Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 2040: Paris au Ralenti (Paris in Slow Motion)
By Doru from Canada, Fall 2012
Page 2 of 19: Thursday, 13 September - Making Sense of the Neighbourhood, between Rue de Rivoli and the Seine
Pont de l'Archevêché: celebrating l'amour éternel!...
Start of day comme il faut: a crusty "pointed" baguette, and croissants made with margarine to accommodate Josette’s lactose intolerance. The boulanger is two doors down from us; this is like an insurance policy for our entire stay, although I will have to check if they open on Sunday: if they are closed, there are backups on Saint-Antoine. And I have learned something new at 8:30am: the croissant with margarine is called “croissant naturel.” In all Parisian boulangeries!
Today we meet A., a friend from Toronto who is in Paris for a few days. We meet him at the kiosk near Métro Saint-Paul and cut first to Île Saint-Louis and then to Île de la Cité. A stop for coffees and we cross over to one of our favourite spots in Paris: the little park Square Jean XXIII, with its extraordinary view of the Notre Dame Cathedral flying buttresses, wonders of architecture that support the massive structure faithfully and reliably for almost 800 years... I never tire of this angle of view, enjoyable without the presence of the agglomeration of hordes at the façade end of the church. It is quiet here.
After a while, we turn towards Quai de Montebello and the bouquinistes who align the Seine, along the river wall. Memories of a wonderful Slow Travel GTG (get-together) in September 2010 at Le Reminet, as I glimpse the restaurant sign on the other side of the road. I will try to see if we can return during this trip.
On the river wall we read one the many marble plaques one comes across in Paris; this one commemorates the death in that spot of French Resistance fighters. Seven of them died there between the 19th and the 21st of August 1944. Indirectly, they died for us too: three days later, on August 23, 1944 (I was eight years old, Josette was seven) the Red Army entered Bucharest and ended the fascist alliance of Romania with Germany, and we were spared. Sobering moment: we should never allow ourselves, and others, to forget.
We cross back towards rue de Rivoli via Pont de l'Archevêché, this to celebrate life after paying silent homage to sacrifice, and thus admire the unique “art installation” of the “love padlocks” that by now cover completely, three layers deep, the entire west side of the bridge. Never loosing hope, the coming-later-lovers have started to fix their eternal love symbols on the east side as well. Frankly, despite some snobbish reactions I read about, that “deplore” the “defacing” of the bridge (in fact, a bridge that otherwise has really nothing remarkable to display, except utility), I find quite touching the brightness and colours of the padlocks and the love messages scripted on or scratched in the faces of the locks, poignant attempts to invest an ephemeral moment with hopes for eternity. Half seriously, half jokingly, Josette and I comment that we may come back here with a padlock and throw its keys in the Seine… (P.S.: We did come back; without a lock!)
We retreat towards the apartment with the target being the “bistrot parisien” Le Temps des Cerises, located a few doors down, at the corner of our street with rue de la Cerisaie. We figure that if the experience is positive, this could become a nice anchor for us, much like the café Le Loir dans la Théière two years ago.
When we get there, it is packed, table to table, elbow to elbow. It is a small place and we are ready to wait, but a couple gets up just as we settle by the bar, two minuscule tables are cleaned and we are settled. It is obviously a family affair: madame takes orders and serves, monsieur (the husband?) tends the bar. She is a most amazing waitress: for as long as we were there she never stopped taking and memorising orders, serving water, wine or other drinks, explaining the menu, serving the food, cleaning tables. A graceful, quiet tornado.
The menu is quite varied, but we are too late for the risotto, so we settle on the “formule” (menu à prix fixe): appetiser and main, or main and dessert, at €12.50. Prices for the à la carte main courses vary from €10-€22. The formule main courses today are veal roast with a prune sauce and fillet of dorade (sea brim) with steamed vegetables. All excellent, or we are very hungry. Or both. All these, plus 1/2 liter of Vaqueyras (€22) and coffee, set us back only a well worth €63 for three. We will be back. And if I want risotto, I’ll have to remember to be here earlier.
Dinner in the apartment: some pork roast and jambon aux herbes from the charcutier on Saint-Antoine, some sheep/goat feta, still fresh baguette, fruits.
We decide to spend the evening in the apartment to save on the wear and tear of our knees and hips for tomorrow.
A movie with Louis de Funès on the big Samsung flat screen and closing in to jet lag time, with a glass of wine, 24 months aged cheese from Franche-Comté, a few Muscat grapes, and what’s left of the baguette... Yum!
P.S.: I just remembered that David Jaggard, a.k.a. as Americana's Americano, wrote a wonderful piece, in his delightfully different style, about the love locks phenomenon in Paris. Under the title "Locked and Loaded: Love Locks Inundate the Bridges of Paris", it was published under his column "C'est Ironique" in a recent edition of "Paris Update." Recommended reading!
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