It feels as grey as it looks today. The last week of January 2020. I am at the end of a journey that has taken me on an exhaustive tour of most of France and Andorra with its usually spectacular Pyrenees mountains. A journey that began three weeks ago in a Vancouver snowstorm, then pit stopped in Reykjavik and Copenhagen eventually terminating at Charles De Gaulle airport many hours later.
My energy is as low as my electrolytes. Four days ago after arriving back in the city of lights I made the now regrettable decision to make a bee line to my once favourite brasserie on Rue Commerce which is not too far from the Champ de Mars. This local haunt had become a second home to me on my regular stays in the neighbourhood. It’s your choice really. You can have the escargot or the steak tartar to begin and then your choices get more abundant and decadent.
I must admit that this was not the absolutely first Parisian restaurant of which I had darkened its door on this trip. The night before and after our late arrival at Les Jardins d’Eiffel, we had stored our kit quickly and hustled a block over to Rue Cler and the waiting arms of an oyster shucker with epic skills. My travel buddy likes the more rudimentary of menu choices. So when a plain hamburger and fries with ketchup on the side did not compute to the oyster shucker, that left me to dine alone on the finest oysters to arrive from Normandy earlier that day.
He shucked and I obliged by eating his little friends. A little horse radish, a little Tabasco, a little lemon and actually a little gin were the various accoutrements that helped to make these little fellas disappear at an alarming pace. Sitting at street side with a couple of Kronenbourg helped to immerse us in the Parisian lifestyle. This is a popular street due to its plethora of culinary choice and the fact that disciples of Rick Steves guide books flood the place from time to time. They seem frustrated that their waiter is having a hard time understanding their Alabama twang as they request a meal choice that would be right at home on the Tuscaloosa Waffle House counter but alas not so much here.
Fast forward to my table at Brasserie Commerce. I could wax lyrical about this and that but I will cut to the chase. I ordered, I ate, I drank glass of rouge, I paid, I left, I wandered, and then I ordered an Uber eventually to take me back to Jardins d’Eiffel. I made it into the lobby, I climbed the stairs, I got into my room and then it all went Pete Tong.
In most things as with life there is usually an entrance and exit. Within 15 minutes of returning to my room I was barely a living example of no entrance but many exits. Three days later and three days of lying & shivering on the cold shower floor in Room 318 (never stay there) I regained some senses and the ability to get to my feet however quite slowly.
This is not a poor me story. This is a story that comes with the territory. I have had the good fortune to travel far and wide and regularly during my lifetime. And given that many of these destinations had an opportunity to take me down to Chinatown by virus or food poisoning on numerous occasions, this last four days in Dante’s Inferno (Rodin’s Museum just due east) seemed to be payback of biblical proportion. I couldn’t begin to explain what body part hurt more.
I was able to get some clothes on and set a plan to find my way to a pharmacy and Super Marche’. You usually couldn’t pay me to drink Gatorade (other sport beverages are available) but this was the day that something akin to that might just help the healing process. I found a French equivalent and with some pills provided over the counter by the extremely gracious young lady at the pharmacy, I started to recoup some time in one of my favourite cities.
I know that Paris has an awesome metro that can speed you from Arrondissement to Arrondissement, but there is only one way to get about this city. With my Leica QP over my shoulder I put left foot after right. Many streets turned to kilometres and as I walked I gazed at Napolean’s handiwork. A camera in the hand of Parisian visitor is both cliche’ and required. It would be so predictable to mention the work of Bresson or Cappa but colour me predictable. Yes, I shoot Leica, I subscribe to LFI and I made a pilgrimage to Wetzlar recently all due to my love affair with this German Photographic legend.
It’s hard to explain. The QP feels like an old friend. A long time ago I promised myself to quit settling for stopgap measures. If I want a Leica, save for one. If I want a Rolex to help me to time keep then just wait and save. Don’t buy what I need, buy what I want.
Sorry for the little off road left rant there. Seeing out my time in Paris on foot and with energy enough to keep me out and about was the biggest gift I could have asked for. So it was overcast and grey as I wandered, but that’s ok. I was living as a Parisian for one more day before I returned home to the biggest change in the last 30 years of my life.
Comeback to this blog when you have time to hear what has changed and what happens now. With enough time I can begin to share my thoughts on the future.
p.s. this is a sad takeaway from Paris in January. If I knew then what we would be living with now? Stay isolated and stay well! And before you ask, I took this as I wandered towards the tower.