Today, we started by going to Stefanie’s neck of the woods, which is the Bastille area of Paris. She wanted to show us her favourite shop, Merci—and it’s a good thing because it was the only shop that was open (check times for stores and museums when here: suffice to say that the shops of the Bastille and Village St. Paul in Le Marais are mostly closed on Mondays). It's tucked inside a courtyard off the main strip. No great photos of the inside, but this is a store that is full of the best and funkiest in clothes, books, films, dishes and shoes. Deb, if you don’t know it, you would lose your fricking mind! No, it’s not cheap, but that’s never stopped me from admiring the wares. I always treat stores like this like they’re galleries, but where you can fondle the stuff and no one will come by and “slap” your wrist.
After Merci, we were ready for lunch. If this doesn’t make time-sense (no, we did not spend hours inside), keep in mind that with the jet lag, you may, like us, allow yourself to sleep in a bit and make up for your tardiness with late nights. Also, keep in mind that one lingers over meals here. You savour your morning croissant and coffee, you enjoooooooooy it. So, after Merci, we were ready for lunch. And Merci has three different, excellent eating options, all gorgeous. We chose the offshoot café and had a huge bowl of salad, mozzarella, fig, and roasted veggies, and a glass of homemade ginger lemonade. Sooo delicious.
Then we walked the streets for hours, looking into shop windows—St. Paul is known for its vintage shops. As I said, none of them were open, which is just as well because the delights and treasures featured in every window make you want to buy them all, cost be damned: mais, it’s French! It’s one-of-a-kind! It’s so old it makes our North American antiques look like Ikea-era tchotchkes! We explored more gardens—which all have the sense of being secret gardens, the kind you suddenly stumble upon, apropos of seemingly nothing, and not at all crowded (well, it is the fall). Usually in large courtyards surrounded by grand abodes and accessed through porticoes and archways and ornamental gates.
After hours of walking, we needed another break and so we landed on the narrow street-side patio of this café. Parisians stay outdoors for as long as they can. Drizzly, damp and cool weather is no deterrent for sipping and people-watching (and, yes, smoking) on the Paris sidewalks. Most (but not all) are heated. I’m not tolerant of coffee, so my go-to is always tea. But here, I enjoyed my own delicacy: chocolat. Which is what you say for hot chocolate. This is a cup of silken dark chocolate that either comes mixed with hot milk, or for which they provide the small pitcher of hot milk and you mix it yourself to your taste. Sugar is provided to sweeten it, but I liked mine as it was. We sat here for a long time, resting our feet and enjoying the view and the atmosphere.
Next stop: Stefanie’s atelier—the designer’s shop where she works with the designer and three other interns. This was very exciting as we really wanted to place her stories with the real setting.
Then, even more important, seeing her apartment! As I said yesterday, this is a small studio on the "fourth" floor (the actual fifth floor to my tired legs!). She served us “aperos”—or cocktail hour. She’d bought a gorgeous wheel of cheese—a Vacherin, one of the tastiest creamy cheeses you can get—and saucisson (cured meat), with an excellent baguette, washed down with a bottle of good French wine—Crozes Hermitage. This is the first time our daughter has served us in her own apartment. It was such a treat for all of us!
After dinner we headed over to the St. Germain area to watch a concert in a 6th century church. But when we got there, we realized that the concert we wanted to see was actually the next night. So we did what all good wanderers do: we wandered. We found ourselves outside Shakespeare and Co again; they were hosting a reading and Q&A with novelist A. M. Homes. We sat under a tree on a bench in the dark and listened to her lively chat. Then we looked for a place to eat dinner. On the way, we happened by the Notre Dame Cathedral (you know, the most famous of them all) and found its doors thrown open, music pouring out and a kind welcome to all visitors. It was literally divine to be able to walk into this ancient, venerable church, with an angelic boys’ and men’s choir lifting to the impossibly high ceilings, while people worshipped in the pulpits, and the priests burned frankincense. We were allowed to pass through (in reverential silence, of course). My friend Josée told me later that Notre Dame routinely invites priests, choirs and officials from all over the world to participate in the services—and that the last time she and her family had gone, the priest officiating had been from a parish in Montreal near their home!
I’m not religious, but I have to say, I used this sacred time to think of all the difficulties I knew to be happening at home—including those being suffered by some of you in the storm (thinking of you, Lori and Kelly! And you know who else I mean…). It was a powerful, moving experience for me.
This wasn’t the end of our evening (that would be the late dinner in an outside café), but, yes, we fell into bed at the end of it!
Thanks for all your lovely comments! xoxo