9/27/2007

Living the Good Life in Gay Old Paree


The Paree part

I've been living the good life in Paris , staying in Bernard and Bill's Montmarte apartment and seeing the sights . Their flat is a light airy set of rooms, large by NYC standards , with high ceilings and crown molding, wood floors, a marble fire place in every room . It sits on the top floor of a building, on top of a hill , on a dead end street, overlooking the Montmarte cemetery, where it catches the breezes as they come through the grounds. The apt. is a beautiful architectural space ( Bernard was an architect , long ago , before the photography bug bit him; he has great sensitivity to these things. ), yet unlike the Beynes house, which is furnished in traditional French country cottage style, almost completely empty of furniture. B & B have a mattress in the bedroom, I have a futon in the living room, and I think I got the better deal. Fortunately, the plumbing is excellent, the shower hot and the toilet whooshes away with great force ( unlike some of my previous European adventures, where the plumbing was somewhat less powerful.)

Bernard says he chose to buy this place when he first saw it , because he knew his neighbors would always be quiet. (i.e., the cemetery.) The view out of several windows is just tree tops and birds. If you peer through the leaves, you can see the tombs - stone sarcophagi, above the ground, similar to those in New Orleans, down below. Other windows have this magnificent view of the Paris skyline - just breathtaking at sunset. A few blocks away is Place de Clichy , Place Pigalle and the Moulin Rouge, if you look on a map. It's a nice neighborhood, off the beaten track from tourists and the trashy nightclub atmosphere of Place Pigall only a few blocks away.

There are a few small bistros around the corner , "the local", where we eat quite often. Lots of cafes, bars, stores on the main drag nearby. One night Bill and I sat in a cafe, facing the intersection of 5 streets, and just drank wine and watched the traffic and the street scene while the sun set...it was like a giant life sized tv. I have been in a bit of culture shock, surrounded only by French people speaking French. Few tourists, no ice, McD's, or coca-cola, taking the Metro, shopping at various local boulangerie for grocery items. Contrary to most stereotypes, native folk are friendly and patient with my attempts to converse in halting, broken, horribly accented French.

The good life

Every day, we get up, eat breakfast ( toast, yogurt, pastry, coffee , juice, fruit) , and head out to do something fun in Paris. I've done all the touristy things, as well as quite a bit that's off the beaten track. Seen ALL the museums, one per day, shopped, eaten out, walked around, lived the cafe life. Been to the Paris markets, shopped in quiet little streets 200 years old , dropped a penny in the well at Shakespeare Books (where Hemingway borrowed books when he was to poor to buy them ) , attended a Vivaldi concert at St Chappell and the Pointilism exhibit at the D'Orsay impressionist museum, strolled through gardens, walked along the Seine. As well as all the traditional stuff (Eiffel tower, Louvre, Champs-Elysees , Notre Dame, Sacre Couer, etc.) .

Took a day trip to Chartres and heard a world famous British scholar, some professor who has devoted his entire life to only studying Chartres, give a guided lecture tour. He was like a character out of a Henry James novel . Fabulous eyebrows.

Eaten out rather a lot - had Tunisian, Lebanese, Thai, Spanish, as well as lots of French food. On the 4th ofJuly, we celebrated by eating at a French restaurants' idea of an American restaurant , called Le Buffalo Grille, and toasted the Unis Etats.

One night, we went to a 5 star gourmet spot , Flora, which I highly recommend to anyone visiting Paris, and I ate rabbit in a 5 course meal that ended with lavender peach ice cream. It was to die for. The wine list was serious and we all took notes in little notebooks we keep, recording various vintages , flavors, etc, as we ate, here and there. Bill is a bit of a gourmet, and Bernard is a wine aficionado, so we are working on my education in this area . We've had wine with every meal , tons and tons of it - at the local bistro, you can order a small pitcher of it for 1 Euro 60 (currently less than $2.00 ). I'm quite spoiled now and may never drink California wines again.

The gay part

I did get to do one thing that , I daresay, very few middle class moms from the middle of suburban America have gotten to do - watched the Gay Pride parade in Paris. The first weekend I was here was "Pride"weekend ( it's generally around June 20 in the US, seems to be a week later in Europe, perhaps so all the guys can participate in both locales.....) . Bill didn't want to go, he normally shies away from the festivities, yet as we were out and about shopping, we kept running into hordes of hot looking young men strolling about - in various costumes or states of undress....saw an almost naked Elvis impersonator at the Sephora on the Champs d'Elysee, with his Las Vegas lounge suit only painted on him, while "Love MeTender" was blaring on a loudspeaker...this , next door to the Disney Store, the one time I did see American tourists, all there to buy stuffed animals , and their children were completely agog at naked sexy gay Elvis, swivelling his hips - anyways, we got lured, like Odysseus and the sirens, into following the excitement / young men, ended up where the parade was . Watched floats come rolling by, full of men and women, dancing to oldies, really mild compared to what I imagined it would be, no one was naked or drunk. It was all rather fun, actually. And this is how I'm spending my summer vacation.
Don't tell my mom.

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