- ALREADY SUBSCRIBED?
Fill in your credentials below.
UA 926 from San Francisco descends north of Paris, revealing little villages and towns dotting the landscape with lush green fields around them as far as the eye can see. Terracotta-tiled roofs criss-cross my view. Arriving at Terminal 1, we traverse the bouncy little walkway (you know the one!) to the baggage claim area. We get into the taxi at the front of the queue and dart towards our home away from home. Familiar landmarks go by that trigger little memories: Ikea, the Stade de France, HLM housing in the banlieues. There is a slowdown on the highway due to “rubbernecking,” making us realize that driving habits are pretty universal. Our driver mentions that you now need to faire gaffe as you exit the péripherique because there are cameras that capture your photo if you are speeding. No big manifs today and we zip up rue des Archives, past the BHV and into Le Marais towards our pied-à-terre. It doesn’t look like much has changed. A few new stores, some new awnings, a couple of ravalements in progress, children leaving school for the day, and streets filled with well-dressed Parisians.
Alex, the local caviste on the ground floor of our building, waves and suggests that we stop over to taste some new wines. Bien sûr! We pop into the apartment, have a quick glance around, unpack, and then sit down and relax a little. I decide to stop and see Alex while Ineke takes a little nap. He has three bottles of wine clothed in little wine “socks” for me to taste so I can choose one for our clients. Hmmm, ten-hour flight, nine-hour time difference, pourquoi pas! After a few glasses I realize that I can’t figure out anything so Alex suggests that I take all the bottles back to the apartment to taste in the next couple of days to make our choice. Back to the apartment, I line up the wines for Ineke to try before we meet with some friends later. She’s a little groggy but makes a first try at the challenge.
At Le Grizzli on rue Saint-Martin, we both have a Kir and our friends arrive and greet us warmly with a wave of kisses. We catch up on the news of the last six months and suddenly realize it is already 10:30 p.m. even though it’s still daylight. Ineke and I are both hit by a coup de bar and decide to head home. But first some food. Crêpes-Suzette is still open and we each have a galette that hits the spot, and then crawl into our nice comfy bed for a good night’s sleep.
Sunday awakens with a bright sun peaking around the edges of the curtains. It is 10:00 a.m. and I’ve slept well, though Ineke was up at 5:00 a.m. I was thinking about doing some little repairs around the apartment but realized the BHV is closed on Sundays – so civilized! We decide to look for brunch (it is 11:00 a.m. by now) and stop at Le Loir dans la Théière (the dormouse in the teapot) on rue des Rosiers. After a wonderful little brunch in this resto decorated in the spirit of Alice in Wonderland, we decide to take our first walking tour, this one through the Académie Française.
Guided walking tours en français are one of our favorite things, as they impart a level of detail that one doesn’t get in any guidebooks. The docents usually make a point of enunciating clearly, so the French is not as much of a problem as you might imagine if your French is not perfect. So, from the noise along the quai to the utter silence inside the magnificent historic building of the Académie Française, we learn about the inner workings of the Académie Française and its links to the academies of other disciplines. In their current revision of the French dictionary, they are up to the letter “s”. Under consideration was whether they should retain the word “startup”, which had become part of the popular French vernacular during the internet boom of the late nineties but had already lost its luster in France. Sunday finishes with a dinner arranged by friends at a new Italian restaurant called “Sopranos” in the Place St-Catherine.
Monday is a workday for us as we return every six months to do little repairs and spring-cleaning in our apartment. However, one must start the day out right and so we have a petit-dejeuner around the corner from our apartment at the temporary Café Nutella, which was opened to celebrate Nutella’s 40th anniversary. While munching on half a dozen breakfast items made with Nutella, we make our “to do” list for the week and glance at the Pariscope and GoGo Paris guides.
After breakfast, we make my favorite trip to the sous-sol of the BHV, where you can find anything and everything in terms of hardware. I have memorized the locations of most of the items that we typically buy each trip, but as always, there are a few new adventures as I wander up and down the aisles. Walking back to the apartment, I snap some photos along the way, and then we do our first wave of bricolage to bring the apartment back to tip-top shape. We also try to figure out which wine to buy and do a second dégustation.
One thing we always forget in June is that the sun sets very late. Caught up in our bricolage duties, at about 9:30 p.m. we realize that we’re in danger of missing dinner, so we wander out looking for a restaurant. We remember our friend Jonathan’s recommendation of a new-ish restaurant nearby on rue de Béarn called Le Petit Marché, and sit down under the heat lamps for a very pleasant late dinner with wine and dessert. Hmm, but I still need to come up with a story for Bonjour Paris – Natasha and Karen will be disappointed if I don’t come up with something!
The rest of the week alternates between small projects around the apartment, adventures in shopping, tasting yet more wine at Alex’s wine store, meeting with friends, a second walking tour of artists’ ateliers in Montparnasse, café crèmes and croissants, snapping hundreds of photos, visiting the fashion museum at the Louvre, a visit to the post office, metro rides, a couple more kirs, bus rides, a visit to a carton supplier for Ineke’s perfume business, etc. Over a glass of wine at Alex’s store one evening, he shows us these wonderful old publicity books from the popular wine seller, Nicolas. Nicolas put out a series of these illustrated books in limited editions of about 500 books each in the 1920s and 1930’s, and the artwork is breathtaking. I make a note that I must find some for myself (a new mission)! We check our email each night (the US never stops) and also review the photos I take during the day. Le Grand Colbert on rue Vivienne, featured in the movie “Something’s Gotta Give”, beckons us one evening and the service is extraordinary and cheerful. I feel like we are in our own little movie.
We enjoy wandering through the streets and relying on serendipity to turn up new and interesting things. While walking down our own street, rue Elzévir, tout à coup I see a chauffer-driven 2CV in the distance, and discover a new way to see Paris. Intrigued, I email the company and arrange for a tour later on in the week. Lunch is at Café Beaubourg, read some articles in Libération, a few more kirs, chat with a few people. I’m still searching for that fil conducteur for my article. Our upstairs neighbors leave us a card inviting us over for dinner for Saturday night and we ask Alex for a good Bourgogne. Alex stops by and delivers the wine we ordered and suggests he can store the other half of it in his cave, which is a lot cooler than ours. Friday night arrives fast. One of our good friends makes dinner for eight of us chez elle in the 7th arrondissement. We arrive at 10:00 p.m. and enjoy champagne, wine and her excellent cuisine, until we finally work our way home at 3:00 a.m.
Saturday is our last day, and we’ve booked the 2CV tour. It turns out to be much better than we had imagined, absolument extra. It puts a smile on everyone’s face, inside and outside the car. This is a must – a double must – for anyone visiting! (I encourage you to read my other article for details.)
Later that afternoon I come upon a book of historical postcards from Le Marais with our street included, and I decide to retake the photos today for comparison purposes. The streets looked so much wider without parked cars! Heading home we change our clothes and enjoy a wonderful repas with our upstairs neighbors, talking about everything from politics to the building, the neighborhood, the history of Le Marais, the future of the world, etc. Four hours later, it is getting late and we have a taxi at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow.
Sunday morning arrives way too fast. We frantically pack up our things and head to the airport. It is time to return to our home away from home. I’m sure something will come to me on the plane for the article. I just need an idea … ça va venir.