Day 4 is a working day at least for Maggie and the real reason behind the reason we came to Paris. Maggie is attending a conference at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development as Canada’s representative where she will be making a presentation to representatives from some sixty other countries on human resources planning.
I have teased Maggie in my posts about shopping but I am inordinately proud of her. She is an accomplished professional who has never lost her genuine human side. She is the Director General of one of the largest directorates in The Canadian Government’s central agency although you would never know it to talk to her. She is unpretentious. Her staff loves her and so do I.
|One of many cafes on Cambrone Square
one block from our hotel
Despite her professional accomplishments and the driven pace at which she works, Maggie has never lost her sense of wonder at the world around her. Simple things can touch her deeply or make her smile. I know this is true because I frequently make her smile and my sisters often told me, when we were growing up, that I’m pretty simple. (The word they actually used was simpleton but I’m pretty sure they meant it in the nicest possible way.)
While everything I have written about Maggie in earlier posts is quite true, especially the part about loving shoes and shopping; it is also true that she is bright, multi-lingual, highly ethical, thoughtful, has an unbelievable work ethic and a smile that can make a store-window dummy turn its head. She is modest about her accomplishments and generous in her praise of the accomplishments of others. She is loving, funny and doesn’t mind that I tease her and the things I write about her in my posts make her laugh out loud.
She is thrilled to be back in Paris where she lived for a year while attending university.
There is no artifice in Maggie, she is just a genuinely genuine person and there is never a day that goes by that I am not reminded of all the reasons why I married her.
|The Latin Quarter lies in the shadow
of the famous Notre Dame Cathedral
But and I guess there is always a but, she does love shopping and takes particular delight in buying clothes, shoes and magazines. The woman is single-handedly doing everything she can to keep the publishing industry going. We have never been in a city where shopping wasn’t part of the itinerary and almost never leave a grocery store or pharmacy without a new magazine.
I know it is going to be difficult for her to devote a full day in Paris to working while the sales are on around the city. I can’t help but admire her iron-willed sense of professional dedication, especially when there are so many purses and pairs of shoes calling out her name from stores across town.
|The Sorbonne, one of many universities
and educational facilities in and around the
We get up early, have breakfast and then trundle Maggie off in a taxi to the conference. I take my time getting organized, kind of easing myself into the day as it were. I’m semi-retired now so my time is pretty much my own. My computer is not working so I can’t do all that much writing or go online to work the big blog so I have to look for other ways to get into trouble. I decide not to wander the city but rather to enjoy my neighbourhood doing simple things (perhaps my sisters were right). I have become, after all, Parisian and there is no dignity for a Parisian in racing around town like a common tourist.
I am reading the new novel by Hillary Mantel called Bring Up The Bodies. It deals with the trial and execution of Ann Boleyn as seen through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s private secretary. Along with being responsible for the executions of others like Thomas More, it was Cromwell who orchestrated the events that led to Ann Boleyn’s death. This book is a sequel to her earlier novel about Cromwell’s rise to power, Wolf Hall which I thoroughly enjoyed. (Ms Mantel’s book A Place of Greater Safety is the best book on the French Revolution that I have ever read.)
|St. Chapelle was commissioned by Louis IX
to house Christ’s crown of thorns.
It was completed in April 1248
I limp up to a café and settle back to enjoy my book over a café crème or two. I’m limping quite a bit now so I stop at a pharmacy afterwards and buy a cane. I hate admitting that I need one because it reminds me that my body is not what it used to be but on the bright side, I think the cane makes me look distinguished and because it is black, it is also quite slimming.
For lunch, I walk over to the rue du Commerce aided by my jaunty new cane and enter a small walk-in Asian fast food shop.
What a delight this place is. It is almost like a buffet except all of the dishes are behind glass and you pay for each dish you order based on its individual weight. I make my selections and sit down to eat and read. The food was excellent, especially considering it was being served in a fast food joint by two older and quite surly Asian ladies who only smiled when you handed them some Euros.
After lunch, I stroll up Commerce for a bit and eventually make my way back to the hotel for the luxury of a mid afternoon nap. I love having a nap and have since I was a teenager. There is something almost decadent about stealing a couple of hours out of a day for no other purpose than to do nothing but sleep. It almost makes you feel that you are as immortal as time itself.
It is a peaceful, relaxing day and I needed that.
|Shops, cafes, restaurants, history and people
make the Latin Quarter one of the most
interesting districts in Paris
Maggie and I expected her to be quite late from the conference. It ended between 5:30 and 6:00 and was to be followed by a reception. To my pleasant surprise, she was back just before 7:00 so we opted to take a taxi to the Latin Quarter for dinner.
The Latin Quarter is one of the oldest districts in Paris and is located on the left bank of the Seine, not too far from the Sorbonne and a number of other universities and institutes. It is full of shops, restaurants and cafes and is typically where you will find a large contingent of university students side by side with tourists, as well as a few regular Parisians like me.
It is the Latin Quarter that was Maggie’s preferred hangout when she was attending university in Paris and one of her favourite parts of the city.
We wander around enjoying the atmosphere. There was a soccer game on and as with many bars in Canada during the Stanley Cup, most of the bars in the Latin Quarter were packed to overflowing with soccer fans cheering, drinking and singing their team’s song. There was a lot of laughter, music and good will floating around the Quarter for the entire time we were there.
|Pointe Zero is located in front of
Notre Dame and is the point from which
all distances from Paris are measured.
We picked a small brasserie for dinner because they had seafood and ordered mussels to start with the intention of ordering something else later. We never got past the mussels. Usually an order in Canada is a dozen or so but these orders were four dozen each. It was a significant amount of work to eat them all but they were so good, it was worth the effort.
There were two couples at the table beside us who turned out to be Americans and we struck up a conversation comparing notes and exchanging experiences. It is one of the things I most like about Americans. It doesn’t matter where in the world you bump into them; they are almost always friendly and easy to get to know.
It stays light until after 10:00 in Paris which is an hour later than where we live and we were often fooled by it, misjudging the time as a result. Maggie had another early start the next day so after strolling briefly through one of the small side streets that was packed with souvenir shops and buying yet more scarves, we grabbed a taxi and headed for the hotel.
It was an uneventful day but one we both enjoyed because for the first time since arriving in Paris, we did the normal things we do at home. Paris was simply the backdrop and there is something special about simply being there while going about your normal life.
Back at the hotel, we go to bed immediately. I have always admired how easily Maggie falls asleep. She embraces sleep with the ease of the innocent and like a young child; she was asleep within minutes of going to bed.
Sleep is more elusive for me, especially when I have things on my mind. I lay in the dark sleepless for quite some time wondering how we were going to get all these bloody scarves back home without buying another suitcase. I fell asleep with visions of sheep wearing neck scarves as they jumped over fences and with an additional singular thought.
No matter where you are in your life, sometimes just being there is worth the ordeal it took you to get there.