One More Time
Paris–Plage by do–it–yourself.
Paris:– Sunday, 28. August 2005:– There is an autumnal tang to the air in the morning but there is a forecast for clear skies and a temperature worthy of July later on so I scrap my weekly plan to plow the fields of the magazine's event columns, in favor of the right now. It is so rare to have 'last, best days' at the end of August. The likelihood of it is never.
Around here it is a sleepy Sunday, with the sunlight bursting atomically down narrow streets, feeling full and round as if it has bulk, mass or weight, yet it is just heavy enough so that it does not feel reed–thin like September. It is an illusion, because it creates shadows that blot the light, creating geometries of inky blue.
Along by the cemetery the high trees act as contrast filters, laying the ground with stone and earth tones. The tree trunks are not as dappled as they can get, they are mostly shades of dull light green, and they go up high to leaves that are perfectly green against the blue of the sky. It is almost like a tunnel in woods, this street–wide forested corridor.
The remarkable aspect of the Métro is that it's running at all. You'd think the motormen would have called 'time out' for an exceptional Sunday. At the second station, Montparnasse, about 300 travellers get on the train with all their bottled water, luggage and back packs – they probably arrived together on a train from southwest vacationland.
After hopping over a big sack to get out, most of the travellers stay on the train when I leave it at Châtelet. My guess is that they are making the connection with Gare du Nord, maybe even with Eurostar. The crosstown line one train rustles into the station within two minutes and I ride it standing up to Saint–Paul.
This is my destination and my starting point. There is an alley here opposite the Métro station. It is to be worth a photo and then I will walk down it, thinking of 500 years ago and then follow my nose.
But it is not worth a photo, on account of a few cars in it. I shoot the merry–go–round instead, discounting how it will fit the 'theme of the day.' Then I turn 180 degrees and cross Rivoli and follow the sunshine into the Rue Pavée.
On this 'last best day' of the year, the Marais is full of vacationers who have beat the rush to be back, enjoying their reward for cleverness. There are mobs wandering around in holiday clothes, enough so you'd think the mayor asked everybody who spent a month on Paris–Plage, to come out one more time.
The Rue des Rosiers, almost totally in deep shadow, is half dug up with roadworks and half open, and everybody who might fit in the closed shops is in the narrow street. You could say it is a fair crowd for a day in the bazar, and the confusion of construction elements gives it a feel of the Middle East, except that it's half closed.
The sun is full in the face on the way back to Rivoli and I turn west and then go south again, cross and get to François Miron, and then amble west some more to the Rue des Barres, behind Saint–Gervais. A tea shop has parasols and tables out on the cobbles and a terrace without shadows. It could be at La Rochelle, rather than in the centre of Paris.
The Louis Philippe café on the quay is hiding its outside customers behind and under greenery like a jungle. Beyond it the bridge of the same name leads to the island, washed in vibrating sunlight. Islanders, even if they aren't, dot the tip of the Quai Bourbon, effortlessly helping the afternoon along.
An army is occupying the centre of the Ile Saint–Louis. There are more heads, shirts, sunglasses, baby strollers, in the deep shadow further than I can see. Another army seems to be besieging the ice cream outlet near the bridge. And, as on most other high volume days, the Oasis is closed.
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