We hung out and chatted all morning with Sheila, sharing a breakfast of bread, butter and jam… which the French call “tartine” and is what you eat when you have time. Which I think is funny, because it’s so easy… what do you eat when you don’t have time? Coffee. It was great.
Nathan woke up with a bad sore throat, sneezing a lot. We’re not sure if being in the musty cave the night before set off his allergies, or if he’s allergic to some plants, or the large amount of exhaust and cigarette smoke in the city. Or, it could just be a virus.
Sheila took us on a walk to the Bastille, where a large market happens twice a week. We picked up three kinds of cheese and some fruit, and Amy bought a scarf. With the addition of a baguette from a boulangerie (like a bakery) and a bottle of wine from a corner store, we had the makings of a perfect Parisian picnic. By the way, the corner store, which is teeny, has about as much wine as a grocery store! And, it’s very inexpensive. We spread our blankets, took off our shoes, and ate and drank in a grassy area in the Marais neighborhood.
After lunch we walked a lot more through the Marais. It was tiring, as our bodies are not used to so much walking. But we were very glad we had Sheila for a guide, and we wanted to take in the city instead of riding the metro everywhere. So, we walked. It’s sale month in France (and all across Europe) so every store has big signs that say “Soldes” (Sale). This only happens 2 times a year that stores are allowed to heavily discount their merchandise (After New Year’s is the other Soldes). The later in July it is, the better the sales. Some window shopping was followed by a visit to an incredible tea shop, where you can smell scoops of tea from around the world, all stored in antique containers lining the walls. There’s even a history of tea exhibit upstairs. We also stopped in to a showcase of unedited fashion photos from the early 20th century, in a bank (I think because the bank gave the loans to the designers/companies?).
After all the walking we were ready for happy hour, which we enjoyed at The Biarritz Cafe in our neighborhood. Lots of bars and restaurants have happy hour specials from about 6pm – 9pm, like in the States. We had beer and sweetened wine beverages, with peanuts to snack on, and chatted and enjoyed the ambiance while people watching… a favorite pasttime here.
Back at the apartment, Nathan and Sheila made a green curry chicken, which was delicious and quite spicy (we needed milk to help us get through it). We shared some more wine, and lots of bread. Amy contribute by playing the uke while Nathan and Sheila cooked.
We don’t know how we decide(d) to go to a country for three weeks where we don’t know the language. But it is hard. It’s not really a vacation but a different way of doing life a harder way, but perhaps better in the end. We’re tourists, but not exactly because we’re here to live for the month. We’ve never traveled in this way before. It feels a little bit like the bike trip because we’ve bitten off more than we knew. But it’s different because we’re staying in one spot for a while. It was great having Austin and Sheila around to show us their place and Sheila walking around with us yesterday. But it was a bit of a crutch. Nervous, but excited to be on our own. A normalish schedule. Going to bed a bit earlier and waking up earlier too.
Nate and Sheila got us pastries after stopping by the pharmacy to get some medicine for Nate’s sore throat. In France, you have to talk to the pharmacist to get any medicine – he or she is the “first responder” to sickness, and will “prescribe” over the counter medicine or suggest you see a doctor if it’s serious enough.
To allow Austin and Sheila time and space to pack for their vacation, we left the apartment to check out the huge outdoor market directly outside, which also runs twice a week (on different days than the Bastille market!). On our first pass, we just pushed through the throngs and observed. The vendors sing or shout or call out “un euro!” or offer you a slice of fruit, trying to entice you to check out their stuff. We didn’t buy anything on the first pass; we were just overwhelmed by so many people. We regrouped and came up with a plan, and went through again, this time buying produce for next few days for potato & leek soup, and other stuff. The closer the market is to closing, the cheaper the goods get. What was 2 euros 5 minutes ago is now 1. Pretty cool, but crazy.
After dropping off the food at home, we stopped by the nearby church again, this time going inside to see the beautiful stained glass and various icons. Then we went back to Parc de Belleville, where we played some music and tried to get wifi so we could blog in the park. There’s free but spotty wifi around Paris. There’s always lots of interesting people in the park. Nate was off trying to find wifi and Amy was playing uke, and a guy walked by. He was either mute or deaf – Amy’s guess is deaf. But he saw her playing and sat down, and they attempted to have a conversation. She doesn’t sign but she knows “thank you” and she tried to annunciate as much as possible. She was a little worried when he sat down, but instead of running off with Nathan’s things, he handed them to her so he could sit there. She kept on playing and he kept on trying to communicate. He put his hand on the ukulele to feel the vibrations and after she established that she was married (by pointing vigorously at her ring), his passion for the ukulele seemed to be dissuaded. They parted ways amicably in the traditional Parisian way of kissing on each cheek. It was all very strange, but also a bit normal. Nathan rounded the bend and sat down. Amy debated whether or not to tell him the story at all.
We headed back home to eat dinner and finish a blog post, before meeting up with Nathan’s friend Julien. We weren’t sure where or when that was going to happen. Julien spent 6 months in Orlando about 8 years ago, where he was working on computer graphics research at the same time Nathan was working for the Media Convergence Laboratory in Research Park. We all became friends back then and hadn’t seen Julien in that long, and were excited to reconnect. Julien invited us to meet up with him and his girlfriend Michelle down at the riverside of the Seine in an area where a lot of temporary cafes, restaurants and seating are set up in the summertime. In a few weeks there will be a temporary beach set up near there as well, with truckloads of sand brought in to create another space to hang out and enjoy the river, the sun and the warmth.
There were tons of young people hanging out along the river as the sun slowly set. Many had brought their own food and beverages and were sitting anywhere they wanted. Many more were sitting in the foldout sling chairs around the restaurants and bars. It was tough to find 4 seats together but we managed to after a little while, and sat down, had a few beers and caught up. It’s so nice to be outside in the evening here during the summertime, as the sun doesn’t really set until past 10pm and it’s light for longer after that.
We chatted for hours about many subjects, especially politics and where we should travel around France. It really felt like the 4 of us had been friends for a long time. Traveling has its way of binding you to each other and the people you meet. Strangers all around, so when a familiar face sits next to you, the connection is that much greater.