Val de Grace and Port Royal. I'd heard of them, but as tourist attractions they're decidedly minor, so I have never actually spent time in this area. Nevertheless, it is our delightful home for a month. It's visually satisfying — typical Paris street scenes with ordinary yet interesting shops, with a spriinkling of secondary art galleries, benevolent non-profits, tiny mom and pop groceries, a tiny hardware store from another era, a whole store with nothing but frozen foods, an Iranian fabric store holding a blockbuster sale (gotta go by there when it's open sometime), a bakery and at least one or two cafes on every block…. It's so very Parisian — a Paris of ordinary folks carrying on normal lives.
In our building, we also hear and see the rhythms of daily life. All the recycling cans had been carted to the street yesterday for pickup. Every day, someone stumbles unmusically at great length through simple piano pieces. At first we thought that this was a single person bent on learning piano in record time by practicing for hours at a clip. But there have been too many different pieces of varying levels of difficulty (who knew that the very basic exercises could get more and more basic?) We finally concluded that there must be a piano teacher living in a neighboring apartment. The small child upstairs is also very busy. We have heard no crying or anything like that, but this small person has probably just learned to move on two feet, judging by the running footsteps overhead, for hours at a time. And it is probably a boy, because of the prevalence of toys with wheels, which make distinctive sounds on the wood floors.
Like true Parisians, we have sallied forth every day, shopping basket and bags over our arms, to go grocery shopping. There are numerous stores to choose from. We haven't yet beaten jet lag enough to get to the several renowned open air food markets on different streets on different days of the week — mornings only. Right now, as I write this, it is 12:30 pm here,, but only 6:30 am eastern time. We'll look forward to becoming well acquainted with the street markets as the days pass and our biological clocks adjust sufficiently. We're not only misaligned with local time, I think we're also going through a period of catching up on lost sleep from our normal lives. Relaxing is wonderful! It doesn't do much for our roster of attractions visited, of course, But apparently it really was time in both our lives to just sit and chill. These are very sleepy days for both of us.
Instead of struggling as we normally would, we're just letting ourselves be, in the present moment, not pushing ourselves to fulfill any specific expectations. A mentality of scarcity would have us hustling, whether we felt like it or not, to not waste these precious days in France by just exploring the neighborhood and fulfilling every day needs, but rather to strike out on explorations wider afield, checking off monuments and museums on our “to see” list. But actually, if, while here, we simply experience well the essence of Parisian living, we will have enjoyed a beautiful vacation experience, replacing sightseeing with attending jazz clubs and church concerts, watching the endless and fascinating procession of characters passing by our comfie chairs at a sidewalk cafe, or savoring the amazingly soulful essence of French food.