Monday 9 June 2014

A pied, à Paris

Well, not entirely - there was some Metro; but mostly it was walking again today, exploring the 5th Arrondissement. Firstly there was the farmer's market at Place Monge, which at first I thought was Mange, and should have been, since the food on the stalls all looked so fabulously fresh and succulent. And so beautifully presented! From dewy raspberries to multicoloured cherry tomatoes to spicy samosas, it was all mouth-watering. But not the huge eel with the apple in its mouth. That was a bit scary - as were some of the cheeses.

Next was the somewhat tautological Jardin des Plantes - well, of what else? - which was very green and peaceful if you discount the hordes of sweating runners panting along the paths. All types, all ages - I always forget how sportif the French are. Good for them.

Then came a slow wander towards the Pantheon, stopping for a coffee in a little square beneath an old picture sign 'Au Negre Joyeux'. Cough.

The Pantheon's dome is currently swathed in plastic, but inside it's huge, cool and airy; and in the crypt are many famous names, from Voltaire to Hugo to Curie. Also Louis Braille - his engraved name dirty from the touch of many fingers belonging to people who clearly didn't grasp the concept of his system.
Then downhill, across the Boul'Mich to the Jardins du Luxembourg - busy, colourful, neat and leafy, full of children playing with yachts in the pond, people sprawled on the pelouse autorisee, serious pétanque players under the trees, sunbathers arranged on green metal chairs, and one chastened lady with a spaniel on a leash, sent scuttling from the park by a stern gendarme. Cheese and beer under the park cafe's sun umbrellas, the people beneath lit like a Monet painting.

On, down through narrow streets to the Seine and the Pont des Arts, its railings invisible under thousands and thousands of lovers' padlocks, where an unexpected geisha in kimono sang and danced, to the Louvre for a welcome foot-soak in the fountain by the glass pyramids. What an immense and impressive building that is.

And finally the Metro back to the hotel before the last event of the day, the Bateau Mouche dinner cruise, when the floodlit bridges and buildings of Paris were - dare I say it - upstaged by a silent electrical storm, the dark cloud scribbled with forks of lightning.

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