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Speed dating and snow: Nikki's trip to Paris

Speed dating and snow: Nikki's trip to Paris

Old Apr 2nd, 2013, 06:23 PM
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Speed dating and snow: Nikki's trip to Paris

Paris March 2013 Trip Report

I wasn't going to go to Paris this year. I have been lucky enough to be able to go to Paris about once a year for the past few years, but this year there were a couple of big trips planned and I couldn't justify the additional trip to Paris. Then the two major trips were cancelled, and I decided to go to Paris as the consolation prize. I booked my apartment and air tickets for two weeks in March, and then my husband Alan decided he would join me for the second week. He has retired recently and could travel for the first time during a week which was not school vacation.

The weekend before I left, we had two feet of snow at home. It snowed for two days. Alan got the driveway cleared in time for me to head off to my community orchestra's dress rehearsal Saturday and concert Sunday. Monday, March 12, I packed and headed to the airport in Boston with the tunes from the concert playing in an endless loop inside my head. Especially the last part of the overture to The Pirates of Penzance, the "hail, hail, the gang's all here" part, in which there is a prominent piccolo part.

I am still humming when the plane starts its descent to the airport in Paris. When we emerge below the clouds, all is white on the ground. Everything is covered with snow- roads, runways, houses, cars. As we approach the ground, the plane suddenly pulls up and starts gaining altitude. The captain makes an announcement that the runway is covered with snow and there is a cumulonimbus cloud on the runway (really? at least that's what it sounds like) and he didn't like the looks of it. We circle, approach from a different direction on a different runway, hold our breath (at least I do) and make a successful landing. There is applause.

The highway from the airport into Paris is covered with snow. It has not been plowed or sanded. Two (sort of) lanes are making their way through the ruts. We pass accidents to the left and the right. Taxis, motorcycles. The driver is leafing through a book, looking for the location of my apartment. I offer to find it for him. "N'ayez pas peur," he says. I put on my seat belt.

Traffic going the other way heading out to the airport is at a standstill, but we move along and make it intact to the apartment, where I say good-bye to the driver, who is planning to quit work early today; this ride has been enough for him.

I ring the apartment and the owner says she will be right down. She walks down the stairs. The elevator is not working. The two of us make it up the five flights of stairs with my two bags (she takes the heavier one) and we are moving pretty slowly but get there all right. Before my two knee replacements, this would have been pretty much impossible for me, so I am celebrating my good fortune. I feel bad for the owner though. She calls somebody and complains about the elevator, which was allegedly fixed the day before, and says to send somebody competent this time.

We watch television together; the news is full of the storm. Transportation tied up all over the region. Pictures of jammed metros, ominous warnings that many buses are not running. The owner is taking a train to Marseille, She calls to see if it is on time, it appears that it is, and she leaves on foot for the Gare de Lyon. I learn later that her train has been cancelled, and she spends three and a half hours at the station but arrives safely in Marseille that evening.

I debate whether to go out. I figure I will get as far as the cafe on the corner and have some lunch. If it looks like the buses are running, I will take one to the College de France, where I hope to go to a class this afternoon. So I bundle up in my wool coat and scarf and gloves. I have not brought boots; this is Paris in March.

I am still humming themes from the Pirates of Penzance as I head out onto the snowy sidewalk, camera in hand.
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Old Apr 2nd, 2013, 07:02 PM
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Bookmarking. Starts well, Nikki.
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Old Apr 2nd, 2013, 07:24 PM
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Lovely start, my daughter is in Paris at the moment , so I will travel vicariously through your report and her emails. Sigh.....
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Old Apr 2nd, 2013, 07:27 PM
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mon amie, as usual you always have a wonderful report and do interesting things. Your friend waits for more.
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Old Apr 3rd, 2013, 01:47 AM
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Waiting for more. Where was your apartment located? We just booked an apartment for October with a great view of the market on Blvd. Richard Lenoir.
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Old Apr 3rd, 2013, 02:13 AM
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I always love your trip reports! This one is certainly starting off with an added element.

Looked at the photos the other day. I was so pleased the war graves and the one of your relative in particular were so well kept. Will be interested to read about Vittel, the area and of course your Paris adventures.

I was there March 5 to 11, some rain but escaped the snow. The trip was mainly to see my niece so not much to report.
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Old Apr 3rd, 2013, 05:03 AM
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The first thing I notice is that everybody is wearing gloves. Last year I made the observation that in Paris nobody was wearing gloves except me. But they seem to find them when it is thirty degrees and snowing. There are people walking in the street, the buses appear to be running, I am not seeing the chaos predicted on the television.

I walk down the street on which I am staying, rue Mornay in the 4th arrondissement, to the boulevard Henri IV, where there is a cafe on the corner, Le Sully. It is nice and warm inside, and I order lunch and absorb the sights and sounds and tastes of Paris. After lunch I walk around taking photos, trying but not succeeding in keeping the falling snow off my lens, cross the Seine, and wait for the bus in front of a store that sells fishing equipment. I'm wondering how long it has been here, whether it dates back to a time when people would actually fish in the Seine. I assume that is not something one would do today.

The buses are running normally, I take one to the College de France but it is too early for my class, so I spend some time in a record store. I buy three CDs, including the new recording by Sanseverino. I love this French singer/songwriter in a way that I haven't loved a singer since I was in high school. I hear his voice and feel good. And this year he is playing in Paris while I am here. I have tickets to go see him with his new band in a small venue out in the 20th arrondissement next week. The catch is that his new band is bluegrass. I am having a hard time imagining what this will sound like. The album has just been released and I have not heard it yet.

There is time to stop in the jewelry store across the street from the College de France, Le Parthenon, at 54 rue des Ecoles, where I found some things I really liked last year. I have a nice conversation with the lovely woman who makes the jewelry in conjunction with her husband. We talk about the weather, about my landing at the airport, about the city, about the jewelry. Everybody is talking about the weather.

An hour before the class is scheduled, I go into the lecture hall. There are just a few seats left. I have learned to get here early for the very popular free courses at the College de France. When I first came to one five years ago, given by a professor whose classes I had been following by podcast and who has now retired, I liked it so much that I looked for another course to attend while I was in Paris that week. There was a class on Proust. I had read the first forty pages of Proust in 1969, during my first semester in college, in the last French course I had ever taken. I figured if I went to the class I might be inspired to pick up the book again (it was still sitting on my bookshelf, staring at me), and it was possible I might be able to follow the lecture. Or not.

It was much closer to "or not". But it did inspire me to pick up the book, and I have now read the seven volumes all the way through, some of them twice, and some of them three times. The professor, Antoine Compagnon, has been teaching courses every year since then, and I have followed them all by podcast, attending some in person. His courses are frequently about Proust. This year is the hundredth anniversary of the publication of Du Côté de Chez Swann, the first volume of Proust's epic work. So this year's course is designed as a look at the volume as it might be seen by a person who is reading the book for the first time.

I have been following the course by podcast, and I had been listening to the last session as I prepared to go to New York for my annual gathering with a group of friends from college the previous weekend. (That is the weekend we all ended up on stage with the Allman Brothers, but that is another story.) The professor mentioned that he was not going to have a class that week because he was going to New York for an exhibit about Proust that he had organized at the Morgan Library. Checking the library's website, I saw that he was going to be giving a lecture while I was in New York, but it was sold out. I did go to the museum and see the exhibit however, which included Proust's original notebooks from the Bibliothèque national de France.

In today's class, the professor makes reference to the New York exhibit and lecture, in which he summarized the course he has been teaching here in Paris. I am feeling like it is a very small world. On the other hand, I am feeling like I can barely keep my eyes open. The only thing that keeps me awake is the fear of snoring in the middle of the lecture. I even stay for the seminar that follows, when each week a different invited guest speaks on a subject pertaining to the course. By the time the guest finishes speaking, I am more or less alert.

I stop at a few of the shops near the Place Maubert to pick up provisions: duck breasts, pate, cheese, apricot tarts, marinated artichokes. A regular food pyramid. Then I take the bus home. The elevator has been repaired. I settle in for the evening. The melody playing on a constant loop inside my head has switched to the Jota from the Three Cornered Hat, by Manuel de Falla. I try to fall asleep listening to something that will get the music from yesterday's concert out of my head. Oh wait, that wasn't yesterday any more, it was the day before, what day is this anyway? Good night.
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Old Apr 3rd, 2013, 06:08 AM
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I really enjoy your writing style. Haven't you stayed in that apartment before? Now I have to look into Sanseverino. When we go to Paris in October we aim to hear as much music as possible.
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Old Apr 3rd, 2013, 08:54 AM
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Great start, Nikki. I, too, always enjoy your reports. Looking forward to more.
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Old Apr 3rd, 2013, 10:17 AM
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Speed dating? I don't remember you saying anything about speed dating. We never discussed the difference in the previous Sanseverino to this iteration.
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Old Apr 3rd, 2013, 11:00 AM
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Thank you for the nice comments.

Yes, opaldog, I have stayed in this apartment several times and feel very comfortable there, at least when the elevator is working. (Are you going to the Paris Combo concert in Boston, by the way? I got an e-mail offering a discount code today.)

Cathinjoetown, we just missed each other, which is I suppose a good thing, as I would have felt bad if we were there at the same time and didn't know it.

Speed dating is coming up soon.

Sanseverino in the gypsy swing incarnation that got me hooked:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-Hdz...0SZ03lLE4E42kw
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Old Apr 3rd, 2013, 11:05 AM
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Always a delight to read. Thanks.
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Old Apr 3rd, 2013, 11:22 AM
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I am really enjoying reading your report,Nikki..Now I must go to Youtube and listen to Sanseverino .I never heard of him before today.
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Old Apr 3rd, 2013, 11:38 AM
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Now that I have spent a very enjoyable hour with Sanseverino on YouTube, you may continue your report.
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Old Apr 3rd, 2013, 11:45 AM
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Can't wait fr the speed dating installment!
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Old Apr 3rd, 2013, 12:09 PM
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Dumb question - are the lectures given in French or English? I found the audio/video recordings and the two I randomly picked were in English.
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Old Apr 3rd, 2013, 12:26 PM
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Crazy Paris weather-looking forward to the rest of your report.
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Old Apr 3rd, 2013, 12:50 PM
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Wednesday morning I head out onto the still snowy sidewalks and walk around taking pictures. My apartment is a block away from the marina south of the Bastille, which is the beginning of the Canal St. Martin before it goes under the Bastille and emerges farther north. It is the site of the moat which served the fortress of the Bastille. I have taken pictures here in March on previous stays, and they look nothing like the scene before me today. There are a couple of brave mothers with young children playing on the snowy playground alongside the canal. People crossing the footbridge that runs into rue Mornay are stopping to take pictures of the wintry scene; it's not just the tourists like me who find it beautiful.

One of my tasks for this trip is to buy cabinet pulls at BHV, the large department store with a great hardware selection next to the Hotel de Ville. I bought some last year and installed them on some cabinets that have needed them for twenty years, but I didn't get enough for all the drawers. Today I return for more, and find that there is a sale going on. The hardware is not on sale but I do buy two tablecloths at a discount, as well as a spiral notebook in which to keep my travel journal.

Lunch is a beautiful salad nearby at La Tartine, 24 rue Rivoli. I ate a salad here last year and had wanted to get back to try a different one. This time I order one with smoked salmon, shrimp, avocado, and toast spread with tarama.

After lunch I wander toward the St. Paul metro. There is a chocolate shop here, Atelier du Chocolat, and I have taken pictures of the wonderful looking chocolates in the window in the past without stopping to buy any of it. But this year I am giving in to chocolate, embracing it. I buy a couple of pieces to bring home. On the way back to the apartment I stop at the grocery store for a few things and then it is time to rest up for the evening.

I am amused by the choices on French daytime television. There is a show that looks exactly like the American show Modern Family, even the opening titles are similar. There is a documentary on the forgery of Biblical antiquities, a German soap opera dubbed in French, and a rerun of Little House on the Prairie. None of them succeed in putting me to sleep however, so I try music. Anything to get that concert out of my head, although I seem to have switched to the Beethoven 8th Symphony.
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Old Apr 3rd, 2013, 12:52 PM
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Iowamom, the lectures I attended were in French. Most of them are, you must have hit some random topics that were taught in English. The College de France web site is a bit awkward to navigate, although it is better than it used to be.
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Old Apr 3rd, 2013, 12:57 PM
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Hi Nikki,

how different to the weather in Paris this time last year! so glad you got to go back again, and looking forward to more of your report.

BTW, I had to smile about the Pirates of Penzance. I was in Penzance 2 days ago and there was naery a pirate in sight.
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