Sunday, January 18, 2009
Today, Sunday, has been sunny and warm and just about as good as it gets for a leisurely day in Paris. I was very late in getting out, and determined right away that this would be another good day for walking. So I headed off to the right bank, snapping my first picture of the day as I crossed the Seine. I had in mind visiting the American Episcopal Cathedral in late afternoon to reconnect with Zach Ullery from Lexington whom I had met a couple of days ago. Zach had said that the Evensong at the Cathedral was quite nice and preceded by an organ concert which he thought I might enjoy, so that was a nebulous destination as I moved out. Cafes seem always to be bustling (or closed in mid-afternoon) and I settled in at a busy, sweet little place near the Louvre (well everything around here is near the Louvre as it must occupy ten blocks or more). The host at Cafe Louis Philippe promptly handed me a menu in English and, as is often the case, the translations were great. I selected what was called a “Greedy salad with gizzards, raw ham and a block of fois gras.” “Greedy” apparently meant good sized, though not huge, and it was just terrific, accompanied by a half bottle of Cote du Rhone, just about everyone’s house wine around here, and a real tasty treat for me. I ambled through the grounds of the Louvre still again, and headed up the Champs Elysee en route to the Cathedral. Leisurely indeed, as I walked along this storied avenue capped by the Arc de Triomphe. It is a grand thoroughfare during the day and it becomes even grander with its lighted trees at night, when it is quite an arresting sight. I got to the Cathedral, on the ever-so-stylish Avenue George V, about 45 minutes before the services were to begin, so I stopped in the nearby George V Hotel, aka the Four Seasons, for one of those 20 euro glasses of wine that always make me wonder what on earth I am doing spending this kind of money on a sip of wine, no matter how delicious. Stylish surroundings though and I did have a neat conversation with a builder from South Africa (he was black so I suppose that makes him an African African) and a graduate of Boston University whose wife currently lives in Maclean, Virginia. He insisted on giving me his card and cell number, should I ever want to give him a ring. I just might.
The Cathedral is beautiful and the dean is from Virginia, and I had been provided his name by my friend Ann MacLeod from Upperville. So after the services I went into the inner sanctum, met Zach Ullery who then introduced me to Zachary Fleetwood, the dean. He was stunned that we had a mutual friend in the person of Ann, and much conversation took place . . . Do you know . . . ? How about . . . ? and so forth. Both Zachs suggested we should get together again, next time away from the sanctuary.
Afterwards I stopped in a really attractive Japanese restaurant in this high-rent district and had some beautifully done duck breast which arrived in a sizzling skillet with much fanfare. Decided to walk home, committing to another hour or so on foot (I had just walked to this neighborhood from the Ile). I stopped for wine at the Hotel Crillon, one of the landmark Paris hotels, just off the Place de la Concord and immediately adjacent to the American Embassy. I had been here many years ago when I was cavorting about with the crowd from The Blood-Horse and knew that it was quite a fancy address. It was, and still is. Afterwards, I did the goofiest thing. There is a huge, ridiculously out-of-place ferries wheel—yes, a ferries wheel of all things—right at the edge of the Concord at the foot of the Louvre grounds, and it fills the sky with very bright light at night. You just cannot miss it, no matter where you are in Paris. Like the Eiffel Tower but decidedly more declasse. I had been cursing it as I taxied by on earlier evenings. How garish and so terribly inappropriate I would argue (but then remember that I don’t care the the Pyramid at the Louvre so much either). But somehow, at this moment, it became irresistible to the old boy. And so I boarded the thing. And I soared above the city like a screech owl. Brother, what a view! Why, everyone should do this. It is so much better than the ferries wheel at the Bluegrass Fair and the Fulton County carnivals. And the wine from the Crillon surely brought it all into brilliant focus in the middle of this Sunday evening. I loved every revolution of the thing and was so sorry when it was time for me to dismount. What an unexpected way to end a nice day.