Stylin’ in Montmartre

Bonjour

Geesh-– Is that a French word?  No, I guess not.

Spending more than a few minutes trying to ask for cheese on my vegetarian salad, I finally gave up (fromage–right?) — the waiter obviously wasn’t in the mood to work out my high school French. And really, I am here to people-watch–it would be truly difficult to spoil my mood–particularly after seeing the salad that he just served (sans said cheese).

At 5:00 p.m., the neighborhood streets of Montmartre are filling with people on the move– many spilling from the metro stop, others walking feisty dogs or pushing precious cargo in strollers as the case may be–their numbers seem fairly equal. In the alley, across the street, high school kids yell and shriek, kicking balls and letting off steam.

Armed with my roller bag, iPad and a copy of my passport– just in case someone gets tricky with my purse–I am looking for clothing shops and cafes– all the things that make me smile. Once In awhile, a stranger returns my grin– but it is not customary, for sure. Our hostess joked that although the French are friendly, the Parisians wake up in a bad mood. So I don’t take it personally.

What I adore are the styles I see parading by! Boiled wool coats, signature berets and scarves of many hues of course– didn’t the French invent them? Although black and gray coats are the norm, the brave sport plaids and colors– orange, red and gold. Pink winter coats that I saw last year are still evident too. The styles of jackets and coats are unique and smart–some fitted and stitched or asymmetric in design. No longer are sneakers looked down upon but boots dominate– how do they walk in those steep heels? And felted hats are common– do they not get ”hat hair” here?

Once Montmartre was the artists’ haunt– but now, it is more upscale though old world charm is represented by wrought-iron fencing at the windows or shutters reaching from ceiling to floor of the apartments peering down along the boulevards that are haphazardly arranged rather than running perpendicular. It makes following a map challenging.

As the Cathedral chimes the hour, I am reminded that Montmartre predates its Christian heritage– first it was named in honor of the Greek god, Mercury and later, for Mars. Christian influence swiftly interpreted it as the “mount of the martyr”, referring to the grizzly tale of St. Denis, a priest who was beheaded for his faithful teachings. Legend has it that he carried his own head many miles before he lay down to die. The Basilica at the top of the hill was built to honor him in the late 1800’s.

It is said that you may sit for hours at restaurants and cafes as you sip or eat without being given your check–to do so would be rude– so here I sit, putting it to the test.

Later I plan to test another spot–only then, it will be with French wine!

Sante’

Ah Paris, Montmartre

Stuck in Paris

What would you do if your boyfriend mistakenly took the keys to the Airbnb and you were stuck in the apartment all day?

Ok, I am not going to panic– I’m safe and warm in a quaint little studio, complete with a private garden, wifi, interesting reading (in French), a loaf of crusty bread, French cheese and a 1/2 bottle of good red wine– how bad can it be?

I could:
1. Take a nap and wait to explore in the evening, knowing things stay open late
2. Do a little Yoga– my best friend has a series she’s introducing on You Tube (Rebekah Powers)
3. Catch up on my research and reading
4. Write some letters
5. Take a nap– did I say that already?
6. Blog, baby, blog

So… I think I will peruse the little garden out my back door and do all of the above!

C’est une bonne idee’, oui?

(My French is coming back to me!)

Blogging Paris

 

Staying in Montmartre, situated in the shadow of Sacre’ Coeur Basilica- boasting the highest point in Paris, I began to settle into the experience that I associate with springtime in the City of Lights.
 The weather was changeable, gentle rain appropriately blurring me into one of those iconic landscapes that we associate with gay Paree.  Walking can be slippery on those old bricks, better suited to slowly strolling and window shopping, methinks!
 And when the sun emerged, startling new blooms were the reward, already lining the window sills, gardens and street-side cafes’.
 The streets are steep, making climbing difficult without a trusty cane or walking stick.  Rather than railing at  the need for support, I have decided that it makes a sexy accessory-often getting me a seat on the metro! People are nice like that.
  Have Cane; Am Able!
Why oh why do I love Paris?
  • Activity.  Everywhere people seem engaged.  They are out and about- even on a Monday night–talking, drinking coffee, sipping wine.  There is activity that makes television seem foreign, irrelevant and irreverent.
  • Cross cultures.  So many people with a sense of having enough time.  Diversity is inspiring and heady.
  • Cafes and outdoor venues, where I am welcome to stay awhile, blogging my heart’s content.
  • Shopping is a way of life-daily trips to the market makes the evening meal fresher. And it feels more wholesome to consume what you buy in a timely manner.
AirBnB worked for us again!
We loved that little studio, tucked into a building hundreds of years old.
Thank goodness for the ascensor (elevator) tiny but mighty and quaint.  T
he manager, Melina, from Venice, was the perfect hostess, speaking fluent English from her New York upbringing.
Through conversation we learned that she has a rental in Venus–and we just put that on our Bucket List!

Madrid: 1st time around

OMG—thanks to Ellioto, who has a 6-month fellowship to Universidad San Carlos III de Madrid, I’m here–in Madrid, Spain.   He’s living on the top floor of university-housing, so we are definitely living with the students, so to speak.

Coming from a college town, I probably felt more at ease with college students than they do with me. English is not so much a second language with the locals as it is for the students who have helped us more than once–otherwise, I would still be trying to figure out those coin washers at the laundromat!

Arriving on St. Patrick’s Day, my Irish soul felt the luck of amazing weather, fresh and clear, luring my jet-lagged self out into the day. This weekend the temps are in the 70’s, though it’s a bit early and not yet consistent. With nary a cloud marring the baby-blue, an occasional jet streaks stripes above me. The breeze gentles my spirit as I settle into this exotic land.

There are date palms trees here, the result of Madrid’s moderate climate. Birds harken in song and across the lush green lawn, groups of college kids dot the grass, their guitars plucking Spanish rhythms as they sing aloud. It’s hypnotic and I could not sit still as I acclimated to the Spanish thrum.

Others practiced gymnastic flips, on high and low bars, offering me a show. Boom boxes revved-up their moves, while their incomprehensible chatter reminded me that I am the foreigner here. And so, they posed and showed off as I snapped a few shots.

Similar to Oxford’s crosswalk-law, cars stop for pedestrians and no one seems rude or irritated. Thus, I vowed to return home with a more agreeable attitude.

There are not as many bicycles as in other European cities that we have visited, but there are bike paths, parks with fountains and playgrounds located every few blocks where families with dogs, complete the wholesome scene. Grandparents in tow, the children seem mellow and happy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And what of Spanish food, you ask? It is not as spicy as Mexican; local cheese is delish; Paella is a staple and the wine is less expensive than bottled water however, I will never get used to having fried anchovies served up with my beer!