Thursday, April 23, 2009

Flaneur -- a Thursday morning stroll through the quartier

We have a guest staying with us this week, which is great from the point of view of having a friend to sit up with at night and polish off the odd bottle of wine - but it's not so great from the point of view of having to get up early to tend to the new little man in our life, get him dressed, fed and out the door before his early morning caterwauling disturbs the visitor alseep in the living room.
And while the initial early morning fumble to get out the door is painful, the rewards for hitting the streets of Paris before 8am can be enormous. As they were this morning.
I think it was a combination of a perfect spring morning in Paris (blue sky, sun shining, a slight chill in the air) the fact it is school holidays (meaning the city is much more quiet than usual) plus the fact that Parisians are not early starters (meaning we had the rues, boulevards, jardins, parcs and cafes to ourselves) that made this morning's wander about the quartier so utterly delightful.
Guiding the pram through the obstacle course of dog shit, we floated down Rue Oberkampf, across into the Marais and along Rue de Bretagne (my early morning cafe haunt du choix). While the Rue de Bretagne's fromagers set up their shops, its fleuristes sprayed their wares with water and its boulangers did a brisk early morning trade, the little fella and I set up shop in Cafe Charlot for that first glorious cafe of the day.
Then it was a quick cheerio to the horse butcher in Rue de Bellyeme, before we stopped in the sun in the little garden in front of the Picasso Museum. That I can stop and admire a Picasso sculpture or three on my early morning wander is nothing short of remarkable - and something, no matter how long I stay in Paris, I vow never to take for granted.
Then it was down to the tranquil, sun-drenched garden of Place Louis Achille -- one of my favourite hidden gardens in the Marais. It was deserted. Just me, the little man (who was slumbering in the pram by now -- hallelujah, praise be to God) and an explosion of colourful tulips.
After a stint in the sun, I decided it was time to head home. And being the hunter-gatherer that I am, I stopped by the boulangerie on Rue de Turenne and stocked up on an armful of the most delicious croissants. We're talking melt-in-the-mouth exquisite.
Suffice it to say, both the wife and our guest were pleased to see the men of the house return.
And while I'm definitely not the early rising type - if this morning's experience is anything to go by, mornings in Paris could just about become a new habit.

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