Saturday, March 26, 2016

We get there and get out and about.

We left Chicago about 20 minutes late. Some problem with the plane being delivered late and the crew not wanting to get on board until the cleaning crew was done. Heaven forbid they should parallel process, but at least they didn’t abandon the plane like a crew once did to my delayed flight in Shanghai.
It was completely dark as we banked up and over the Lake Michigan shoreline, Chicago lying far off to our right. From that point until we crossed the French shore just west of Dunkerque, it was either pitch black or cloudy. No ice bergs for me.
The plane was a newly built (or perhaps refurbished) 767, and the Business Class pods were not like any I’d see before. First, there is no longer anywhere to stow your shoulder bag, a point I discovered when the flight attendant told me to put my messenger bag overhead for take-off and landing. Secondly, the back-of-seat entertainment screen is just far enough away that I couldn’t see it with with my computer range glasses or via bare eyes. It seemed I needed something like my driving glasses which of course I never bring along when I have no intention of driving. Lastly, the design engineer saw fit to carry forward the curved edge to the well where you put your feet, which means if you have more than a 19-inch inseam, you can’t sleep with your legs out in front of you even with the bed in lie-flat mode. Ah well, at least the legroom was better than Economy, and the tickets were free, and I even managed a few hours of sleep which for me is highly unusual.
Rather than be ripped off by a gypsy cab again, I’d booked a driver to meet us at the exit from baggage claim. Naturally, Mr. Habib was not there when we walked out so I was forced to do the Foreign Phonecall Dialing Drill for the nth time. Dial it straight as given – no. Dial it straight as given but with a “+” in front of it – no. Dial it with the country code for France – no. Dial it with the correct country code for France – yes. I reached him, told him we were at door 32 and was instructed to go outside. We did that, and he didn’t show up so we went back inside and called again and right in the middle of trying to work through our terrible connection, I turned around and he was standing right behind me. Turns out that “outside” means outside on level 1, not level 2.
There was a lot of traffic coming into Paris, due as it turns out to this being a 3-day weekend for Easter. We made it to the apartment in about 45 minutes and were met by Elka, our rental agent. She did a great job taking us through the details of all the appliances, phones, and TVs, even finding a minute to talk with us about Trump, and the terrorism mess in Belgium. She told me that she is seeing a lot of cancellations.
With every multi-time zone trip there comes a moment when you really want to go to sleep but know you should tough it out and stay up. Our solution – go shopping. We headed down to our favorite Carrefour from our last trip and stocked up on cheese, yogurt, fruit, and baguette. After a short snack we decided to go hunting for Churros, because what says “Paris” like a hot cardboard cone full of fried dough and Nutella?
The weather was being a bit weird - the sun had been out during our walk home from the grocery store but now it was colder and much windier. We took off down Rue Varrenne and after a couple of blocks found ourselves in front of the Rodin Museum. The entrance was empty so we decided to seize the moment and check this box. We went in, bought tickets and after a small imbroglio about audio guides (I was charged for them but didn’t want them) we went inside and wandered about.
The museum has two chief displays- one a massive classical French garden with tree lined paths, ponds, a fountain and lots of lawns. The outside section is used to display massive bronzes, including The Thinker, in a space where they can be appreciated. The second part of the facility is a two story indoor museum, primarily used for smaller bronzes, a few paintings, and lots of pre-sculpture models. Rodin’s work is pretty interesting, and for some reason he has a consistent problem with proportion. Legs tend to be too short and hands much too large, often bigger than the same subject’s feet. I was surprised, but I probably the last 100 years of art critics know what they’re talking about.
From there we headed west, up past Invalides to the Seine and then along the quais to the west side of the Eiffel. I was trying to remember exactly where the Churrerria was, and wasn’t sure which side of the river I’d been on last time I had them here. There was a small outdoor fair going on, set up in white tents offering food and curios, even one place with false churros, pre-made and being sold out of an old pickle jar. We persevered though and found the right place and were rewarded for our dedication with a piping hot, too hot to eat batch. We nursed them under the tower, stopping to question the sanity of the thousands of people on line waiting to ride the elevator to the top. From there we headed back through the neighborhoods to our place for a rest and some planning.
As it was too early, we now faced the second crisis of the day. Eat snacks and fall asleep, or go out to a restaurant too early for the dining hour. After much deliberation, the decision was “neither”, choosing instead to head to the best supermarket in the world, La Grande Epicerie, where we gathered up some chicken, spinach and beef empanadas, lasagna Bolognese, a couple bottles of wine, and another baguette. One gourmet take-out dinner to start our trip in style.

After which we once again faced the “is it time to go to sleep?” crisis, this time deciding to go out, get some air and walk back to the Eiffel Tower to see it lit in Belgium’s national colors. It was a mild night, a medium walk and the reward made it totally worth the time spent. Dozens of people just standing on the esplanade staring. Incredibly moving. 










No comments: