Where to begin?
At the metro. We started the day heading for Notre Dame. Parisiennes are like gophers. They tunnel thru the underground on the their way to work and play on the very efficient Metro—layers of more and more trains that take you just blocks from anywhere in the city. It’s fairly clean, and even at midnight feels safe. Any time of day Parisiennes are rushing up the stairs or down the escalator to catch their next ride. It was quite impressive, and encouraging that cities can create mass transit that works.
Our first morning in Paris, we stopped at a spot called the Place de Vosges. A plaza filled with history and surrounded by what used to be a grand palace and now has been broken up into very exclusive apartments. Then a brisk (everyone walks quickly) walk to Notre Dame. We lingered outside for awhile in the garden – incredible, inspiring but the lines to go inside were so long that we decided to hop a bicycle taxi for a region called La Mufetarde and a good lunch. Winding streets near the Sorbonne filled with interesting shops and students eating fast food—crepes.
My salad, like the women of France, was perfectly dressed—light but not heavy on vinaigrette with lots of varieties of textures, pine nuts and a goat cheese that was fried maybe coated with something like Panko. Chicken and vegetable ragout like dish in a light blue cheese sauce was OK. I love how they eat—slowly, lingering chatting and enjoying. . And of course, Mr. david engaged two handsome older men with his map quest. They actually spent 20 minutes trying to help him find what he was looking for.
Another brisk walk (David was still walking briskly. I was beginning to drag) took us along busy thoroughfares in to Luxembourg Gardens—60 acres of terraced woods and broad avenues for strolling. sunny flower borders were filled with red ruby chard interspersed with red dahlias, light orange geraniums, burgundy basils, red and orange and yellow zinnias. Another mound of lavendar and purple petunias blended beautifully with peachy pink geraniums . All surrounded by fluorescent green grass which you DO NOT walk on. The broad boulevards leading to the Luxembourg Palace are lined with benches where people sit under the canopy of horse chestnut trees. What I especially liked was the statues — not military men or great politicians but artists, poets, and demigods that almost seem like guardian spirits.
It wasn’t the landscaping that was so delightful. IT WAS the people. relaxing in the ate afternoon warmth several pools with beautiful fountains are surrounded with hundreds of green metal chairs that people , sit or lounge or laugh together. More than many having a smoke!
This was people watching at its finest. Business men and taxi drivers come here to unknot their ties. Young fathers snap photos of their twirling toddlers while the bells of a nearby church toll. Properly starched matrons sit with a friend and puff elegantly on their cigarettes. Beaming young mothers stroll with their prams or strollers. And everywhere young people, in secluded spots, intimately entwined with each other.
French people enjoying the art of relaxation and connecting with each other—something I don’t experience much in our own culture. And their government spends money to maintain these lovely surroundings for people. Of course, sales tax everywhere is more than 10% but what a great investment .