Friday, September 25
We’ve now been here ten days. We left Colorado eleven days ago. One goal was to try as much as possible to live like Parisians. We’ve been living in our “own” apartment, picking up fresh produce at Rue Cler, bread and goodies local boulangeries and patisseries. We stop by the local supermarket for the more mundane items. We wash our own clothes in the washer-dryer right there in our apartment. We take down the trash when we need to. We have an occasional Café au lait at sidewalk cafes, we people-watch, walk many places, hop a cab to others. Weather after the first week has been just fine with nice fall temperatures and more than a fair share of sunshine. Some rain has had the good manners to confine itself to the middle of the night. And finally, while it wasn’t a goal of ours, these four-plus weeks in Paris is costing us considerably less than three-plus weeks in Italy on a Rick Steves tour!
Though tours are good things, and there are many tours travelers like us can go on, we really wanted to do this trip through Paris in our own way, at our own pace, whenever we felt the urge to do something. No “OK, everybody down to the bus at 7:30 am for our trip to Versailles!” or “OK, we’re here at Versailles. You now have an hour to go through the hundreds of rooms, galleries, gardens and grand spaces of Versailles! Be back at the bus by Noon!” And we wanted to avoid the constant packing, unpacking, and repacking every two days, clothes getting dirtier and dirtier as the days went by. And instead of getting one-cup servings of great cities and great places, we wanted instead to intentionally focus on one place and experience it as up-close as we could. We wanted to learn the local ways of doing things, and to just be friendly flies on the wall to watch and learn what it is that makes this such a great place to be. And when we thought of a place to do this, we chose Paris, so often described as the most beautiful city in the world.
I realize that in choosing Paris, we’re turning our backs on the many fabulous provinces throughout this magical country, each of which offer their own wealth of things to see and do. But we’ve so loved our time here that I hope that providence gives us the chance to go to the countryside on subsequent visits and breathe the country air deeply and experience where all these wonderful foods and wines come from.
So ten days out, we have absolutely no regrets. The freedom to move and do whenever we want is wonderful. As we get to know the great transit system, the city keeps getting smaller and smaller. The people in the little neighborhood shops around where we live are wonderful, happy and really helpful and patient in guiding us into doing things the way they’re done in France. One senses a real community that we live in.
And we are enjoying each other’s company, too, talking about the many things we’re seeing, sharing our views of what we’re experiencing and just having a great and relaxing time. We’ve learned, I think, how good we are at traveling together, enjoying the good times, muddling our way through the less enjoyable aspects, rolling with the unexpected. Tours do offer the added advantage of a group of people you’ll probably get to like a lot and even get to know enough to want to stay in touch afterward. That certainly happened with our Italy friends. So we don’t have that. But the freedom we have is really helping us to get to know this city in a very different way than we might have on a tour.
I think we’re going to do this again. Maybe Venice. Maybe Barcelona. Maybe in the UK. No definite plans yet. Just looking forward to more of the same in this laid back, take-it-as-slowly-as-we-want format.