Paris Day 2 – Recovery

I woke up early and thought I’d have a full day ahead of me, but after typing up my blog post, I fell back to sleep and woke again at nearly one pm. I showered, determined to get ready quickly so I could do ALL THE THINGS, but instead, I ended up talking to Bug for about an hour on the phone. By the time I left my apartment, it was a little after 3. Not the early start I wanted, but everything in Paris happens later – it stays light until at least 10pm – so really it wasn’t a wasted day.

My first priority: Food. I’ve barely eaten in the past week. I guess I’m one of the lucky few, who, when stressed, don’t comfort eat. Instead, I simply stop eating and live mostly on water and pieces of lettuce. I know it’s not exactly healthy, but that’s what I do.

Anyway, I found a cafe, took a seat outside, and ordered water and salad (I know, I know). After a few minutes, this young guy – around twenty-three, maybe – sat at the table next to me, so that we were more or less facing each other. He asked if it was okay if he smoked. I said, “yes.”

When I glanced at him, I noticed he had on a City Lights San Francisco t-shirt, so I asked if he’d been to San Francisco. He told me he’d been four years ago, that his aunt lives there. She’s some sort of scientist at UCSF. We chatted back and forth for a few minutes before his girlfriend showed up. She smiled and asked if he were boring me. “No,” I said. “He’s suffering through my bad French.” We laughed and spent the rest our time together using a mash-up of French and English.

The three of us formed a weird little group. Our small, round cafe tables touched each other, so I suppose it looked as if we knew each other. The guy smashed out his cigarette and asked if my heart had ever been so badly broken, I thought I would die.

I stared at my hands and wondered if I was carrying a wounded look. Did I look pathetically sad sitting alone? His girlfriend, wrapped her hand over his and told him to stop, that he needed to focus on the happy moments. Then he started crying. Turns out his father had died in April and this young guy felt as if he had lost the only thing holding him to the Earth.

When he stopped crying, he turned to me and said that he wanted to marry his girlfriend, but she wouldn’t agree to it. She sighed and shook her head. “His heart needs to heal. Marrying me isn’t what he needs. He needs allow his father to be gone.”

The whole time, I’m sitting there thinking I’ve fallen into some weird French existentialism film.The cigarettes, the deep conversation about love and healing and living in the present.

And as I watched them, it became clear how strongly she loves him. I asked how long they’ve been dating. Three years. But they’ve known each other since they were twelve. They are both at Sorbonne studying law – like the guy’s father.

After leaving them, I felt emotionally drained and just wandered around the Marais for a few hours. I’d wanted to purchase a few things today, but all I managed to do was buy soap.

Shortly after getting back to my apartment, I received a dinner invitation from some people I’d met the night before and I accepted. But since dinner wasn’t until 9:30pm, I had time to kill, so I decided to try out the washing machine in the bathroom. Now, I consider myself to be of average intellect and I could not figure out how to open the damn thing. It took me twenty minutes of pushing buttons, pulling on the door, and cursing before I figured it out. Kind of like the ridiculous key situation for the apartment. So many keys and weird door tricks. But that’s a different story…

Anyway, dinner was fabulous – a small, Italian place in the Montmartre. It feels nice to be so welcomed by strangers.

I made my way home a bit after midnight. I have to say, riding the Metro that late at night, by myself, makes me feel like a bad ass. Also, if I climb all 95 stairs at the Lamarck-Caulaincourt Metro stop everyday, I will never need to see my trainer, Tammy, again. They are brutal and an incredibly good workout.

Tomorrow, I’m going over Printemps to do some one-stop shopping, and I hope to get a little writing in. So far, I’ve not opened my manuscript, but I’m beginning to feel like I can. And that’s a huge step. After months of not being able to, the desire to write is slowly coming back.

Paris – Day 1

Thanks to having business class seating from Chicago to Charles de Gaulle, I arrived in Paris at 10:30am well-rested and alert. Apparently, I’m an interesting looking person because not only was I pulled out by the US TSA for additional inspection in Chicago, but French customs wanted to give me an extra-once over, too. And I happy to say, I was able to not only understand, but also answer all their questions, in French. I haven’t spoken French in a while, so I was nervous, but they had no problem understanding me.

With my language skill confidence boosted, I collected my suitcase, and using the incredibly detailed directions Bug sent me, found the RER. I helped an American couple from the Virgin Islands buy their tickets and the three of us rode to Chatelet together. After parting from my new acquaintances, I transferred to the Metro. Two stops later and I was in the Marais – my new neighborhood for the next month.

The Rue Chapon, my street for the next month.

The property manager, Ruth, met me outside the apartment building. She walked me through the confusing set of keys and codes, explained the apartment to me, and then walked me around the neighborhood, showing me where everything is. She’s a young British woman and told me about the Fete de la Musique happening that night. It sounded like fun and I felt relieved that I had something to do on my first night other than wonder around aimlessly.

After doing some grocery shopping, I climbed the five flights of stairs back to my adorable apartment, took a shower, and emailed my friend Veronica, letting her know I’d arrived. We met  a few years back while on a photo shoot both our boys were doing for Lucas Films. She moved to Paris shortly after, but when I was here last time, we met up for lunch and, since we’re both writers, have kept up a friendly correspondence.

Veronica immediately called to invite to her home that night for champagne and after, the Fete de la Musique. Since I had a few hours, I decided to nap. Meanwhile, Veronica sent me metro directions to her home in Montmartre.

View from my window. It’s not gorgeous, but it feels very French to me.

As I left my apartment, I realized I never downloaded a map of Paris. I have a metro/transportation map on my phone, but had no idea how to get to the metro stops. So, I took my best guess where the Arts and Metiers metro station was and set off. Luckily, I was right.

One transfer and a short walk later, I was in the heart of Montmartre. Veronica welcomed me into her home and introduced me to her friends. We had some champagne and then set off for La Fete.

I’ve never seen anything like it. DJs and bands were set up all over the streets blasting music. Even some stores had “parties” in front of them.

Me and my new friends at our first stop at La Fete de la Musique.
There were vendors like this everywhere.

There were vendors cooking over open flames everywhere. Glitter and disco lights. It was as if the streets of Paris had turned into a giant rave. We spent time dancing at a few different sites, wandered among the crowd, sampled the food, convinced some guy to let Veronica model-pose on his motorcycle, and danced some more. Since I live in San Francisco, I’m used to walking hills and distance in high heels and platforms, but the cobblestones in Paris are a beast. My feet still ache.

I left the ladies a little after midnight – early by all standards- but jet lag caught up to me. Plus, I wanted to get home and check in on Bug and the boys. They had spent the day flying to Michigan and I wanted to make sure they arrived in one piece. After much debating, Veronica and Arnita decided on the best Metro route for me to take home – specifically something that wouldn’t take me out into the sketchy parts of the city, even though it was easiest.

Maybe I thought I was a pole dancer?

Their directions were great. However, the metro stop I got off on was new to me and I had no idea how to get home. Arnita said to walk straight away from the river, but I ended up in the 4th arr. and in the middest of what looked like a riot. Oh and my phone ran out of juice, so there I was in the middle of a Paris music riot, with no map or phone. I found a police officer, who didn’t speak English, and was able to get directions back to Rue St. Martin. From there, it was a quick walk to my apartment. I got in after one am – partly because I had to climb the five flights of stairs in the DARK – there’s no light from what I could tell. It took me forever. Then I couldn’t figure out the crazy set of keys or see the key hole. Once I did, I still couldn’t open the door to the outside platform because I kept pushing, but needed to pull. At one point, I thought I would just sleep in the hallway – lol.

But I did get in and after calling Bug, collapsed into bed for the night. To my surprise, I woke up at 7:30 – much like at home. So I’m hoping I’m not going to have my typical overwhelming three-day jet lag.

Today, my plan is to explore my neighborhood and maybe head over to the Opera for some book research.

Here’s video of what the music was like. I especially liked this place because of the violin player who was rocking out with the dance music.