Un plus parfait Paris

Parisians have not been living up to their reputation. Instead of the dismissive arrogance the world knows them for, I've found them helpful, even friendly. The man who sat down next to me at a metro station, who was resting after a long day, curious to know where I came from. After midnight, on the Marie Lillas line, a platform deserted except for me and a toothless man hunched in dirty clothes, un vrai misérable, who raised his head to tell me that the line terminated on that side, that I had to go à l'autre coté. The charming jeune filles we encountered as we ducked around a corner to escape the crowds at Sacre Coeur: "Do you mind?" they asked us. "We are making a project for our English class at school," and proceeded to ask about our impressions of Paris, our favourite French food. The helpful man in a neighbourhood hardwood store in the 10me arrondissement, who not only figured out that what I wanted was a reveil, not a reveilleur, but supplied a battery as well as instructions for using the tiny alarm clock.

Mon français is far from perfect, but I asked for and received directions and enjoyed short conversations with people and no one responded to me in English, as I had been told to expect, "because they don't have the patience." Well, they did. Even when I said, plié on the street of tissue, or fabric, when I should have said plissé.

My host in Paris has a studio literally furnished with books. Towers of Gallimard editions with their distinctive cream jackets, and other editions, support a small table, a desk. Outside, in the courtyard, pink roses bloom and birds sing. Just down the street, along the banks of Canal Saint-Martin, people enjoyed the sun, and later a warm evening, bateaus and small flotillas of mallards slipped by, people hurried away from the neighbourhood's renown boulangerie with baguettes or some hefty artisan bread, their escargot (a pastry) or croissants.

Of course, at this time of year, not only are the chestnut trees are in blossom, tulips, iris and every other variety of flower seems to be blooming. Booksellers man their stalls along the Seine no matter the skies, and  the cheap plastic ponchos of tourists waiting their turn for Notre Dame flutter in the blowy, showery, sometimes brilliantly sunny, altogether unpredictable spring weather.
 Of the two especially wonderful restaurants we tried, the more interesting concentrated on combining tastes, a curve of chili powder and a mound of apricot conserve framing a rectangle of brie, for example. A reflection, perhaps, of the mixing of peoples in this storied city. Waiting in line at the Pompidou Centre, I heard Punjabi, Spanish, English, German. Languages I could not identify. A rich palette of human voices and human skin colours.

Inside the Pompidou, a woman methodically photographed virtually every tableau she passed, the image and then the description, the artist's name. Chance placed us in the same galleries all afternoon. Click, and there she was, a mid-aged blonde, wearing black, aiming her big camera. Click.

Alicia Penalba: "A form becomes abstract because it creates a new myth that does not come from the spirit of man."