March 15, 2007
"Les Bateaux! Les Bateaux!"
During this trip to City Where Young Waiters Follow My Daughter to the Curb to Blow Her Kisses, we've visited museums and cemeteries, historic monuments and churches. I think I've climbed every spiral stone staircase in the city, which has been a strain on my still-recovering knee, although I will say the magnificent views have been well worth it. My favourite way to explore a city is to choose a neighborhood and walk around aimlessly. I especially love the curving streets of European cities, where anything might be around the bend: a cafe with red awnings, a fromage shop brilliantly yellow, a patisserie with fruit tarts in the window, a flower shop bursting with clusters of colour, a corner park where children play, or a cathedral where old women shuffle across the stone floor to light candles.
On sunny spring days in City Where Breakfast Includes Croissants and Pain Au Chocolat, there are all kinds of beautiful places to stop and take a rest. This morning after strolling along a canal hung with the branches of old trees and lined with trendy shops, we took the metro to the Big Gardens With Fountains Near Palace, snagged three green metal chairs, and soaked up the sun. Little kids were sailing boats in the fountain pools, carrying long sticks to push the sailboats with and yelling to each other excitedly in French. When we'd get a good gust of wind, the whole fleet of boats would glide from one side of the stone-edged pond to the other, and the kids would jump up and down, laughing.
When we got hungry, we wandered to a place Artist Friend had told me about, a dark red cafe on a sunny corner near the shadows of the palace. The Cafe Where Artist Friend Spent Many Afternoons When He Was Young juts out into a busy intersection where all kinds of people hurried past as we sat at the very corner under the red awning and ate our lunch. The young waiter teased me about being a vegetarian ("Dessert? Nous avons dessert vegetarienne.") while my Wonderful Smart Beautiful Daughter teased me about having to have the "Artist Friend experience." A little boy on a bicycle with faulty brakes came hurtling down the sidewalk and crashed right into us.
Of course, I went inside to see what the rest of the cafe looked like. A short flight of stairs led down into the kitchen, where the waiter laughed at my curiosity and talked to me in French. Above my head, people clustered at small tables in a cosy loft-like room. To the left, a spiral staircase led down to two tiny restrooms, each about the size of the bathroom on an airplane, with a little sink in the wall for both. A few more tables were tucked up against the windows on the ground level, making use of every inch of space. I stared out at the scene in front of the cafe – students hurrying by, the high walls of the palace in the background – and tried to imagine what it would be like to be Artist Friend, sitting here on a sunny afternoon, his whole self opening to City Where Language is Music and Bright Colours Sail in Fountain Pools. As I watched, a woman sauntered by, carrying a sheaf of flowers, her long legs clad in black silk stockings.
Posted by jo(e)