One of the minor perils of the routine of daily life anywhere on the planet is taking your surroundings for granted. Yes, even in Paris.
And one of the easiest sights to ignore is the spot where you begin and end a day's journey. When you're embarking on your travels, your mind is focused on reaching your destination (late again!). And on the return trip thoughts turn to getting home and slipping into -- comfortable shoes.
The other day I went to my neighborhood metro stop, St. Francois Xavier. It was the destination, not the starting point. And I appreciated it with new eyes.
Click on the photo below to enlarge it. Take a peek at this one glimpse, what you see upon exiting the metro station stairs. How many visual clues saying "I'm in Paris" are there in just one view?
1. The curved bench & cobblestones
2. The historic plaque
3. The garden hoops
4. The graffiti
5. The walk sign
6. The Hotel des Invalides (do you see it peeking out to the left of the building in the foreground?)
7. The yellow mailboxes
8. The newsstand
9. Monceau Fleurs (open 7j/7, seven days a week)
10. The traffic lights
And of course the building's architecture itself. And this is just the metro entrance! Then cross the boulvevard des Invalides to another park, le Parc Pierre de Gaulle.
Tidily raked gravel. Outdoor ping-pong tables. I've never played ping-pong next to a flowering shrub before. I purchased some paddles and day-glo outdoor ping-pong balls. If anyone wants to challenge me to a game, I'm ready. I've never had very good hand-eye coordination, so I actually stink at playing ping-pong. I don't care if I lose. I love the idea.
"Ping-Pong in Paris." Has a nice ring to it.
The park also has the requisite green benches in sun and shade and playground equipment at the far end. One Sunday morning in this park I saw a young Miss Clavel in jeans and boots (who'd have thought she was so hip without her habit?) accompanied by twelve little girls in two straight lines. I'm not making this up! And the petite filles were sporting broad-brimmed beribboned hats, prim blouses with peter-pan collars and long blue pinafore uniforms just like Madeline, too. I kept rubbing my eyes, convinced I hadn't woken up yet. Miss Clavel and the girls tossed a ball in a circle; the girls were allowed to toss their chapeaux gaily in the air once or twice for recreation, then skipped and clapped happily around. The whole scene was unbelievably storybook-perfect. Except for Miss Clavel's habit, of course.