My sixth petit séjour in Paris was terrific in several respects, quite good overall, and disappointing in just a few ways.
My apartment was simply wonderful. It lived up to the site’s description with only a few tiny glitches, and in several respects was even a bit better than I expected. Ironically, its only real deficiency was the fact that it was so comfortable that I sometimes stayed home — reading, blogging or resting — instead of going out into the world! It was wonderfully quiet for sleeping, yet steps from all the animation and food of rue Montorgueil.
I had realized when I reserved the apartment that it was located on a street of fabric shops, but there was one odd detail I hadn’t fully anticipated: during the day several porters waited across the street, ready to transport bolts of fabric. They weren’t unpleasant or threatening, but I couldn’t help being aware that every daytime departure or arrival from my apartment was closely observed by guys with little to do but watch and gossip within the tight-knit fabric community (pun intended). I long ago gave up most ideas of privacy, but I couldn’t help noticing that this particular location so thoroughly lacked the anonymity that is a general feature of urban life.
I had a tiny anxiety that I would end up taking the elevator too much, since this was the first apartment I have rented that had one. But in fact I used it only to transport my big suitcase on arrival and departure, and a couple of times for big loads of groceries, etc. The rest of the time I scampered up and down the three flights of stairs as I have in prior years — with the exception of my first year when I found the five flights of stairs in both apartments psychologically distancing.
When I first arrived in Paris I didn’t feel as energized as in prior years. This was a principal subject of my post on May 28. I’ve had slow times for a day or two on all my visits, but never before when I first arrived. I’m not sure about the reason, but a few hypotheses seem plausible:
- This year I had just spent ten days as a vigorous tourist in Rome and Venice. By the time I got to Paris I was tired! It was lovely and relaxing to just spend time in my new home-away-from-home. I puttered around setting up housekeeping, but didn’t feel as motivated as in prior years to hit the Parisian pavement.
- In contrast to Rome and Venice — which were both new to me — Paris seemed awfully familiar at first. Paris was charming as ever, but it no longer seemed to offer the same thrill of discovery that I had experienced every day in Italy, and my first few years in Paris. When I thought of going somewhere I had usually already been there, and the idea of going again seemed uninspiring.
- Zhizhong and Elliot were great but Lisa and Alexis were away and my other Paris friends were pretty much no-shows in May. As in prior years I worked the social networks looking for new friends, but (in part perhaps because I had been spoiled by a happy experience in Boston this winter) the last two weeks in May I never found anyone quite interesting enough to meet.
Visitors helped me recover from my lethargic mood. Brian and Sheila and their friends were lively companions on two days, and when Chris and Matt arrived the first week of June I was back in business. From then on a stream of visitors — and a few new French friends — kept me almost continuously engaged. Showing friends around lets you see a city through fresh eyes, and regain some of the delight of discovery.
Several of my visitors were especially talented flâneurs: Yunpeng and Matt and Chris come first to mind, though Brian and Sheila and their friends were also keen explorers.
I had several wonderful meals. My favorite was Frenchie with Matt and Chris, followed closely by Hélène Darroze with Taka and Nick. Métropolitan with Gerry, Bofinger with Gordon and Musatafa and Tintilou with Elliot didn’t disappoint either. Mariage Frères was more of a mixed bag, though, because of the lamentable service.
I saw some excellent art, as usual mixed in with less inspiring stuff.
I went on several fine excursions outside Paris, with Zhizhong, Brian and Sheila, and Matt and Chris, as well as a visit to Senlis by myself.
Two street festivals were fabulous: La Fête de la Musique with Sawyer and Seth was absolutely wonderful, because of the opportunity to meet and hang out with them as well as the giddy atmosphere of music and celebration. Paris Pride with Zhizhong and Guillaume started slowly but ended up being quite festive and sociable.
The weather was ok in May, but on the chilly side. It was quite good in June. It never got really hot until the week after I left, when it hit 103 degrees at one point. The cross-ventilation in my apartment worked great, and was pleasant on several occasions. But it wasn’t really necessary this year during my stay.
Blogging was an important part of my experience, as in prior years. In the first few years I would blog in the evening after getting home, even if it meant staying up quite late. But this year I would more typically spend a morning organizing photos and writing several days’ posts. It felt as though this took more time away from exploration than in prior years. But I continue to enjoy the process, and the result. My life in Paris is examined far more intimately than my life in Boston.
Parisian friends have been a big part of prior trips. This year I enjoyed several memorable outings with Zhizhong, including a posh evening at the home of the American Ambassador followed by crashing an even posher private party. It was great to reconnect with Antoine this year, starting with a delightful dinner party catered by Matt and Chris. Others were away or elusive, however, and until the very end of the trip I didn’t meet anyone new. Fortunately, in the last week I caught up with Martin and met Guillaume, so I felt somewhat reconnected with the Paris social scene.
I walked a bit less than in prior years: an average of 6 miles a day instead of 7. That’s still twice what I do in Boston, but it’s odd. I swam just twice during the stay, and relied mostly on walking and stairs to keep fit. My weight stayed the same and I was at the same level on my elliptical trainer when I restarted regular workouts, so all seems good. I just flossed since I had abandoned my Paris Waterpik, and that seemed to work fine as well.
The dollar was so strong! This made euro prices much cheaper in dollar terms than in prior years. While on the one hand I had never let the cost cramp my style, on the other hand affordability warmed the cockles of my Yankee heart.
There was a lot to like in this year’s stay, but another year I may change the program a bit. I might pick another city instead of or in addition to Paris, such as Barcelona or a city elsewhere in France. I might finally rent a villa in the Italian or French countryside for a couple of weeks, or even do a bike trip or charter a canal boat! Stay tuned…