Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Care to join me for another walk through Paris?

I am not ready to leave Paris behind as yet, so please indulge me a little longer if you will. 

There are so many reasons why this trip was so special to me. I've been meaning to visit Paris for years and gave up an opportunity to be there for a brief visit almost a decade ago. How I regretted that decision for years! Being there now, finally, I was hit with a strong wave of nostalgia: a reminder of many, many good times and lovely friends.  

How could I feel nostalgic about a place I have never been? Because the very first formal job I ever had was at the Alliance Française in my hometown. I worked there for a few years and was immersed in a completely 'French' environment. I made a lot of friends, was exposed to not only the language but also French culture & got to meet a diverse group of artists from France; some of whom became friends that I have kept sporadically in touch with over the years. But sadly, there are many friends that I lost touch with - through my own fault, more than anything else. Being in France gave me the opportunity to look them up and reconnect with a few. And it felt wonderful. 

As we approached Paris and prepared for landing, all I could see below was a bed of thick clouds. It was like descending into nothing - which was a little disconcerting but at the same time reminded me of what Baudelaire (I think it was him) said, " J'aime les nuages.. les nuages qui passent la-bas . . des merveilleux nuages!". That thought came out of nowhere & was the first of a series of random literary references that swam through my head the entire time that I was there. 

After a rainy landing, we were there. 

It took a while for it to sink in that I was really there, I was in France. 

I barely slept that night. After taking a nap for two hours, I was up again because I had to work on an assignment for school. I got over with it around 5 a.m. and then, because I couldn't sleep & because I couldn't stand it any more, I went for a walk at 5:45 a.m. The guy at the front desk of our hotel gave me a very strange look as I was walking out the door and I should have understood why: because the only other people out on the streets at that time were trash-collectors. 

We were close to the Champs Elysees, so I walked down the avenue, down Boulevard Haussmann, and then through winding streets until I reached my hotel after almost two hours. Paris was a very sleepy town, there was little traffic - even at 7 a.m.- and I felt completely wide awake: intoxicated by the beauty of the city. 

I finally managed to take another brief nap before we went out to explore the city later in the morning . . and then I went and got really sick later that night. I think it was just a combination of lack of sleep & jet-lag, but I had to sit around nursing a really bad case of flu for the next two days. All I had energy for, was bus-tours. And while I got really good photos out of the experience, my kids were essentially tortured for two days! 

And then I was back on my feet and walking all over the city again . . 
Or taking little Cafe-breaks and sitting around just watching traffic and passersby. 

Or taking photos of cafes . . 
Or of my other obsession: Parisien Metro signs


And while winding streets are charming . . . 
. . some of them also contain surprises:

 Walking through streets is not all that I did . . among other things we did with the kids, we went to the fantastic Jardin d'Acclimatation & it was hard to tear my kids away at the end of the day .

 I wouldn't mind living in the Jardin d'Acclimatation - it's magical and beautiful, with lots of surprises. Like this little guy who decided to take a walk alongside us:

I felt a bit like this statue upon leaving France . . 

"C'est comme une rêve" remarked a child, sitting in front of me in the plane, as he stared down at the city we were departing from. And he was so right because it really was a dream. . 

Did you enjoy the walk with me? I have lots more photos where these came from and I took them doing what I do best: walking randomly and aimlessly across cities. A friend of mine once asked me in a letter, years and years ago: " fais-tu toujours de grandes promenades?"  (do you still take longs walks?) and I would have to say, yes I do and I love it still. 


Peanutts said...

wow lovely photoes, i love black and white shots

mangocheeks said...

Wonderful photographs.

Oh it takes me back and shows me some things I had missed. I especially loved the artwork on the wall - red umbrella. Reminded me that it rained all the time we were there.

I am happy to read that you were able to get in touch with old friends.

Grapefruit said...

Thank you, both!

Mangocheeks - the artwork was a surprise, and I would have walked right past and not seen it (was walking with my back towards it). But I stopped to take photos of the Notre Dame and noticed this guy behind me, taking photos of this street. And that's how I discovered it.
The art work is so cute. Did you notice the cat is fishing? And that the name of the street is 'chat qui peche' - meaning the cat that goes fishing.

Amanda said...

WOW!! Thanks so much for letting me get a glimpse of Paris. I am not sure I will ever go... and your pictures are AMAZING!!

tasteofbeirut said...

C'est la beauté de Paris (et de la France en général) les promenades!
I have so enjoyed your enthusiasm, because I admit I did spent a while in Paris feeling a bit blasée about the whole experience! grumbling at the grey skies, the cold and damp and the lack of sparkling clean public restrooms! Silly me, I spent years living to regret my bad attitude!

tina_bakes said...

yes, I loved the walkabout!! :) I am very happy for you and glad you enjoyed your trip tremendously!!

Jencrafted said...

Extraordinary photos! Love all the shots!
Paris is a great city to take long walks. I lose track of time when I do that - from one blvd. to another, one neighborhood to the next....
I'm glad you enjoyed your stay here and yes, do post more photos!

Grapefruit said...

Thanks Amanada!

Joumana - C'est tellement vrai. And I can relate to how you feel: I did the same on a trip to Lisbon. I sulked for the 3 days that I was there, moaned about the fact that no one spoke English and that I had to traverse 5 miles across town to get to the nearest internet cafe to email my family! I regret to this day how much time I wasted in Lisbon, just whining instead of discovering how lovely it really is.
As far as enthusiasm goes, that's just me being me. One of my teachers once told me I'm like a puppy dog: highly excitable & very easy to please. Lol.

Tina & Jen - thank you, thank you, *thank you* for your comments. Reading them was a lovely start to my day :)

Sage Trifle said...

I'm very happy for you for your trip to Paris. Seeing the city through your eyes makes me realize it is just as beautiful as I've always heard.

Laetitia said...

You did it again and I thnak you for this lovely promenade throuht Paris! It's such a nice town :-)

Om Lujain© said...

Beautiful! Your pictures had me feeling like I was there!

Mélanie A. said...

Love your photos

My Little Space said...

OMG, those photos are stunning! I'm really thankful that you're willing bring us alonng your trip. I've never been there either! My younger brother's head office is in Paris and he'll fly over there almost every year for his annual meeting. I remember the first time he was there, he bought me a bottle of perfume Channel No.5. It was a huge bottle and still keeping it in my fridge. hehe.... Hope you're having a great day!
Cheers, Kristy

lifeistooshortforlowfatcheese said...

Beautiful post! LOVE all the French references, gorgeous!


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