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 4 of 19: Saturday, September 15 - Rue Cler and Pont Louis-Philippe
Soviet memorabilia on rue Cler
Today we visit rue Cler. According to the RATP website, the simplest way to get there is by métro 8 from Bastille, station that is almost around the corner, about two minutes walk from the apartment.
Down the stairs, into the station. I buy the first “carnet” of tickets, 10 for €12.70. We are not sure how much we will use the métro this time around because of the lack of predictability in the number of levels and stairs to be navigated. Today, for the first descent into the métro, we receive proof that our pessimism was justified. With all its exceptional network of stations, and the extraordinary coverage of the city, the Parisian métro is still representative of its age: the escalators are unpredictable and few and far between, elevators are hardly existent. We discover that métro line 8 direction Balard is one of three lines corresponding at Bastille: 1, 5 and 8. And 8 is at the bottom of the “can”, at the lowest level! This represents quite a problem for us, because of various limitations of, and difficulties with, knees and hips. Still, as we realise this, we are already far enough down and so, we decide to go all the way and later will reconsider how to return home.
Although we have been so many times in Paris and used always almost exclusively the métro, we now learn that in a station with different corresponding lines we had better know how far down is the line we need. Lesson filed away for future reference.
We come out of the métro on rue de la Motte-Piquet and are immediately greeted by the paraphernalia and displays of the “bric à brac” typical for Paris markets: trinkets, baubles, odds and ends, curios, odd furniture, old furniture, sundry ornaments, statues of Lenin, unmatched pieces of furniture, Russian army caps, Cossack hats, Christofle tableware, porcelain table sets, statues of horses the size of ponies, chrome airplane models, previously enjoyed clothing, racks of shoes, and they all continue in a crescendo along the entire length of rue Cler. Colourful, noisy, on a wonderfully sunny days. Dogs, children, old people and young, tourists like us. Not an identifiable pickpocket in sight. And no buyers? I can attest that in the almost two hours spent there I did not see even one single transaction concluded, any money changing hands. Except for take out food, or in brasseries and cafés. How do these people make a living?
For me, a highlight was to see for sale typographical sets such as my father used when newspapers were still being made by hand, picked letter after letter, font type and size, on special matrices, and then placed in the larger matrices that represented the entire page. A wave of memories; I can still smell the aromas of typographical ink and lead from over 60 years ago...
We went to rue Cler mostly for the riot of colours, smells and sounds. We now sit at a table, coffees and water in front of us, the sun permeating through our skin and, for a while, we watch the market go by us, in front of us.
We return home by taxi. Not very expensive, and no stairs!
For lunch, we prepare in the small kitchen of the apartment tagliatelle with sheep feta and finish the bottle of wine.
Evening finds us again on Île Saint-Louis, refusing to compromise ourselves by lining up at the various Berthillon outlets for a cone of ice cream. Not even if Berthillon himself would descend from where he is and serve it to me personally. The number of places that sell ice cream under the Berthillon name has mushroomed from two years ago, and people line at every one of them. A runny gold mine!
On Pont Louis-Philippe an achingly beautiful girl sings à la Edith Piaf and accompanies herself on an accordion. Public in rapture watches the girl, listens to her songs. A human statue freezes while sweeping the bridge. Two little girls and a little boy pull his "frozen" sleeve; tickle him; he remains frozen. But yesterday we did see him winking to a passing girl, so he has a beating heart... The children go away, their parents forget to throw an Euro or two in front of the sweeper's broom... On the other side of the bridge, massage is available gratis. Judging by the non-paying customers, the pleasure is all of the masseurs... A bunch of "mariners" wait their turn to play, to entertain the crowds and collect their own share of contributions, dinner thus assured. Evening falls gently on Île de la Cité and the Seine.
Tomorrow we have a Slow Travel GTG.
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