Un Commute Magnifique

July 10, 2008 at 4:00 PM | Posted in Paris 2008, Wanderings | 1 Comment

(interestingly, I can’t find a French noun that means “commute.” Which may be a larger commentary on the relationship between language and culture)

This was an evening of realizing just how lucky I am to be living in such a magical place. After a good day at work, I was ready for a long walk, and I set off to find an English language bookstore to trade in the incredibly weird John Irving book I finished last night (Until I Find You). Before I left work, I had figured out the approximate location of San Francisco Book Co–in the 6th arrondissement, Left Bank, the heart of Paris bookstore heaven. I got off the Metro at Place d’Italie (in the 13th) and decided to walk north from there. But it wouldn’t have been an Erika walk if I didn’t take several wrong turns and end up in a different place than I’d intended. This usually turns out pretty well for me, as it did today–I walked along Blvd Port Royal instead of R. Monge, and I ended up at the foot of Blvd St-Michel in the 5th. I saw a huge fountain and realized that I was at a string of small parks that meet the southern edge of the Luxembourg Gardens.

Rather than walking up St-Michel (a major shopping street that runs parallel to the gardens), I decided to walk through the middle of the gardens. I am continually struck by how truly beautiful it is–you can’t believe that you’re in the middle of a huge city, and it’s so well-maintained and well-landscaped. There was a huge thunderhead looming, but it didn’t rain, and just as I was about to exit by the Palais de Luxembourg, I looked to my right and saw the dome of the Pantheon through a hedge. It was one of those “do-I-seriously-live-here?” moments.

The bookstore was great–one of those warren-like tiny spaces with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves–and I traded in my book for The Corrections (which has been on my list for years). Then I decided that rather than walk home through the St. Germain area, I would meander back on the quays. The quays are a string of pedestrian-only sidewalks on the banks of the Seine; they are well below street level so it’s really quiet, and you can see all of Paris along the length of the river (but very few crowds or commercialism).

I had walked the quays of the Left Bank in the 5th/6th before, but in the other direction, and I hadn’t realized just what a perfect view I would have of the Notre-Dame cathedral. It just sort of popped into view, and it was about 7:30 pm so the light was really nice (it gets dark around 10pm now). Again, I couldn’t believe that this was my commute home from work.

I crossed to the Right Bank on Pont Sully, which just grazes the southeastern tip of Ile St. Louis (where I was the other night) before becoming Ave. Henri IV. This flower shop is right outside my usual Metro stop (Sully-Morland), and while a photo can’t capture the heavenly smell of the flowers, you can only imagine how wonderful it is to see and smell these flowers every day when I get in and out of the Metro.

To top it all off, I got a perfectly ripe avocado at the vegetable stand next to my apartment complex by asking the guy behind the counter for “an avocado ready to eat tonight” in French (and if the guy couldn’t understand my French, he understood the pinching motion I made). I cut it in half, sprinkled it with sea salt, smeared it on a piece of fresh baguette–perfect dinner (with a lovely glass of Bordeaux. And some cheese, of course).

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  1. I get more and more envious with each blog post 🙂

    I think ‘le trajet’ might be a word for ‘commute’, but I’m not completely sure…


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