Thursday, July 12, 2012
I felt that slight flutter of panic when I awoke this morning--assaulted by that feeling that there were things I hadn't quite finished doing in time for my departure tomorrow. After a quick breakfast based mainly on leftover scraps of bread and preserves, Llew and I left with our friend Cynthia and went straight to Marks & Spencer on the Champs-Elysses to run an errand for our friend Sylvia. It was also a chance for us to take Cynthia to the festive avenue as Paris got ready to celebrate Bastille Day.
Shopping on the Champs-Elysses:
One short ride on the metro later with a stop at George V ("George Le Cinq"), we were striding along the Avenue that was beautifully strewn with bleu, blanc and rouges banners in readiness for the Quatorze Juilliet festivities. At Marks and Sparks, we found the Battenburg Cake we were seeking and with several bars in our bags (some to take back to India), we set off on our next errand:
Visit to the Church of the Miraculous Medal:
Almost every Indian and Pakistani Catholic in Paris seems to know the Church of the Miraculous Medal on Rue de Bac. Cynthia was keen to pay a visit there and within a short time, we were inside the beautiful church with its heavenly blue altar and its mosaic work. Although it was a weekday, the 12 noon mass was just about to begin and the church was filling fast. We made our visit, went into the shop to buy a few of the medals that are very efficacious in case of sickness and left the church.
Bountiful Le Bon Marche:
Since Le Bon Marche, Paris's snazzy department store, was just around the corner, we went in there so I could show them the beautiful Le Corbusier furniture in the lobby. Since Le Grande Epicerie is just across the road, we went in there to buy sandwiches for our lunch. Cynthia decided to buy us dessert, so at the pastry counter we indulged in chocolate pastries, Paris' famous Opera pastry (named after the Opera building by Charles Garnier) and a mini box of macarons. With all this dietary induglence, I can see myself going on a strict diet when I return to Bombay. God knows I have piled on the Parisian pounds. And God alone knows how or why French women do not get fat. It has to be their staple diet: cigarettes and cafeine in all the coffee they guzzle.
Chocolate Purchases--Two for the Road:
Since I hadn't yet managed to find the chocolates that were recommended by the Paris Gourmet on the internet, my eyes lit up when I spotted Foucher on Rude du Bac. I simply had to step in to buy a few of the recommended croquants--spice-filled chocolate cookies. However, the ones that were offered to us were dark chocolate discs studded with what felt like Rice Krispies. We bought a bag anyway and munched on them as we left the store. Not too far away was Le Maison de Chocolat--there are several of these sprinkled around Paris. The Rigoletto Noir I sought were not available, however. The assistant informed me (in French, mind you) that the temperature conditions in her store are not condusive to the storage of that particular type of chocolate which are affected by condensation on their surface. The chocolates were, therefore, unavailable. Quel Dommage! With little time left to spare, we headed home to munch on our sandwiches and our cakes and then it was time to leave our apartment to see Cynthia off at the station.
Au Revoir Cynthia:
Cynthia's Eurostar Chunnel train was scheduled to leave from Gare Du Nord at 6. 18 pm. By 5.00 pm, we were at the station so that she could clear Immigration and other formalities for her return to the UK. We had spent 4 days with her and they had simply flown--but how great it had been to meet and reconnect with our friend. She marveled at the amount we had managed to cover! Saying goodbye was not easy but she swore she had thoroughly enjoyed her first ever trip away from her husband Michael and, hopefully, it will not be her last. We took last-minute pictures and then off she went.
Back home to Pack:
Llew and I got back home and set ourselves to the task of packing our suitcases and clearning and cleaning out our apartment. In a very systematic way, we managed it for we came to the conclusion that it was best for Llew to take back all my Paris items and things I would not be using in India. This meant that he was better off taking two lighter suitcases and leaving me with one. Somehow, despite severe baggage restrictions from Air France, I managed to fit in all my stuff including the heavy loads of research notes, files and books that I have carried with the intention of finishing up the writing of the manuscript of my book in Bombay. I had awful fears about being confronted with the nighmare of paying for extra baggage.
A Last-Minute Visit from Livia:
At 8.00 pm on the dot, when most of our packing had been accomplished, my French friend Livia arrived to say goodbye. We had a fantastic evening with her as she kept us in splits. It was so much fun. We discovered that as a hobby, she takes pictures of Hollywood stars, following them around the world (New York, Paris, Cannes) and getting to the sites of their engagements with the hopes of shooting their portraits. She showed us the scores of pictures she has managed to capture over the past fifteen years--indeed she described this hobby as a "passion" and said that she will continue to work at it for as long as she is able.
Livia joined us for a meagre dinner based on whatever we had left as we needed to clear up our frigo and cupboards before our departure. In fact, she was kind enough to take away some of my supplies with her (extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, etc). After about 2 hours, it was time to excuse ourselves as we still had so much to do. After she left, we continued working on the dribs and drabs that we had scattered all about the place and managed to finish our packing and clean up the apartment.
It was about 11.00 pm when we went to bed having set our phone alarm for 6. 30 am with the intention of leaving our apartment at 8.00 am which was the time at which we had arranged to have the taxi pick us up. As I lay in bed, I could not believe that my Parisian dream had come to an end.
In some ways it felt as if I had been in Paris forever--I had learned the city like the back of my hand and could find my way around its center with my eyes closed. Yet, in other ways, it seemed as if I had only arrived yesterday for time had flown so fast in the face of the many things I had managed to accomplish and all the miles I had put on to my personal odometer.
Tomorrow, I thought, I will write another blog post assessing my impressions of the city and its people. But for now, it is time for me to close my eyes and bring the curtain down on yet another day and yet another lifetime's adventure.