Friday April 20
Another group of days as a flaneur, this time with my daughter. In her twenties, she, like me had lived in Paris, but she stayed longer, five years. However, the day did not begin well. We walked to her Airbnb in Les Gobelins neighborhood: it was a long walk without much charm much like the studio she had chosen. After a disappointing tour of the kitchen and bathroom, we agreed she would pick me up at the Irish College. From there, we would walk to Les Enfants Rouge, a restaurant in the Marais where she had made reservations.
In between, I searched for alternative accomodations. When she arrived, she said the walls were so thin, she could hear people turning on the water taps in the next apartment. We looked at the possibilities and decided the best choice was my old stomping grounds, Grand Hotel des Balcons in the Odeon.
The day improved with an excellent meal at Les Enfants Rouge. As we were both tired, we decided to get a cab, go directly to her Airbnb, get her bags, and back to Odeon to check in. Malheuresment, we forgot that the code to the building was on my daughter’s phone which was charging in my room. Back to the Irish College, back to the studio in Les Gobelins, and then, finally, Grand Hotel des Balcons on Rue Casimir Delavigne.
I’ve stayed in the hotel so often, walking in felt like home. Her room was much bigger than the monk’s cell where I usually bunk. She jumped for joy at the view, the quiet room, and spacious bathroom that would be home for the next few days.
Making my way back to the Irish College on Rue Monsieur-le-Prince, I saw an well known restaurant, Le Polidor (seen in Woody Allen’s movie, Midnight in Paris), a small marche still open, a Moroccan and a Vietnamese restaurant. Except for The Polidor, none were familiar even though I’ve spent many an hour on this street in the San Francisco Book Company.
Today, we walked 11 miles and spent an hour and a half in a cab.
Saturday April 21
We both love the department store, Bon Marche on Rue de Sevres. As soon as we entered, looking at the produce was a priority. Although more beautiful than any other display of fruits and vegetables, this time it did seem smaller. Now there are large sections devoted to prepared foods.
Next, we meandered up to the top floor, our special treasure, the notions department. We wandered through the designer clothes, my prefence being Valentino, her’s Sonia Rykiel.
We both liked a beautifully made white jacket. Tres tres chere. And, finally, the piece de resistance, the top floor and the notions department. In order to look at buttons, one must get a sales person who will don gloves to retrieve them from a display case. And the ribbons, c’est formidable. We found the staircase but no notions. Where could that department be?
Il n’exist pas. Maintenant, a toy department, an excellent toy department, but not the notions that took one back in time where each item, not matter how small, was valued.
Downstairs, we grabbed salads to eat down the street at Square Boucicaut named after the founder of Bon Marche. An interesting encounter between two citoyens francais took place on the bench next to us. A woman who appeared to be homeless given the amount of gear she had with her sat quietly. Not far from her sat a man who began to batter her with questions. Why did she have so many bags? Where was she going? Why was she wearing a coat when the day was so warm? She mumbled and sometimes answered but often turned away. Finally, he left. She departed soon after. Another man noticed she had dropped a sweater which he handed to her. She thanked him, and on her way out, tossed it in the garbage bin.
My daughter had dinner plans, so we made our way back to Odeon, stopping at her favorite stores to look at lovely clothes and beautiful shoes.