Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Paris: Day Three (Wednesday)


It was another beautiful day here in Paris.  It was warm and fragrant and the streets were bustling with renewed activity after the long French 'vacances d'Aout'.  The high-pitched squeals of schoolchildren back to school for the first time in months floated up from the street through the airshaft and into the open window as I wrote.  Downstairs the clinking of plates and silverware being washed mixed in with the smells of lunch being prepared at the cafe down on the street.

Our second day in Paris was another full one.  Full of sunshine, walking, eating and lots of sights and smiles.  We started the day late again, just because we are on vacation and there is no need to get going early, but we did have an agenda that required us to get out before noon.

The day before, when walking around the American College, we found a hair salon that looked interesting, so we stopped in to see about making an appointment.  Before leaving, we had decided that one of the things we would 'get' while here would be French haircuts for Valery and Maddie.  It was nice, modern looking salon, and the hairdresser who took our reservation was very nice.  When we arrived the next day, he was ready for us.

The girls were nervous, naturally, and so was I, since my French vocabulary for describing hair and the cutting thereof is extremely limited.  I needn't have worried, however, because the hairdressers couldn't have been nicer and more helpful.  They didn't speak any English, which is good, I guess, but all I was able to tell them was that Valery was a bit worried about getting her hair too short, and that we trusted them do do whatever they thought was right.

Maddie wanted her hair short, so her hairdresser--an older gentleman--was very accommodating.  He was delighted by the quality of Maddie's hair--very thick and easily shaped--an set to work right away.  Afte r the cut but before the blow dry, the hairdressers swept up the hair on the floor, and the area around Maddie's chair was covered with hair--Valery's, not so much.  The result was stunning.  Both women looked fabulous.  I have never seen Valery so beautiful, and that's saying a lot, because there's not a day that goes by that I do not remark on her wondrous visage.

In fact, as we headed out across the street to get a cafe, a man stopped us and felt obliged to remark that Maddie was a beautiful women, who was very confident in her good looks.  This he said in an accented English, so I couldn't be sure of his nationality, but it was a supreme compliment, and could Maddie have smiled any more broadly, I thin she would have done so.  As it was, were were all three very happy and delighted to be here.

That feeling extended through the day.  After the hair salon, we went to the Cafe Campanella, which is across the street from the College, sampling our second round of Croque Monsieurs (Valery and me) and a club sandwich for Maddie.  When I was at ACP, he Campanella was the hangout for all the rich kids, so I was never able to go there unless Elizabeth or John paid.  Now, however, here I was, able to afford it at last, after so many years, and it was good both from a culinary standpoint as it was to be able to eat there.

The day itself could not have been more beautiful. The sun was shining and it must have been about 72 degrees.  After lunch, we decided to go to take a tour of the Paris sewers.  Now, when I was here in college, I knew that about the sewer tour, but I considered it far too touristy a thing to do myself.  I had some inkling that it involved riding along in a boat actually in the sewer water, and I guess that was none too appealing for an American lad like myself, but now I had decided that it was an interesting thing to try.

So we walked down the Avenue Bosquet to the Pont d'Alma--the same place we were the day before when Madelaine first caught sight of the Eiffel tower, and after buying tickets, descended into the smelly depths.   And, smelly they were, but not nearly so much as I expected.  I also discovered that the boat tours had ceased in 1976, the very year I arrived, so it was unlikely that I could have ever take a subterranean boat ride, even if I'd had the desire.  As it is, it is a brief walking tour, with views of the tunnels, the machines and some of the methods for cleaning out the sewers.  I learned a lot and was glad to have done it.

After that, we were all pretty tired, so we headed back to the apartment for an afternoon nap.  This is pretty much our routine, gathering energy for an evening activity, which was to find some cash and a place to eat. The cash proved to be a difficult task.

For some reason, every machine we went to told us that we couldn't get cash because we'd either reached our daily limit or that it was simply unavailable.  This was odd since we hadn't taken any money out that day, and I knew we had plenty of money in the account.  I decided I'd have to call the bank the next day to investigate, but for now we set out in search of dinner.

We ended up at a creperie near the Canal St. Martin.  It was a tiny place, but we squeezed into a corner and ordered crepes--serrano ham and cheese for Maddie and me, andouille and cheese for Valery, with a chocolate crepe for dessert.  It was delicious.  When it came time for the bill however, we hit a snag.  They didn't have a credit card machine (they were just opened) and we didn't have enough cash!  Ack.  I was mortified.

We offered to leave an ID and promised to return the next day,  but the waiter was very kind and said he didn't need the ID, just that we would return or it would come out of his pocket.  I assured him we'd be back and we left, embarrassed but full.  Immediately after leaving we started trying cash machines, to no avail, until I finally decided to see if I could get just 20 Euros.  Amazingly, this worked, so we trotted back the restaurant where I paid the remainder of the bill and gave the waiter a nice tip.  I told him I was a waiter back in the US and that I certainly never intended to stiff him.  He was very nice and understanding, fortunately.

After this, it was home to bed.  Well, Maddie went to bed, but Valery and I went down to the cafe for a late coffee and a cigarette for me.  This too has become something of a ritual, and it was a delight, something I wish I could do every night.  But for that, I will have to come to Paris.

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