2019 was a great petit séjour in many respects, but on balance it was quite good but not quite great.
What Was Great
- The apartments and hosts were all excellent. I’m an experienced renter, so I know what I like, and I’m prepared to pay for it. But there’s always the possibility of a slip-up of one sort or another; this year there was none. There were various tiny glitches, of course, but all the owners were responsive and helpful. The locations were various, but all lived up to expectations; Les Gobelins was particularly charming. My first place had an elevator and the other two were on the French première étage (U.S. second floor) so stairs weren’t an issue this year.
- My cousins, with whom I lived for the first two weeks, were delightful, and overall in a much better mood than last year. It has been my pleasure these past two years to help facilitate our mini-reunions.
- My house guests were congenial, and inspired me to amounts of walking that I haven’t done in several years: I averaged 7 miles a day over the entire stay, due in significant part to insatiable walking by C.N., Sherard and Jared.
- It was great to spend time with Zhizhong, and to catch up more briefly with other old friends like Antoine, Elliot and Ali. I also made some new friends, particularly Eugène, who added a lot to the experience. I didn’t repeat the error of befriending anyone — like Theseus last year — who was primarily interested in money.
- The art was astounding, from the Belleville Open Studios to three visits to the Musée d’Orsay, and everything in between. Another year I might want to spend even more time browsing private galleries, and at least a day at the Louvre, but overall the trip couldn’t have been much better.
- Partially due to the tastes of my guests, but also on my own, I heard more music this visit than ever before, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I also saw two modest but inspiring theater pieces, though another year I will want to get to at least one opera at l’Opéra de Paris, and perhaps another type of performance, such as dance. I only went to one movie, but that’s because there were always better things to do!
- My health was generally good this year, apart from a cold that slowed me down the first week of June. No problems with my feet (as has happened in two prior years) despite all the walking! And, unlike last year, I lost a bit of weight despite all the terrific food. The one real deficiency was aerobic exercise: I got tons of exercise from walking but rarely pulled a sweat. Fortunately, I was able to pick up my elliptical trainer workouts without an issue so I don’t think my overall fitness declined too much.
What Wasn’t So Great
- The weather was pretty awful. Most of May was cold and rainy. So were the first two weeks of June, apart from the first couple of days. I wasn’t too surprised by early May; it’s often chilly in Paris, so another year I’ll resume my practice of going somewhere southerly at the start of my Europe trip. But late May and early June are usually lovely; just not this year. The last two weeks of June were sunny, and the first week really was lovely. But the last week turned into a heat wave (canicule) that was scary and enervating even though it wasn’t as bad as initially expected. Weather in Boston is highly variable as well. I guess I should move to southern California if I want predictable good weather!
- It’s getting harder to find the apartments I want, in the neighborhoods I prefer. I haven’t tried to do a direct comparison, since there are so many variables, but I also have the impression that furnished apartments are getting more expensive. We did well this year, but at a price.
- I track sleep with my fitbit, and, like most people, I have to stay in bed at least an hour more than I’m able to actually sleep. I started out strong, hitting my sleep target of 7 hours the first couple of weeks and only gradually slipping until the last week of May, when I slept just 5-1/2 hours. June was better, averaging over 6 hours. Sleep overall was pretty good, but I would hope another year to hit my 7 hour sleep target more consistently.
- The big events at the end of June that I missed last year were all ok, but not as fabulous as I had led myself to expect. The summer show of the Palais de Tokyo was just ok; the fête de la musique was nice but not the astounding experience of prior years; and Paris Pride felt rather flat, despite the sunny weather.
- I had no problem with sociability this year; the combination of housemates, unplanned visitors and new friends was just about perfect. But I had a two-bedroom apartment all to myself for two weeks in the 1ère arrondissement in mid-May and again in the 5ème in early June, despite my efforts to encourage Boston friends to join. While this wasn’t a disaster, it was somewhat disappointing.
- Getting pickpocketed was irritating, and has led me to be more guarded in crowded settings. Doing without a cell phone for three weeks was quite interesting, however, and my preparations for an event like this served me well. While this could certainly happen again it hasn’t significantly tarnished my affection for Paris.
- I may be coming to know Paris a bit too well. Having spent the better part of a (discontinuous) year exploring its monuments, parks and byways there isn’t much that surprises me. This makes it a comfortable place to spend time, but reduces the opportunities for surprise.
- The gilets jaunes weren’t a big problem but they did inconvenience me on a couple of occasions. The fact that they’re breaking shop windows isn’t really my issue, but I find it irritating that they cause the city to cancel bus routes and blockade streets.
- My flight home was on Norwegian Air Shuttle, because it was cheap, direct, and on the Dreamliner. My chief anxiety didn’t materialize: that Norwegian would go out of business before my flight left, leaving me stranded, like the customers of WOW a few months before. My secondary anxiety, however, did: that there would be “gotchas” that would end up costing me substantially more. I tried to anticipate the luggage issue by paying in advance for my checked bag, weighing it with a handheld scale and throwing out stuff to get it down to 50 lbs (22.7 kilos), the usual weight allowance. What I had overlooked, however, was Norwegian’s stringent policy on luggage weight. Payment for a checked bag only covers 20 kilos, and, worse, they weigh your carry-on items with an absolute limit of 10 kilos. I was over in both categories, which required me to move stuff from my carry-on items to my checked bag, which ended up five kilos overweight. Norwegian charges 12 euros per kilo, for an extra 60 euros. Otherwise the flight was nice but the weight issues caused both stress and expense.
This was on the whole a really good trip, despite falling a bit short of greatness. Tokyo and the rest of Japan are calling me back for another visit one of these days. I’m also curious about a month-long stay in Barcelona. But Paris still has the inside track.
Mot du jour: « wesh ». According to the Urban Dictionary, it’s street slang in Paris, and especially in its ethnic suburbs (les banlieues), usually meaning “hello,” “what’s up?” or “what’s new?”