sat 19 apr 2003 12:00:00 osdorp / de aker
trip to paris
in an email to my brother:
>>have you ever had weird stuff happen that makes you wonder if you're nuts? my little semi-trist with pani has had its surreal moments.
the day after pani arrived in amsterdam last month, i had a dream that she was a mossad agent luring me to a "honey trap" (like the way the israelis used a young woman as bait to kidnap mordecai vanunu in rome, after he had exposed details of their nuclear weapons program to the world press).
in my dream, i asked her about it, and she admitted yes, the authorities were coming to get me -- but in the dream she had some remorse and helped me escape. anyway that afternoon after the dream, pani told me she *was* a mossad agent. she was just kidding, but i was thinking wow that's weird. like, why mossad? she's a polish catholic! there were a couple other times when she said something indicating that she knew thing x or y about me which i had never told her, but i didn't think much of it. then the other day she and i were walking down the street by the pompidou center, and we were approached by this indian guy, one of the freelance portrait artists you see around parisian tourist-spots. this guy nodded to pani and said "dzen dobre" to her -- then turned to me and started talking to me in english. now i'm not surprised that i can be easily pegged as an english-speaking tourist. but i was really confused as to how this guy knew that pani was polish. fortunately i haven't got to the point of actually being paranoid that i'm being tracked by secret agents. but stuff like this makes me go "hmm", mostly cuz if i remmeber properly i'm right around the age when our grandma started to go schizo. <<
pani and i went to paris.
went there last monday afternoon 14 april. i returned yesterday 18. pani is staying there at least through easter, possibly returning to amsterdam sometime next week.
we stayed in a town called sceaux, with the family r, auntie malgorzata (from sanok) and her husband christophe who is french, and their son and three daughters. paulina is almost 16 and wears a lot of makeup. franosz (francois) is like 14 and into science. mathilda (matoh?) is older like 11 but small so she looks 8. emma is like maybe 6, 7. the two younger girls hang on pani, they adore having her in the house.
the house is big. seems even bigger because the garden in back rolls down a hill. counting the attic and basement it's five levels i guess. the property was divided just as they bought it, and a guy is building a new house next door, cinderblock rising unpleasantly in view. they want a tromp l'oeille or something to hide it.
i consult the map and my notebook to try and reconstruct details of that trip now.
we were in car 15 of the 1256u thalys train from amsterdam to brussells & paris nord.
a musical three-note sound preceded train-manager announcements. at first the announcements were in dutch, french, and english. below brussels they were in french, dutch and english, then finally just french and maybe english.
got to paris nord just after 6 i think. it was late. you can walk right out to the street from where the train platforms are. to get to the metro you have to go down the rolltrap into this incredible labyrynth. we were looking for RER B,
first RER train was crowded, smelled like people & sweat, had mustard-colored walls. it was rush hour. the ride took almost 30 minutes? maybe less. stations: paris nord, chatelet / les halles, st michel / notre dame, luxembourg, port royal, denfert rochereau (above ground then), cité universitaire, gentilly, la place, arcuell-cachan, bagneux, bourg-la-reine, sceaux. somewhere along the way you pass an aqueduct big on arches stretching across the sky, just like the old roman ones, only it doesn't look so old.
when the doors of the metro / RER trains are about to close, a dual-toned claxon sounds, kinda like a car horn, for several seconds before the doors snap shut.
sceaux is where marie curie lived. it's a kinda upscale fashionable town on a hill, with lots of big nice old houses and some new architecture too here and there. it has a marketplace up the hill in the town center, fresh everything being hawked. very colorful place. the meat and fish market is inside an enclosure.
christophe's family has a castle-like house on an estate somewhere in southern france. it was bought by "kzish's" great great great grandfather in 1819, that was general tarayre of napoleon's army. the local wine is called marcillac. malgorzata loves this red wine the best. i think the place itself is called marcillac-vallon. they make roquefort sheep-cheese there, maybe other stuff too ... and have trouble exporting it to the states because of import duties imposed in a little trade war between usa and france.
one night i got to see christophe giving emma a piano lesson. caring loving guy. loving family. one night it was a full moon, he was being driven crazy by these whooping and screaming laughing hollering girls -- including his wife and pani by the way. seemed like everybody in the house was drunk. then the kids came downstairs again and started eating marshmallows. i'm thinking great, that's really gonna help.
so pani and i went walking around paris on tuesday, wednesday and thursday. i took photos on tuesday and thursday, but left my camera at home on wednesday afternoon.
on tuesday 15 april, we took the RER-B and got off at luxembourg station. 6e arrt. big white word LUXEMBOURG on dark blue. went upstairs to boulevard saint michel, thru the gate and walked around in the jardin du luxembourg. it has rows of giant hedge-like trees trimmed into cubic objects. is that called pleaching? very springtimy. i remembered the term "paris in the spring" and "paris in the the spring." there's a pond in the center facing a palace, palais du luxembourg, in the park there were lots of free-standing gray metal chairs that people sat on eating lunch in the sun or the shade.
from there we went across and up the rue soufflot, passing pani's favorite beer joint (because it has the polish beer and many others) and stopping to buy ten postcards for eur 1.50 in one of the ubiquitous souvenir shops. from the whole length of the street you can see the pantheon a big domed building looming ahead. which has big words saying it's in honor of the great men of the revival of patriotism. this is in the 5e arrt.
walked bore to the right of that and zigzagged down hill on some little side streets. stopped at a little lebanese snack bar to get wraps of falafel "deux falafelllll!" with hummus and something else, she said it was different from turkish style, and the man was nice enough to give us free glasses of tea.
from there we went down and turned right onto rue moufftard. a long sloping street, just slightly bendy enough to not make it look quite so long. rue moufftard starts out with a variety of kinda cool shops (jewelry, scarves, lots of shoes) and little restaurants and cafes. then further down it turns into a produce market with stalls of fruits veg & flowers. a bakery on one corner had big loaves of olive bread all chewy and stretchy when we pulled off bites of it.
at the bottom of that street we were at a big square square st medard with the st medard church on our left.. we looked at maps, then went left past the green, turned left back uphill on rue monge. at some point turned onto something like rue des ecoles. a bit of windowshopping. stopped and bought some cheap 2nd hand cds at a place with listening stations in the window which had easter eggs mounted on the headphones. later we stopped at another spot and bought some cheap books, notably a couple showing scriptural illuminations from medieval europe. we ended up near a big building of sorbonne university.
crossing back and going up the hill on a little narrow street, we stopped at a bar across from a cinema, restaurant "le reflet" it was called. we stopped there because pani said she liked the music coming out the door -- a female vocalist i can't identify, kinda soft and jazzy almost. so we went in and had a couple beers "deux pressions" ? and pani looked at her books and perused the classified ads in the english-language expat magazine called "fusac". i perused the scarlet vynil-covered book she had borrowed -- titled "plan de paris per arrondissement" in fancy "parisian" font reminiscent of art nouveau or something. i remember thinking that parisian typefaces in general seem kinda jubilant and fun-loving for some 100-year-old reason. in the bar i heard that song again, "i want a girl with a short skirt and a long jacket." something in our conversation prompted me to write in my notebook: "live now! die later!"
i noted a man sitting at the bar in a green gray suit, pink shirt, with his tie thrown over his left shoulder, reading a newspaper-on-a-stick (from the bar) having just re-lit his pipe with a match. the tables were black. the floor dark gray. lots of faux theater lighting in a grid overhead. gray light outside. in paris some of the streets are pretty narrow so they're shady all the time.
back down the hill and rue des ecoles leads back to blvd st michel.
saw old ruin of something. followed that to place st michel with a fountain which she says people use as a meeting point. there's a metro station there. she says there was a fire in the station last year and it's been closed for awhile, but i think it's open again or opening soon.
walked down a narrow street rue st andre des arts. i guess that's back in the 6th. the setting sun cast long shadows right in line with the street at that moment, peds silhouetted coming toward us. couldn't find whatever she was looking for, so we turned back through the place st michel and crossed a big street quai st michel, we saw the cathedral of notre dame way off to our right. continued across the bridge onto blvd du palais. walked by a big huge dark spiky old building -- palais de justice -- including something called the conciergerie. a few minutes, then we crossed the river again and this time it was wider. i hadn't realized we were on an island.
now we were on the right bank of the river i guess. blvd du palais becomes bd de sebastopol. crossed the rue de rivoli. we somehow got down a cool street with lots of food stands including many crepe stands, and guys vocally trying to persuade people to buy from them. she said we were near "les halles" which sounds like le alle. this is in the 1e (first) arrt.
but then we turned and went to the centre pompidou, which is in the fourth. where an ind guy persuaded me to let him draw a stupid caricature of me. originally i said i'd give him 15 euros to let me draw HIS picture, but he wouldn't take money unless he drew me, so we were running late by the time we went home for dinner. the spooky thing about that was that intiially the guy instantly addressed pani "jen dobre" as if he knew she was polish, and then started talking to me in english. like as if he knew who we were.
we walked back to les halles, which has a building complex called "forum des halles" and there was an RER station there from which we could get back to sceaux. and that was it for tuesday.
on afternoon of wednesday 16 april 03 (after visiting the produce market in sceaux) ... i made a choice NOT to bring my camera. we got off at ?? maybe the RER station st michel/notre dame, and walked up the right bank to notre dame cathedral itself, and pani took shots of people crowding around it. people waiting in line to go up and visit the gallery overlooking the city from kinda high up. sunny, tourist stands and snack vendor carts. then walked across a different bridge, to pont d'arcole, to the big hotel de ville, which isn't a hotel, it's the town hall.
then we kept going futher and further until we found this european house of photography --the maison europëene de la photographie, ville de paris ... where there was a four-stories exhibit of this guy françois-marie banier. ? who had writing all over his photographs. my favorite shot was "woman with pipe" taken in rio.
i noted that several times that day i'd been seeing people walking with a baguette under their arm. even in the museum there was one such.
then from there i feel like we got lost, walked through a sorta jewish and gay section with lots of dark little twisty streets and some fashionable apparrel shops mostly men's (she called it "sweet boy" fashion cuz it seemed kinda gay). then we turned east and walked for quite a while, along something i think was rue des francs bourgeois, and ended up in this surrounded park, place des vosges, pointy buildings on all sides. then we exited through a tunnel on the south side of that, walked down a quiet street rue de birage, turned left onto a bigger noisy street rue saint antoine, which leads to place bastille -- with a big monument spike and a new opera in the background, and stubby pleachy trees overhead on the corner. and took a sleek futuristic metro line 1 from bastille back to chatelet, reprocess your ticket, down to RER station chatelet / les halles and then home.
some of the metro trains are quite new, some are more medium-new like the RER trains i experienced. the metros generally have more poles to hold onto than in amsterdam. and they have extra foldup seats right by the sliding doors. my favorite metro was not too old, not too new, but had the windows open so we were flying into a breeze. different trains seem to have different color interiors though. i dunno if it has to do with what line it is or not. pani also says line 14 is new and fully automated, no driver. kinda spooky. it goes to a big library.
early afternoon on thursday 17 april 03, we took the RER-B from sceaux to gare du nord, then switched to metro line 4 direction clignancourt, just one stop i guess, i think we got off at barbès rochechouart ... at the foot of montmarte ... whatever, this was the area full of fabric stores (tissus) ... we hoofed it up some steps to a level where there was a cafe, had one beer and left cuz pani was pissed off at the menu choices. hoofed some more, up a windy garden path, to the foot of sacre coeurs, then up more steps to the church and around to the top of montemarte ... we walked around. stopped in a cafe on a corner, it was called let petit creux i think. stayed there for a couple hours at least. had beers, lunch (i had hotdogs weirdly gratineed on part of a baguette, she had salade niçoise) ... then coffee (she complained to me that her supposed cappucino was really a "viennoise" because of the whipped cream, whereas my café au lait "encore un café au lait!" seemed more like a trad cap) ... and then a chocolate crepe. the fellas were making crepes on a big hot black thing, stacking them and slathering them to order. i think the choc ones were just slathered with plain old nutella. montmarte felt like some kinda island resort to me, separate from paris.
then a bit more walking around, to a place downhill at the corner of rue azais and rue st eleuthere, where there's a view of rooftops and tour eiffel in the distance, then back up the hill to the square and left to the other adjacent square "place du tertres"? where all these artists are selling their paintings. we walked into a very old church smaller than sacre coeur and kinda next to it. that's called st pierre de montmarte. the stained glass light smears on the browned stone column inside. candles to buy and light up under your favorite saint statue on the wall. pani enters, dips her hand in the water, crosses herself at the foot of the aisle, then kneels for a few seconds bowing her head and man she really means it.
she decided instead of trying to find the polish church elsewhere in town, to go to mass right there at 730 pm. a man there when she asked had told her "we'll be waiting for you."
i walked around shooting more fotos. again i noticed the lively exuberant lettering on a lot of signs. "les coulisses" scrambling up a wall over blue awnings. "espace montmarte - salvador dali" ... i guess dali was here at some point. i went down one flight of stairs on the north side, past where some filmmakers were wrapping a scene and taking some last minute sound of a woman screaming, PA at the bottom of the stairs asking folks to be quiet when they went up cuz they were recording sound. around and up the hill back to the front of the big church. i got some photos of sacre coeur domed pink sunsetty and flanked by two green equestrian dudes, both looking kinda triumphant, one was pointing his sword up, the other pointing it down. everybody trying to stay out of each other's snapshots. back up to the square at st pierre .... then i turned left down a little narrow rue cortot, passed a building calling itself musee de montmarte, but it looked like it must have been closed years ago. maybe not. parisians seem to cherish their distressed plaster and ancient paint jobs, that's one of my favorite things about the joint. this street led downhill to a place with a pink building, i think it said maison rose or something. with a view downhill into the more north city. then i turned left and went back uphill and turned left again onto a narrow alley called rue st rustique, which led me back behind some nightclubs with pianos playing, and on up to the square.in front of st pierre.
american and british and italian tourists, who else i dunno, lots of high school kids, maybe catholic school kids on a trip? their tour guide explained to them what would be on the dinner menu when they came gathering outside st pierre where i was waiting for pani. then i was looking over at a house a couple blocks away, with a roof deck. a view of this square, whole montmarte and i guess all of paris. can i move in? hmm.
pani emerged close to 9 pm, she said the mass there was beautiful, the music and the whole procedure was great, the priests were going around washing people's feet in honor of the last supper.
then we went down a really long staircase alongside the funiculaire. and came out on a bd de rochechouart, that leads to pigalle, but i had no interest in going to pigalle (where the moulin rouge is) so we went on and found a tourist shop that had the map i needed.
then we went to the metro station anvers, took line M2 (interior light gray with ultrabrite fluorescents, passing stations with white tiles, barrel-vaulted tunnels) to charles de gaulle étoile ... came upstairs and we're right by the arc d'triomphe. never did figure out how you cross the street by that big arch, but it must be possible cuz there were people standing there under it.
i made notes, quoting pani as saying (wrt baby-naming rules in poland) "no, you cannot name your child 'laundry detergent.'" ... and noted that :the street's not there any more, she remembers it from a different paris." did a lot of thinking about universe jumping and alternate reality.
took some more snaps while walking east again along the avenue des champs elysees. a huge full moon was rising right at the end of it near the big spike at place de concorde. but we didn't want to walk all the way there, so we turned back and got on a metro (maybe it was clemenceau station) back to saint michel area, now i'm lost, can't remember what street, walked up to a sushi restaurant on a street called rue monsieur-le-prince with lots of japanese restaurants on it. we stopped at a place called, get this, japorama, and had some makis.
then somehow we walked to blvd st michel and got back on that same street that leads uphill to the pantheon, had a beer at that place, i tried the polish beer "zywiec." she had a hoegaarden fruity beer or some kind of lambic maybe. she was prattling about how she was "absolutely fascinated by this monastic reality which is always moving and touching." who knows what she was on about. anyway it was getting to be midnight and she wanted to fast during good friday (rather than be drinking), so we made it a quick one, then got to luxembourg station and hightailed it back to sceaux.
good friday morning she accompanied me to gare du nord again, i got a bad capuccino, she had bad herbal tea, then we had hugs and i got on the train back to amsterdam. after the first three hours my right knee started hurting, by the time we finally got to CS i was in knee agony. as soon as i got off my knee was fine again, the pain didn't linger. first thing off the train i went to burger king without even leaving the station and ordered a BK big double something.