Sunday, April 4, 2010

Tourisister, day sept

Our plan for Nicole's last day had been to visit the catacombs (what better way to celebrate Christ rising from the dead than with a stroll through piles of bones, eh?) but alas, they were closed. Instead, we went North to the hill of Montmartre and its voluptuous cathedral of Sacre Coeur (seriously, it has always struck me as an extremely feminine and sensual building, especially compared to the harsh Gothic towers of Notre Dame). Nicole liked the view over the city but was even more entranced by the street performers and portrait artists. After buying her some scarves (so that she would stop threatening to steal mine, which she had been wearing all week) we continued on to the last stop on our tourist hit list: the Arc de Triomphe, its flame honoring the unknown soldier, and its surrounding asterisk of grand boulevards radiating outwards in the shape of an étoile ("star").

I accompanied her to the airport this morning (early, early this morning) to see her off. Unfortunately, with the new security measures I couldn't follow her any further than the line for the passport station. Left to pace behind velvet ropes as I watched my kid sister pass through to security alone, I understood why saying "bye" to me at the airport has always been a heart-wrenching affair for my mother. "Have a good flight," I said, "and a good rest of the school year." She hugged me: "have a in Paris?"

I relished that remark on the train ride home --my life in Paris--as if my sister saying it had made it real. When I arrived in September, it was with a nomadic, "this is temporary" mindset; my academic year in France was a mere a blip in the trajectory of my path before I start Real Life. At the beginning, I bought as few dishes and linens as I could manage, I neglected decoration, and I packed lightly, always conscious of being able to easily erase the traces of my time here and bring stuff "home" to the States. Hosting a visitor made me appreciate how much this city has really become my own over the last few months, and how at home I feel here--to the point that I'm beginning to plan a life here beyond my Master's.

As if determined to prove my French-ness, I stopped at a boulangerie on the way home to pick up a baguette and some breakfast pastries for Tom and I to share. Later we took advantage of the lovely day and warm weather to take a stroll through the blossoming tree-lined streets of the "Chinatown" area in the 13th arrondissement, stopping for some pho and frogs legs at a Vietnamese place. Verdict: they taste similar to chicken (which is to say vaguely meaty and salty, I suppose) but have a texture more like white fish... the muscle kind of flakes apart inside the crunchy outside, and you end up with a cute little pile of frog bones. Dinner: left over ratatouille and a whole kilo of fresh spring strawberries. Vive la France!

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