I have traveled to Paris several times, but get me down along the Seine, crossing as I did this evening from Chatelet to the Isle de la Cité and from there to the rive gauche, and I become a crazy, photo-snapping fool!
|Palais de Justice avec Ste Chappelle|
They are the same pics I always take in that area: the Palais de Justice with the spire of Ste Chappelle included (oh, so artsy, dottore Gianni!), Notre Dame inside and out, the exterior from several angles,
|Notre dame outside...|
a boat laden with tourists cruising down the Seine, a charming little street on the left bank – nothing brilliant, hell, nothing even new, but it’s automatic, de rigueur even. So, while today at least it never drizzled or even sizzled, I suppose I have to say that I love Paris!
|tour boat down the Seine|
It was not always so. My first trip to Paris was so filled with expectation that it was doomed to be less than a success, though I’d never have believed anyone who might have tried to warn me. I visited Paris as part of a semester-long sabbatical spent traipsing through important theatre centers throughout Europe. The trip was meant in part to build the theatre history slide collection, and in this sense it succeeded, nearly doubling it. At any rate, I saved Paris until April. Why? Obviously because “I never knew the charm of spring, never met it face to face. I never knew my heart could sing, never missed a warm embrace” till…
April in Paris.
Mais non, mes amis. Paris, at least in the spring of 1999, was pretty rotten in April. Deep down in what passes for my memory I know it must have stopped raining occasionally while I was there, I even have photos that prove it, but my primary memory is rain, rain, rain, not heavy, just constant cold drizzle (drizzle! I should have loved that, right? Mais non encore), Dottore Gianni trudging along the Seine in a double breasted beige trenchcoat, belted, feeling very depressed. My hotel was awful, even though situated in the charming Rue Cler, not far from the Ecole Militaire. I could only afford a room with the facilities down the hall, except that I discovered that only SOME of the facilities were down the hall. Sink and toilet, yes, but in order to take a shower I had to climb two flights of stairs, a climb that on occasion proved fruitless, as someone would have got to the shower just before I did. Waiters treated me like a fool, perhaps because I foolishly decided to grace them with my few French phrases, torturing the pronunciation in a stammering, halting style, and getting mixed up, throwing German and Italian words into an otherwise poorly stated French phrase. Still, they were very mean to me, in fact after a while I was afraid to enter a restaurant, though of course I had to eat. And I caught a bad case of the flu the first full day I was there which did not go away until I left Paris. And then it disappeared immediately.
|Dottore Gianni ponders his first trip to Paris|
Thank the gods I returned! And thank the same gods that by the time I returned I had learned to not expect too much, to not make myself miserable, to not try out my fractured French, except in brief greetings and thank-yous. I’m fairly certain the weather was better than on the first trip – it could hardly have been worse – but I also learned to take Paris and Parisians much as I take (or leave) New York and New Yorkers. What a relief! And, as I noted at the top of the post, I have been back several times since and grow more enamored of it each time I return.
I had planned in this post to give you just the facts – the Eurostar journey, the easy discovery of my hotel, the hunt for the right café, the return to the area of my hotel for dinner…
instead you got the sad story of Dottore Gianni’s first and so far only April in Paris, and the valuable lessons he learned from it. That’s day one. Who knows what days two, three and four will bring? But I hope you’ll stay tuned.