon assisted by a bit of half-salt butter. There are two fromagers within 50 meters of each other on Rue Saint-Antoine, and half way between them a foie gras store, flanked by two wine stores and a rotisserie (à la Reine Pédoque?). Cheese and apples make the nicest desserts.

There is a synagogue down the street (we are at #16, the synagogue is at #10). Right across the street there is a "yeshiva”, a Jewish religious school. We meet the kids as they finish the school day.

After dinner, we take a walk through Rue des Rosiers, quiet at this hour, but with the falafel and shawarma stores and all bakeries still open; over to Francs-Bourgeois; on to Place des Vosges, where it is quiet now, with just a few young couples on the grass and a few older couples on benches. I take some photos and from the next bench a large man, who is having a chat with his female companion, calls over and asks if I want a photo with my wife. Of course I do. He takes the photo; we talk, he in English, me in French. This is something that will happen here a lot: I would address people in French, they will reply in English. I find this funny: it could be a commentary on my accent, or maybe on my clothing. But I think that we all want to practice the two languages: the French speak English now much easier and without the reservation than used to be the case years ago. The young, in particular, do want to speak English. And I just want to revive my atrophied French.

Really, this is a wonderful area in which to stay and we are very happy with the stroll to Place des Vosges, and this only in the first afternoon: we just arrived today and it seems as if we were already here for some time.

Later in the evening, after dinner in the apartment, we go out again and just sit outside, at the Dome St. Paul café, me nursing a beer, Josette having lemonade. The world walks by; what a great life!

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