Paris Journal 2014 – Barbara Joy Cooley Home: barbarajoycooley.com
It’s official: we are victims of the Air France pilots’ strike. Our flight tomorrow has been cancelled. The email notification from Air France arrived in my inbox at 4AM, and I saw it at 6AM. Attempts to re-book on the web site failed; and I spent an hour and a half on hold before reaching an Air France “travel advisor” on the phone. I was kind to her; she must have a tough job these days.
Thanks to her, we’re now re-booked for Monday. But that flight may well be cancelled, too. We won’t know about that until Sunday, maybe not until the afternoon. One change necessitates other changes (like the car rental reservation in Miami), and so it goes.
My friend Michael is stuck on the other side of the Atlantic, in Pennsylvania, trying to get home to Paris. His Air France return was delayed by a week; he hopes to fly today. I’m crossing my fingers for him.
I hope he is staying with friends, and that this delay isn’t costing him hotel or apartment rent.
Such is life for those of us who are members of Flying Blue, Air France’s frequent flyer group. The words “Flying Blue” have taken on a whole new meaning during this longest strike in Air France history. My friend John L., an avid reader of the Wall Street Journal, sent me an email saying, “I doubt that Air France will survive as a company.” I sure hope he is wrong!
On the bright side, yesterday was bright and sunny, with temperatures in the oh-so-pleasant 70s F. Tom finished working a bit earlier than usual, and so we took off for the mountain: Montmartre.
We took our usual approach, exiting the Lamarck-Caulaincourt metro station on the “back side” of the hill, and walking along the winding streets to the summit at Sacre Cœur. Along the way, we passed the vineyard, and a park that you can see by appointment or on certain special opening days. Looking through the fence into the woods, I saw a wooden rucher (apiary).
We found places where the steep slope had been planted with indigenous wildflowers, which were wildly blooming. The Paris parks people are taking biodiversity seriously, and the results in this case are spectacular.
As we walked alongside Sacre Cœur on top of the hill, we encountered two buskers: a couple of singers posing as “twins,” singing raucous old French songs. One of these women played the accordion. They were fun to watch.
On the way down the “front side” of the hill, we browsed through the fabric district, and tried to find large thimbles for Tom to use on his washboard, but all the large ones were gone. Other percussionists preceded us, I guess.
I’d been saying all along that this is the kind of thing one must order on the internet, and that seems to be true enough.
But it was fun, looking at big store after big store with yard goods, and dozens of smaller stores with the gaudiest costume materials you can imagine. The supplies for belly-dancing outfits were mind-boggling.
When we were footsore, we entered the number 7 metro at Poissonnière and exited at the Pont Neuf station, shortening, but not eliminating, our hike. We arrived back at the apartment in time to rest and freshen up before going out again to meet our friends Sherry and Neal, a couple of Sanibelians staying for a week on the rue du Vieux Columbier.
After we found them at the northwest corner of the Place Saint Sulpice, we showed them the rug booth at the Azerbaijani festival, and introduced them to Vidadi Muradov, the general director of the Azer Ilme oriental carpet company.
It was a pleasant conversation, and Vidadi took the time to demonstrate how the rugs are hand-knotted, using the loom that was set up in the booth, with a Karabagh rug in progress.
We had to make our excuses and leave in time to walk to Le Christine, where I’d made dinner reservations. We had a very nice dinner there, and had fun talking about all the things Sherry and Neal can do in Paris during the next week.
They’ve been here before, and they have a good idea of how they want to spend their time.
They accompanied us to Café Laurent, where we heard another Christian Brenner trio playing excellent jazz. Tom especially liked this drummer, Jean Yves Roucan. Bruno Schorp was playing the bass again; his hands are amazingly large and long – good for playing such a big string instrument!
The group played a number of Christian’s own compositions. We could see why; this drummer, who is especially musical, would pick up on the melodies in Christian’s work and play them out in his drum solos. Christian’s work has a jubilant quality, and the drum solos highlighted that. Bravo, Jean Yves Roucan!
Sherry and Neal left after the first set; the air pollution was bothering Sherry. At first she thought there was cigarette smoking going on in Café Laurent, but I assured here there was not; smoking is strictly prohibited there. We looked around; there were no illicit smokers. The problem is the high levels of particulate matter in the Paris atmosphere right now.
But we stayed on to the bitter end. Between that late night and the early morning Air France cancellation and re-booking efforts, I’m pretty tired today. However, I think we’ll have to go back to Café Laurent this evening again; Christian’s group will be a quartet tonight, including a well-known guitarist named Chester Harlan.
Saturday, September 27, 2014