Summer has come and gone.
We managed to secure a 3 bedroom terraced home with a decent sized living room, separate dining room and kitchen. A vast improvement over the all-in-one 10×20 foot living-dining-study-kitchen-room we had before. And alas, there is a garden! Kathleen had lamented before the move that the only sign of nature in and around our abode was a fruit fly. I tried to swat it once and was told “Don’t kill my only pet!!”. Well, this has now changed. Birds chirping everywhere and cats parading on brick walls. Also, the place is on a dead end road and surrounded by green sports fields. It took some time to get used to the deafening silence in the house. Big sigh of relief.
One of Tristan’s friends from the States stayed with us for two weeks. We used this opportunity as an excuse to visit Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and the Roman remains at Bath. It was a visit-three-attractions-in-one-day bus tour. We typically stay away from such ventures but this time the trip seemed to fit what we were trying to do and went for it. While sitting on a bus for hours on end is never a recipe for good times (at least not in my book), the tour guide helped us pass the time with witty narration and “Did you know….?” trivia. Things like “stone cold sober”…apparently it refers to drunk villagers being thrown into a medieval jail cell overnight which was not furnished and the unhappy inhabitant had to sleep it off on the cold stone floor…..you know, stuff like that.
First Windsor, then bus, then Bath, back on the bus onto Stonehenge. To my great chagrin, after being shuttled and herded like cattle to the Stonehenge site, we found out that you actually can not go through the henge itself. You get to look at it from a distance only. Bummer. Trip bottom line:
Windsor: Sure. Queenie and fam’s residence plus LOTS to see and do. take in the “change of the guard” and linger around the manicured gardens.
Bath: Absolutely. Again, LOTS to see. Expose yourself to some history but make sure not to fall into the drink (the ancient pool in the centre of the site). While the liquid may have had healing qualities in the past, apparently, at this point in time, it is anything but good for you.
Stonehenge: Nah. Skip it. You’re better off watching a documentary about it on TV.
One of Kathleen’s friends from work in Seattle recently retired and decided to rent an apartment with her husband in Paris for a couple of months. They were kind enough to invite us to stay a weekend with them. Kath asked me if I was interested in going with her…hmmm…let me think here…Paris? ….Any time!
Friday afternoon I met K at St. Pancras International Train Station, in my opinion the most pleasant train station in London. After a quick bite at YO! Sushi we hopped on the Eurostar train to Paris. The trip was shortened by the onset of a nap as the train hurled us through the Eurotunnel.
Going at speeds of 180+ mph, the train made short work of getting us to Paris. It always baffles me when I look out the train’s window onto parallel highways to see cars and trucks seemingly stand still as we pass them.
We arrived in the early evening, took the Metro to our hosts’ apartment in the Latin quarter on the left bank of the Seine. We were greeted with a delicious 3 course meal. The next day we walked La Promenade Plantée. An unusual park that had been planted on disused elevated train tracks some 30 years ago.
Walking along this park one truly feels elevated above Paris. You can enjoy the surrounding architecture and delightful assortment of trees, shrubs and flowers along this well laid out path.
HOWEVER, beware of joggers. I had several almost collisions with these fast and furious health enthusiasts. They sneak up from behind and by the time you hear the thwat, thwat, thwat of their super cushioned sneakers it is almost too late to make an informed decision as to which side of the path you should dive towards to get out of the way.
Joggers aside it was a lovely and lengthy walk all the way to Peripherique, the busy beltway that encircles all of Paris’ Zone One.
On the way back we stopped at a bistro for lunch. Always delightful to re-discover how good food in Paris really is.
In the afternoon Kath and I took a few hours to wander along the bank of the Seine by ourselves, a romantic few hours, strolling past Notre Dame, under bridges, passing boats and bands of rogue teenagers along the way…. wait, what? Yes, under one of the many bridges, doing really no harm as far as I could tell, were about 10-15 teens hanging out, boombox blasting, the sound being amplified and echoed by the cavernous structure. A tour boat went past, ferrying a few young ladies among other passengers poised on the boat’s sun deck. As soon as the horde of mostly male teens noticed the young ladies passing by, the familiar shouting of whoooohooo and eyyyyyyhhhh began. Some things were shouted over towards he boat in French, which I did not understand…but then again I don’t think you have to speak the language to know what was being said. Things really don’t change that much over time. There are some constants the world over. The mating call of the young male being one of them, I suppose.
In the evening we wandered with our hosts down Rue Mouffetard, historically significant because it actually connected all the way to cities in Italy. Today it is a collection of mostly food shops. But not just any shops. The food presented here was PERFECT.
If I had to choose ONE shopping area where I had to fetch the groceries for the rest of my life, THIS would be IT. If Michelangelo had painted an idealised shopping street scene, it could not have looked any better.
Properly hungry now and salivating severely from all this food window shopping we headed to Le Vieux Bistrot for dinner.
Sunday, after taking in Gregorian Chants at Notre Dame and brunch at a nearby cafe, where the obligatory crepe rouge with accompanying cafe creme was had, it was time to say thank you to our generous hosts and goodbye. We walked to Gare du Nord train station, stopping at one more bistro for a lengthy lunch…did I mention I loved the food in Paris?
On the way back on the Eurostar, settling into our seats I noticed that a middle aged woman, dressed in very fashionable attire was sitting across the aisle from us. The seat in front of us was occupied by an already irritated toddler and her tired looking father. I thought: “Oh great, just our luck…its going to be screams and turmoil all the way to London.”
Ironically, the toddler was just fine. A truly pleasant passenger. The well dressed lady next to us on the other hand proceeded to take off her shoes, put her feet up, clipped her toenails and fingernails and then went into a lengthy nail filing routine. After that, and she took her time with it, it was time to make up her face…or rather undo her face and then re-do it with various balms and oils form no doubt, exotic origins. Every once in a while I would glance over to see which part of her body was getting a make-over now.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m getting to be a grumpy old fart. I was taught that personal hygiene procedures (picking your nose, combing your hair, flossing your teeth, cutting your nails etc,) should be done in the privacy of your home, rather than in public. Perhaps I am wrong to take issue with this…who knows.
As the sun set over England, we returned to London. One regret is that there was simply not enough time to visit our exchange student from years ago, Maréva. Next time for sure. Paris offers so much in terms of food, culture and atmosphere that not returning is simply not an option. Till next time Paris…à bientôt.