Saturday, August 12, 2017

Paris in the mists of August

Garden on the rue Brancion in the 15th arrondissement.
August 12, 2017 -- As we walked past the three barges that form an “archipelago” in the Port du Gros Caillou of the left bank, I noticed a sign (in French) by the third barge that captured the mood and atmosphere of this mid-August afternoon.  The sign said:

Misty Island. It is the prow of the archipelago and the most beautiful panorama on the Seine revealed thanks to an unobstructed view. For the more nonchalant, large wooden lounge chairs invite families or lovers to taste the sweetness of the banks of the Seine. Arranged facing the river and adjacent to a high line of vegetation, a moment of relaxation is offered on these lounge chairs on the margins of the quay. Behind them unrolls a landscape that recalls the little rivulets on the edges of the Seine, and the mist which forms sometimes above them.

Oh, so French!

Like so much of Paris in August, the banks of the Seine were not crowded.  We had plenty of room to move – even dance, if we wanted to.

Later, as we moved into the old core of the city, we were enveloped by crowds of tourists.  Parisians in this part of the city must feel constantly besieged by tourists.  We have lots of empathy for them, for our island in Florida is also besieged by tourists for three or four months of each year.
But outside of that core of the city (as well as the area around the Eiffel Tower, Trocadero, and the top of Montmartre), Paris is calm, quiet, and uncrowded in August.

"Do you speak English" scammer approaches a couple on
the Champ de Mars (not the man in the story below).  This man
said "no" to the scammer, but she followed him anyway, until he
turned around and told her to stop following them.
We had begun with our usual route up to the Seine – through the Champ de Mars and the garden of the Musée du Quai Branly.

Scammer's fake petition.
On the Champ, we heard a man yell, then saw him chasing after a couple of the “do you speak English” girls and their lookout-boy.  They’d evidently picked the man’s pocket, and he realized it right away.  He chased them into the middle of the Champ, and then the two girls and the boy went separate ways.  Not knowing which one to chase down, the man gave up the pursuit.

One of the scammers had dropped her fake petition not far away from us.  I walked over and picked it up.  I photographed it, and then put it in the trash, making it more difficult for the scammers to find and retrieve it.  At least that might slow them down a little for the day.

What a shame that law enforcement does not crack down more on these scammers who often also pick pockets.  We don’t see these particular type of scammers elsewhere in Paris; only on the Champ de Mars.  Maybe they are on the Trocadero, too; I’m not sure because we haven’t been there in a while.

Calm and serenity quickly returned as we proceeded up the Champ and over to the garden at the Branly.  We took a little break on the smooth granite chunks under a rebar arbor in that lovely garden.  Then we crossed the quay and descended the steps to the river. 

Dr. Thomas Cooley rests on a chunk of smooth granite in the Branly garden.

First we walked through the open gates of the Franprix port.  A sign warned that pedestrians are prohibited here, but everyone ignores that sign.  Soon we were on the beautiful, pedestrianized banks.

We ambled along the Seine for a couple hours, pausing once so that Tom could get an ice cream cone and eat it.  After we passed the Musée D’Orsay and before we reached Notre Dame, there was an area where the steps are being repaired; that forced us to ascend to the street level.  There, for a few blocks, we had to mix with the mob of tourists until we could descend to the river again.

Along the river, we admired the houseboats and even a couple beautiful sailboats for all their residential amenities -- flower pots, potted trees, teak deck furniture, a collection of rubber duckies, etc. – as we walked along, hand in hand.
I'm ready to ignore the "forbidden to pedestrians" sign at
the FranPrix port on the Seine.

At last, we saw a lovely, winding, brick stairway through a sloping garden in front of the Arab Institute.  We climbed it, and walked a block back to the brasserie called Le Nouvel Institut, situated at the eastern foot of the boulevard Saint Germain.

There we had refreshments -- including the best home-made fries ever -- and remembered the couple times in prior years when we’d taken similar pauses in this handsome brasserie which is outfitted with some furniture that appears to come from an old architectural or engineering drafting room.  We noticed that the decorative old zinc bar has been nicely restored, and that the big old brass clock still looks over the dining room.

We walked back along the grand boulevard only to the Maubert-Mutualité metro station.  The line 10 train quickly took us back to our neighborhood, where we bought fruit, cheese (comte, gouda, and Roquefort), a slice of country terrine, a baguette, and a delicious Greek-style mushroom salad.  And so we dined well, at home, with our view of Parisian rooftops.

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