Our apartment is a few blocks from the Eiffel Tower and we've bought an unlimited metro/bus pass, so we're wandering all over Paris. The prices here are insane, to the point where we feel like starving students: can you imagine $7 for a cup of coffee or even more for a coke? The first day we arrived we asked for a cafe creme and a croissant for each of us and it cost $18. We are now being very, very careful.
I am realizing that it's been close to 45 years since I was here for more than a day, and am amazed when places and stores I remember are still here. My French is coming back, too: quelle joie! Rick and I are spending our time wandering the streets, our favorite thing. He loves torturing himself by reading the prices of things. I guess it makes sense in that Paris is the equivalent of New York, but even in New York one can find lots of cheap places. Here, no.
We are admiring the beautiful apartment buildings with the wrought-iron grilles on the balconies that the first New Orleans settlers obviously brought with them, and the tiny streets with cafes and elegant stores. We sat in Notre Dame for an hour studying the design of the cathedral, and stood under the Eiffel Tower marveling at the complexity of its construction. It is so graceful, so smooth in the enormity of its height and breadth: it's amazing to think that when it was first built there was a huge outpouring of opposition to its ugliness! What would Paris be without it today? Rick wanted to see Pigalle (naturally) and I was suprised to see that there are still, all these years later, dozens of "sex shops" -- I thought it would be like Boston where the red-light district was replaced by the huge Government Center.
We just came from a cafe on the Boulevard St. Germain where we struck up a conversation with a woman who worked there, originally from Mali. It was such a lovely conversation (with me translating because she doesn't speak English) that she invited us to lunch on Sunday, her day off, where we will meet her three daughters (don't know about a husband yet). What a lovely thing to do! She refused to allow us to bring anything, so we'll have to be resourceful: whenever you move to a new neighborhood it's a matter of finding where everything is. I do wonder if a native-born Parisian would have extended such a lovely invitation to a pair of strangers, but no matter. It will be terrific.
The apartment where we're staying is little more than a pied a terre (don't know how to do accents on this keyboard -- I'm in a "cyber-cafe"): a tiny kitchen, one bedroom, a small living room and a dining room. There's a separate WC and a bathroom with a sink, a stall shower, and room to stand that measures something like 3' by 1.5'. No wonder there are no fat French people. But it's just fine -- those of you who will see the Moroccans please tell them that we are most comfortable in their apartment and it's just right for us. Yesterday was like the replay of the heat wave the week before we left, with temperatures well into the 90s: we found a fountain, took off our sandals, dangled our feet in the fountain, and poured water on our shirts. Later we passed larger fountains at the Palais de Chaillot and saw dozens of children and grownups in them.
All in all, it's marvelous to be here and we're enjoying it to the hilt. There are, of course, huge crowds of visitors, but we expected that and can't really object since that means us too. Rick has no fear of speaking English to Parisians instead of waiting for me to translate, which I am vastly impressed at, and he has been kindly and politely responded to nearly every time. So much for the unfriendly French.
Au revoir, a bientot!