Monday, June 24, 2013

Always looking up!

I think I ended last time complaining about the washing machine situation, so naturally, right after I wrote it, I read this in my May/June issue of "Poets & Writers" magazine: "For the households without washing machines, the place to do the laundry by hand in Zacapu, Michoacan, was at La Zarcita, the lake on the other side of town." - from Autobiography of My Hungers by Rigoberto Gonzales

Staring out the window seeking inspiration

Then there was this by novelist Benjamin Percy: "You will regret inviting me on vacation. I am that person, the one everyone hates, the one who carves out every minute of every day. We will rise at dawn to mainline espresso and bike a five-mile canyon so that by ten we can race through the museum and then get lunch at that taco stand on the other side of town before pounding out an ocean-side hike before touring the haunted lighthouse before diving a shipwreck before snarfing dinner at the sushi place before the bluegrass concert before the whiskey bar before the amazing sex we will enjoy at the stroke of midnight."

Horse and lion door handle

Definitely not my vacation! I tend to start the day with one place to go and let everything fall into place around that. For instance, today I'm going to a poetry reading. I'll actually do more than that, but it will be whatever it is.

Underemployed in the rain

But Percy's comments do make me pause and wonder if I should be more disciplined - accomplish something more than writing "Getting Centered" for the Peace Press. I've got a bunch of scribbles in a notebook - they could turn into something, I hope.

Grillwork on a door -
eyeing each other across the gap!

Yes, I have photographs - zillions of them! But this belief that I'm supposed "to accomplish something" puts a little damper on each day - that and having to face the stupid shower! Bitch, bitch, bitch. So I keep assuring myself that everything is just fine and something besides a temporarily relaxed me will come out of this. Something that makes it more than just a vacation. Something that makes this feel less self-indulgent. 

Elderly couple on a cemetery stroll -
hers is one of the few berets I've seen

And I just want to tip my hat (actually I don't have one, nor do I have a beret) to Edward Snowden - joining Assange, Manning, and Ellsberg. There seems to be some question in some of the "progressive" community about supporting him - apparently the world is more "complicated" and more "dangerous" and "he broke the law" and...... I've been reading about it on Facebook. One reason I belong to the Peace & Justice Center is to protest and educate around issues that may be "legal," but which receive their legality from the rulings of the rulers.

Aviator who "died for his country" in 1915

The Center's "idealistic" anti-war/anti-powerful stance is not a reflection of a belief that these issues aren't complicated or that we expect to see violence disappear from the face of the earth, but a belief that we can make a difference, even if slight, a belief that the powerful should not ride roughshod over us, even if they can. The end result of viewing these issues in a "practical" manner has been the further eroding of the human condition.

Graffiti from the prison at Chateau Vincennes outside Paris

Legality is as fluid as the needs of the powerful. Morality is something different - and, yes, I know that morality is not something fixed across cultures and people. But the current "complexity" is a false complexity, created to serve the 1%, to shut us up. And it's working on many.

"Save Our Livestock"

And that leads to the big protest outside my window yesterday (Sunday). A huge section of Blvd. Montparnasse (a major thoroughfare) was blocked off for the rally and I think they eventually marched to the Invalides (near the Seine).

some of the livestock

If my French is good enough, I think this was about protesting US/Obama's G8 pressures on France/EU to relax their import rules regarding US Big Ag's meat and dairy products. There were signs against Hollande for going back on promises he'd made to the voters.

Big Ag doesn't care!

The main issues seemed to be that prices for their products would go down and they wouldn't be able to support themselves, that their regional diversity would be destroyed (farmers were there en masse from every region of France), and that Big Ag's methods - hormones, etc. - were not wanted in France.

Dairy cow right outside my window - poor thing

I wish all these people had shown up at the anti-GMO protest last month!

Anti-same sex marriage flags

The other main protest I see here is the one against the new same-sex marriage law. Obviously an example of morality not being the same across cultures and people.

Yesterday I had hoped to get some photos of the super full moon, but it was not to be. The day started out dreary and after the protest moved on, I went to the organic farmers' market to stock up - chicken, asparagus, figs, lettuce, latkes, bread, avocado, melon. The made-to-order latkes were not as good as the ones we've had the Women's Dinner, but then I didn't have sour cream or applesauce. Dinner was delicious. And the melons I've gotten here have been wonderful.

Destroying a beautiful old building

I took a different street from my "usual" and passed this old building, which was being destroyed/renovated in true French style to be something worthy of the 1950s.

The sun broke out mid-afternoon and I went off to explore a neighborhood just off the Champs-Elysees - unfortunately I had to be on that horrendous street when coming off the Metro. But suddenly it turned black and stormy and I had to duck into a brasserie for a glass of wine and to read.

Brasserie in the pouring rain

When the rain stopped I continued my stroll and passed a wonderful bookstore with this stern looking cat patrolling the entrance.

Scaring the customers away?

I made my way back to the Champs-Elysees where the stores give way to a park, which seems to have the name Allee Marcel Proust.

Allee Marcel Proust

It's amazing how uncrowded this area was after the madhouse of tourists strolling past chain stores further up the street. People actually travel for that? "Hey, let's go to Starbuck's and then see if H&M has something different from what we can get at home!" The Champs Elysees is where I've seen the most Muslim families strolling. I don't have an explanation for that.

"The Muse" by Alexandre Bourganov

And I've been looking for that elusive muse and discovered that they have been hiding her. In case you're searching, too, she's in the Espace Pierre Cardin off the Allee Marcel Proust.

Julia as Julie Andrews

The only photograph I've gotten from my kids since they left for Switzerland. Julia love The Sound of Music. Apparently, the hills are alive!

Now, going back in time to catch up (this is getting loooong).

Andrew and Daddy at the "chopping off heads place"
- one more off the checklist 

Bennett arrived and Andrew was in heaven! Of course, Bennett was tired so I planned a stroll through some areas we hadn't been to, that could be done in a short afternoon. What a fiasco! First we went to La Place de la Concorde - where the guillotine was set up during the revolution or, as Andrew calls it, the chopping off heads place. 

Julia at Maxim's

We checked out Maxim's on the Rue Royale because it's featured in one of the old movies Julia loves. We looked at the menu - a first course soup costs $37 - no thanks! We walked up to the Opera House to go inside, but the main hall was closed for a rehearsal, so we had to abandon that plan. We were near the department store with the beautiful stained glass ceiling. We had to flee that because they were blasting a big screen cosmetics lesson under it and the place was wall-to-wall people. We pushed through the crowds to the Place Vendome - which was almost completely under construction. I did not choose well that day!

Andrew and eclair

We retreated into a patisserie for something sweet - of course! After eating the top off his eclair, Andrew polished off my raspberry clafouti. Then we walked down to the Palais Royal because I wanted to show Julia where Colette had lived in Paris. This was more successful and less crowded. 

So happy to be with Daddy

Down at the government building end of the garden there is a courtyard filled with striped pillars of different heights. Kids and adults love to play on them and lots of wedding couples like to pose on them.

Palais Royal courtyard

We were really wearing Bennett out by this point and we probably should have just gotten on the Metro at the Palais Royal, but we'd promised Andrew some runaround time, so we walked across the street, into the Louvre courtyard, and to the Tuilleries Gardens.

Boating in the Tuilleries

It was a Saturday, so the boats were out on the pond and Andrew got to be a French kid for twenty minutes (the rental period). He fit right in! Another thing on his checklist.

Andrew as French kid

Bennett spent most of this time dozing off in one of those many park chairs the French provide. We headed back to the apartment, thinking he'd go to bed, but he'd gotten a second wind. We wandered around the neighborhood looking for a place to eat - almost every place has the same menu I (not that there isn't a lot of repetition in the US, but these restaurants aren't chains). Julia had been intrigued by the Art Nouveau one down the street, so we tried it.

Enjoying the company, not the food

The restaurant was beautiful and the food was mediocre and expensive. And, as a service manager, Bennett was critiquing the service. Unfortunately, Ellen had already started to feel ill and, later that evening, Julia did too. We think it was food poisoning from the previous night's restaurant (they had the same thing). We went out sightseeing the next day, but it made being near a bathroom vital!

Art nouveau details

The next day we headed out of the city to the Bois de Vincennes (big park) and the Chateau de Vincennes (old castle). You have to pay to go into the park and they have an incredibly inefficient way of letting people in (as they say, there's the way to do something and then there's the French way to do something) and we were in a short line forever. We were ready for lunch, so we headed for the snack bar/restaurant where they were almost out of food. We got the last two sandwiches in the place.

Andrew climbing

The park has the biggest playground I could ever imagine. It's divided into so many sections with so much variety that it's really difficult to keep track of your kid. And if you have two kids of different ages who want to do different things, I can't imagine what you do except hope for the best! Andrew could have stayed here forever.

Chateau de Vincennes

But we had to drag him away to get to the castle before it closed. He enjoyed seeing the spouts for pouring boiling oil down on your enemies and the slots for shooting arrows and the dungeon.

Andrew in the Marquis de Sade's cell

And he got to climb turrets.

Up a long, winding flight of stone stairs with Aunt Julia

And then there's always the moat that was once filled with sewage!

Chateau de Vincennes moat

And, finally, some ice cream!

Always a hit!

I have to add that having Andrew here was a joy! He wasn't perfect, he sometimes got bored, but he was so enthusiastic most of the time and he already knew so much about Paris and what he wanted to see. Amazing four-year-old!

I was actually going to go on with what I ended up doing for my birthday - it was a fun evening, but this has gone on long enough, so it will have to wait for another time.

Rue de Rivoli rooftops at night

1 comment:

  1. Yes, I am following but it took MAC help to finally find an easy way to stay attached to the blog...and then of course I was out of internet at the top of a mountain in Oregon. When you write I feel like I am walking down those streets with you. Thank you