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O Fim duma Viagem

I've walked these streets before

FRANCE | Friday, 28 August 2015 | Views [261]

Wednesday began with a "practical meeting" scheduled for two hours. This one was an actual case of over scheduling, since we were done with the meeting in under an hour. But it gave Erin time to explain things about our cultural outings, (opera, dance, theatre, and other things to go along with the pretentious French accents we should be picking up) the group voyage, and the individual trip. So it was a good use of the time we did have.

Our French tutoring session on Wednesday was taking place at Le Bon Marche, the idea being that we would learn some of the necessary vocabulary in a more practical context. This was true for both groups. My plans alternated between leaving early so I could walk there and leaving early so I could go with people in the first group and just explore the area. Eventually I settled on the compromise of going early so I could walk with people from the first group and then explore the area. (It's less of a compromise and more of a win-win.)

When we started walking, none of us had gotten lunch. So we were paying some attention to the restaurants that we passed, looking for anything that struck our fancy. That ended up being L'as falafel, which is apparently the most famous falafel place in Paris, with lines sometimes taking up to an hour. We got our food with much less of a wait, and continued on to find a nice place to sit. It being Paris, we ended up facing a gorgeous and historic building. And the falafel was very good, especially after I gave up on eating the pieces neatly. When eating with a fork, the eggplant was slimy and kind of disgusting, but it did blend nicely with the other flavors and textures when I took bites out of it.

Although the day began by being rather chilly, it warmed up to nearly 90 degrees. So, as we were walking, when Ruby spotted the Amorino (a famous ice cream place) a number of blocks later, most of us were up for stopping. Jacyln and Mary Jose left to go to the private meeting with Christine, and Ruby, Cambria, and I ate our ice cream (Nutella and Raspberry for me. Technically "undefinable" and raspberry, but given the ingredients were chocolate and hazelnuts, it was basically Nutella) before continuing on.

I walked with them to the park, where I said my goodbyes (Christine: "You're not staying?" Me: "I'm in the second group. I just came early.") and went off to explore on my own.

I'd intended to find a bookstore, maybe a cafe, sit down, and give my feet a break, because I'd done a lot of walking yesterday. Instead, I saw Boulevard Raspail and thought "that name looks really familiar. I want to follow it and see where it leads me." At some point, I checked my phone, and found out it looked familiar because it was leading me to Montparnasse, where I'd spent a number of days the last time I was in Paris. For old time's sake, I decided to keep walking all the way to the cemetery and try to find Samuel Beckett's grave. Because that's the kind of thing I do for fun.

The first time I'd come here, I'd needed the maps to see the general area and the specific "streets," the names of every grave, and eventually someone to point out Beckett's grave to me because I was still missing it after three passes. This time, I tried to go solely off of distant memory. That didn't work, because my memory was telling me his grave definitely wasn't off an actual road that cars could drive on. (It was.) But once I'd narrowed it down to the rough plot, I was able to go back and find it without other help. This time, the names were much easier to read.

I took a moment to reflect on my life, the choices that brought me back to Paris so soon, and what my fascination with Samuel Beckett's grave was. And then I turned around and headed back. The tutoring session was starting soonish, so I planned on taking the metro. Except that the entrance to the train part of the metro was closed, so I had to go to the next station. I ended up getting turned around on my way out, and walked a block in the next direction. At which point I realized it would be faster to keep walking to get to the further station, so I did.

At 15:50, I raced out of the nearby station, looking around and hoping to see someone I recognized. No such luck. (I was five minutes late for the class.) The park was right there, and,even though I remembered Christine saying we should meet outside the Grand Epicerie, she had met the other group in the park, so I figured that was worth checking out. Nope, no one there. Which meant I now needed to find the Grand Epicerie.

I raced about, trying two false starts before I was finally headed the right direction, hoping that my excuse for being late would be valid. Especially since Christine had seen me earlier that day, it seemed more like I was ditching than I would have liked. But if everyone was still there, I would be fine. I didn't want to have to call and admit "I'm not sure where you are..."

I found the Grand Epicerie again, and saw Maria Jose and Sam. And there, to their left, was Ben. I wasn't late. Somehow, I was one of the earliest people to show up. I breathed a sigh of relief and let my feet complain to me that they weren't happy about the amount of racing around I'd been doing these past two days.

Le Bon Marche is a huge department store. Christine brought us through level by level, talking about the words we'd need to describe alcohol, fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, tea, dishes, linens, and lamps. The most interesting section for me was the Japanese food section. Both because it was distinct from the Asian food section, and because, in the time we were walking by, I think I caught a multilingual pun (English not being one of the languages) about cats and tea. I'm not that fond of puns, but I feel proud of myself whenever I'm able to catch them in a foreign language. Unfortunately, we didn't linger long enough for me to read the full phrase, so I'm not completely sure what it said.

After that, I left for another apartment visit. I took the metro again (I'm almost getting used to this!) to Montmartre. I got off at Abbesses and started climbing. And climbing. A helpful sign informed me this was the deepest metro station in Paris. More stairs. Now I understood why I saw people without suitcases getting into what looked like an elevator. More climbing. This really was a deep metro station with a lot of steps. Keep climbing. OK, that was a light up ahead. Daylight? No, just a particularly good overhead light. More steps. More steps. This had to end at some point. More climbing. I wished I'd read that sign in its entirety, because I didn't remember how deep they'd said it was. More climbing. And, finally, I was back in sunlight.

Montmartre also felt familiar. Not in the "I've spent so much time here" of Montparnasse, but more in a "I wandered here the last time I was in Paris and didn't really know what to make of it" sort of way. I still didn't know what to make of it, but I had an apartment to go see.

The landlord was the brother of the first apartment I'd looked at. He led me in through a gate, through a patch of grass and weeds, up two winding flights of stairs, and down a hallway, using his phone as a flashlight. The apartment was exceedingly small. The only table was one that could be pulled out from the wall, and the only seats were on the futon bed. The window looked out onto... other windows in the complex. Some ground at the very bottom.

Other than those points, it was nice enough. A lot like the first apartment, to be honest. But, with all those things combined, (plus, imagine needing to come out of that metro station multiple times each week...) it wasn't terribly high on my list. (Third, in fact, since that's how long my list was.) But I had a bit more experience visiting places, and was able to ask some more intelligent questions. So I'm counting that as a success.

I left and wandered around aimlessly as I tried to decide which I wanted more: a restaurant to sit and eat dinner at, or a train back to the hotel. And then I saw a huge set of stairs and decided that it looked like it would be fun to climb. While I wasn't right, it did bring me to the Sacre Coeur and gorgeous views of the cities. So it wasn't a complete waste, and it gave me a newfound burst of energy that lasted until it was time to start thinking about going back.

I found a metro station, made several transfers, and got groceries on my way back to the hotel. Then I collapsed on the bed and promised my feet that I would not walk another 10 miles tomorrow, and I certainly would not do that while racing from one location to another. I'm not sure they believed me.

Tags: appartment, metro, montmartre, montparnasse, stairs, walking

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