Friday, June 19, 2015

Bienvenue à Paris

Today belonged to Quân. He was my Greeter, arranged at the last minute on the internet: a local happy to show strangers around his part of town for no fee, just the pleasure of sharing. And so much he shared! "I will take you through my life," he promised, and so he did, from his first home and school, through to the church where he was married and the place he had his reception. Not where his divorce was decreed, though, oddly... He was fun, and so eager and enthusiastic and energetic that he quite wore us out by the end. From 10am we were meant to finish at 3pm, but he kept thinking of more places he had to show us that were "so special", so in the end it was 5pm when we said goodbye.

It was a great day, though, and he showed us so much that we would never have found on our own - in fact, we would never have gone to the 13th arrondissement at all, and then we would have missed the gorgeous little cobbled lanes with cats and honeysuckle, excellent street art, the markets, churches, prisons (yes!), parks and gardens. Also the tower blocks. He did give us both sides of the 13th, although he didn't see it that way, raving about the years he lived on the 29th floor of one of the hideous Olympiad towers. I said he was enthusiastic.
He took us to a Vietnamese restaurant for lunch (he's half Vietnamese) in what he called Chinatown but it was really just residential with a few restaurants and herb shops, and a temple under one of the tower blocks. That was our only chance to sit down, and then we were on our way again, learning about the gutter-cleaning, the fountains, the homeless people, how to use the public bikes and toilets, looking at the plaques to Resistance people killed. And we ended by meeting an artist and being shown his studio in a private little mews. It was great, it really was, and a lot of fun - though our feet were killing us by the end.

We ventured out for dinner, though, nobly resisting the jet lag, and enjoyed the buzz of a warm Friday night in Paris with the pavement tables full and the sky still so light. We went along one street that was full of inviting crèperies and were tempted to stop, but made it to Moustache where we'd booked, and were glad: nice little restaurant with friendly staff and excellent food. And another couple of diners who looked so English when they walked in, crumpled and scruffy, that the waiter spoke to them in English, to their bemusement as they were French. Perfect proof of a theory I'm working on - more of that later.

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