Saturday, June 5, 2010

How do you call it en Anglais?

24 hours in Paris complete. After sitting in the Charles de Gaulle Aeroport for around let's say forty minutes, contemplating whether or not I had made the right decision to be on my own in Paris for a month, I hailed a taxi and soon found myself flying by the Parisian countryside, on my way to the centre de la ville.

Still nervous about speaking French to everyone I encountered, I curled up on the seat to enjoy the ride while brainstorming some common phrases I could bring up with the taxi driver. "Eh, Madamemoiselle, les chaussures sur la siège, mais qu'est-ce que vous faites??" Shit, already made a mistake. "Oh monsieur, je suis vraiment désolée, c'est un accident, je m'excuse." Apology not accepted. "Mais qu'est-ce que vous pensez?" Tears start to form. "Monsieur, je suis désolée, mais les chaussures sont nouveaux, la siège est parfaite, je vous promets." Still he shook his head and muttered under his breath. I started to cry thanks to my anxious nerves and honest mistake. I always feel bad when I upset someone, and since he clearly felt disrespected by this young American, I felt even worse. So I stared out the window, tears streaming down my face, not daring to move an inch out of fear of him getting angrier. But then we hit traffic. A lot of traffic. Friday afternoon-3 pm- 5 accident, traffic. So after 45 minutes or so, when my eyes were dry but puffy he started to ask about me. We talked about Miami, Paris, University, etc. And by the end, we were doing just fine and I had a good idea of where I was in the city. I sure as hell didn't tip him though. 80 Euros for a cab fare was far enough as is.

So I arrived at 7-9 rue du Val du Grace and stepped inside the first gate. There's a lovely little garden with walkways that lead to the different buildings. Since it was about 90 degrees and I was about an hour late as is, I decided to skip the garden exploration and head for building A to meet Madame Dru on the 5th floor. I rang the doorbell and was welcomed in by a woman a little shorter than I am, wearing black yoga pants, some bohemian sandals, an Eiffel tower tee-shirt and a lightweight black over shirt. Her hair was short, blonde and white in color, and I noticed she wore a pair of golden hoops in her ears, but one was noticeably smaller than the other. So I made a mental note to ask her what the significance was. I also noticed a giant ring on her right middle finger. Very bright green in color, almost egg shaped. Likes ones children can win in prizes from the 25 cent machines. And her green reading glasses hung around her neck on a petite chaine, ready to be placed on her nose at any point in time. Soft greenish bluish eyes popped out at me as she welcomed me into her home.

Her daughter Elisa, sat in the first room on the left, typing away on her Mac Book, smoking a cigarette and sipping some white wine. The hallway from the door is long and each of the rooms breaks off from this one hallway. The next door on the left is my room. Very bright white and clean. There are two desks for me to work at, a large white armoire with sheets and towels and drawers for my belongings. Sitting at the edge of the desk were a spare notebook, a vase of yellow roses and a few writing utensils. Ah, the small things in life. :)

The rest of the apartment is a photographer's dream. A bowl of rings just like the one she had on when I first arrived sitting on a shelf next to a rack of large bangles with a few bottles of Italian cologne d'eau. An entire wall is dedicated to Madame Dru's mementos from her lifetime. A few post-it notes left by her son, Adrien, after long nights out, asking his mother to wake him at certain times. A few photographs hang next to the notes, photos of people who resemble her late mother and father. Then she has odd cartes-postales and maps and drawings she has evidently collected over the years. The stories behind such treasures wait unveiling over the next 30 days. The kitchen door is across the hall from mine, and inside is a small two or three person table, with a fridge, small stove and a wonderful window where Madame Dru grows geraniums, daisies, etc. There are bowls of various fruits sitting next to the window. Again, a photographer's ideal setting, one that they attempt to recreate for their black and white shoots that end up in magazines. Adrien's paintings hang on the wall along with a few other notes and postcards, which surely all have special meanings. There is a toilet closet and a separate room for the shower and sink and washing machine. The apartment is small, but very homey. The eclectic style is just what I've always imagined my apartments (if I live in them) to be like. Books line the walls and where there aren't bookshelves there are places for jewelry or fun dishes or just walls covered in special photos.

My room overlooks a little street and I can see window gardens across from me. The window in the kitchen looks out to other houses and a little walkway or alleyway, I'm not quite sure. But since my window faces north I get a little view of the morning sun and it's just perfect for waking up to.

Adrien, Madame Dru's son, is an artist and lives in the country...most of the time. He's a little taller than I am, with a shaggy beard and walks around in his paint-covered jeans most of the time. He's helping me with my French along with Madame Dru, who both speak English very well. Her daughter, Elisa, is trying to finish up University but is pursuing some type of career/side career in theater and just left for the weekend to go north for a performance. She left the house wearing a black and white polka dot dress and bright white heart shaped sunglasses. Just to give a little visual of how artistic this family is. I adore every bit of it.

Dinner was light, a rice salad with cheese and tomatoes (apparently I eat tomatoes in France?)with some soy sauce and bread. Then we had a bit of chevre and Roquefort cheese. And we ended le diner with strawberries and vanilla ice cream. I was very tired by 9 pm so I retired to my room to read and write for the rest of the night. This morning we had yogurt, granola, toast, and tea for breakfast. I added a few almonds to my yogurt and then we headed out to the market so Madame Dru could show me around. We started off toward the Parc du Luxembourg, this great public park with a gravel trail around it where people jog and walk all day long. The interior of the track is lined with benches and divided shades of grass where people do Tai Chi and yoga. There are a few private tennis courts and a new volleyball court. Madame Dru and I talked about family interaction in places like this, her family, my family, and every kind of literature we liked to read. She showed me how to get to school in the morning, and hooray because it's within walking distance!! Then we went to this video store, one of only two in Paris which holds every kind of movie you can imagine. French films, German films, Japanese, English, etc. All organized by Director's last name. If it's been released, it's in there. So we walked around and talked about how it's not common knowledge for everyone in the U.S. to know director's names, maybe just the title of the film and the major actors starring in it. So hopefully by the end of this trip I'll know a few more than I did before. And there is a wonderful collection of postcards from the 50s, mostly black and white, of candid and planned shots of movie stars. I can't wait to go back and pick out a few to send out.

Then we walked over to la rue Mouffetard where there is a long street of small shops and les librairies (book stores, not a chain) that sell new books and les livres d'occasion (second hand) for pretty cheap. She showed me her favorite cafes and petits restaurants, and bakeries. I found out where she buys her scarves too :) a place called Diwali, not too expensive. But I was advised to wait until June 30 when the sales begin, because everything is very cheap then. But I didn't bring many clothes so I'll need to go shopping at some point! We went to a bakery and bought a couple of slices of Quiche Lorraine and Quiche Chevre Epignard (goat cheese and spinach)and some little sweet tasting rolls (almost as sweet as brioche dough) but are hollow inside and have sugar bits on top. We sliced them in half and filled them with chocolate and vanilla ice cream for lunch. We also bought a piece of flan, she loves cheese cake and French of her! So then we bought some rotisserie chicken legs and roasted potatoes for lunch and headed back to her apartment. She made a salad and I ate half of a tomato in it, and we talked about life and death and some things in between. Most of the time she speaks to me in English, or mixed French/English and I try speak to her in French, correcting myself in English along the way. I learned how to say pole vaulting :) (Sauter a la perche) And I am a perchiste, or a pole vaulter.

For now we are resting, going to eat dinner around 8 pm and at about 10 I'm going to walk over to le Censier Daubenton to meet Joseph, a boy from my classes in Miami and we're going to venture over to the 4eme arrondissement for the evening. Should be fun.

A bientot et grosses bises,