Easy Breezy

A nighttime scooter ride around Paris with someone you hardly even know? Why not!

Well, there are many reasons why not—if it’s someone you just met randomly on the street or you don’t know the city, your gut should tell you that public transportation with your own money and your hand firmly on your sac à main will do.

In my case, I had just had a drink with the other volunteers I work with once a week. I left at the same time as a volunteer who usually participates at another site but came to ours for the first time as a one-off au cas où there wouldn’t be enough people to help out. I told him I was going to go home on foot. He offered to drop me off on his scooter. I had to pause and think for only a second before answering, “Oui !”

On the walk to his scooter, he asked if I wanted a little ride around Paris before going home. I was not going to say no to that. He said it was un cadeau for himself too, as it would be more enjoyable than heading straight to his apartment.

I undid my bun so the casque (helmet) would slide more easily over my head. We put my bag in his top case and my bike helmet under his seat. I climbed on after him, and we were off.

We passed Bastille, the Tour Saint-Jacques, rue de Rivoli, the Louvre, and the Pont des Arts. Everything was lit up in the City of Lights. As we scooted at a leisurely pace through Concorde, the Eiffel Tower started sparkling. It was eleven o’clock.

As I held onto the side handles of the scooter, I began to relax. I’ve had a tense few days. I recognized this moment for what it was: a gift. One of the first times I rode on the back of a scooter, I held on for dear life and felt my heart beating out of my chest. This night, I leaned back and loosened my grip on the handles, my light sweater fluttering as I watched the buildings and lights and river go by.

No contact information exchanged, no promises, just a summer ride around the city and a “bonne soirée.” Life can be complicated, but sometimes it is wonderfully simple.

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Electrifying

I recently took a nighttime walk past the Louvre, where a thin red filament of light currently runs from the pyramid’s point to base. French artist Claude Lévêque installed the indoor lightning bolt this past spring. You can catch a glimpse of it until next autumn.86.parisbynight.2014a Across the way, our own little “Paris eye” overlooks a summer amusement park next to the Jardin des Tuileries.86.parisbynight.2014bRemember the Eiffel Tower made of chairs? It moved next to the Seine, still with its big sister in sight. I’ll have to keep an eye on it. How do you suppose she transported herself there?86.parisbynight.2014c

Look Twice

75.eiffels.2014Yesterday evening some friends and I had a picnic to celebrate the Fourth of July. We were a mix of American, French, and Canadian. It was also the night of the French versus Germany World Cup match. I am sure that anyone who noticed I was wearing red and blue assumed I was coming from watching the game rather than on my way to an Independence Day get-together.

When I arrived at the Champ de Mars, there was an international horse show going on at the end of the green in front of the Ecole Militaire. I stayed for a few minutes to marvel with the crowd every time a horse leaped over a jump.

Moving on, I made my way around picnickers to find my friend, who had said that she was sitting in front of the red Eiffel Tower, to which I thought, “Red… Eiffel Tower?”

True enough, there was a replica of the Iron Lady surrounded by velvet ropes. Another friend later explained to us that it is built of chairs to celebrate the 125th anniversary of this type of bistro chair (which he has never seen in a bistro, he added). A French furniture company commissioned this sculpture of 324 chairs, a nod to the 324-meter high Eiffel Tower.

I had to agree with our friend that cafés here typically have traditional cane chairs rather than these metal foldable ones. Yet they looked familiar to me. I read a bit more about the sculpture on the Paris city site, which said that this chair had been adopted internationally, and suddenly it was clear to me. They are all over Times Square in New York City.

On this Friday evening, just another fourth of July in France, there were no fireworks or barbecue or patriotic songs, but Mexican dip and cheese and friends and two Eiffel Towers.

I Saw Santa Claus(es)

Last week a good friend visited me for three and a half days.  On Saturday, we had a lovely lunch topped off by two huge profiteroles each.  The presentation was as delightful as the actual consuming of the dessert.  The server brought two plates of the puff pastries filled with vanilla ice cream and then ceremoniously poured a pitcher of hot chocolate sauce on it.  Could we have shared one serving?  I thought of it briefly, then decided that my friend was here for a short amount of time so she might as well go big.  Yeah, we’re gourmandes, no hiding it.  There’s no equivalent word in English.  Someone who is gourmande enjoys food.

After lunch, we took a walk on the Champ de Mars.  Upon entering the large park in front of the Eiffel Tower, we were confronted by a group of about sixty Santas.  In case you’re wondering, this is not a scene one sees in Paris every day.19.santas.2013a19.santas.2013c 19.santas.2013dWith his white beard slung over his shoulder, the ringleader explained the program to his fellow Santas.  They would head towards the Trocadero area, and on the way spread Christmas cheer.  After, they would gather in a bar.

Before commencing, they took a group photo.  Inexplicably, a couple of them held signs featuring an image of a donkey wearing a tuxedo.  The other signs said, “Les cadeaux, c’est maintenant !”  Cadeaux means gifts.  This is a play on French President François Hollande’s political slogan during his campaign, “La change, c’est maintenant !” (“Now is the time for change!”).19.santas.2013eEn route to Trocadero, the Santas sat down in two neat rows and the band of four or five Santas began to play music.  The organized lines quickly became mayhem as the Santas at the head of each row jumped onto the Santas behind them and crowd surfed.  The subsequent Santas supported and passed along these Santas as well as they could, which at times was not very well, making it funnier.  This chain continued for quite a while. 19.santas.2013f 19.santas.2013gTo anyone who says that all Parisians are grumpy, I have just this as a counterargument: Dozens of French Santas crowd surfing in front of the Eiffel Tower.  It sure put my friend and me in the holiday spirit.