|La Tour Eiffel, still elegant after 100 years|
As always, the blog is limping a little behind in the time/space continuum. These initial words are being written during a British Airways flight from Munich to London, and I am just now beginning my account of Paris. During my layovers at Heathrow and DFW (altogether six hours, if the flights are executed according to schedule) I hope to upload the text and pics so that the blog is updated by the time I get back to Lubbock late tonight. (As it turned out, the update posted while I was still in LHR.)
|Huge pre-Valentine's chocolate concoctions in a chocolatier's window|
My trip, coming so shortly on the heels of my visit to Ecuador, was of a similar nature as what Judy and I used to do on an almost-annual basis: a quick sojourn in the City of Light during a time of year when tourists tend to shun the city. Altogether I was in Paris for only four nights. Sabine had arranged for an apartment in the 11th arrondissement through the house-sharing site Airbnb, after she had stayed together with her son in the same general neighborhood last year. The two of us met up at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport, flying in from our respective domiciles.
|View from our Airbnb apartment, which even had a tiny balcony|
Having traveled to Paris many times before and knowing the city well, we didn’t see the need to go to every tourist attraction—I’ll keep that for the time I’ll show Wes and Susan around the French capital, or somebody else. Having the apartment (instead of staying in a more sterile hotel) gave us the feeling of being immersed; we overlooked a beautiful small park in a typical Paris ‘hood, with the bakery just 2 minutes away for fresh croissants in the morning. We explored the vicinity on foot, and after a day we used Paris’ fabulous bike share program, the Vélib’, to go farther afield. Vélib’ stations are located every few hundred meters so that one can use the bikes to get around the entire city even though individual rental times are limited to only 30 minutes without any surcharge to the daily 1.70 euro fee. With a metro ride costing exactly the same, using the Vélib’ for our transportation quickly added up to our money saved for wine and food (neither one of which is even close to being affordable).
|One of the largest Vélib' stations that we saw—most have only between 25 to 40 bikes|
|To use the Vélib' you MUST have a credit card with a smartchip (that little gold-colored thing)|
|Speed chess in the Jardin du Luxembourg|
|The ham and salami from this tiny place were simply out of this world|
|Parisians love fresh flowers|
|The Rue Mouffetard has one specialty food shop after the other|
|Oysters, oysters, and more oysters—and all different|
We also had time to talk. Some of you may have wondered about some of the dynamics and aspects of a more-than-fairly close relationship over 5,500+ miles that has been ongoing for quite a while, and so had we. The blog is a relatively open and public forum, so suffice it to say that in the future there will be fewer entries that show Sabine and me in exciting places. We have decided that a solid friendship and the occasional visit or maybe even trip together will serve us better than trying to maintain something much closer, something that we both felt was not sustainable. When Sabine dropped me off at the Munich airport this morning, we parted as the same good friends that we have been for almost 40 years, but not as the same couple as that of the past three. We both are optimistic about our respective futures, wherever they may lead, and we are glad that we still consider each other very close friends.
|Three views of Notre Dame de Paris: from the back ...|
|... inside, during Candlemass services ...|
|... and with a Bateau Mouche and the Seine|
So, in some very significant way this trip to Paris was not what we had necessarily expected, but thus is life. On Monday, we took an Air France flight to Munich, from where I had scheduled my return to the US this morning. On Tuesday, despite foggy, freezing conditions, we went for a really, well, uncomfortable 31-mile bike ride, which would have been befitting for any of the Belgian “hard-man” bike riders who go out in conditions like this for not just two hours at a time but six or even eight—but they also aspire to win Paris – Roubaix come March, which I don't. Quite likely, we killed almost half a bottle of rum in the hot tea that we drank afterward. On Wednesday—OMG, just yesterday!—I visited my old friend Inge who has been living by herself for the past year-and-a-half ever since her husband, Wolfgang, died in 2012. The last time we had seen each other was during a meeting in one of Munich's beer gardens, when Wolfgang was still alive—a summer blog photo featuring giant beers and pretzels is still floating around the cybersphere.
|The old clock of the Orsay train station|
|A bit of golden porn on top of the July Column in the middle of the Place de la Bastille|
|The Musée d'Orsay is housed in a retired train station|
So, that has been the winter Europe campaign. The weeks and months to come will see changes as well as constants. The high school racing season is about to start this weekend, and in a month's time I will have returned from another trip to Central America. I invite you to stop back by once in a while, just to satisfy your own curiosity and but also cater to my desire to share so many aspects of my life with others.
|Vieux Paris still exists—can you see and hear Jean Valjean and Cosette?|
|Le Café de l'Industrie—old-fashioned yet hip|
|Bonne nuit, Paris....|