Paris France: Bon Anniversaire à moi, or how we ended up in Paris in March
Dylan turned and said to us with utmost seriousness, "I want to go somewhere with good desserts for my birthday." This was when we were either in Vietnam or Cambodia, when she started worrying about the prospects of getting a birthday cake on our round-the-world journey, and we were open to suggestions. Until we left Thailand, we didn’t have a concrete plan of where we would be after Egypt.
So we asked ourselves, where are there good desserts? Don’t like tiramisu, so Italy was out. Weren’t sure a candle would stick into a piece of baklava, so Greece lost the battle. England….yeah right. Hey, isn’t France known for French pastries, chocolate-filled croissants, fruit-topped tarts and chocolate? Oh yeah baby, here was our destination writ large.
There was just one thing we weren’t prepared for: the cold. I’m not a big fan of the weather station on cable, and just learned about Weather Underground, and so we weren’t aware of the fact that Europe in March--especially Paris--is, well, winter. I had always had visions of Paris in March being spring, the buds on the trees, the sun shining down on the markets and Parisians gaily skipping around the never ending piles of dog doo. But other than the dog doo, it’s not the Paris I expected. It’s rain rain rain, with cold, freezing snowy temperatures and a lot of folks in black overcoats. The apartment we are staying in has huge ventilation holes in the bathroom, which let in the cold air, so our butts literally freeze on the toilet seat! The hot water tank is the size of a tea kettle, and construction starts at 8:00 every morning across the hall and across the street. We’re starting to feel more like Victor Hugo characters here and less like Leslie Caron and Gene Kelly in An American in Paris.
But given that this is Paris and the French are forgiven for eating all the time and never getting fat, for hoarding some of the greatest art in the world in their museums, and for having the luck not only to bury Jim Morrison in a super cool cemetery, but to also have the catacombs, we can’t hold the weather against them and whatever comes our way shouldn’t dampen our spirits, even though it is drenching our clothes.
We’ve climbed the steps to the Sacre Coeur and gazed out at the city view, which was only marred by a pigeon crapping in my hair.
We’ve walked through the amazing Musée d’Orsay where the cool converted train station rivals the art on the walls for one’s attention.
We’ve also caught part of a vespers mass in Notre Dame, complete with the sound of angels singing and smell of incense burning,
and climbed the tiny steps of St. Chapelle, where the stained glass covers all of the walls and makes you think glass has never looked finer.
And we rode to the top of the Eiffel Tower on my birthday, since I figured that I wanted to be somewhere memorable as I commenced the last year of my 30’s.
But the question still remains: has Dylan found a suitable dessert for her birthday, which is just ten days after mine? She’s sampled tarte citron, dined on chocolate croissants, and discovered much to her delight that France has the world’s finest chocolates, so she has plenty of choices. But she has discovered the one reason to give up her US residency and live in France forever, and it comes in the form of a chocolate macaroon. Crispy, yet chewy, densely chocolatey but not bitter, and a slight nutty flavor sum up this Parisian treat. They are so good they’ve inspired Dylan to find the best one in Paris. We follow her, envying her incredible metabolism, and together enter willingly into a chocolate oblivion.
Yet another Ruby footnote: We just found out about the bombing in Varanasi India. It seems a tragedy and of course saddens us, but we’re a bit creeped out. Our friend Ruby, the one who warned me about rivers in Thailand, was really insistent that we not go to India, or that we stay as short a time as possible, she sensed something really scary coming our way. No, we wouldn’t die, she said, but we would be shaken up considerably and would hold each other a lot tighter.
I casually flipped through the date book that we are using to make our plans, and on March 6th we had originally written down that we would be in Varanasi India! Now, what we write down is usually 80% on target, give or take a couple days for when we will actually be there. If Ruby had not been so insistent and stopped my hemming and hawing (we really wanted to see just Agra and Varanasi!), we could have very well been in India as we had planned, since originally we didn’t have tickets for departure until March 10th.
Lest you find me totally wacko, and worry that I’m the only one who listens to a psychic, there is a wonderful book called A Fortuneteller Told Me, by Tiziano Terzani . He is a reporter who was told in 1975 by an astrologer that he would die in an airplane accident in 1990. Since his work required him to constantly travel, he took every means of conveyance but planes for a whole year. The result is an incredible tale of what happens when you give up your western habits and let the journey take you.
From Paris, au revoir and gros bises.