Our final day in Paris was sunny and hot. Blazingly so! Saturday’s Techno Parade 2016 meant that bridges were blocked by police barricades. A gendarme searched my backpack and when I asked in my best high school French what was going on, explained about the parade, and gave permission for me to cross.
I walked across a deserted bridge to the left bank. Unable to cross to the right bank, traffic on the left bank metastasized quickly. Cars inched along honking like angry geese, crazed motorcyclists took to the sidewalks, skittish pedestrians were assaulted by sirens and dodged cars at every intersection. Even the bicyclists were cranky!
The Boulevard St. Germain was chock-a-block with shoppers, so I dodged into a shady alley and stumbled upon a wonderful bistro, Relais Odeon, where a glass of crisp white wine and a dish of Pad Thai, French style, revived my wilted spirits. My waiter explained that the French word for a cute, small boy was “mignon,” after I mistakenly said the boy at the neighboring table was “jolie.” He asked if I thought he was mignon, and we had a good laugh, because, in his way, he was – totally adorable – even when harassed by impatient customers inside the bistro and out!
Mohammed had been exploring the Latin Quarter, and met me as I was finishing lunch. We strolled the adjoining cobblestone lane peering into shop windows, savoring the shade and relative peace.
But once we emerged on Boulevard Saint Michel, the chaos and noise were overwhelming. To escape, I descended to the banks of the Seine. Our river cruise the previous day had alerted me to places I wanted to explore. Mohammed chose to stick to the streets. So be it! I couldn’t stand another moment of the madness. And the Seine rewarded me with strolling families, lovers entangled on benches, and in the Jardin Tino Rossi among the sculptures, dancers!
Tango has to be the sexiest dance ever invented. People one might pass on the street unnoticed suddenly become gods and goddesses when entwined in each other’s arms, legs and feet paralleling an intimate ballet. It was magical, and like the moment with the birds in the Marais, totally unforgettable.
As the tour boats swept up the Seine behind the dancers, I was reminded of our river cruise the day before. We had come by guided bus tour, the one provided by the city of Paris tourist agency, and it was a bumpy, hot ride with a focus on all the major monuments, most of which have some military history or significance. I was duly awed, but a bit bored. How many times can one consider the exploits of Napoleon or the planning genius of Haussmann?
But once we reached the river and boarded our boat, everything changed. A light breeze bathed our faces and flattened our clothes. The light gilded the water, the clouds pouffed like meringue, the moment opened and expanded so that even monuments like the Eiffel Tower that have become visual cliches became stunningly beautiful.
When we had our fill of the dancers and the river that hot afternoon, it was already twilight, so we walked back across the Pont Marie and made our way to a falafel joint in the Marais. There, we ate street food and drank the only less than stellar wine of the entire trip, but it didn’t matter. I still had tango music in my step.
So back we went to our apartment to pack and organize ourselves for the train trip to Basel the following morning. More on that in an upcoming post. For now, drink in the beauty of the Seine. I am!