Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 926: My Dream Trip To Italy and France
By BGE from Fox Creek, Alberta, Canada, Spring 2005
Page 25 of 38: My First Day in Paris!
Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa, Men Have Named You...
So, sleep came last night, finally. Iím awake, writing this in bed, looking at these amazing peach taffeta drapes with the little twists of fabric decorating them. I think I want these for my own home. The apartment noises from next door are soft, and the people who live in and visit this building are moving about. Thereís construction going on, somewhere below me.
After a shower, breakfast and MTV on for background noise to drown out the carpenters, I look for and find a fan. Setting it up in my bedroom and turning it on low drowns out the carpentersí noises. Iíll leave it on for tonight and Iíll sleep better that way, I think.
This apartment is delicious! It is one floor up, through a lovely little courtyard with huge tubs of blooming hydrangeas along the brick pathway and hanging pots of ivy everywhere. The bedroom is really large, with scads of storage for clothing and personal thingsÖ my books, camera, journals, travel guides and maps take up the top of the dresser.
There are two tiny bathroomsÖ one with a toilet and miniature sink, the other with a miniature sink, a shower, and a towel warmer. There is not a lot of storage in either bathroom, but thatís fine, as there is more than enough in my bedroom. Cove moulding runs along each wall at ceiling height, and a round, decorative ceiling panel surrounds each light fixture. A fireplace graces the dining room that serves as a second bedroom.
In the living room, there is a super-comfortable sofa, TV/DVD/CD combination, and a great book of directions for everything from the way to operate the washer/dryer to how to get to the Louvre.
The kitchen is perfect! New cabinetry, appliances, dishes, cutlery and cookware fill the little room. The arrangement of the appliances, along with a water heater in the top cabinet over the sink, is a model of efficiency and perfect use of space. A four burner gas range, oven, built-in dishwasher, water heater and washing machine that doubles as a dryer all fit in this little room and leave lots of countertop and workspace left over. On the opposite wall, there is a small fold-out table for added seating. The owners have done a remarkable jobÖ I love it here!
How am I this morning? Iím still really angry and scared, as well. Itís not the amount of money that I spent on the jewelry, although that certainly is not a high point of my morning. Itís the loss of the bracelet for my daughter that makes me cry. I spent days looking for, and finally finding what I saw as the perfect gift for her. Iíd gift-wrapped it for her, so that it already belonged to her, in my heart. The thing isÖthatís MY stuff! Donít touch it, freakin' morons!
So, itís time to wander my new neighbourhood. I call Lauren, the rental agent, and she is so gracious. She gives me clear directions to the Franprix for groceries, the closest ATM, the wine shop, cheese, shop, patisserieÖand Iím ready to go shopping.
Franprix, no problem. Itís a short 2 blocks away. I find my necessary soy milk with no trouble at all. The thing I notice is that there is no baking section to speak of. No shelves of flours, sugars, baking powders, because people here donít bake that much, maybe? There is only a small, along-the-floor shelf with a few small bags of flour and sugar on it. I bet thatís it. If we had great bakeries in Canada like those that are available here on every street corner, Iíd never bake anything again. The boulangerie has organic bread, brioche, a gorgeous rustique baguette. Buy some of each. Don't bother to bake at all!
I also ask for and find an Internet Cafť. This, after a ka-zillion blocks of walking up and down streets, looking in doorways and windows, and asking everyone who might speak a little English or might understand my meagre French. This hole-in-the-wall is totally gross! A tiny room, with lots of old, sweaty guys leaning over the keyboards, clacking away. Everyone is absolutely jam-packed into this hot and dirty little room. It reminds me of my Lufthansa flight to Florence, but without the bad fish dinner.
Iíve been spoiled. My internet place in Florence was immaculate, smelled fresh, had very nice people running it, and was stocked with very new and very CLEAN computers.
I pay the guy in the little cage at the front. He directs me to his buddy in the back of the room and this guy points to an empty place at the counter. I suddenly realize that this is NOT an English keyboard. Not only that, the creep sitting in the chair before me has ever-so-kindly left his porn site open on the screen for my viewing pleasure. So, now Iím supposed to feel comfortable touching the same keyboard and sitting in the same chair as this gleep? Touching the same mouse that he was holding as heÖ oh, NEVER MIND!
I leave, determined to find a better place.
That doesnít happen, so I head back to the apartment.
I unpack and put away the most scrumptious-looking food Iíve seen since I left Florence. We are seriously quality-food-deprived in North America, I think. Thereís nothing there quite like this amazing food that I just bought in my neighbourhood. Munching on a fresh brioche and sipping my first cup of cafť crŤme, I call my son from the phone in my apartment. Heís staying at Hotel de Turenne, right behind LíEcole Militaire. I'm so relieved to hear his voice, after the past 12 hours.
Tomorrow, we are making a pilgrimage of sorts to Chartres. This small city is an hour east of Paris, and is home to the most incredible cathedral that you could ever imagine. Chartres Cathedral of Notre Dame is one of the best examples of Gothic architecture in Europe, Iíve been told. Thatís not the reason for my wanting to go there. Iíve been dreaming of seeing and walking the labyrinth that is located in the center of the floor, inside the main section of the cathedral.
Chartres labyrinth has such a mystical quality for me. I cannot explain this fascination, neither where the enchantment comes from, nor how I came to know about its existence. All I know is that I must go there and walk the labyrinth, touch the stones that have supported the feet of pilgrims for centuries. Where other labyrinths in other cathedrals have been destroyed at the whims of the clergy, because the sound of the pilgrimsí footsteps disturbed the priests at their business, this labyrinth in Chartres cathedral has remained intact. As such, it is unique because of that preservation.
My son and I decide that Iíll take the #95 bus to the Gare Montparnasse, and he will meet me there. Heís very familiar with Europe, Paris and France in particular, as he often travels there on business. It is such a joy to have him to rely on, in this journey Iím about to make. He is also fluently bi-lingual and that helps immensely!
After we make our plans, I am ready to put my feet up for awhile. The stress and upset of the trip and the robbery has taken its toll on me, and I am totally drained and exhausted. After making a light meal for myself, packing my small shoulder bag for tomorrow and setting out all that I want to take with me, I am ready for a long, slow evening. I have some journaling to catch up on, and a good book to read, so Iím set for the evening.
Tomorrow is a day I never thought Iíd have the privilege of experiencingÖa whole day in Chartres at the cathedral, standing on the labyrinth that has held me spell-bound since forever.
Best Things Today:
~ waking up in a gorgeous room, with the sounds of the
building as it wakes
~ finding the Franprix, the boulangerie, cheese shop and the
~ sitting at my dining room table, eating a simple meal of
fresh baked baguette, cheese from the cheese shop, some
fresh fruit and a brioche with my cafť crŤme
Worst Things Today:
~ remembering the robbery, after forgetting all about it for
a few hours
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