Stark and I had an unusually hard time adjusting to European time +8 hours from where we are in the Mountain Time Zone and +6 from our recent journey to New York City. We landed in Paris with very little sleep as the flight from NYC to Paris is actually not very long. It is only an hour more than some flights from Salt Lake City to New York. The flight was comfortable thanks to being in first class, but after a full course meal and a free in-flight movie there wasn’t more than a couple hours to get some sleep in. So we slept once we landed and settled down in our apartment we had rented in arrondissement 16 – just across the river Seine from the Eiffel Tower.
That night we woke just in time to log in and get to work after grabbing a few odds and ends to hold over our appetites from the grocery store. The next day, we trusted ourselves to wake up at an hour that wasn’t entirely ridiculous and instead, we found ourselves relaxing and enjoying the Parisian life from the view of our apartment window.
I have absolutely no complaints because there’s probably no one in the world who appreciates sleep and the chance to adjust more than I do. I loved relaxing and felt no rush. I came with the intention of seeming local, acting local, and not stressing over the sights as much as the tastes, sounds, and smells of each city. So we did Paris in one day and I couldn’t have asked for a better day.
We had no set plan for the day, which is the way we both like it. After discovering that Stark’s favorite bakery was closed on Saturday, I suggested we do what I refer to as the “Midnight in Paris” tour. I admit, I was more excited to stalk some of my favorite writers and their writing-points throughout the city then I was to do the cliche tourism things like visit the top of the Eiffel Tower (which we never did and I am quite fine with that). We decided to have breakfast at Cafe de Flore, a cafe that was frequented by not only Hemingway but Fraulkner, Beauvoir, and Fitzgerald just to name a few. As we sat enjoying some morning coffee, an omelet, and a strawberry tart I starred at the people surrounding us and how busy the place was. I always like to put time into as much context as I can. Time to me, is all too easy to not truly comprehend. The 1500’s is the same as the 1800’s when you weren’t there to witness it yourself. But there are certain instances of time that always shock and fascinate me such as realizing that the majority of the waiters at Cafe de Flore, if they were life-long waiters, would have worked at Cafe de Flore during the era of Beat Generation writers and so many other, great writers who found Paris both inviting and inspiring. Connecting the time line with something I could grasp allowed me to better imagine someone as hungover and troubled as Hemingway could be – sitting in the corner, trying to sketch out his thoughts in a journal. Suddenly I felt more appreciation for how waiters in Paris do not disturb you to take your order or give you a check unless you make a point to waive them down and ask for what it is you want. To be disturbed with such trivial tasks while writing could break the mold of stories that we now covet as complete fantasies of our day. At least, they are fantasies to me.
To match the mood appropriately, I made sure to read a few chapters of Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast while sitting at Cafe de Flore.
From there, we passed by Le Pré aux Clercs on Rue Bonaparte, a bar that was a highlight to Hemingway’s cold, winter evenings in Paris. We decided for this, we would come back after and went straight on to 74 rue Cardinal Lemoine where Hemingway and his wife lived on the third floor, just down the street from James Joyce (#71) and George Orwell (6 rue Pot de Fer). George Orwell wrote Down and Out while he lived in Paris and London.
In order to make the Hemingway tour more life-like, we sauntered through small Parisian alleys and moved on to Notre Dame rather than going straight from one point to another. Stark and I went inside the church and reverently circled the entire church, taking photos. I looked at the candles people had lit and wondered what their prayers were. We watched a woman in confession which was strange to me. The confession rooms they have are legit and used, obviously, but more like sound-proof interrogation rooms. The fact that they were entirely clear boxes seemed a little too “tour” oriented to me as we could all see the hysterics of the woman’s confession, as if she were something we’d all paid to see. However, that was the only unfortunate aspect of Notre Dame to me. The church was stunning. I loved it’s grandeur and the way the darkness played with natural, stain-glass light. Stark allowed me to creep into the congregation and look towards the alter, feeling a little bit overwhelmed as to what I might be thankful for in that moment. So I said my thanks before we departed for the long line of people waiting to ascend 400 stairs to the bells of Notre Dame.
And I made it! I was worried that I might seeing as my ankles don’t enjoy the precariousness of stairs and I find 400 spiraling stairs to be like instant vertigo, I made it none the less! The bells of Notre Dame are everything I imagined them to be. Being a child of Disney movies, it was all I could do to think about the animated depiction of history that happened surrounding this grand church. I wondered how long ago gypsies crowded the square in front of Notre Dame and was almost disappointed that only ONE person was interested in pick pocketing us, unsuccessfully. After seeing the largest bell, rung by fictional Quasimodo, the entire decent was filled with thoughts of my favorite song from Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame, sung by the gypsi, Esmerelda – “God Help the Outcasts” (On Spotify: http://open.spotify.com/track/1hA0XjshsOjuYScKX2BsZm). Perhaps it was being in a church or perhaps it was the important words from the song that made me start to think about so many inherent differences between the States and Europe – unfortunate differences that in many ways make the demand of increasing individuality in America make us seem that much more oppressed and oppressive. Here we come from a land of so much opportunity and yet we’ve created a country where opportunity is chosen – given to those we choose to accept and taken from anyone we see as unfit. We live in a country that is free and yet our own defensive behaviors segregate us in a way that is not often seen in any other first world country (more like a third world). In America we insist on being American, African-American, Asian-American, gay, straight, and so many other definitive descriptors. In Europe, sure some countries dislike others and some people view themselves as more privileged (that’s life) but in a general aspect Europe is a far more tourist friendly country who accepts all types of Ex-Pats and no one lives out a stereotype because of the color of their skin, or is not given an opportunity for citizenship because they come from a poorer country. Again, this was just a thought. I contemplated the general idea as I walked back through Notre Dame square. I know that this is not an absolute but there is still a lot to consider.
Before the long jaunt to the Arc de Triumph, we ventured over to Shakespeare & Co. (http://www.shakespeareandcompany.com) which was owned by Sylvia Beach and home away from home for Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Joyce and T.S. Eliott. There were so many books that I wanted to buy but books are the last thing I want to carry all over Europe. Afterwards, we stopped for some kir at Le Pré Clercs for the grand finale of our author-tour.
Like all good visitors to Paris, we then took a walk at sunset to browse the beautiful outside of the Louvre and take the long, relaxing walk past the square where Marie Antoinette was beheaded (yikes!) to the Arc de Triumph. On the way we stopped at Mercedes Benz for a looksy at their new, matte black S-class coupe and watched some street performers. By the time we made it to the Arc, we’d walked over 20 kilometers that day and were happy to head home for a good night’s rest.