September 8, 2008 ~ Paris, France
I continue to delight in this sidewalk café culture. All the chairs are turned so that customers face outward and become an audience to the passing scene. For lunch I've ordered a pot of black tea and "croque madame"—what the menu explains is a toasted cheese sandwich with a fried egg on top. This I've got to see.
It's been quite awhile since I ordered, and the waiter just stopped by to tell me something rapid and apologetic. The French I learned decades ago is slowly flickering back to life, but perhaps not quickly enough to keep me out of trouble. Perhaps the waiter said, "The chef broke up with his girlfriend last night so your lunch will be a moment more, monsieur." Or he could just as well have said, "I'm sorry, we are out of cheese, would you mind if we substitute fried mouse toes?"
Yesterday was the first Sunday of the month, and thus free admission to the museums. I had some specific paintings I wanted to visit as well as simply getting acquainted with the buildings themselves, so started early and moved fast. At the Louvre I sped past hundreds of Greek statues and much of the Italian Renaissance on my way to see the Mona Lisa. (Skip the fine print and you can appreciate art really fast.)
Mona gave me that shy grin of hers, and I was off to the Pompidou Center, home of the national collection of contemporary art. The building is wild— exposed beams and cables, bright colors everywhere, escalators in hamster tubes on the outside of the structure. And while art that consists of a giant canvas painted dark blue is interesting in its own way, the Mona Lisa's not in danger of losing her popularity any time soon.
|A Cheese Vendor|
A cheese shop had this sign in the window:
"You can clear your vacuum-packed cheese through the customs without troubles."
My stay in Paris has been very satisfying. For my first time here, I found it absolutely accessible, the people friendly, and the city rich with possibilities.
Tomorrow morning I'll make my way back to Charles de Gaulle Airport to catch the flight to Siberia. I won't be taking any cheese with me, but hope to clear myself through the customs without troubles.