With just a few days in Paris, both before and after my immersion language stay in Sancerre (about 2 hours south of the city), there was just too much to see and do. I had friends to contact, favorite haunts to visit, favorite writers to meet, and one day when all the museums were closed (Monday), so I had to be selective. Not easy in Paris — there is just so much and one wants to do it all.
Staying in my favorite small hotel, Hôtel des Marronniers on Rue Jacob (6th Arrondisement, Left Bank), is like coming home as I have stayed there many times before. I am just a few steps from the famous church, St-Germain-des-Prés, the famous and fabulous Café de Flore and Café Deux Magots, and my favorite smaller stop, Café Bonaparte with its delicious omelets. On my first day, I headed up to the Boulevard St. Germain and just walked, reconnecting with the street and drinking it all in. A friend joined me for tea at the Flore and later I ventured out for a light dinner on my own. Next day, I walked more, heading for Shakespeare & Co. to say hello to Sylvia Beach Whitman in her usual spot surrounded by books; then walked across the bridge to Notre-Dame and continuing on to Île St. Louis, stopping at boutique Grain de Sable for gloves and Berthillon for the best scoop of ice cream in the world. OK, predictable? Touristy? Probably, but I just wanted to reconnect and to feel the pavement under my feet. From there it was a long way home and having not gotten my Metro smarts up to date as yet, I walked. Then it was Saturday and I headed for the smallest railway station in Paris, Bercy, to catch my regional train south.
Returning two weeks later, I had another few days. Had a long lunch at Amoré & Jalousia with the Fabulous Mr. G, Terrance Gelenter, the guru behind Paris Through Expatriate Eyes, http://www.paris-expat.com, where we sat next to a long-beloved French movie star, Pierre Arditi — still handsome and with all his hair! My favorite celeb sighting, though, was running head-long into the infamous DSK, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, in the FNAC electronics store — without bodyguards and just shopping. (Remember that little incident in New York’s Sofitel where he was arrested for assaulting a maid?) Well, he is no longer aiming to be president of France, just doing a little holiday shopping like the rest of us.
So what didn’t I get to do? Did not make it to the Louvre, or to the Musée Maillol with its special exhibit of Canaletto’s, or to another favorite, Musée Jacques-mart André, or to the Tuileries, But I did have a kir at the Hotel Meurice where the tidbits of delicious nuts, olives and crisps stood in for lunch; I did have a wonderful morning at Musée d’Orsay reveling in the glorious L’Impressionisme et La Mode exhibit of French fashions of the day mixed with spectacular Impressionist masterpieces; I did have dinner with friends at Astier, a delightful little restaurant in the 11th. And I did meet with favorite writers John Baxter (The Most Beautiful Walk in the World) and Diane Johnson (Le Mariage, Le Divorce, Lulu in Marrakech and many more), and the charming Alec Lobrano, food writer supreme and author of Hungry for Paris. I didn’t shop much but bought a beret on the Quai opposite Notre Dame for 7 euros which I saw later in a shop window for 35!
I must head back to Paris soon, to fill in the gaps and to continue to try out my fledgling French.I have concluded that Paris is not, as Hemingway said, a movable feast. It’s there — and you have to go and be there to find it, to experience and taste it for yourself once again.