Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Sous Le Ciel De Paris

For the most part it was sunny and warm in Paris last weekend, with just a bit of autumn chill on the breeze, enough to make it refreshing. I walked for hours on Friday, down by Notre Dame and along the Left Bank to the Eiffel Tower, across the river to find the rest of the church whose interestingly-blocky tower I'd spotted from the other side, and then across the Avenue des Champs-Élysées to the Place de la Madeleine looking for an all-chicken restaurant I'd read about. I just put in those coordinates on a Google map and found that I walked at least 9 kilometers, and probably more when you add in the occasional getting lost and backtracking and circling around. Though there was less of that this time since I could orient myself by the sun.

Although it was a Friday, it was also the last week of vacation, so there were more people than usual out and about that morning, enjoying the sunshine and the street cafés. The Hôtel Plaza Athénée was all decked out in blazing red, and I recognized the name from some of the early 20th-century British literature I've enjoyed reading as a place where the wealthy liked to hang out when in Paris. That hasn't changed - the room that the hotel describes as "ideal for single occupancy" starts at 630 euro (over $800) per night. Quite a change from my 30-euro bunk bed at the hostel ...

Sous le ciel de Paris
S'envole une chanson
Elle est née d'aujourd'hui
Dans le coeur d'un garçon
Sous le ciel de Paris
Marchent des amoureux
Leur bonheur se construit
Sur un air fait pour eux

Under the Paris skies
A song rises,
A song newborn today
In a young man's heart;
Under the Paris skies
Lovers walk together,
Their happiness built
On this melody sung just for them

I did find the restaurant specializing in rotisserie chicken, Chickcan, but by the time I got there it was crowded and I was tired and for some reason the menu didn't appeal. I'd like to go back though, because they use fresh market vegetables for their side dishes, and it's mostly gluten- and dairy-free. The plastic TV-dinner-style tray/plates were not so appealing, but the food smelled good. I bought some coconut water to help me get my energy level up for the metro ride back to the hostel, and had a late lunch/early dinner of spring rolls at my usual Chinese takeout place. There were two men grilling and selling corn on the cob at the corner, something I'd not seen before, and by the time I was finished eating a woman had joined them, selling pregrilled corn in its husk from a grocery caddy lined with a black plastic trash bag. Since I had been watching the men pick up corn that had fallen to the grimy sidewalk with their equally grimy hands, I decided to get an ear of corn from her instead, and took it back to the quayside terrace at the hostel to eat for dessert. Except that it wasn't sweet corn, and while it wasn't the dent corn fed to animals, it was fairly tasteless, like eating polenta made from cornmeal that's been in your pantry too long. But then I'm used to the "supersweet" varieties that are so much more sugary than the table corn grown back in my grandparents' days, which is approximately where the French gardeners are, being more consistent with and faithful to the varieties that have been around for decades, if not centuries. It's funny that canned sweet corn is very popular and easy to find, but no one sells it on the cob. Maybe I'll look into that as a potential source of income in the future.

I slept for almost 10 hours last night, and did the night before as well. Christine says that there are a lot of retirement homes built in Gan and that many people who visit find themselves yawning early in the evening and sleeping late, at least for the first few days; there's something in the air here, she says, that makes it easy to relax. It helps that there is very little noise or light coming into the room here, unlike at the Paris hostel. I had an eyeshade but that didn't keep out the yells and singing of the carousing backpackers and their temporary girl-or-boyfriends at 2am (the price paid for the 30-euro accommodations). It was dark at the dairy in the Alps, except when the moon was full, but the aquarium in my borrowed room had a very noisy pump that was on constantly, and I don't think I slept very well last month. And of course there was both noise from the highway and light from the parking lot all last year in Tours. I'm making up for lost sleep time, going to bed when the sun goes down, and waking up to the crowing of the roosters on the other side of the courtyard. It's another lovely day today, but I have lots of computer work to catch up on. Maybe I'll try to figure out a way to hook up my computer so that I can work outside at the arbor-shaded picnic table instead of inside.

Sous le pont de Bercy
Un philosophe assis
Deux musiciens quelques badauds
Puis les gens par milliers
Sous le ciel de Paris
Jusqu'au soir vont chanter
L'hymne d'un peuple épris
De sa vieille cité

A philosopher sitting
Under the Bercy Bridge,
And two musicians, plus several passers-by,
And then people in their thousands
Under the Paris skies
Will sing until the sun goes down
A song of a people in love
With their lovely old city

Whether it was the sunshine or my situation, of being in transition to a new location and an unknown future, I saw Paris from a different perspective this weekend. I need to stop and look at life from different angles more often.

The interesting church tower is connected to an interesting church, one of the newer ones in Paris, dating back only to the 1930s. The Église Saint-Pierre-de-Chaillot was done in a rather Byzantine style; I wish the photos I'd taken in the interior of the church had come out better, but they're too fuzzy to post. It's all iconic wall paintings with Greek-style lettering and passages behind alcoves under archways that could have come straight from the Hagia Sophia. Which is another place I'd like to see some day. I'm starting to look into places to spend the winter holiday, checking out cheap flights from Bordeaux (the closest large airport) to Lisbon or perhaps someplace in Spain; I can get a flight to Milan from Tarbes, which is not far away from here by train. There are fairly inexpensive flights to Tunisia and Morocco as well, but I don't want to go there by myself. Actually, I'd enjoy the company anywhere over the holidays - anyone up for a quick trip to someplace new?

Près de Notre Dame
Parfois couve un drame
Oui mais à Paname
Tout peut s'arranger
Quelques rayons
Du ciel d'été
D'un marinier
L'espoir fleurit
Au ciel de Paris

Sometimes there's trouble brewing
Near Notre Dame
But in Paris
Everything always works out;
With a few beams
Of summer sunshine
And the sound of
A sailor's accordion,
Hope blossoms once more
Under the Paris skies

"Sous le ciel de Paris" (Jean Dréjac/Hubert Giraud) from the 1951 film of the same name, recorded by Édith Piaf in 1954

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