Août in Paris,* a travelogue
Kristin K. Fouquet
Copyright 2015 by Kristin K. Fouquet
*August in Paris
In 2012, my beloved grandmother, Emma, a.k.a. Maw Maw, died. We had a special relationship. I admired her creativity and thriftiness. When her estate was settled in 2013, I decided to put that money toward something extravagant rather than frugal. I traveled alone to Paris, France in August. This was not simply a pleasure trip. I hadn’t been there in 28 years and it was essential for me to return at some point to exorcise old demons. I hoped she would approve. It was a time of great reflection; I pondered my humanity and mortality. Separation anxiety from my family, lack of learning the language adequately, fear of crowds, and a foot injury had me, at times, wondering if I had made a mistake in going. This travelogue was emailed nightly to my husband, Errol, and my best friend, Jim. It might not be entertaining in parts, but it is honest.
Mardi, 6 August 2013
Everything is surreal. Fatigue, lack of sleep, and disorientation can make one vulnerable. The flight was quite comfortable considering the length. The crew assumed I was French and always spoke to me in the language before my terrified eyes and sad attempts alerted them otherwise. The turbulence was horrible. At one point, after the flight attendant had given me my apéritif of champagne, her entire cart almost fell on top of her. I quickly righted it from the back, but the poor dear was so embarrassed. She thanked me later. What could I say, but “of course.”
My passenger mate in the two seat section of our aisle was a man wearing a khaki vest with many pockets. I ignored him for most of the beginning of the trip as I finished Karen Lillis’ novella, Watch the Doors As They Close. Once the wine came, I had to ask him if he was a photographer. He smiled and said, “No.” Military. Easier to put everything in the pockets and drop the whole thing through security. He said he thought from my table manners I was European- quite surprised to learn I was from New Orleans. My fitful sleep and cramped legs prevented any true rest. He was on his way to Korea and wouldn’t spend a night in a bed for another day and night. I felt a bit guilty.
Arriving at the hotel, I was informed by the concierge I would have a sixth floor room facing the courtyard. I nearly cried. “Does it have a balcony?” I asked. The website said it did. She said, “Only the double rooms have a balcony.” I pulled out my Expedia paper, trying to look like I had been promised more. She finally switched me to a fifth floor with a balcony, street view. <<phew>>
The elevator is so ridiculously small- only big enough for me and my luggage, but it is functional. I took the stairs once, but think I will refrain as the walking is quite extensive around here- especially if you get lost, like I did several times today. My right heel flared up and I dread what “old person” surgery is in my future. Fortunately, the mood on the street is good. I feel I’m certainly passing as a local, especially if I show some need to move around the throngs.
The hotel did not offer a currency exchange, so I had to brave one of the cash establishments near the Opera. I was so paranoid walking in and out of that place- felt like such a target. $1,180 was quickly diluted to 873.20 euro. Such is the rape of the rate exchange. I quickly walked back to the hotel to deposit the majority of it into the safe.
A minor inconvenience at the hotel was the water would be off from 2-5 pm today- sorry for the trouble. I decided as much as I wanted a nap, I’d venture off and get my 5 day Metro pass. I had to go to the Rue Rivoli. I glanced at the map before I left, but it just didn’t register. I walked for over an hour before I finally figured it out. The masses were horrendous. I managed to get my pass and buy cocoa powder at Angelina’s for a friend.
I now needed to shop for me and I was feeling a bit delirious. I got lost again, thrown into a throng of Japanese tourists coming off of massive tour buses, before finding Fraisprix- a fresh supermarket that had wine, but no corkscrews. I remembered Nicolas was somewhere in the vicinity. I roamed many blocks on tired feet to find it. Not open. He had a little handwritten sign that it would be reopened at 17 hours. It would have meant another half an hour and I was exhausted. I hated to resort to the ultra-everything Galeries-Lafayette, but I found myself headed in that direction. Thankfully on the Rue La Fayette, I remembered the places close to my hotel. At five, the water would be back on and I could take a shower. I first found Chez Jean and picked up a corkscrew, three bottles of wine (one white, two reds), a couple of bottled waters, some lotion, and hair mousse. I went a few doors down and ordered a salmon crepe to-go.
Finally back in my room, I peered into the Chez Jean bag to remember the crepe- a salmon, chive, citron crepe from Krep. Exhaustion. I opened the bottle of cold Chardonnay and ate my dinner in an unromantic fury. Desperation.
I took a shower because there is only a shower in this small room. I was amused to find how tight it was. If I backed up a few inches, the shower handle would turn off. I also had the discovery the mousse I bought for my hair was actually shaving cream pour homme. I used it nonetheless and found myself taking the military shower of lathering up before shaving and turning the water off as you shave. It wasn’t a water ration, but rather a space necessity. Upon leaving the much needed shower, I discovered the lotion I had bought was actually a creamy soap. All kinds of foolishness.
Tomorrow is another day and as much as I feel I loafed on my first day in Paris, I will cut myself some slack because I made it, managed to get some things done, and got lost and found without anyone’s assistance. It is night now and the Opera district is quieting down. I feel at once separate and somehow a part of this great city. The view and petite balcony make me want to weep. Yes, I could live here, in this tiny room. The balcony and city noises below make me feel less alone, but I miss you all- my crazy family: all four of you plus two chats, less one mouse.
I love you all and cherish you. I concentrated on it with every takeoff and landing. I feel it in every step I take in this grand city.
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Mercredi, 7 August 2013
I kept one French door open last night before going to sleep. I awoke around 6 a.m. to heavy rainfall. Beautiful. I took a short video and lamented having to close the door so the carpet wouldn’t get wet. Stuffy it became and I was forced to put on the air. I finally got out of bed at 10 after hearing my neighbor speaking on the phone en Francais. I think the maid was eager to get in as well. I won’t lie, I was having my trepidations about the day ahead. The day before, I felt vulnerable, ignorant of the language, and generally disoriented.
I trekked in the rain to the nearest Metro station and again felt like a fish out of water. I couldn’t seem to get my 5 day Metro pass to work and had to ask for assistance twice from a man. Embarrassment! Once on board, I remembered my feelings on the subways in New York. Public transportation and grocery stores seem to cause anxiety in me. I think it’s something about the desperation people feel when they need to get somewhere or need nourishment. It is basic survival, so maybe I fear animal instincts will rise up in the most desperate. Road rage is one thing, but when you are in breathing distance of someone else who may crack, it can be disturbing. No wonder Americans like big cars and sprawling landscapes. It’s an illusion of security.
Once above ground, I instantly got lost. I thought I had planned and printed out my maps, but somehow I had left out something. After turning on the roaming feature on my phone, I could use the Google maps app to orient myself and I moved to my target: The Catacombs. There was no doubt where they were as I saw the enormous line- at least 300 people wrapping around a city block. I laughed. As much as I wanted to see the old bones, I knew the Montparnasse Cemetery was quite near and it was free and without an elongated line. I even got a free map. I found Baudelaire’s grave. Admirers had left stones and metro tickets on the supine section and kiss marks on the headstone. I discovered Sartre and de Beauvoir in the same “bed.” Similar gifts had been left for them. I tried and tried in the rain to find Man Ray’s grave, but came up empty. It was discouraging. I hadn’t eaten yet and it was late in the afternoon, leaving me feeling a bit dizzy. I knew I had to abandon my search in Section 7. It was disappointing and yet there was only one more, in the older section of the cemetery, I needed to find. It was Guy de Maupassant. The older section was more compact and the map seemed more abstract as I found myself tip-toeing around tombs and feeling raunchy about it. I was about to give up hope when I saw a young man taking pictures a bit ahead. I tried not to intrude and went around him and then yes, saw the arc at the top: Guy de Maupassant. I arrived from the rear and began taking my own pictures. Then, I felt terrible because he seemed to linger and I had disturbed his visit with the writer’s grave. I wondered if he could have been a distant relative or maybe just a devout fan. He finally touched the top of a finial on the grave’s fence and went away. I had tears in my eyes for him and also for myself. In the mist, I was flooded with memories of “stealing” those little red leather bound books on the high shelf in my mother’s living room- the forbidden books because they were so old and valuable- never to be read! I read every red-bound tiny book with delight and snuck it back on the shelf. Guy de Maupassant had inspired me to write short stories. I thanked his grave with wet eyes and went about my way to find sustenance for my body.
The walk alongside the cemetery walls filled me with conflicting emotions. I was already grateful for the inspiration to become a writer, but then I noticed several tents along the path where homeless people had set up a homestead. I thought of my lovely little room with the balcony so far away on the right bank. How can anyone feel guilty in Paris? Everywhere you look are beautiful architecture and history. Then, I turned the corner and saw a man pissing right out in the open in daylight. <<sigh>> My appetite again put on hold.
I roamed the Montparnasse district dizzy and famished. The problem was too many intimidating possibilities. I almost went in at least 6 different brasseries, but felt intimidated. I suppose I’m an introvert at heart. In my weary, starving state, I kept walking and reading menus. They were all attractive places, but studying the offerings, I couldn’t justify the price. And I really only wanted a cheese board and some wine. As I perused foie gras and duck confit, I realized the wrong Fouquet was in Paris. I ultimately settled on a tiny pizza place off the main drag. When I walked in, I felt I was disturbing the two men in conversation. I asked if they were serving and if I could sit outside: Oui to both. It’s so typical of me that I choose the only restaurant with no one in it, usually a bad sign.
He, Daniel, seemed amused and gave me his full attention. I ordered a half bottle of Chianti and a Quattro Formaggi pizza. He seemed happily surprised at each choice. He was polite and brought me a carafe of water and some pepper oil for my pizza. The street scene was funny. People waved from cars and scooters. A sidewalk cleaner came up behind me. Daniel almost got in a fight with him because he thought he got me wet. So silly. He didn’t have enough money to give me change for a 50 euro bill, so I had to ask for change from a neighboring restaurant. I gave him a euro for his troubles. Back at the pizzeria, I settled up and he wanted a photo with me. He also gave me a shot of Amaretto for my parting gift and hoped I would return. I told him it was doubtful I’d be back in that side of the city again. He said he would wait. Right.
My journey continued to the Tour Montparnasse. I got to skip one short line, but it was claustrophobic going up 56 floors with a full elevator. I stayed less than 20 minutes, but did get some decent city views- the Eiffel Tower and a vantage point of the cemetery.
It took me nearly an hour to find the Metro station and once I did, I was quite self-congratulatory as I got on the thing like a local, only to find myself lost again when I emerged street level. I was reassured of my decision not to wait for the Catacombs- the time spent underground and climbing and descending steps seemed enough. Much walking in the wrong direction ensued until I elicited Google map help then I knew my feet might as well expire. I managed, but even my hopes of the Fraiche Market were thwarted by throngs of Japanese tourists, which came in busloads. I’m beginning to think it’s best to avoid anything touriste in Paris this month. The cemetery was the first time I felt normal. Taking photographs reminded me of who I am, not where I am. I may not belong with the Parisian locals or the savvy tourists. I find my niche and I experience Paris as I experience my life. Everything is perspective. I will quote Anais Nin, who said We do not see the world as it is, but as we are. I love this quote because we all have different filters in which we view the world. I am an outsider here- not local nor tourist. I was feeling quite bad about myself yesterday. Today, I use the pouty French face to convey I do not care what you think of me. I may be unflattering, but I have value. I am a writer. I am a photographer. I am a videographer. I am a mother. I am a friend. I am worthwhile and this is something hard for me to do. I must do it so I’m not trampled. This is a hard and fast city- not for the weak.
I will have to have my heels x-rayed when I return. I’m truly afraid of the damage. Jogging nevermore.
I feel this is already too long. I’m sad to report there will be no photographs to accompany this. A disk placed into the Chromebook displayed the photos, but when I tried to save them in Google Drive, I could not see them. This scares me, so I took the disk out. We shall all have to wait. Ah, anticipation.
Incidentally, the camera has been temperamental. Sometimes, it won’t turn on at all. I change the battery and it seems to come to life, but I find I’m doing it way too often- just rotating batteries I know are charged.
I live in my petite room and can smell cigarette smoke coming up from the street. I drink champagne and love my view. I must admit, every time I see Parisian children, I miss my own. Life is multi-faceted. As for the near future, I have an early date at the Louvre. In the distant future, a musician wants me to make a music video for him.
All my love,
Jeudi, August 8, 2013
It has been a full day and my emotions have been all over the proverbial map. My feet have delivered me to both banks without fail, so for this I am grateful. I’m reminded of the song, “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now.”
I consult my printed maps, but somehow they confuse me in the thick of it here. I feel fortunate for the Google map app and find myself comforted by the little step-by-step information. It is reassuring to see a line to your destination, knowing you don’t have to worry about bread crumbs on the return.
After getting lost the previous two days, I was happy to arrive at the Louvre on time for my tour. The tour guide was knowledgable and pleasant. Her art expertise made the experience worthwhile. There were about fifteen in our group and we wore an audio contraption with an ear device to hear her. Going up and down stairs in the massive museum, I was experiencing excruciating pain. Not wanting to hold up the group, I soldiered on, but felt a morose self-hatred. Self-pity is despicable and I felt already an overwhelming sense of humility beneath the profound beauty of the art. I found myself asking internal aesthetic questions like is art supposed to make us feel small or is it to inflate our egos of the human spirit? I even felt dumb with my private thoughts.
Interesting enough, moving through the Greek and Roman wings, I realized the evolution of perfection in the marble bodies and expressionless faces into more realistic human shapes and facial features. I wish I could share the photos, but the Chromebook can barely keep up with a slideshow for me. The same experience occurred when we toured the Italian wing. The earlier works were two dimensional and every face looked the same. Then, more and more realism. I won’t spend a lot of time writing about this because I’d rather discuss it in person over wine.
Anyway, feeling weak from the terrible pain in both heels, I was vulnerable physically and it transferred to me psychologically. The tour guide apologized ahead of time for the crowds and how we would be pushed and she was sorry. The room with the Mona Lisa was a nightmare. She kept us to the side of the masses to give us the history. I will tell it all to you in person, but the funny thing is she said it was far from his best work- really considered not so interesting at all, but then it was stolen. The painting was taken from its frame, which was found on a staircase and everyone was confounded. Why take such an unimportant painting? It was the theft that made her special. I loved this story and instead of fighting the animal-like masses trying to get the best shot of the Mona Lisa (behind glass), I was happy to take a photo of the masses swarming and huddled to get a shot of her.
It was a three hour tour and I’m happy I took it. We even were able to visit the apartment of Napoleon III. What I found interesting was you could see some tatters on the upholstery, so it seemed less like a museum and more like a home, a grand one at that. We skipped the Egyptian wing and I was sorry for it, but she said we could go on our own. I was so tired of the masses and the rude shoving, I just had to leave. I missed the mummy, but I knew my limitations. I tipped her 5 euro for her grand tour and she was quite appreciative. Her enthusiasm and knowledge as an art historian made me want to study art more closely. The clues in paintings are fascinating and I would never have picked up on them without her pointing them out. I do feel enriched by the experience. Sorry if that sounds corny.
So, then I trekked over to Angelina’s on the Rue Rivoli to fulfil a promise to a friend. I do not like dining alone and this took some courage. I was hoping the line would be prohibitive, but there was no wait. I had no excuse. The hostess was so nice and as I said “Bonjour” in that sing-songy way that kind of reminds me of the Irish, I was welcomed, until my waitress spoke to me in French and I had to try to fudge and then just point to the menu like an imbecile. I sat in the lovely place and felt small again. My contacts were blurring. There was no Marcel Proust or Coco Chanel. The waitress had a perfect smug face. I wondered if she had cultivated it or if she had been born with it. I rubbed my eyes and looked around to see a table with two women holding dogs in their laps.
I ate my sesame encrusted swordfish without desire, only necessity. I am sorry for this. She brought my Chardonnay and a carafe of water. My hands were shaking as I filled my glass and by meal’s end had finished the carafe. The Chardonnay was so-so. She would not speak to me in English, but I knew she was asking if I wanted a sweet. I requested a cup of the chocolat. She finally spoke in English to clarify- “hot chocolate?” “Oui.” It was all my friend had promised. His only wish was I go to this place and have this experience. I don’t usually have a sweet tooth, but a promise is a promise. The hot cocoa came with a side of beautiful whipped cream. (Yes, photo later) It was thick and beautiful. Honestly, I think it helped me. I have read before that chocolate can trigger the same endorphins as being in love. I warmed to the angry hard waitress as she went about her duties and even tipped her, although I was not obligated to do so. I climbed the carpeted stairs to the bathroom in pain. There were two girls in there looking into the large mirror and playing around. They reminded me of my daughter as I spoke to them. So innocent, but on that frightening edge of becoming women. Just then, an older woman came out of one of the stalls (with beautiful doors). She was American and apologized for the wait and insisted the bad smell was not her doing. The young girl went in as I watched this lady wash her hands. She sprayed a bit of water on her shorts and looked at me and said, “I’m an idiot.” This shocked me. I said, “No, it happens.” She told me she hurt her back and ever since, whenever she sits, her leg goes limp. Her advice to me was “Don’t fall after you’re 50. Things just don’t work again.” I told her to take care and she returned the advice. Alas.
After I left Angelina’s, I hoofed it over to Shakespeare & Company. I was immediately discouraged because the left side of the bookshop, the Antiquarian side, was closed and even had a little sign they wouldn’t be buying books for a month! I’m surprised I was brave enough to walk into the main bookstore and ask the owner if they weren’t buying books at this time. She directed me to someone else and she said they were buying books. Oh, but my books were new- not used. She wanted to give me the email of a certain buyer for the bookstore who took books on consignment. Oh dear. I said I would only be in Paris for a few days and so she said Thierry would be in at 4:30. It was 3 and so I found a café and had a couple glasses of wine.
Speaking on the phone with Errol, I felt comforted, but still frightened. I did not want to go to a hospital. Even with the knowledge that I sustained this injury while trying to rigorously jog again in New Orleans, somehow it felt as if the city of light had defeated me.
I found a pharmacie. This is not like our Walgreens. I was merely looking at lotions and a large black man directed me to speak to the petite blonde in white lab coat behind the counter. You must be consulted on your purchase- pharmacist’s orders. She gave me the largest dose of Ibuprofen. I knocked one down with a huge pint of Hoegaarden at a bar across the street. The bartender was playing crazy music from the 70s. There was a Paul Simon song playing when I went in but was quickly replaced by such tunes as “Living in America,” the “Rocky” theme song, and more.
Returning to Shakespeare & Company, I finally met Thierry and he gave my books a good looking over. It felt like a gynecological exam. Awkward. He asked if I lived in Paris. We finally did business and he took them on consignment for six months. They take 30%, which is less than the usual 40 in N.O. or 50 at CCB. Anyhoo, I was excited as hell. Tried to keep a straight face and shook his hand. I said I was happy to have them there and he said he was happy to have them. I offered my postcards and at first, he declined because of space restrictions in the store. Then, he said he would make room for them. I said I didn’t want to be pushy, but he took ten postcards. I felt great. Even if they never sell, two copies of Twenty Stories and two copies of Rampart and Toulouse are for sale in Paris. I drink champagne for that. I may be a gimp, but I can still do good work.
With my aching feet, I should have taken a taxi, but I just couldn’t find one. I was getting texts from Errol and another friend. I noticed a man began to follow me. Yes, I’m paranoid, but I saw him waiting until I caught up. I would stop to text and then he was there again. As I crossed a bridge to the right bank, I saw a duo of musicians performing and they had two CDs for sale. I had already tipped and took photos of street musicians, but this was a good opportunity to take a photo, meet the musicians, and have more meaningful souvenirs. They were charming ex-pats and performing swing. I bought both CDs and chatted with them briefly.
I hoofed it all the way back, managed to lose the guy who was obviously following me (even after I met the street musicians). There is so much I want to say about street photography and humanity. Perhaps, later.
Although I have seen some street beggars, I have somehow managed to elude the gypsies, wherever they are. Ah, tomorrow is another day.
Vendredi, 9 August 2013
Perfume is marketed as an illusion, a fantasy. The olfactory glands are presumed to elicit more memories than any other sense. I have always been a slave of sorts to scent. Paris is the most fragrant and pungent city I have ever known besides New Orleans. The various perfumes, colognes, cigarettes, bakeries, rotten garbage, body odor, ethnic foods, les fromages all seize my nose. I bought the most stinky, most wonderful tasting Brie today and could only finish half the wedge. The other half is in my mini bar/fridge. I am concerned because the thing feels like it is only minimally cool. The bottles for sale feel cool not cold (froit). Do I take my chances for breakfast or throw it out not knowing if it was still good? It will pain me to do it, but I will probably throw it out along with some fish dips. It is a terrible waste and I’m ashamed, but the thought of having food poisoning would be too horrible when I’m just starting to have a good time.
Yes, you heard right. Paris sells itself on the illusion of Love. It claims to be the most romantic city in the world. It is beautiful and because of every aesthetic architectural detail, every sensual stimulant which promises to satiate your senses, how can you not finally give in to the temptation. Does it really take three days before I can fall in love with Paris again. (I don’t put question marks after rhetorical questions). Forgive the obvious analogy, but yes, it is as if I have been a cold, prudish woman ignoring a persistent suitor. I was ashamed I couldn’t speak the language. I felt I didn’t fit in and was feeble. Perhaps all the wine and ibuprofen are helping because I woke up this morning (late) with a different temperament. I was not intimidated by the city. I took off with my typed directions in hand and hit the streets. I knew my feet would start hurting at some point, but I would walk as long as I could. I avoided using the Google map app until the very end. Two female tourists stopped me to ask for directions (always a good sign you’re blending- much like I “passed” in New York when asked for directions). I used the phone to give them the way and they were much appreciative. Yeah, the app rocks, I must admit.
I toured Montmartre Cemetery. It seemed more solemn. Maybe it was early because as I was leaving, tons of tourists started invading. I was grateful for getting there early. Degas had a simple tomb: Famille de Gas. Jim will like the fart joke, I guess.
In front of the Moulin Rouge (sorry, no photo), a man said “Jolie, Madame.” It seemed sweet as he had a handle-bar moustache and didn’t seem creepy. Come to think of it, Thierry at S&C had one too, but with a beard. Maybe they are making a comeback. There was some revolting human drama on the street a few blocks down which made me feel nausea. Just when I was looking for lunch. I sometimes forget how sensitive I am to breakdowns by others. I remember walking down Perrier Street uptown and a man was screaming at someone and I couldn’t see him or anything, but I felt freaked out and wounded for about a half an hour later. Later today, I heard screaming again, but from a child. It became louder as they neared me. As they passed me, I saw a little girl being carried by her father and crying and screaming and holding her mouth. The mother was trying to caress her daughter on the back, but nothing was helping. They disappeared into the pharmacie. I found my eyes tearing up behind my sunglasses. This is a weakness.
I braved the Metro again to go to the Eiffel Tour. I won’t lie. I don’t like the Metro. It feels like a hostile environment just like the subways in New York and the corridors smell of urine. I reassured myself this would be the last touristy thing I did. I found a street creperie and ordered a crepe fromage, a can of Heineken, and a Vittel water. I sat in the park and enjoyed sitting on grass again. I was hassled by a Middle Eastern man trying to sell me replicas of the Eiffel Tower. I declined politely, but ten minutes later, he returned to offer a “special price- just for me.” I said, “Non” again and then he wanted to know if I was French. Then British. Oh, Americain. He left like that explained why I didn’t want his little junky trinkets. <<sigh>> I was having my trepidations about going up that massive monument with my vertigo. I decided to be brave, but first I needed to urinate. Sorry, TMI? I didn’t want to sit at a café because I was pressed for time. I found a microbrewery and ordered a pint of their Maison Blanche. It was good. I drank it quickly then left to make my date with fate and overcome my debilitating fear of heights.
For starters, I was put on one of those open-roofed double-decker buses. Okay. I took a little video, but was trying to save my card and battery for a video up the most famous tower in the world. When we arrived, I was just told to get off. Where was my tour guide? I moved forward while the masses just hung about the expansive lawn in front of the iconic tower. I walked until I could walk no more. Red tape had blocked off access and behind it, important-looking men in suits conversed while men in camouflage holding machine guns paced.
I saw some chipper 20 somethings in matching red t-shirts advertising their tour guide service. I eavesdropped and heard they were British. I politely asked if they knew what was going on and I was informed there had been a bomb threat. It would probably be a few hours, but access would resume later. Oh good. Terrorists had thwarted my exposure therapy. <<sigh of relief>> Oh, and the good news is I was approached by those gypsies with the clipboards. Poor dears just didn’t seem to have their hearts in it. I took some photos of them, whether they liked it or not.
Heel pain was flaring up, so I took my first taxi in Paris. It was a fun experience as he talked to other drivers through the window and drove so close to other cars. I felt like I was in a bumper car. Then a cyclist was almost hit by another cabbie and then both cabbies started cursing about cyclists. I’m sure the cyclist was cursing about cabbies.
Back at the hotel, I read Errol’s email about shoes. It was sweet he had gone shoe shopping for me online. I decided I would first go to Fouquet Chocolatier. They were closed for the month. So, I took out one of my book postcards and wrote a little note “Sorry I missed you. Greetings from New Orleans. - Kristin Fouquet” and slid it under the door. Down the street, I bought stamps at the post office. I was going to search for the shoe place next, but I stopped to look at some postcards at a street vendor then decided I didn’t want them. When I turned around, there was the store. I bought the espadrilles. Even the shopgirl who helped me was wearing the same pair and she said they were very comfortable. I think they are pricier than I would have paid for shoes, but they seem stylish and practical. When I returned to my hotel, I sat down on the balcony floor and a sign caught my eye: Minelli. The shoe shop. French shoes made in Spain.
I walked further up Rue La Fayette and found another Fraiche Marche. The one two blocks from my hotel is packed with Japanese tourists. There is a line waiting outside of it. I guess I was hungry and probably bought too much food. I decided I would have a picnic on my balcony. I am amazed at how much cheap wine you can get here. I had a Bordeaux for 5 euros that was terrific. The gourmet food in the supermarket is inexpensive too- 3 euros for the fantastic Brie- 4 euros for the chevre and fresh salmon skewers. Yes, I could live here and cheaply. Of course, real estate is another matter.
I wrote sixteen postcards tonight and I am tired. I must rest up for my trek to Pere Lachaise in the morning- a long Metro ride.
Samedi, 10 August, 2013
My morning began with me going to sleep at 2 a.m. It doesn’t even seem so late when the sun is setting closer to 9:45 p.m. Yet, sleep was disturbed by a 4:15 text whistle from a friend hoping I could get her some zit cream while I’m here. I waited until I officially woke up at about 8:30 to respond, “I’ll try.” I hope that didn’t wake her at 1:30. Probably not. Apparently this is some super magical blemish cream only found in Europe. She bought seven bottles five years ago and is down to her last bottle. It took two attempts at pharmacies to score a couple of bottles. I must admit, with my chin breaking out as it has, should I procure my own bottle? It may be magical and I guess I’ll never know, but I believe blemishes are caused by hormones in me and not blocked subcutaneous tissues or perhaps, I’m wrong. I just never want to get hooked on anything I can only get in Europe.
I made two cups of Earl Grey and planned my day for Pere Lachaise. What on Earth? I was being told by the venerable Google it was not open on the weekends. I had researched all of this before my trip and I was anticipating this cemetery the most for obvious reasons. I took a deep breath and a big bite of my chocolate croissant, then decided it was okay. I was deeply disappointed, but everyone goes to that cemetery and it is so well-documented. C’est la vie.
What to do with my day? I still needed to buy Fouquet chocolates. I spent 35 minutes and wasted footage to find the ritzy location was also closed. The only thing I can say about this trip is I’m happy I saw this side of Paris because it is not for me. Swarms of tourists and many police to protect them. It is what I imagine the salons on Rodeo Drive in L.A. to be like. Not my scene. Have your Champs-Elysees. I’m going to the magic museum.
Considering many options at this point, I knew I had to buy any souvenirs today because the stores are closed on Sunday. I got my friend’s zit cream and bought 9 berets and the vendor gave me a tenth for free. I had haggled with her for seven, then upped it to nine. I think I made her jour.
I went back to Krep and got a crepe du fromage, picked up two Kronenburgs from Chez Jean, and headed back to the hotel for lunch on the balcony. It was a beautiful day. The maid needed to get in and I was nearly on my way out.
Metro again. No worries. Typical. I’m an old pro at reading the metro map now and just when I’m about to leave anyway.
I arrived in the Saint Paul district too early for the museum. It opened at 2, so I took a stroll. Having had my lunch, I just wanted to find a bathroom and a pub. Good news. It was a bit of a walk, but I found The Auld Alliance Scottish Pub. An Edelweiss cost 11 euro. Shit. I had an enormous Hoegaarden near Notre Dame for 5 euro, but perhaps that was happy hour. I did see strange bottles of Budweiser in the refrigerated case. I asked one of the bartenders about them. She said the original Budweiser is a Czech beer and they continue to make it with the traditional recipe. The Americans copied it, but changed it. After fortification, I headed back to:
Musee de la Magie: http://www.museedelamagie.com/
Musee des Automates: http://www.museedesautomates.fr/
It was a wonderful underground experience.
Boring shopping ensued. It’s an evil necessity. As much as I loathe shopping in general, it is really hideous with people shoving you and that whole survival as the shoppiest. I detest these people. Who truly needs any of this crap and these women are prepared to maim for it. Le sigh. I am fortunate none of this couture with inflated prices moves me. If anything, it makes me want to sew my own clothes. Now, I sound ultra-un-sophistiqué. Ne meow pas.
I guess that’s all I have. Two bottles of French reds and I’m ready to close the eyelids. I would like tomorrow to be an amazing blow-out day and I’ll try, but I am who I am and my day will have to be guided in that way. I’m interested in going back to Pigalle. There was a disturbing scene I witnessed when there before and I guess I can’t actually hope for anything better in a red light district which is mostly prostitutes and drug addicts. I was there to see the Montmartre cemetery. I walked right past the Moulin Rouge and did not take a photo. This is the same street the man said I was jolie. Perhaps, he thought I was a prostitute.
Ooh la la...
Dimanche, 11 August, 2013
Ah, Sunday blues are heightened when it is your last day in Paris. Août is bad enough as it is deserted by locals and replaced by a city of tourists. I have taken many photographs of the signs taped to the inside of windows explaining their annual summer closing. I may make a photo essay out of it.
I never tire of waking in my bed to see the beautiful balcony and fresh air. I don’t even mind the street noise. I know I will miss this gentle awakening. Besides the morning I had the early tour at the Louvre, all others have been at my own pace- a rare luxury.
Today, I decided not to worry about maps and be le flâneur. I instinctively wandered in the direction I hoped to eventually arrive. I think I have finally mastered a local’s natural navigation. The tourists gave it away. Montmartre was swarming with them. I took the elevated streets all the way up to Butte Montmartre. There is a silly looking train which drives the tourists up all the way. I understand if you are handicapped, but the thing looks like it is meant for children at an amusement park. Once at the highest natural point in Paris is Sacré-Cœur. 200 steps up to visit the basilica. I decided to forego because it was once again flooded with tourists. I suppose I’m arrogant for not wanting to be one of them, even though, of course, I am.
Nearly twelve meant almost time I could have a glass of wine. The trek up had been pretty strenuous. I was wearing my flat sandals today with moleskin placed in strategic places. The super ibuprofen seems to be keeping all problems in check.
As I hoofed it to the nearest café, I noticed St. Vincent cemetery, so naturally I had to visit. I spent about forty-five minutes in there- glad I happened upon it. I went back to the main drag, but suddenly felt self-conscious about sitting at a café alone. I’m not sure why as I had already done it while waiting for Thierry at Shakespeare & Company. Anyway, I saw a charming restaurant, Le Basilic, and looked at the menu posted outside. The “Pleasure” menu boasted a three course meal for 25,90 euro. I noticed a bottle of Chardonnay was 25 euro. I quickly calculated that beer which was 11 euro yesterday and decided this might just be a good deal. I had read Sundays are especially difficult for trying to find a restaurant for lunch or dinner. Thinking for dinner I might have to eat the last two oranges from Uruguay which were still in my room, I thought “feast while you can.”
After being frugal all week, I decided I deserved this and chose a little nook seating for two. Although the menu had been the allure, I realized this arrangement was so quintessentially me. I could drink a bottle (the waiter asked glass or bottle?) of wine, have a three course meal, and experience the advantage of being on the street in a café without being exposed. Geez, give a Freudian analysis of that. I could take photos from my vantage point behind glass and enjoy a fabulous lunch. The avocado terrain with carrot was amazing. It was encircled by a ring of pesto sauce, which I savored with the fresh bread. The Cod Florentine was divine. Just thinking about it makes me hungry. And for dessert, a white chocolate mousse with a café au lait. Parfait.
I walked a bit. Took some photos then stopped at Chez Jean for the last champagne of the trip. I bought a full bottle and a half bottle. I am melancholy, but this trip has strengthened me. So, I drank the half bottle first thinking I might go out again and pick up a light dinner and take some more photos. I had it and felt sleepy. I know this is a lame account on a last day in Paris. I decided I would take an hour nap and choose after I awoke. I slept with the French doors open and on top of the bedspread which is white with a pattern of little gold bees on it- tres Francais. When I awoke, I saw a little insect next to me. At first, I thought it was a little roach, but hearing my light gasp, it flew to the wallpaper and I realized it was a bee. I laughed and before I could get a photo of my visitor, it was gone. It was a strange way to wake up, but it made me happy. I had been sleeping pleasantly with a real bee on my bee bedspread. Somehow, it seemed strange and magical.
I opened the bottle of champagne and started the depressing act of packing. A friend called and I spoke with her for a few minutes on the balcony. I feel sad to leave, but happy to go home and start a new phase of my life. Paris may have saved my life twenty-eight years ago. Paris has changed me again. And I think, once again, for the better.
Until we meet again…
Watch Kristin’s photo essay here: https://youtu.be/TPaybi9RK5A
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