Paris 23rd Avril
Why are my legs are looking terrific? Because I climb a lot of stairs every day. Yes, every day. Last week I decided to count the number of steps I go up and down in the Metro here in Paris.
In that I go up and down about four times a day, it seems I’m doing over 400 steps. Over 400! Who needs the gym? Well, it’s not exactly aerobic, but I do feel the burn sometimes, especially on that third ‘escalier’ up to the Metro headed toward the left bank. Not to forget the climb up the ancient, rumpled, marble steps at the Alliance Francais three times a week. It’s says the class is on the third floor. But in France, the first floor is called the rez de chausses, so it’s actually on the forth!
So ladies, you can go pull on your sweats, tie up your sneakers and drive over to climb the City College stadium seats, or you can come to Paris!
Most of the young women here wear ballet flats, converse sneakers or two-inch ankle boots everywhere they go. They all seem to have that French insouciance, and walk briskly; which I guess is why no one is fat. Really, no one.
Oh well, maybe in the crazy tourists areas like Saint Michel. But you know when you see them: the waddle, the guts and muffin tops, the vocal decibel, that they are not from Paris.
It’s amazing that I have not developed a gut myself… I’m eating at least a baguette a day sometimes on the street as a sandwich with ham and Swiss cheese, or simply with fresh butter while I luxuriate in my tiny kitchen, feet up on the baby chair, dreaming of just another slice. The duck liver mousse is awfully delicious, too. And oh, that Tart Tatin from the boulangerie on the corner…
So many temptaions. Just up from the Metro Voltaire, as I walk home from a days exploration, I pass a cheese shop, an artisanal wine and beer shop, a Turkish deli, a kitchen gadget shop, a boulangerie, and an antique bric and brac store. Across the street there is a butcher and another boulangerie. I think there are like maybe four of these pastry shops in one block!
Despite all the delicious food distractions, as I wait for the traffic to clear before crossing the street, I always watch out for people young and old who zip by on their bicycles. And by the way, no body wears helmets. Every one zigs and zags and crosses against the lights. You’d think that cops would be handing out tickets left and right like in California. But no. Not at all.
The cops are however evident and looking to rule in other areas. A few weeks ago, right after the local mayoral election, there were an amazing amount of them out and about in the little Place Leon Blum where the local city hall is. I don’t know if they had some kind of notice about probable trouble. But there they were, hundreds of them, usually in groups of three, black full body armor like big lizards, packing some serious ‘amo’ and big-bear guns. They have a menacing sway to their walk, kind of like Darth Vader. With some good lighting design, it would have made a very interesting piece of cartoon-like theater.
Oh, and several times when I was on the Metro, a bunch of cops in ugly cloth jackets with insignias, but no armor, showed up in force, like five of ‘em, at a time, looking dead serious, blocking the entrance and exits, asking to see tickets. I had just been wondering why there wasn’t more ticket trash? Evidently, if you toss it, you could be arrested.
I’ve had people push threw a turn-style with me. I’ve seen guys jump them, too. No big deal. I lived in New York; seemed like pretty normal city behavior to me and very petty as far as crime goes. I mean how bad are they really? The another evening when I was walking home, there was a group of snarling teenagers standing in the street outside “The Dubai Café”, right next to a pizza joint, across from the cool, tiny Italian bistro. They wore falling down pants; emblazoned leather jackets, had buzzed and tufted haircuts and damn beat up noses. And yet, there they were looking mean as could be, but when another friend showed up in his gnarly outfit, they would give each other kisses on both cheeks in greeting. That French ‘politesse’ seems undaunted.
I just love all this kissy-touchy-feely going above and below the streets. I sat across from a couple on the Metro the other day. The cool blond had her legs crossed away from this long and lanky guy with shaggy, delicious Elvis hair. He was chatting away with her, kissing her temple, stroking the inside of her calf and then the next thing you know, he kisses her knee. Her knee! On the Metro! Gotta love the French.
I’m getting an education about knees. Yesterday, with a group from the Alliance Francais, I went to visit a perfume museum called Fragonard just around the corner from the enormous and rococo Opera Garnier. Our petite guide was educating us about and trying to sell us perfume in the shop at the end of the tour. She said that in an earlier era (I can never keep track if it’s Louis XIV, XV, or XVI’s) women put perfume not just behind their ears, but also behind their knees. The reason for putting it there was because they wore these big, fluffy skirts with trains that dragged behind them. Gentlemen had to lift them up a bit, to help the ladies walk. I’m sure that little waft of flowers coming out from beneath layers and layers of swishing silk was quite erotic.
I’m going to start putting perfume on behind my knees. Now that my legs are looking so good, you never know when some Frenchman with surging Louis-the-whatever genetic memory might be falling down behind me, trying to kiss MY knee. One can only hope.