Thursday, December 8, 2011

Paris, day three

You may (or may not) be glad to learn that my bad mood of the last post has gone. It might have been a product of a bad day or that I was writing the blog at three in the morning (Paris time) because the neighbours think that door slamming is a late night sport or that our heating wasn't working and the apartment was arctic. Or it might be because Paris is a little haunted with figures and events from the past that I have somehow managed to make part of my present. It is a city with too many expectations for me - here was where many of my idols were inspired to write. Here is where MFK Fisher (despite my crabby post last time about her) starting really thinking about food, where F Scott Fitzgerald sat at Gertrude Stein's feet (I think she might have liked it), where Diagaliev staged many of the Ballet Russes triumphs and so on. As I say; haunted. Can one city have done so much to inspire so many? And what does it say about me if I can feel or see or be affected by that city? It was more panic than anything else.
So, to day three.
Another day when the wind and rain were supposed to prevail. Another day where it began with sunshine and cold air, but not much else. The market in Place Monge (our local square) was in full swing when we left the apartment. We wandered around and looked at the food. People eat well here, no mistake. We bought nothing. We were heading out. Today was the day for the Eiffel Tower. And we had learned out lessons of the day before and caught the Metro. Very smooth. I'm becoming the expert on finding the connections and tranfers. It is pretty amazing considering the map is drawn for a Lilliputian. And my eye sight is rubbish. But regardless, I seem to work it out.
Like driving into Paris - suddenly you are THERE - we got off the Metro and suddenly the Eiffel tower was THERE, rearing up before us, shockingly close. By now the wind had picked up; Niccolo was beginning to panic about going up the tower. We had to reassure him that is was not required. As it turned out, none of the boys wanted to go up the tower; they are all a little affected by the problem of vertigo. Zelda, however, was determined to go to the top. So we got in the line (surprisingly long for the cold of winter) mostly with other English speaking types and a whole lot of Italian lads. It all went very smoothly; then through the security and on to the lift. They jam you in the lift with little room and less air and then suddenly propel you up into the sky. I was getting a little leary at this point; Zelda was completely sanguine. We did discover that the summit was closed because of high winds, which she was a little disappointed by, but me ... I was good.
The Eiffel Tower is less a building and more a structure - it is like clinging to the sides of a sculpture more than walking around an actual building so once we got out of the lift - even at the moderate height of the second level, we were a bit overwhelmed by how high up we were, and how exposed we were. And we could see why the top was closed; the wind was practically ripping the clothes from our bodies. But once you adjusted, the view was amazing - the whole of Paris spread out like some kind of gorgerous carpet - flat as a landscape but roaring with architecture and green park land. We stayed up there for ages, kind of mesmerised by the view and how high up we were. Then we bought a tiny Eiffel Tower for our (at this stage mythical) Christmas tree and got in line to go down. Just as the lift was rising, there was an announcement that the summit was opened. To my considerable surprise, Zelda decided she didn't want to go up. I think she might have weighed up how far up we already were, and what that again might feel like (along with the wind). Also, we were hungry. And a bit cold.
At the bottom, we met up with Myles, Paris and Niccolo (right there; we didn't even have to turn our heads or wonder where they might be), and we all confirmed deep hunger. So we went to the nearest bistro - no doubt a notorious tourist haunt, but who cares. It was called the Cafe du Dome (I know this name, from where, who can say). It was staffed by a Parisian who managed the bar, took orders, told jokes, organised sauce and so on, while watching TV and having his own lunch. It was kind of like those guys at Pellegrinis who have been there for ever and do the work as if they have several arms. I had steak frites (what else?) and hamburgers are ruling the lives of the boys. Zelda ordered spaghetti (in Paris!). Myles had vegetable soup. It was warm and quick and prepared us for the next journey - up to the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysees. But now the rain got serious. We sheltered for a while in the door of another museum and watched it pour. And then, the sun came out and we walked across town to the Arc de Triomphe. The weather changed again, and Niccolo decided that this time, he wanted to go to the top. But I wasn't game because the wind was insane and it was pouring. Next time, I told him. Even he didn't believe me. We paid our respects to the Unknown Soldier. ('I don't fancy being him,' Zelda said. 'You'd never get any sleep with all that traffic.') Indeed. Paris must have been a very different place without the crazy traffic. It is really nuts. We were wet and cold and a little cafe beckoned us. Actually, a little lady of a certain age beckoned us; we hesitated at the door and out she swept and pushed us in to a table. It was blissfully warm and the hot chocolate was perfect. She told Paris off for his hair (not just your mother, buddy), and took photos for us (see below). Then told us about the Christmas market at the end of the Champs Elysees and bid us on our way. As we left, I saw her on the second level, forking a cake into her mouth with some relish. Yes, I can see my own destiny.
The Christmas market was charming with great food, but we had a dinner date with our land lady (from the Normandy gatehouse) and her family, so we had to regretfully forgo any of the food (and good call too, because the dinner we ate was fantastic and huge and it would not have tolerated snacking before hand). The rain again. We caught the Metro back to the apartment (the heating was fixed! Hooray!) and had a little lie down. Then we dressed again and went to dinner.
It was four courses, all delicious and was great fun. Completely lovely family who fed us up until veal stew was dripping from our eyes and ears and then send us into the Paris night with all good cheer.

Record time back to the apartment. It was half past ten at night and still the trains come every six minutes. And it was very busy with people too. I guess if it works, people will come.

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