Have you ever torn off the top of a paper sugar tube? A few minutes ago I popped a top, turned it upside down, and accidentally dropped the whole tube of sugar, which sank, bow first, straight down into my coffee. I thought I’d seen the last of it, but just then the white tube rose slowly from the depths and popped back up! Magical! I managed to grab the stern end before it sank again; I wiggled and shook it gently just above the dark sea, and the pretty white powder slid sweetly and uneventfully back into the dark chocolate-colored brew. Amazing!
Tossing the empty wet paper into the trash, my heady sense of fait accompli spoke to my earthbound self with just enough ridiculous praise to send me over to my laptop, not quite ready but perhaps willing to set a few words in order, hoping they’ll sort of spill out on their own, like they do on the good days, when it’s all I can do to crank them out as fast as the thoughts pop into my head… bolstered, of course, by the last cup of coffee, which picked me up out of a scattering of random thoughts as I watched the grey skies turn even darker. Like the continuing off and on rainy weather, which perplexes even meterologically inclined Parisians, I trust my thoughts to arrive in a similar fashion: on again, off again, as random as a herd of cats and just as unpredictable. Which they do. Arrive, that is. Unexpectedly and from who knows where?
Ahh… you gotta love Paris! Life is good. That gorgeous mansion on the Champs Elysées, a block from the Arc de Triomphe, is a musée (museum), one of hundreds in Paris.
The little poppies and the fragrant basil and parsley Ben planted on our balcony have been thriving on these spring — now summer — rains. Paris is a green oasis of busyness, the traffic kept in check by sidewalk cafés where time stands still… and no one ever brings the bill until you ask for it.
Ancient walls and monuments are a constant reminder of the fleeting life cycle of us two-leggeds. Beautiful fountains here and there are a tranquil pools of Rest & Relaxation in the midst of it all.
I love this twelfth century wall near St. Etienne’s and the Pantheon. The plaque credits Philippe Auguste for building the wall.
Abundant greenery is balanced by ancient stone…
cool cobblestone passages…
…the Feng Shui of timeless stone and flowing water.
While touring Versailles we accidentally woke up Sleeping Beauty! We chased her thru the gardens, then into the Royal Palace where we followed her from one glittering room to another, so dazzling they seemed make-believe!
Definitely the turf of a hometown princess. She knew every secret door and passageway, each spiral staircase leading to dungeon, scullery, towers…
We finally pinned her down in the Medieval Library. The trick was to open a book and read her a story: she was a captive audience! After listening to a few French tales of bravery, duels and treachery to the Crown, she told us her sad tale of woe.
“Please let me come with you,” she begged. “Release me from captivity and take me to the 21st century!” We were willing, but insisted she trade in her glass slippers for a pair of trademark jeans — French couture, of course. 17th century meets 21st!
Versailles vs. Versace? We promised her three squares and a calico kitten to cuddle. Her first meal in our reality — cheeseburger, ice cream and coke — was wolfed down faster than you could say Little Red Riding Hood.
We offered her the grand tour, but she declined the double-decker sightseeing bus; modern petrol-sucking machines give her the heebie-jeebies. She’s quite environmentally conscientious for someone who’s been asleep for 300 years! Alas, the coach house was empty: our sturdy draft horses were sent up to summer pastures in the high country. So our pragmatic princess hoofed it around town with us in her flip-flops and never complained, not even under her breath — although we did catch a few eyeball rolls!
We marched along happily in our quest for the best chocolate in Paris. Christian Constant was our knight in shining armor, with his jasmine and orange blossom scented petit fours, leaving a trail of bittersweet implosions in our mouths…
We were taken on a close-your-eyes journey tracing the old chocolate trade route through India and Arabia — where essence of Rose, Vetiver, and Ylang-Ylang leads to Tahitian vanilla, Verbena, Corinthian raisins, Cassis, Frangipani, Saffron, Chinese ginger and Cardamom from Malabar.
We tasted dark chocolate (ganache), almond praline, ginger praline, almond-hazelnut paste, raspberry mousse, Sicilian tangerine, bitter chocolate truffle. Holy Zocomoly! [Christian Constant, 37, rue d’Assas, Paris 75006.]
Sleeping Beauty was wide awake, finally, cooled down by chocolate ice cream, the only known antidote to chocolate fever. We followed her into Starbucks on the Champs Elysées.
We thought it only right to warn Sleeping Beauty about the “other” Starbuck:
After a much-needed coffee break (the Princess likes Caramel Frappuccinos) she wanted to test drive a Maserati race simulator, only €20 for 5 minutes, but we were afraid of losing her in hyperspace. But we did catch a glimpse of some really cool vintage rides.
Ben took his time scoping out all the Fiats, Lancias, Renaults, Peugots, Maseratis, Aston Martins, and Ferraris in that pricey neighborhood. Sorry, no Cadillas, BMWs, Audis or Volvos… not even an old Chevy pickup! Sleeping Beauty opted for a more affordable transportation alternative: a horseback medieval warrior who nearly swept her off her feet!. She only had to put in a few quarters! Can’t see her astride that horse? Duh! She’s wearing her invisibility cloak!
But we suspect she’s really after the handsome Count of Tivoli, a dashing young fellow from a good family:
That might be a kiss worth waking up for!
So we flew past Notre Dame, scorned by our own little Princess who has the real dirt on what notre mére had been up that night about seven hundred years ago: fiddling with poison apples and deadly corsets were just a few of her evil games. But the Principessa had other fish to fry. She wanted to stop by the Louvre to see all those glorious paintings and sculptures of her friends from a bygone era.
Louis XIII went off to make war; his favorite sport cost him his life.
Sleepy Cinderella loved the Louvre; but all that Napoleonic bling made her hungry as an 11-year old Princess can be. We took the Metro to another quarter, and stopped for refreshments.
Obviously, she runs on Coke, burgers and fries. She begged us for mac & cheese but we don’t go in for processed foods. We had to draw the line somewhere! Emergency rations only! Give a princess an excuse and she’ll clean out your fridge!
Back at home base — Camp Ocean Pines it ain’t — not Camp Roberts either, nor is it Big Sur, Tuolumne Meadows or Groovy Beach — Sleeping Beauty morphed into Cinderella when she saw what a mega-mess our camp cook can make. We prayed for delivery of a flock of the ubiquitous Café Scrounger Pigeons to clean up our kitchen, but we got Cinderella instead. No more dust bunnies under the couch, or my best marinara sauce splattered and petrifying on the white enamel cooktop!
We were beginning to worry she’d be putting a call in to the Royal Inquisitor (aka Mom!) if we let her continue the cleaning frenzy, so we took her to see Midnight in Paris. Sure enough, Sleepy Cinderella loved it! Miss mise-en-scéne’s metabolism finally slowed down to a crawl. We got her tucked in for the night, downloading photos to her Facebook till she passed out. Now that her story has gone viral due to her gazillion aunties, uncles, cousins, first cousins, and adorable little sister, she plans to make big bucks singing and dancing on the silver screen AFTER she finishes the Vampire Training Academy. No wonder she can’t sleep before midnight! File those nails and don’t forget your fangs!
Cinderella loves to dance so she accompanied us to a few milongas, including one on board the NixNox, tied up at Quai de la Gare (Mitterand). That gently rockin’n’rollin’ dance floor sure adds extra altitude and torque to those giros! We strolled along the quay after sundown… about 10 pm Paris time.
Two weeks is a very short time to visit a city as big as Paris. Mackinze was almost tireless… we were proud when we did manage to tire her out! She climbed all the way up the Eiffel Tower (we did too!), danced on the banks of the Seine, kept watch while we adorned Pont des Arts with locks and tobacco ties, and gave spare change to musicians playing on the Metro and the clarinet player outside the Musée d’Orsay. She also sat thru a few episodes of my favorite telenovela, La Reina del Sur. I got hooked on it in Buenos Aires. I can read basic body language in the vernacular but, unfortunately, simple French conversation is beyond me. However, statements like “You’re toast, cabrón” and “my Russian friend is going to teach you to sing like a canary” come across quite clearly no matter what language is spoken!
Ben and I turned Cinderella into a lover of all-natural French yogurt with organic granola and Senegalese mango. She liked the spaghetti and meatballs confected by yours truly, just like nonna used to make, except I don’t stand at the stove for hours rolling them back and forth in the frying pan till they are perfectly browned and as spherical as cue balls. Next day we had meatball sandwiches with fresh mozzarella on baguettes. The only thing missing was the jalapeños! She liked to sneak out in the morning and raid the local boulangeries for our breakfast staples: croissants, chocolate croissants, almond croissants… croissants with black tea or coffee.
Editor’s note: this post is turning into a novel, will you please bring it to a close!?
My response: Sure boss, but our little takoja is so much fun, and she is so photogenic!
Cinderella strolled the banks of the Seine:
Mackinze climbed the Eiffel Tower as well as endless stairs at the Louvre and other museums and palaces about town, not to mention up and down to the Metro, and the 108 steps up to the apartment at least twice a day — usually running up! Way to Go Girl!
She loves ducks! Photo by Mackinze.
Cinderella had to go back to Never-Never Land…. sob! and we are already missing her. I wonder how much change she could collect if she spent a few hours meeting and greeting people while passing the hat (her new French chapeau) outside a local Starbucks…. so she can buy herself a Caramel Frappuccino! All you have to do is practice saying, “Bonjour! Café pour moi? Je suis tres jolie!” You can do it, girl!
She might also look into dog-walking. You can make a lot of dough if you can handle a sizeable herd…. it’s not too soon to start saving up for college!
This post written especially for friends and family of Mackinze, Ben’s 11 year-old granddaughter and a shining star in all of our lives! All the rest of you are pretty darn special, too! Happy Fourth of July! Have a great summer!
Loving your writing and your journey. So glad that you two are out there seeing the world and sharing it with the rest of us ‘earthbound’ types. Weather here has been mild this summer so far. Many happy days for you to come…. ENJOY