Enjoying the first two weeks of January alone in Paris (i.e., without travel companions to whom I felt obliged to play tour guide) and without a personal tourist agenda was heavenly. I rented a cozy apartment off rue des Martyrs in the 9th (Opéra) arrondissement where Sacre Coeur overlooks the quartier like a grande dame wearing a necklace of sex shops and clubs strung along the Boulevard de Clichy. The juxtaposition of the two images suggests both sublime and ridiculous aspects of the legend of St. Denis.
I was pleased to learn that the wonders of modern technology make postcards passé—except, of course, for family and friends who don’t do email. A photo of the Tour Eiffel, for example, taken with and shared by email using my BlackBerry, was shot from the Jardins des Tuileries, between the Louvre and the Place de la Concorde. Apparently, I moved as I snapped the photo, resulting in its fuzzy quality—an impressionist effect, I think. Alors, je suis un artiste!
The best part of my stay in Paris was connecting with old friends and making new friends. I connected with Pam, a friend who lives in Paris—we chat often online but hadn’t seen each other in over two years. We spent a delightful afternoon (one of several) together exploring rue des Martyrs and adjacent streets. Pam and I love Indian food and we found a great Indian restaurant in the Place Gustave Toudouze where we enjoyed a lunch of hot curry, dal, cold rice pudding with cardamom, and hot coffee.
After lunch, I introduced Pam to À l’Étoile d’Or, a well-known chocolaterie owned by Denise Acabo, an eccentric dame d’un certain age, who knows everything about chocolate from every part of the world. She’s had her shop for over 38 years, dresses in a French school girl’s uniform, and wears her hair in pigtails. Denise is the friend of a friend who asked me to stop by to give her his meilleurs voeux. The impact of the visit on Pam was a 30€ expenditure on chocolate and, the following morning, an effusive blog post about her chocolaterie experience.
On another day, over coffee at a cafe in the Marais, I was introduced to Claire, a lively, witty, and intelligent woman who is a “national treasure” in terms of what she knows about and who she knows in Paris. For example, she introduced me to La Bibliothèque des Amis de l’Instruction, an organization founded in the 19th century to promote education among those who, because of social class or lack of resources, did not have access to education. I am excited to know about this library because the idea of its founding relates to similar organizations founded about the same time in the U.S. of which I learned when doing research years ago for my dissertation. Claire offered to introduce me to the director of the library. Perhaps there’s a sabbatical in my future.
Paris winters can be unpleasantly cold and rainy, but my stay in Paris was blessed with mild temperatures and several sunny days ideal for getting out and exploring my favorite place on earth. My Paris séjour came to an end.