Sunday, April 3, 2011

Le jour premier a Paris!!!

After a long and heavy sleep in my lovely apartment's bed, I awoke to the sound of the doorbell and two very sweet Frenchmen who told me the reason I had no water was 1) there was a very small drip in the shower which meant that 2) the flat's owner had asked that the water main be shut off whenever the place was vacated. Which my driver last might neglected to tell me. However, I can't exactly be angry at the poor fellow since in all fairness he DID schlep a 70-odd pound case up four (count em!) flights of very steep and winding stairs. I think my 10euro tip did a bit to salve the pain, but I'm sure he was still feeling a little fuzzy. Poor dude.

Anyway, the shower was lovely. Nuff said.

I hadn't anticipated sleeping in til 1230 in the afternoon, which kind of shredded any specific plans I may have entertained, but still the best days can wind up being the ones you plan the least. As was this one!! I wandered out in search of coffee. As an American, we believe the advent of caffeine is our birthright.

Flash forward to approximately two hours later, when I have wandered through endless miles of winding, yet gorgeous, cobbled streets in the Marais, which seems to be primarily designed for the purposes of shopping and getting lost. Te shops are amazing, but until I have some coffee in my system even consumerism has lost its fabulous appeal. I finally stagger into the first place that isn't exclusively selling falafel (I think I'm staying in an area with a lot of middle eastern culture) and the fellow behind the counter is more than obliging.

Let me take this opportunity to say that the misconceptions I was given regarding the French people as rude or dismissive of Americans is woefully unfair. Everyone I've encountered so far has been not only very kind and helpful, but also incredibly patient as I try to muddle Long with my woeful schoolgirl French. So...this guy nearly bent over backwards to get me the closest thing he could to a black coffee...that would be a long espresso. Worth trying and quite amazing.

And enough to give me the strength to make it another mile, where I saw the closest thing to heaven I've seen in a while:
STARBUCKS.

This is where, barring the apparent limitations of the iPad, I would have uploaded a rather hilarious photo of me summarily ignoring nearly an entire city block of stunning beaux-arts architecture and historically significant buildings in favor of a chain coffee shop. Cue groans from my more culturally-sensitive friends, but mutters of agreement from my fellow caffeine junkies.
five minutes later I am again wandering up the Rue de Rivoli, in search of history! I spend a fruitless ten minutes trying to figure out how to work the Nike rental kiosk before finally admitting defeat (too bad, it's a great idea!) and continuing on to the Louvre. At this point the place closes in an hour, but the clerk is happy to sell me a multiple-day pass and give me a free ticket for the Musee DES Artes Decoratifs so I can take in the last gasp of the day.

It's hard to figure out how to spend a mere hour in the Mecca of design archives, but after wandering for 10 minutes I find the Art Nouveau and Deco exhibit and my prayers Are answered.

I can't adequately describe how magnificent the collection is despite the fact that it's probably small compared to the collection at Maxim's...but I'm not going to complain! Swirling belle ├ępoque woodwork, magnificent pottery and glass, bronzes and furnishings...some of the furniture had wood and opal inlay that no one today would even attempt to duplicate. It's always a bit funny to see furniture from a previous era and realize just how small people must have been, even just a century ago...some of the chairs displayed were so small they looked like they came from an elaborate child's set, and the beds...well, let's just say I would have looked like Snow White trying to sleep on one of them.

I wended my way up towards La Tour Eiffel and decided the queue was too long to deal with on a day threatening rain, so I headed over to the embankment to check out the boat tours. For 90 euros I took the plunge and bought a dinner cruise, not sure what to expect but figuring if anyone could manage to pull off a lRge scale moving banquet, it would be the Parisiams. I shared a table with two older couples, one English and the other French, and together we had a wonderful time. The English couple oke relatively good French, I muddled along with attempts at the language that could have been viewed as either entertaining or pathetic depending on how indulgent one was feeling, and the French couple made up for an ncharacteristic lack of English skills by being just adorable and funny. After a bottle of wine no one really gives a damn who's saying what, anyway!!!!

The trip was breathtaking. I regressed to little kid mode, snapping photos with the iPad (which I can't figure out how to post! Sorry!) and smiling like a dope. The buildings were illuminated in the dark, some brilliantly colored and others with simple, dramatic white light...behind us a jazz combo played renditions of American and French songs and as we came up on an incandescent Notre Dame, they began a version of John Cale's "Hallelujah" so lovely I nearly cried. Violin, piano, guitar and vocals all together in a hauntingly different version of a song I know so well...

Everything you've ever heard about the Eiffel Tower at night is true. We pulled in to the dock at the end of our cruise right as it was alight with sparkling lights, white stars dancing up towards the sky. Wow.

It was hard to leave and head back to the flat, but I caught a cab with a driver who knew about as much English as I did French and we got to practice on each other. He's excited about going to New York next year for a friends wedding (at least I think that's what he said --who knows, he could be heading there himself for some kind of arranged green card marriage or something!) so we had a good laugh together. I told him to try the pizza at Lombardi's on Spring. Best damn pizza in the whole freaking world, and I'm from Chicagah...

Wsh I could post pics but unless I can figure out how to do it from the iPad, that'll just have to wait til I get hime. Feh. Time for some Netflix movies while knitting and enjoying a glass of the incredible white burgundy someone was kind enough to leave in the fridge for me.

Must say, thus far I'm kind of in love with this place.

Xo!