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Archive for the 'France' Category
After our car drama, we decided to change the order of our French road trip and go to Paris for the weekend to visit some friends. We lived in Paris for 3 years (with a break in the middle for the last big trip to Eastern Europe and Asia.) I am still awed by the mass of people that move in to and out of and around Paris every day, as well as by the amazing diversity of nationalities and cultures that make their home here. Fabien and I are in agreement that Parisian life is not for us anymore (at least not in doses of more than a year or two at a time.) It’s not that I don’t love the beautiful architecture and the unbeatable access to cultural events and the je ne sais quoi that Paris exudes, but sometimes it’s an overload to the senses and can wear you out quickly.
We took an early train from Amiens to Gare du Nord, or the North Train Station in Paris. The train was about 15 minutes late (SNCF, the national train company is infamous for its punctuality) but we still had enough time to walk from the station to Les Halles where we were meeting a friend for coffee and lunch. When you exit the train station, it’s hard to tell that you are in France. The street is full of international call centers, travel agents catering to Africa, Indian Sari shops and Asian food traitors. As I said, the diversity is impressive. Our friend, Myriam, was also late because of public transport problems.
Fabien met Myriam in the U.S. when they were there on student work visas. They sold hot dogs and lemonade in Wildwood, New Jersey. Fabien’s first working experience in the U.S. was selling hot dogs- he also did a stint at McDonalds. We found a little hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant for lunch.
Myriam left us to go to work and Fabien and I took a walk around Saint Michel. Whenever we’re in Paris, we always go to the enormous used bookstores Gibert Joseph and Gibert Jeune to stock up on books in French. I think Fabien found enough to last 7 months on the road.
Thursday evening, we met up with our friends Patrick and Iulia. Patrick is one of Fabien’s friends from engineering school and he recently married a lovely Russian girl, Iulia. They live in a nice area near Gare de Lyon and they offered to put us up for the weekend. We had a nice dinner together in a quaint little restaurant specializing in food from the southwest of France (foie gras, magret de canard, etc.) Yummy!
Friday we met our friends from Bucharest, Baptiste and Carole, for lunch in a sushi restaurant at La Defense. Fabien used to work in La Defense, the large business area in the west of Paris. As we crossed the Pont de Neuilly on the metro on the way to La Defense, I could see the peniches (the barges converted to luxurious habitations) on the Seine River and I reflected to Fabien that I wouldn’t mind living on a peniche on the Seine one day (note: put on to do list of future adventures.) After lunch we met Iulia back at the apartment and took a walk to Bercy Village, where the old buildings to store grain have been reconverted into chic shops and restaurants. For dinner, it was another reunion, with Lucile and Charles and little Juliette at their apartment in Montreuil, a suburb close to Paris. Fabien met Lucile when he was working in Casablanca. We had a good time catching up over rum punch and a pierrade (a French specialty where you cook thin pieces of meat on a hot stone.)
Our weekend of reunions continued on Saturday. I met one of my former English students, Florence, for a coffee near Hotel de Ville. For two years, we met every week for an English lesson so we had a lot of time to get to know each other and a lot of things to catch up on. Saturday night, we went to see a play at the Comedie du Republique, Mon Collocataire est un Garce, a predictable, but entertaining comedy about a single, 30-something geeky guy who is tricked by a beautiful girl. It was a good end to a memorable weekend in Paris.
I noticed that in my posts about France, I always mention what we ate and drank. It’s not a coincidence. An important part of visiting, living in and understanding France and the French is the food.