Paris Part I

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

Ghost as in:

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?
a red blood cell that has lost its hemoglobin?

Ghost as in:

supposed spirit remaining after death?
a faint shadowy trace?
secondary image?
nonexistent person or thing?
same as ghostwriter?

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.