We got here during Paris fashion week, and though my invitations to the shows got lost in the mail yet again this year, we did spot a model from the Chanel runway gliding around our neighborhood one evening. I knew because she was about nineteen years old, five-eleven, slim as bamboo, with a platinum Dutch boy haircut, and also I saw her on YouTube. She was with two vastly inferior guys who trailed behind her.Continue reading
It’s normal to be wary of what is foreign, so we understood completely when our friends questioned this trip to Europe. But Covid-wise, we feel very safe here. We are asked for our “passe sanitaire,” or vaccination certificate, at every restaurant, museum, and theater, even outdoors. (This is a QR code on our phones, but they like our cardboard ones too.) Everybody wears a mask indoors or risks one of those disapproving Gallic callouts complete with frown, or at worst, a bevy of waiters running towards you to block the door.
I love President Macron’s sensible vaccination passport idea: “Skip the vaccine if you want, but we won’t let you go anywhere fun.” That is so sensible. There is a much more laid back atmosphere here about Covid: people get vaccinated, wear masks, and carry on.
We’re in a new neighborhood for us, on the Left Bank just across the Seine from Notre Dame. We have a terrific view of her, and her scaffolding, and most impressive, a crane twice the height of the cathedral that moves things around by day, and stands tall and lit like a light sabre by night. It’s our night light, in fact. It’s one of those places where you can be indoors and still feel like you’re outdoors, because the street is lively 20 hours a day.
Since we spend so much of our time sitting in cafes and eating, it was thrilling to find bistros in abundance all around us, most of them cheaper than those in Portland. Still, we eat at home a lot because it’s hard to resist the morning markets with their fresh melons, amazing baguettes, roast chicken, and a host of yummy things with melted cheese on top.
But we don’t just eat. We’ve done things. The wonderful Musee de Carnavelet has reopened and we went to see an exhibit of Henri Cartier-Bresson photos of Paris in the ’40s and forward, black and white and grainy. One of the joys of this city is though people dress differently now, the streets and tall Haussmanian buildings have not changed, and ornate store fronts with painted glass are still treasured. The croissants, the baguettes, and the eclairs they buy are the same. People—alone or in twosomes or in rambunctious groups—still go to cafés to write, to think, to gossip, to flirt, and to argue about the meaning of life.
I do think that the amount of hugging and air kissing has decreased, but let’s hope that’s temporary.
We also stopped by the Arenes de Lutece, the ruins of a 2000 year-old Roman amphitheater which had been slowly buried by a cemetery, a convent, and buildings along Rue Monge. It was 1869 when a team excavating for a tram station began to uncover the stadium seating, the lion’s den, and a generous stage area. Gradually dug out and revealed, it’s now a public park that one just wanders into to eat a sandwich or meet a friend. During our visit, we were gifted with the rare appearance of two of Paris’ finest mounted police, who trotted in, looked around, and trotted out. (Police also appear on bikes, motorcycles, and in cars, but rarely on foot. Though scooters, electric and otherwise, have taken the city by storm, there are no scootered police, yet.)
Alas, already, after only eleven days here, there are many more adventures to recount. But I think I hear a café calling. Watch this space.
After sleepy St. Moritz, it was time to take the Glacier Express, a full eight-hour tour of mountains, trees, cows, rushing glacial rivers, sheep, and perky Swiss villages—all viewed through panoramic windows, because the good stuff is too high to see from waist level.Continue reading
I just did something I never thought I would—hiked an Alp. I must admit that Tom and I hiked our Alp downhill after a lovely ski gondola ride uphill. (That’s me above, struggling with the elements on the perilous downhill journey.)Continue reading
People speak of Petra as though it were Oz: the source of all amazement, the end of the rainbow, the most/least obscure/impressive man-made monument in the Middle East, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
On the way to the Dead Sea, Zohar warned us that the water was greasy because of the natural salts concentrated therein (magnesium, potassium, sodium, etc.). We should shower immediately after our dunk. Zohar, who seems a bit of a worry wart anyway, but has 39 grownups to herd, also advised that we not dive in, or swim, not to splash, to watch for the rocks underwater, and to never, never let the water into your eyes. Something dreadful would ensue. We were no longer sure that a dip was a good idea. We were nearly ready to pull the senior citizen card.
On a wall at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem is a bas relief portrait of Uziel Spiegel (pictured above), who died at age 2 in the concentration camp at Auschwitz. He is chubby, smiling, adorable.
Judy and I like history well enough, but we also like to sneak off the tour and have fun.
After our visit to the Christian Quarter, we spent a day in the Jewish Quarter. The sacred spot is the Western Wall (or Wailing Wall), built by King Herod in 20 BC, the only extant part of the Second Temple.
This entry in the Expat Almanac features a slightly different cast of characters: I am traveling in Israel with one of my college roommates, Judy Jewell, and 37 motley folks. We are on a tour in a bright purple bus that we can see from anywhere. We are in Israel, and on our way to Jordan.