Tuesday, February 27, 2007

I come out of a deep, deep sleep to the melodious tolling of bells. I am immediately alert as they ring deep and fast and hard and spring out of bed and into running pants and shoes in one motion. I grab my raincoat and lock my door and run down the curving staircase of my tiny 11 room hotel into the morning, still pitch black. I run up the block to mass at St-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet. I arrive as the priest begins the greeting, said in Latin as is the entire mass. I pull my coat close around me as I sink to my knees in morning prayer and later go to the rail and kneel to receive the eucharist in my mouth, as was the Pre-Vatican II custom. Not only that, the rail is covered so that no part of my body touches the line of demarcation that separates the laity from the high altar. Later, the acolyte uncovers the rail and his eyes narrow as he watches me follow his post-Eucharist motions.

I wander outside into the street, now fully awake, and lose myself into the softening darkness and sweet air. Its raining lightly this morning and I walk with the mothers who hold their children's hands, hurrying them to school. I walk up the Rue des Escoles and past the Sorbonne. It's much too early for these students and the shops in this neighborhood and I lose myself in the windows of the comic book and tattoo shops. This, by far, is some of the best shopping in all of Paris.

As traffic picks up, I turn back on Boulevard St-Michel and walk St-Germain on the other side. Regretfully, I realize I've turned too soon to window shop the Polish bookstore, the place where you can get phenomenal foil nativity scenes as big as your finger or as big as a microwave oven, made out of folded colored tin foil. Now people hustle past me on their way to work. The mood of the morning has completely changed and it has stopped raining and the air is marvelously sweet.

I am back at my tiny hotel and I fit my key into the red door and go down to the basement, once the wine cellar of this old, old house. I arrive just in time for the red haired lady to serve me breakfast: a croissant, butter and jam, ham and cheese, and beautiful pink grapefruit. And of course, thick black coffee with hot cream. She is twenty years older than me and has some difficulty getting around but serves me with great pride and dignity and is eager and pleased to please me.

I climb the stairs to the third floor where my room has already been refreshed with clean sheets and fresh flowers. I brush my teeth and take off again, this time for a nice run up the river.
As I warm up from a trot, I run past the tables and stalls where the dealers sell the marvelous old prints, this morning featuring speckled hens and studies of pale colored eggs. The air falls fresh, clean, soft and distinct. The boats chug up and down the river, some getting ready for the lunch cruises, others hauling goods and supplies in commercial ventures. I now am running full out and the Louvre and Notre Dame flash in and fade out of my vision as I head full steam past des Tuileries toward the Tour Eiffel. It is a phenomenal morning and being out for a run is sublime serendipity.

I stop short of the Tour Eiffel and turn towards Rodins Garden. It's quiet there today, in this distinguished, old Paris neighborhood. As Musee de'Orsay comes into sight, I begin to slow up and ponder my options for lunch. I stop at the old print shop and try to see the old maps and engravings through the window; this is the place that has really old travel posters, too, but I won't be seeing them today. I am not dressed and would not dream of showing disrespect to the proprietor of the shop by entering sweaty, in "gym" clothes. Around the corner is the 19th century taxidermy shop and I visually feast at the window, oogling the polar bear, the wild boars, the lion and yes, the stuffed cocker spaniel. I am completely at rest now and the euphoria of the after run has set in. I see one of my favorite cafes up ahead and the maitre d' motions me in. Bon Chance!

I order an omelet with sliced tomatoes and completely remember how I completely forget how good eggs cooked in real butter taste. As the coffee is poured, I hear some music, faintly, from down the street. The people walk by, laughing and talking. They wear clothes that are stunning and simple. The women wear good jewelery along with costume jewelry. I catch the eye of a retired man who winks at me as he takes his table. Two old friends laugh and talk a few tables away, fully, utterly, completely present in the moment.

As am I.

The 'Kan EWA


The Fool said...



Barnes said...

Hello JBelle. This is a fantastic post.

As you might imagine, many of the sensory delights you evoke are very familiar to me, and your obvious enthusiasm for this complicated city is heartening and infectious.

Beautiful. If there are to be more JBelle posts in this vein, I look forward to them very much.

As I look forward to them all.

The Fool said...

It's a day for play. You're invited to join in on the "Irrational Object Game."


MarmiteToasty said...


Busy busy day, in and out today, and now at just gone 7, Ive sat down for the first time since lunch lol

This is breathtakingly beautiful....... Jebus, if I could taste you writings they would taste like pure sweet honey.......actually honey makes me poorly, so I'll swap that for Treacle ;) - oh bugger you know what I mean.......


Carla said...

*sigh* how very lovely. When I was last in Zurich one of my fondest memories was the continuous tolling of the bells. It was close to Christmas, so perhaps there was more than usual. Once again I yearn to travel. Thanks.

Mommy Dearest said...

I love traveling the world vicariously thru your blog. My list of places I must go, someday, is getting longer and longer ...

the psycho therapist said...

There is nothing to say or add except this:

Perhaps when the bloom is off the rose (as if) you will take up writing in this genre.

Damn fine stuff. I am present in these moments with you...but nothing will compare with Pompeii.

Really, Schmeebs. Just wonderful. You jet-setter, you. (For the Huckleberries blurkers, hee hee).


green libertarian said...

Strikingly wonderful writing. Was this all really in your dream, or am I confused, par usual?

Now I know (somewhat better) why my brother so loved Paris... He didn't much write about it, not with your great style, but the man took thousands of pictures...

And he spoke fluent French. He could discern the different accents from different parts of the country, perhaps even within Paris, he never did say, and that talent is not captured in pictures.

He also enjoyed the countryside, and one summer between college years, he bought a mo-ped and travelled all around the country. Bet he would have liked Marmite's nephew's place. But generally, he just met folks and they invited him to say at their places. Either the French are the very accomodating type, or they were fascinated with my brother's dead on mastery of the French language. I mean, as an American... who didn't live in France, but listen to French overseas radio all the time. And French books, wine, magazines...

JBelle said...

:) It's not me. It's Paris. The person I wrote these for returned from his first trip to Paris last evening, hailing it 'unapologetically beautiful'. I liked that. I find the French to be highly accomodating, by the way; lovely, generous people.

tkkerouac said...

beautiful, and love the thumbnail.