TEN P.M. AND THE SKY is still bright in Paris, above. I guess that’s the most surprising revelation of the first day of my first visit to Paris since 1998: that, and the fact that the French are extraordinarily sweet and friendly and willing to tolerate the mangling of their language in a way they would not have a couple of decades ago.
And that there is no bidet in our bathroom at the wonderful Hotel du Danube. Perhaps they’ve gone out of style, or perhaps my stereotypes have gone out of date.
Picasso’s head of Apollinaire in the courtyard of the medieval church Saint-Germain-des-Pres
The long days of the near-solstice are giving my cousin Susan and me precious extra hours. We arrived Wednesday morning and set about to explore “our” neighborhood, the 6th arrondissement, following a route in the guidebook Paris Walks by Fiona Duncan and Leonie Glass (Pequot Press).
St Germain’s narrow streets are is full of independent bookstores, art galleries, and shops with inviting window displays, including pharmacies and hardware stores with high ceilings, wood cabinets, and painted notices proclaiming their existence “depuis 1872″ or even longer. Not a Duane Reade or CVS in sight.
Day 1 is a bit of a jet-lagged blur, actually. We had a quick lunch at Le Pre Aux Clercs, where Hemingway scribbled something, and saw the houses where Oscar Wilde died, and Edith Wharton lived, and Bridgitte Bardot hung out. We got drizzled on, then enjoyed a spell of glorious sunshine as we came up behind the Musee d’Orsay (too bleary to venture in) and stumbled along the Seine, and were later drenched by a sudden downpour.
Taxidermied fowl at Deyrolle, a Paris institution
Rain or no rain, June is a lovely time to be in Paris, and the city is doing well, to all appearances. American-accented English surrounds us on all sides: in the shops, on the streets, at sidewalk cafes.
Vintage modern at Le 2 de L’U on Rue de L’Universite
No wonder the French are friendly; they know which side their baguettes are buttered on. It makes me want to explore the double-digit arrondisements, unfashionable last time I was here, now apparently as hip as brownstone Brooklyn.
Oscar Wilde’s last home, above
To be continued.