Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sunny Morning Thoughts

We're taking a break from Paris for the rest of the winter.  Berkeley has welcomed us with open arms and an incredible spring-like burst of sun and warm weather which I hope never ends.  We missed the severe storms here at the end of 2010 and have been absolutely stunned to be walking around in shirtsleeves and sandals.  Woo-hoo!!

I love the first days of jet lag when we come back here; waking up at 4:30 A.M. full of vigor and the desire to unpack, rearrange, do the laundry.  By 8:00 we're ready to hit the market and take a walk before breakfast.  This is not my usual pattern, people.  In Paris we rarely see the sun partly because when it is around it's in the mornings, and we're not.  I suppose there's something to be said for alarm clocks, but I had enough of them in my working years.  Now I just go with the flow.

Jet lag is over now, but I'm still waking earlier than usual and feeling good.  However our 20 year old car is not feeling so great, and we're going to have to replace it, one of my least favorite things.  The reason we even have a 20 year old car is because I hate, hate, hate, car dealers and negotiating.  I bought this last one over the phone, calling every dealer in the area until one would give me a price without my having to come in and haggle in person. 

It's lucky I'm feeling so sunny now, it helps in girding up for the search.  We're gone at least half the year, so having a nice car isn't as important as it would be if I were in it every day, but finding something decent at a low cost will be a challenge.  I'm off to look at one this morning.  Wish me luck!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sayonara for Now

We went to the movies at this Japanese temple a couple of weeks ago.  Yes, it really is a movie theater, and I'd been meaning to go for years and never gotten around to it, but when the new Sophia Coppola film was showing at La Pagode, we decided to see it here rather than at one of the multiplexes at Odéon, where we usually go.

Supposedly built by an executive of le Bon Marché for his wife as a ballroom adjacent to their house, this building became a movie theater in the 1930s.  The main screening room has walls covered with lovely carvings and in good weather there is tea served in the garden.  It's unfortunate that the roof needs to be covered by a tarp in the winter, but it's an exquisite building and I believe has landmark status so isn't likely to be torn down and replaced by one of the god-awful modern buildings that sometimes appear in the 7th arrondissement.

The movie wasn't as good as the theater, but in retrospect worth seeing; one of those you think you don't like but spend an hour analyzing afterwards.  Lost in Translation would have been more appropriate for that theater, though.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


This is what's going on in Paris at the moment, the fall session of the twice yearly official sale period.  Yes, for those of you who have lived in the free-for-all American consumer economy, where the merchant gets to decide whether and when to have a sale, it's different in France.  Here the government decides, and woe betide any merchant who doesn't go along.  At least, until recently.

Twice a year, in January and in June, all of France goes on sale.  This is known as "les soldes" and traditionally everyone goes rushing out to the stores to take advantage of the 30%-70% discounts on last season's merchandise.  In past years it was possible to have "promotions" or sales in advance of remodeling, or various other workarounds, but those were relatively few.  Since the economic downturn the government appears, to me, to have turned a relatively blind eye to the discounts being offered during the year, outside of the official soldes periods.

In any case, windows in even the toniest stores have signs indicating that inside one will find that pricey sweater, flat-screen TV or shiny pair of boots at a price you're willing to pay, and that if you have the sharp elbows and good nose for a bargain necessary to fight the crowds, you too can score.  And if you have a gambler's instincts, waiting a while will get you an even lower price, since the discounts get deeper as the soldes get shorter.

As for us, we're packed and ready to leave and have no more room for even the best bargain...well...if it's really good maybe we can wear it on the plane.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Winter Winding Down

I walked out of the house the other day grinning like a madwoman because this is what I saw: sun, sun, sun!  I wasn't the only happy camper on the street either.   People seemed pretty perky, for Parisians.

Among the things you miss in sunless climes are shadows.  It's nice to see them falling on the buildings and on the sidewalks when the sun's shining.  Sitting on a café terrasse still requires a coat and a space heater, but the feel of the rays on your face is wonderful. 

Of course we're convinced the weather is improving because the gods are punishing us for our intended departure for California; "see," they say, "what we can do if we want to?  Stick around and we'll give you more."

But in fact we are leaving next week for several months back in the States and are looking forward to spending time with our family and friends there.  Meanwhile, suddenly realizing we need to touch base with people we haven't seen in a while, we've booked ourselves to go out nearly every evening between now and our departure.  And we've been out on the streets more as the rain and snow have stopped for the most part and we're back to taking long walks every day. 

Passing by le Bon Marché on the "back" side, I stopped to look at the lovely example of 19th century tile work surrounding the doors, advertising the wonderful wares to be found inside.  Who wouldn't want to buy rubans (ribbons) here?  How different it must have been to live in a time when ribbons were a major consumer item.

I'm going to indulge myself in a minor rant about something that's been annoying me all winter.  Several years ago the city put in a traffic circle between the Louvre courtyard, the one with the I.M. Pei pyramid, and the Tuileries, presumably to slow traffic in a busy pedestrian area.  So why, do you suppose, do they block off the sidewalks around that circle, chaining blockades to the light posts, and forcing those pedestrians to walk in the soggy sandy area instead?  Not a lot of fun after a heavy rain I can tell you. 

We find ourselves here a lot because it's the direct route to the tons of Japanese noodle joints on rue Sainte Anne, and noodle soup has been high on our list of winter foods.  Yes, even during the season that holds foie gras, chestnuts, oysters, game and chocolate galore.  We eat those too, but it's hard to beat a bowl of udon on a rainy day...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Lighten Up!

I complain all the time about how gray and dismal the weather is and one day I go out for a late afternoon walk and see this.  Clear sunset skies over the Tuileries gardens make your breath catch for a moment while you remember that winter isn't all bad.

Paris light is special, indescribable.  It helps make all the drizzly days tolerable, knowing that soon every buildng, every monument, every bare tree will be outlined against that sky and that you will realize that there are in fact hundreds, thousands of shades of gray and each of them is seen at its best in Paris.

The food doesn't hurt either.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy 2011

We wish all of you dwelling on this fragile planet a very happy, healthy, peaceful and fulfilling year, wherever you find yourselves.