Thursday, July 9, 2009

Paris, Paris





We're here!

We arrived yesterday and took a train from the airport, then connected to metro, and then it was only a short walk to the apartment we've rented on the Left Bank. It's a charming, small apartment, with arches and beams and throw rugs and alcoves -- and three flights up on a small, spiral staircase that will trim off any weight we gain on croissants and our favorite baguettes. We are in the center of a district that has wall-to-wall restaurants of every kind of food you can think of, as well as bakeries and produce markets.

Yesterday we shopped for the apartment. Tonight we'll cook. But last night we found a really good (and reasonably priced) vegetarian restaurant near Notre Dame. Le Grenier, ironically on the Rue de la Bucherie (Street of the Butcher).

Earlier in the day we went to the Jardin des Plantes, a place I want to return to. It's a place where the locals like to hang out with their families. So much to see: the zoo, the natural history museum, the hall of evolution. And so many garden areas, with some trees more than 150 years old. But my interest is in the history: Before the siege of Paris, two famous elephants, Castor and Pollux, were the big draw. And once upon a time, the famous Jumbo (of American legend)was housed here.

So far, the weather is perfect: a cool morning and evening; warm afternoon, but not hot.

Yesterday we mostly walked around. It's a walker's city: Streets at odd angles; beautiful old buildings with the wrought iron balconies and tile roofs; cafes, statues, fountains, and chapels everywhere; book stores and antique shops. And the lovely sound of French the way it should be spoken!

The pace of life is different here. On the streets, people walk quickly and in the shops their movements are quick and efficient, but everything also feels quite relaxed. It's a subtle thing, really, hard to explain, but you can feel it. Everyone we've met has also been helpful and friendly--and very patient with our poor French. Before we set off for dinner, we had a glass of wine at a small table in an open doorway and just watched life flowing and swirling by.

And then, jet lag struck, and after dinner, and the walk home, and three flights of stairs to mount, we slept like the dead.

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