Paris Part IV

Next morning, Paul and I went back to Le Rostand where we once again indulged in a delicious petit déjeuner, sipping our hot coffee in the most leisurely fashion. I ate the entire meal. Things were looking up!

We had lots planned for this Sunday and intended to walk everywhere, if possible.

Such fun things as:

• Sainte-Chapelle
• Cathédrale Notre Dame
• the place on Rue de Rosier in the 4th arrondissement where Paul had lived for six weeks
• the ultimate ice cream cone. (I had read about “the best ice cream cone” to be had in Paris in a book in our hotel room and wanted to try one.)

Such not fun things awaited us Monday morning as in :

• finding the American Express office to pick up my new card.

Lining up for a tour of Sainte-Chapelle, I saw this lovely girl with her mother who looked so much like the women in Paul Gauguin’s Tahitian paintings, I just had to snap her.

Once inside the upper chapel of the medieval Saint-Chapelle, I took in the beauty of the stained-glass with the ghost of my great-grandfather–Louis Comfort Tiffany–over my shoulder. Without truly knowing, I thought it made sense that he had studied this 13th century colorful glass, the vibrancy of the red and blues–the hallowed effect they bestowed–and learned from what he saw. I thought he must have incorporated this knowledge and built on it in the creation of his own stained-glass, such as “Four Seasons.”

Paul and I kept walking…with our Sunday plans to Notre Dame :

to Rue de Rosier:

To Paris’s best ice cream cone at Berthilon, Rue Saint-Louis en l’lle (I had mocha and it was the most delectable chocolate ice cream cone of my life!):

On our way back towards our hotel, we licked our ice-cream cones and took in the charming scene on this sunny afternoon on Pont de la Tournelle:

Paul and I simply forgot to be worried about my lack of passport. We were happy in the moment creating a new path of being together in Paris as the older couple we are now:

….And, things did work out the next day. We found the American Express office where my new card awaited me. We arrived at the airport early and I was allowed to travel to Oslo with just my thin little paper police report. (This was July 4th . I doubt this would have occurred after Oslo was hit with such unexpected chilling news on July 22nd.)

But on the personal level–on which I am writing–here was a stark contrast to be had between the ghosts of my father, Grandmother and Anna Freud in England, and the ghost of the break-up of Paul and me when we were young in Paris. The ghosts in England would haunt me forever, whereas Paul and I lassoed our ghost rather well. In spite of some very tense moments we added an exciting, enriching adventure to our lives together, overwriting the old story.

…As for the ghost of my great-grandfather, Louis Comfort Tiffany, who was unbelievably the father of Grandmother, I would have to say the beauty he created in stained-glass gives gifts to the soul so profound that his ghost is one to hold onto.

Paris Part III

“Lillebeth (my cousin’s childhood nickname),” I said when she thankfully picked up. “It’s Lynnie (my childhood nickname) calling from Paris. “We’ve run into some trouble here.”

“What kind of difficulty are you in?”

“I’ve lost my passport!”

“Oh, God! How awful! How did this happen?”

“I’m not really sure. We were walking in the Tuilerie Gardens. We were lots of places, really. I could have lost it, or it could have been stolen. I don’t know what to do. Our tickets for Oslo are Monday in the afternoon. There’s only tomorrow and Monday morning to fix the situation.”

“Listen, Lynnie,” my cousin said. “I’ll talk to a few people here to see if there’s anything to be done. I’ll call you back later.”

A no-nonsense familiar voice. Heaven!

Lillebeth did call me back and told me to get a police report. She said there might be a slight possibility that the Norwegian airline would let my fly to Oslo without a passport…as long as I had proof my identity was lost or stolen.

Really?

Paul and I took off after the call and, more or less reTRACED our steps looking in vain for my black neck travel wallet. We ended up meeting a policeman in the park and followed his directions to the nearest police station, which–by some miracle of a reverse in fortune heading in the right direction–was still open.

By the end of that day, I had a little slip of paper–an official stamped and dated police report, signaling loss of passport. Paul had contacted the Norwegian airline and the official there said we should come to the airport early on Monday afternoon and try our luck.

We still had Sunday in Paris ahead of us, and Monday morning.

Time to put our feet up on our little private terrace, tear off pieces of our baguette, spread it with some camembert, drink a little wine and Perrier and celebrate having gotten through the ups and downs of this day together in Paris.

Paris Part II

To Paul: “It’s not there!”

“What’s not there?” he asked from the other side of the bed. Our room was tastefully decorated, but small by American standards.

“My God. Everything! My passport, my driver’s license, my credits cards, my medical card, my money.”

“What?” Are you sure? What were they in?”

“You know, the travel pouch that goes around my neck.”

“It wasn’t around your neck?”

“NO! I put it in my shoulder bag so I would look a little more chic, like the French women.”

“Let me look in the bag,” Paul said practically.

I knew it wasn’t there. I knew the second I noticed the bag’s lightness that it was GONE FOREVER, the proof of all my identity along with it.

As Paul foraged through my bag and found nothing resembling my travel pouch, his face began to look like a haunted man.

Consequences, I knew, were dashing into his brain, as they had been seconds before in mine.

Today was Saturday, July 2nd. It was towards the end of the day. We had one more day and night in Paris; a Sunday when nothing in the way of banks, or embassies are open. Monday, the day we were scheduled to leave for Oslo, was July 4th, an American holiday. The chances of the American Embassy being open on July 4th didn’t seem very promising.

I mustered what little pride I had and went downstairs to the exquisitely decorated but minute hotel lobby to seek help. I tried my French on the concierge, but she immediately switched to her proficient English.

I told her what had happened and she told me a supportive story about how her iPhone was stolen right out of her bag on the métro. Then she gave me her seat in her little office off to the side of the petite lobby to research the numbers for cancelling my credit cards and helped me do it.

I went back upstairs feeling a bit better–I had at least done SOMETHING–only to find Paul’s sitting on the bed, all of our travel arrangements laid out in front of him. He looked up at me with skin taught over his cheekbones and wild eyes.

Nothing seemed very romantic at this moment in time, even with French wine and Perrier in the little fridge, a crusty fresh baguette, camembert, and a private flowered terrace to sip and eat in.

“There’s just no way we are going to be able TO GET OUT OF Paris in time TO GET OUR FLIGHT OUT OF Oslo TO MAKE OUR CONNECTION TO Kirkenes,” (the very north of Norway, where we were going to begin our very expensive much anticipated trip on the Norwegian Coastal voyage). “Unless you can get an emergency passport on Monday.”

American Express having already told me when I was on the phone with them downstairs that the American Embassy in Paris was closed on July 4th, and therefore would not be able to offer an emergency passport, I was ready to admit DEFEAT and go drink a little wine.

“What the hell can we do?” Paul said desperately.

I had no idea what we could do, but I hated to see my husband so upset. “I can call Lillebeth (my cousin) in Oslo,” I suggested.

One big difference between my husband and me is when in trouble he always tries to figure things out himself; I always ask for help–almost from the start. I’ve learned over time that both strategies have their advantages.

With no other obvious alternative, we squeezed into the little elevator, pushed the button and downstairs we went to the efficient concierge.

Paris Part I

What other ghosts remained for me to confront on this trip across the Atlantic?

Ghost as in:

phantom?
the seat of life or intelligence?
the soul of a dead person believed to be an inhabitant of the unseen world?
a false image in a photographic negative?
spirit?
a red blood cell that has lost its hemoglobin?
ghoul?
specter?
poltergeist?
banshee?

Ghost as in:

supposed spirit remaining after death?
a faint shadowy trace?
haunt?
shadow?
specter?
shade?
wraith?
secondary image?
nonexistent person or thing?
same as ghostwriter?
soul?

It was over forty years since I had been in Paris. And, the last time I was in Paris, Paul and I were, well… WE BROKE UP.

Paul had since been back for six weeks in a role as a university professor. He knew the city quite well. I used to speak French and read French and felt thrilled by all things French. I had taken a two week course at the Sorbonne when I was sixteen, had spent two summer months with a French family near Lyons when I was seventeen. I majored in French in college, spending a semester at the University of Rennes in Brittany. I was dying to re-experience my love for everything French.

I suppose you could say Paul and I were trying to lasso a ghost from our youth as in reTRACE, put it in the pen and start anew.

July 1.

As our high-speed train sped towards Paris my spirits picked up. Who wouldn’t like the idea of spending a few romantic days in this city of great beauty, with its distinguished gardens, sublime architecture, exquisite French cuisine, abundant selection of excellent French wines, lovely language of the senses, plus exotic people and their languages visiting from all over the world sprinkled into the atmospheric mix?

I had booked us a room near the Luxembourg Gardens–a room with a flowered terrace–as my gift for Paul’s birthday. We arrived at the hotel before lunch, set our suitcases in our room, then took off on foot to find the restaurant Polidor, 41 rue Monsieur Le Prince, recommended by a friend for a casual and delicious lunch. We had suprême de poulet velouté de morilles, purée……16 €…about $21. It was yummy–a sort of poached chicken with mashed potatoes and a white creamy sauce, although I did not taste the morels and I only ate half (a small tragedy caused by the “organic slinky” stomach problem from London).

On our way back to the hotel, we strolled through the Luxembourg Gardens holding hands while we took in the splendor of this park.

This city is intoxicating, I thought. A city for lovers. For friends. For families wanting some culture. A city of beauty, imagination. A city that makes people expand. In such an intoxicating atmosphere, nothing could ever go wrong…again.

The next morning we had our petit déjeuner, a croissant and thin bagette, butter, jam, fresh squeezed orange juice, and a hot coffee at the open and light-filled terraced Le Rostand across from the Luxembourg Gardens. I ate a little.

Afterward, we found our way to the Musée D’Orsay to see the exhibit: “Manet, inventeur du moderne,” but were perturbed when we saw the long line. However, it went pretty fast. We were in by 10:22.

I responded strongly to the way this exhibit was presented, all the paintings and writings about them centered around twelve questions, rather than in a linear fashion. This inventive presentation captured the breadth, depth, diversity, and historical significance of Edouard Manet’s work leaving me with greater understanding of how he refused to be pinned down with a past conception of his work as an artist, and of how he continued to try to capture what he saw in the present–however shockingly unpopular. Hence: “Manet, inventor of modernity.”

Lunch was at Le Miroir, 94 Rue des Martyrs–métro stop: Pigalle. Our friend had also recommended this bistro as reasonably priced for the quality of the food, presentation and ambience with no tourists around. (He was right!)

I thrived on watching, listening and tasting our roast lamb with little vegetables, one I indentified as julienned turnip–perfectly cooked, but couldn’t really eat much (a second culinary tragedy). As I listened to the voices of the people sitting near us, I realized my French was coming back to me. Quel Bonheur!

That afternoon, on this second day in Paris, we walked up a steep hill in the Pigalle area to visit the majestic Sacré Coeur.

It wasn’t until we were back in our hotel room later in the day that I noticed my shoulder bag felt a little light. Quickly looking inside it, I was relieved to see my iPad. But something else of importance wasn’t there.