Today was my first full day in Paris. Thanks to some pretty serious jet-lag, my internal ticker’s been wonky since I left Seattle last week, and I fell asleep quite early last night, around 11PM local time. I was awake by 2AM, and spent the hours between then and 8AM reading, writing and catching up on Obama’s address. I finally fell asleep but didn’t get out of bed until noon, which made me feel slightly sloth-ish, but it was the first really solid night of sleep I’ve had since I left Seattle, so it was a fair trade.
I’m staying in an apartment in the 15th Arrondissement, right up the street from the Gare Montparnasse, with a very nice couple (Craig and Lora) who have graciously decided to provide me housing for a few nights. I lounged about their house for a while today before finally putting myself together and heading about town. I went on foot up to the Seine, meandered down to Notre Dame, and, to appease those nagging religious sentiments that still pulse deep inside me, lit a candle and said a prayer for a good trip. I wandered about the Ile St. Louis and over towards the Bastille, and then stopped in the Luxembourg Gardens on the way back, where I snacked on a baguette, kicked up my feet and read Flaubert, all of which felt exceedingly Parisian.
It’s been over eight years since I was in France, and what had once been decent language skills have devolved, over years of non-use, into a pathetic, diffident, gesticulating melange of embarrassingly poor Franglish. Any accent I may have had has disappeared, and I’m sure to local ears my screechings sound as if I recently tumbled out of a feral preserve in the high Alps. I can’t remember words, conjugations, phrases, idioms: all the basics of language, and there’s really nothing to do about that except continue fumbling and flubbing my way about. For ease in interacting with the locals I might as well stamp “Special Needs” across my forehead, but, in all fairness, I don’t know how to say that in French.
Still though, I’m having fun. Craig and Lora are extremely hospitable and have made me feel very comfortable in their space. I’ve eaten more bread and cheese in the past 36 hours than I have in months, and it all tastes great: you can get French cheeses in the US, but it’s pasteurized differently, and much like the baguettes doesn’t taste nearly as good stateside as it does here. I lurked outside a fromagerie today inhaling the musty pungence, and I’m certain that one of these afternoons I’ll plunk myself down in some park with a selection of cheeses, a baguette, a bottle of wine and more of Monsieur Flaubert. And that right there might justify the entire trip.