Tim and I behave like dogs and small children when we are being driven around Paris by cabbies or friends. We can’t carry on a conversation because we are too busy scooting across the back seat straining to look up to the rooftops or down to the river, pointing and gasping like five-year-olds at the wonders that appear. Some buildings are famous, most are just plain exquisite – tall steeples soaring occasionally over carved grey stone churches, apartment buildings and mansions whose top floor garrets with French doors are like eyes gazing over the city; wrought iron balcony with railing styles from utilitarian to baroque, belle epoque to art nouveau. And let’s not even talk about how we both love the Seine, which seems to appear magically as it snakes through the city.
Cafes and restaurants, their tiny tables and chairs lined up just so with animated people swilling tiny coffees or big wines, chatting, reading, typing, gawking, flirting, being French. We are instantly immersed and collapse hopelessly into Paris’ embrace every time we arrive. No matter how long we stay its spell never releases us from its grasp. Each foray into its wide tree covered avenues, its profusion of magnificent parks, its narrow winding back streets deepens our affection. Its sometimes leaden leaking skies are punctuated often enough with Monet’s bright blue background and luscious puffy clouds that we can forgive the flaw in our beloved.
After a month of virtual hibernation in the glorious storm-pounded green depths of Southwest Ireland, arriving in one of the world’s most sophisticated cities was like being dropped on another planet. Paris doesn’t pulsate like New York or push and shove like London; it simply folds us into its rhythm. We sing along happily and let it teach us the melody every day.
I reached my writing goal before we left Ireland so the manuscript for Home Free was whisked through the ether to the publisher in the U.S., and we arrived in Paris free of its weight and ready to celebrate in the city we love best.
We automatically invoked our move-in mode, which we perfect with each change of address. First, Tim had arranged for the man with the “Martin” sign to be standing at Charles de Gaulle ready to drive us directly to our apartment. Even though the flight from Dublin is less than two hours, it was good to know that we would be taken directly “home”. The manager was waiting and we put her through the paces of our list. Since this was to be a three-month stay, we were even more insistent that the place was acceptable. Unfortunately there was a longer than usual to-do list. We have recently realized that most vrbo.com and homeaway.com properties, from which we rent our homes year round, were outfitted to accommodate short-term renters, those on vacation for a few days or a week, who usually do not plan to cook regularly or spend much time reading, entertaining or watching TV because they’re on vacation. We’re not on vacation. We’re travelers, not tourists. So it’s really not the fault of the homeowner or manager that there is sometimes a paucity of equipment. We’ve simply learned to ask them to correct the problem, and they always do. Of course, we sometimes add a few small items to make ourselves completely comfortable.
In this case, although many pots and pans were new, they lacked lids, which we needed. The hand tools, too,so our list included paring and chef’s knife, mixing bowls, dish towels and spatulas. The internet proved to be spotty and unreliable, which is a big problem for writers, well, for anyone who needs to communicate these days. The harried but willing manager acquired the missing equipment in a day, but it took a week or so to receive a new modem and beef up the band width. Once the details were under control we were free to enjoy ourselves, to poke around our local stores, introduce ourselves to our charming wine merchant, our petulant butcher, establish a nodding acquaintance with several bus drivers, find our closest Metro stations, reestablish local friendships, and generally settle in for a summer in Paris.
In the coming weeks I will do my best to show you why we are always enchanted by the city of light.