2017 blog 2, Monday Sept. 25 Shopping in Paris
Travel and jet lag can try one’s mettle! Both of us were exhausted, probably from before we came to Paris. Result: the first little challenge wiped us out. After basically sleeping for three days, waking up every couple of hours to be sick, to drink water, and to eat a bit, when we woke up this morning, we were pleasantly surprised to find we could get up and go out. This was our first day awake long enough to have 3 meals – a milestone. And the biggest surprise of all was looking at each other and at ourselves in the mirror, and discovering that today we both suddenly looked ten years younger than we’d looked three days ago. Weird! “Sleeping Beauty” as a name had some basis in fact!
Every year, the first few days of getting over jet lag have been physically trying, each year in a slightly different way. Each time, we’ve doubted whether we could recover and go on to enjoy our visit here. Apparently, we’ll again succeed in rising to the challenge.
Taking the city buses is so delightfully economical, but it often ends up leading to a long walk after getting off the bus, till we get to our destination – not to mention another long walk when we’re ready to go home, looking for the street on which the same bus line runs and stops while going in the opposite direction in a maze of one way streets. We’re not used to walking a few miles every day, no matter how much we try to prepare while at home – the walking opportunities that tempt one to keep going just don’t exist on a dead end urban residential street in North Carolina. If we tried to take buses everywhere in NC, we wouldn’t get anywhere that we want to go, unfortunately.
We used our bus passes (that we had to walk a mile or so to renew for another week, since we missed the window of opportunity to ride the bus to the station. That opportunity had ended yesterday, while we were modeling Sleeping Beauties. Once the passes were renewed, we decided to go to the right Bank and visit a favorite major store, BHV – Bazaar of the Hotel de Ville. It was just a good excuse to wander around and see what’s for sale this year in Paris.
Our first stop was the toy department, to find toys for our nearby neighbors in Durham, aged 4 months and a year and a half, who stop by often to visit us with their parents. The toy selection is either branded by American films – Disney and Star Wars, for instance – or brands marketed worldwide such a Legos. Toys that at one time would have been “Made in France” were now European (and some were actually made in France – others in China.) Our neighbors’ favorite toys in fact are European, and we tried to find familiar and age-appropriate items for them. We ended up with a “Sophie the Giraffe (“Born in Paris in 1962” – we’ll have to find her fictional biography) bath toy and a toy car that roars and lights up.
Most Paris department stores are generally quite staid. This one, in contrast, makes a great effort to be “cool.” After toy shopping, we had lunch in a burger bar on the third floor called ‘Grand Fernand” (the Bull? I suspect so.) The burger was outstanding – lean, lightly cooked grass fed beef with virtually no fat. The signs were pretty humorous. Everything on the menu started with the letter “F”, including “la falade.” The sign at the cash register read, “l’etablissement n’accepte pas les cheques – meme volees. (even stolen)”. The doors leading from the dining room read “slaughter house for potatoes” and (inexplicably) “restricted to Fernands – swimming pool access.” It was locked – probably a storage room.
The range of diners was interesting. Seating was family style along long trestle tables, after cafeteria self-service from which we carried trays to the seats of our choice. Most diners were on the young side. Well dressed, as befits an upscale office and commercial area, they looked fit and slender, carrying both slim backpacks and equally slim leather briefcases. Backpacks are definitely “in” this year. Everyone is wearing them. (Briefly, I’m right in style!!).
One older gentleman, though, dining alone, quietly reading “Le Monde,” the intellectuals’ newspaper, through round horn-rimmed spectacles, looked sooo French, with his glass of red wine accompanying his burger and fries. His cartoonish appearance fit right in with the tongue in cheek attitude displayed in the signs – as if he had been planted there on purpose. But, no, he too, like the rest of us, got up and left after finishing his meal.
In addition to our enjoyable lunch, we also found the gourmet grocery store on the floor below. The USA counter made us laugh, with its cans of Campbell’s tomato and cream of broccoli soups, its Heinz mayonnaise, ketchup and baked beans, and assorted other everyday American packaged “gourmet delicacies.” It’s always interesting to see how we are represented in French venues. We made our own purchases from the extensive assortment of French, Belgian, and Swiss chocolates. Who needs dinner??
Two buses brought us back home after a satisfying first day after the resolution of Jet Lag.