First Impressions of Paris

Friday, September 21, 2012. After landing an hour early at Charles DeGaulle Airport, we took the RER B to the Chatelet train station where we transferred to the Metro line 1 in the direction of Vincennes (east-west line).

Emerging from the Metro at St. Paul station in Le Marais, I was overcome with joy upon seeing the streets of Paris again. I blinked at the brightness of the day as we transitioned from the darkness of the underground station to the cacophony of sounds and plethora of street signs on the busy Rue de Rivoli. As we were figuring out which direction to take to our apartment, the first French kindness occurred: a middle-aged man stepped up and graciously pointed in the direction of Rue Caron, only two blocks away.

As we rounded the corner to Rue Caron, a lovely young French woman greeted us–Julie Ka–the apartment owner. Julie and her husband Francois & their two young boys (ages 4 & 4 months) live on the third level of an old building just above our one-bedroom apartment. Julie escorted us up the creaky wooden winding staircase to her apartment where we left our luggage for a few hours until the apartment was cleaned. She pointed out the sweet little plaza below her living room windows, where we promptly went for our first petite dejeuner, complete with croissants and sliced baguette with butter and jam, along with the quintessential lattes. French super carbs are delicious!

While waiting for our apartment to be ready, we took our first walk around the Marais, following the walking tour contained in the National Geographic traveler book, “Paris”. I tried to absorb all the sights–the old buildings juxtaposed with small shops chock-a-block with goods of every sort, to the ever-captivating French whose dress seems casual and completely trendy and beautiful at the same time.

As the afternoon wore on, the cirrus clouds above heralded a fall rainstorm, complete with chilly winds and light rain. I quickly realized I had brought the wrong wardrobe–all summer tops and shorts, with only jeans, a light jacket and a sweatshirt. Of course, I landed upon the perfect solution: shopping in Paris! Well then, what greater place in the world to shop? Every street holds its treasure trove of shops, whether designer fashion, less expensive knock-offs, or vintage specials.

As the rain drops fell, we picked up our pace to reach the Paris opera house on the Bastille plaza where I purchased two tickets for Mozart’s Le Nozze de Figaro (the Marriage of Figaro) this Monday evening, September 24th. What a thrill to attend my first opera in Paris! I can hardly wait.

Sunday, September 23rd

After having a blissful warm and sunny Sunday today when we visited the Pompidou museum, it suddenly started raining a few minutes ago. Perfect timing, now that we’re safely ensconced in our little apartment, too tired to go one step further!

We spent a total of 4 hours in the Pompidou (broken up by having lunch across the plaza) taking in the fantastic Modern Art collection on the 4th & 5th floors. I truly loved it. It is filled with art from the 20th century. So many, many paintings and sculptures by Picasso, Braque, Matisse, Bonnard, Gaicometti, Max Ernst, Andy Warhol, Joan Miro, Duchamps, Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Madigliani, Rothko, and even Jackson Pollock (he’s from Cody, Wyoming!).

While waiting for lunch, we struck up a conversation with a lovely blonde woman from Ireland who now lives in Copenhagen. We shared our mutual distaste for the Parisian smokers–mostly young people–who create trails of smoke outside the cafe, driving away people like us. Our new friend proudly pointed out that Ireland had banned smoking in all pubs & public places about 8 years ago. She said nobody expected the ban to last, that the Irish wouldn’t change their behavior but they did. She commented ruefully that this young generation of Frenchmen were clinging to smoking, like the Irish a behavior that would have to change.

This led to my mentioning Michelle Obama and her drive to steer young people to a more healthful lifestyle. She resonated with Michelle’s contributions and revealed her ardor for Michelle & Barack. She had watched all the main speakers at the Democratic Convention, including Michelle, Clinton, Julian Castro (Mayor of San Antonio), and Barack. Her comments on the differences among the speakers were very insightful–saying that Michelle’s speech was perfect–so eloquent and emotional it brought her to tears. “Barack’s wasn’t quite as good, but he was being more cautious about appearing too hopeful this time, not wanting to overstate his case.” And so forth. She was definitely as tuned into American presidential politics as anyone in the States!


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