Paris has become familiar. The first time you come to any city there is so much to absorb and you are rather lost, your nose planted in the skimpy map in the guide book when your eyes are not taking in the sites. But we’ve been here before and we’re back because it is a beautiful city, with a long history and a refined culture, a great place to be especially when you have time to absorb the vast offerings.
Paris is a city of art as much as it is a town that searches for the egalitarian ideal. Of the former more in later posts, I am sure. These days the latter is expressed in the services provided to the hungry- there are meals every day of the week- and lodging, in the tents that line the Seine downtown, a kind of nose- thumbing gesture, so I’ve heard, at the failure of government to provide enough low cost housing, and the velib, the bikes you can use free for 30 minutes with a monthly transit pass.
This time there are more beggars than last, sadly, with an unemployment rate about the same is in the US (around 9%) victims of the job loss that came from those phony investment schemes originating on Wall Street, a scheme to defraud investors disguised by a multiple layers of complexity. But here they are now, sitting on sidewalks, not just Romas and drunkards but a few otherwise promising young people, men and women alike. But this is a sadness I can not resolve. Enough then. And besides there are fewer here than in my own country.
We shall be living in the 6th for a bit. We have friends developed from our travels here. This came about from our time here in 2000. We rented from Prisca, who had rented to Gaston and Gloria, whom we met through Paul and Vicky, whom in turn we met through a book he wrote in the mid 1980’s and her keeping up with correspondence: she responded to an email from Peg 12 years ago when we were living in Madrid. From Paul and Vicky we somehow got to Anne and John, whom we got to know well, and then to their friends Chris and Rosemary, whose apartment we will now stay in for a month or two. From Anne and John I got to know Emoke at the French/English/Spanish conversation exchange at the American Church, where I met Ketty, from whom we will rent for a year beginning in August, her husband having been transferred to Le Havre. I suppose it all sounds rather complicated, and perhaps it is, but it did not seem so as all this unfolded.
As lovely as Paris is, and as rich is the art, we both think Valencia competes. The latter has a long parade of “quehaceres,” like free concerts, exhibits, shows and festivals- hardly a day goes by without one. You can strike up a conversation and become a friend in a moment. This is a bit harder to accomplish here, but as you can see, not impossible, it’s just that the Spanish are much quicker to smile. The people you see every day here in the stores are often a bit more dour, as if work were a very unpleasant burden.