When spring arrives and if the river is not in flood, the boats in the port start to put their cruising plans in place. Sometimes they depart one by one, sometimes in something like a flotilla. Lovely Peridot, pictured here passing under the passerelle, was first to leave the port in April for the Canal de Bourgogne. The month preceeding the exodus finds us all tending to the necessary final preparations for a safe journey through the summer – cleaning, repairing, maintaining, replacing the bits and bobs – and just messing about on our boats.
From the biggest to the smallest, each has its own special elegance, each is different, each carries a happy captain and a willing crew – well, mostly willing as long as it isn’t raining too hard.
When the boats are out of sight, we all can easily picture these friends underway, finding a new mooring, visiting a new village – we share the fun, the frustrations, the wonder, the problems that our experiences have in common. So, out of sight does not usually mean out of mind. The world may separate us for long periods or short, but the lost time will disappear in a flash when together again as we sit on the back deck sharing cruising stories. . . .It’s the same for friends “back home”…I can picture my friend on her porch in Annapolis looking out over her garden, or practicing the piano surrounded by family pictures, or walking the lovely dog, Sophie, into the Big Goose Park on the creek at the end of the street. But could she picture me? No, not really! Having any visitor from home is a gift but I don’t usually include posts about our visitors. I make an exception here because there was so much pleasure for me in these few days together . . . not so much by the events or the destinations but by simply being together. Seeing my friend arrive, looking for River Pipit, peering down at the boats from the top of the steps above the port made my heart sing, it was such a treat! Her visit was sort of on a whim, so an especially good surprise. She had come a long way, and I knew she would be beat, but I wanted to show her everything and we didn’t have much time!
After a nice light lunch on board which was all ready for her – hot chestnut soup and a delicious salad – and after a little catching up, we three took a walk to her hotel, the 3 Gares, the closest one to the Arsenal. Once settled in, she and I took my familiar walk through the arches of Avenue Daumesnil to the little studio I use in the Passage de Chantier – I wanted her to be able to visualize my little part of Paris, and the studio (where I am learning who knows what!) and I think now she can.
The daily routines: Crossing the passerelle where, dead ahead from the center, the genie atop the Colonne de Julliet at the Bastille waves victoriously. Walking back to the boat from the studio, or the market, or from any of our daily paths in Paris – I think she can picture us now.
Cherry trees bordering the park along the canal, all in bud, were just a few weeks away from bursting out of their maroon jackets in an explosion of pink heralding the arrival of a beautiful April in Paris.
Chance meetings on the street with friends like Yves, seeing the sky so blue above the boats in the St Martin canal that is the port, crossing the bridges with some ever present view beckoning one to walk to it . . . this is Paris and we love it.
In addition to just a little wandering, I used some of her interests to organize our days: She is a terrific cook, so we had a little culinary experience; she is a music and opera buff so a concert and a guided visit to the beautiful Garnier Opera house fit; loving architecture, the new Louis Vuiton Fondation was a must; and of course art – at the Orangerie.
Wednesday, her first full day here we had a big day planned – breakfast on the boat then a walk through the Marais to the National Archives to attend lunch time concert. We had to wait outside for a bit but were lucky – no rain yet – and we got just about the last seats in the elegant chamber hall.
Many more people had to go into the next room to listen from a distance! Boat friends and Bill came also – he got the last seat. It was packed! The musicians gave sort of a recital of music on ancient instruments, all compositions of George Friedrich Teleman. (To me it all sounded the same in the end and if I never hear Teleman again that will be fine by me!)
When it was over, we left Bill to bicycle back to the boat while we took a quick walk to the Quai de la Hotel de Ville where the cooking school Cuisine de Paris is located. Macaron Class awaited us! First though, a coffee in the cafe next door watching Paris drizzle from the enclosed porch while we awaited the start of our 2:30 class. That was the fastest 2-3 hours – it zoomed by, we wisked, folded, sprinkled, kneaded, squished and squeezed as instructed by a very energetic chef on the fine art of this French confection.
She revealed the magic of the best macarons to us and we created them. It was hard work – my poor hands were aching wrecks for days after, barely able to lift a coupe to my lips. But the results were amazing. There were 8 in the class from all over the world, and we worked in pairs. How one could make these deceivingly simple little devils alone or without the go-go-go coaching of the chef is a mystery to me. All of us left with a box full of colorful macarons, with perfect “feet” (who knew macarons had feet?!) and amazing cream fillings. Our side of the kitchen made an Earl Gray/ milk chocolate cream, the other side made a raspberry cream. For the top and bottom of the macarons, we mixed an outrageous orange color, there was also a lovely lilac, gorgeous green and peony petal pink. The color has no taste but makes a delectable presentation. The last instruction was the hardest – let them sit for 24 hours! We did taste quite a few when they were just cool enough, just to make sure they tasted “ok”… But we did not open our boxes until the next night, as instructed.
Thursday, another busy day starting with a walk to the unique boutique “Merci” for breakfast. We sat in the “library”, one of my favorite breakfast stops, delicious and comfortable. Merci was on her list prompted by a NYTimes article so I was glad that worked into the plan. We took a metro from Merci to Place de la Concorde, for a sunny walk to L’Orangerie, that little oasis of calm before the busy Place at the end of the Tuilleries, arriving just as the rains began yet again. The museum was closed for renovations the last time she was in Paris, so that was our choice of the moment rather than the newly opened Picasso. The Orangerie has so very much to see but is not an overwhelming, large venue.
The Monet waterlilies are of course the crown jewels here but they are by no means all that there is to enjoy.
I like this Chef by Chaïm Soutine:
I invited boat friends to River Pipit for an apero worthy of the dinner meal so they could meet my Annapolis friend. Though no world problems were solved despite our wordy efforts, good fun for all, especially ending the meal with the delicious macarons of the day before! I gave two macarons to each on their way out the door. Mostly so we wouldn’t just gobble them all up.
Before our very special Friday date at 2:00 at the Louis Vuitton Fondation/museum in the Bois de Bologne (which has it’s own post), we visited another Annapolis friend who moved to Paris 20 years ago intending to stay just 2 or 3 years. That’s what Paris can do to you!
Part of our nearly daily routine while living in Paris is to go to the Aligre market, the oldest and best daily market in all of Paris. So she had to see it . . . Following our custom, I bought pastries for us and we sat outside drinking tea and coffee, then wandered through both the market and the brocante. It had to be a quick trip through the noisy, always bustling market because we had a tour of the Garnier Opera coming up as the last event of this very short and sweet visit.
The Garnier is very impressive, a symbol of Paris along with the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame – and adorned with so much gold! But the guided tour was just ok, not as wonderful as I had hoped. There were TOO many people in the opera on a Saturday! But the space is lovely, tapestries are gorgeous and it was well worth going to.
Departure day: The taxi was ordered, boarding passes were printed, wake up time was insured to not be screwed up by French daylight savings time. But I didn’t change the one clock I look at in the morning so I got to her hotel an hour after I planned to and she was already gone. . . . so sad!