“He went to Paris/ looking for answers/ to questions that bothered him so.” (Jimmy Buffett) We went to Paris looking for food and art-supply stores and because we had a ticket we could not cancel.
Back in May we decided to take a trip to the US to visit friends, and to attend our friends Tim and Lisa’s wedding on 20 August. Well, as I have already reported, thanks to COVID, airline travel nightmares on both sides of The Pond, and the reality that Neville seems to be aging a bit faster, the trip was scuttled. We were able to get refunds or credits for all of the airlines, and cancel the hotels. We were left with a Eurostar ticket that is still good for a few months, and a ticket from our nearest train station in Flers to Paris. So we decided to go to Paris for four nights.
Our train tickets were for Thursday 11 August at 12h45, at about 17h on Wednesday we received an email from SNCF that the station in Flers was having some construction done so the train would not be stopping there. After translating French emails and websites we discovered we could drive to Argentan, where the train would now be originating from, one hour away from home. There were actually two trains going to Paris, which they combined into one train, which was going to Vaugirard Station not Montparnasse which was our original destination. The conductor on the platform said it would be fine??? We figured we could take a taxi from Vaugirard to our hotel in Montparnasse. But of course the platform number kept changing so, like a scene from Monty Python, all passengers flocked from one platform to another and then back again. Once we got on the train I discovered that both of the train stations are connected, one on each side of the street, so we were in actuality going to the same place we originally intended to go – not a big deal at all.
Why did they wait so late to notify? Why did the email not make it clear what was happening? Why did neither the website nor the train apps, both of them, have so little information? Etc. Well the answer is simple, one that we have learned is used by the French as often as by expats for a variety of situations that don’t make sense, “It’s France!” Which pretty much ends any discussion.
In our rural part of Normandie there are no art supply stores, thankfully in Paris there are many. Since our trip was just a few days prior to my birthday I went on a shopping spree – three different stores, and we could have done more, after all when it comes to art, It’s France.
The third reason for going to Paris, which for us could easily be the raison supérieure, is the food. One thing we have learned is that most anyplace you eat at in France will have good food, It’s France. However this time the food was less than spectacular and I was reminded of a few other answers that Jimmy probably never thought of.
First off, picking a restaurant when it is 30+C and humid, while tired from walking, is almost always chancy.
Second, when you are in a tourist area like the Left Bank, or most anyplace where the restaurants have someone out front herding people in, it is harder to make a wise choice, though we do our best.
Third lesson, one that is almost always true from my experience, is that anyplace that has the menu in French and English (or Spanish-English, Italian-English… you get the idea) is catering to tourists and will be priced higher with less attention to quality, since their goal is tourists who come once and then are gone.
Thankfully we did not do too bad, we had some decent meals after all. On this trip I think it was the heat that made it most difficult as we did not want to walk very far.
It was a good trip, a lot of fun. We met up with French friends who we know from Seattle but who now live in Paris. We visited the Musée d’Orsay again after 20 years, as well as wandered through the left Bank, and we went to the Jardin des Plants for the first time – definitely worth a return on a cooler day.
One thing about France I do miss out here in the farms of Normandy is the café for morning café, so I did get out for a couple early sketches, with the extra benefit of it not being hot yet.
Keep traveling and sketching. And as always love to see what you are sketching, so send me a message.