Thursday, January 04, 2007

In France they Kiss on Main Street

Lucas' mom's pralined almonds.

Amour, mama. In the first few days at my new job, I took all of the possible combinations of metro, bus, and tram routes at various points of time in order to find the best way to get to and from the office. It’s quite a curious optimistic feeling, riding along a bus route on a street I’ve never been on, exploring new neighborhoods, knowing that if I find a particular route fruitful, I can take it daily. As the bus rolls though a particular neighborhood, I take it all in, the beautiful old town houses scattered between the 3rd arrondissement and Montchat, the little islands of commercial activity, where there is a bakery, butcher or epicerie along the route in proximity to the stops, places that I can stop off and pick up necessities here and there.

In France metropolitan areas, public transportation is seen a bit differently than it’s seen back in the US, where only the unfortunate down and out and people who don’t have cars must take the bus. Here, it’s definitely used by the masses from upper crust to the underbelly. You’re just as likely to see a woman draped in expensive cashmere shawls lined with fur and bedecked with diamonds as you are to see someone more humble in means and appearance riding on the bus in centre ville. My daily journey takes me on the path from the center of town past the main train station, so the diversity of the population I see on the bus is even more pronounced.

I have taken three different buses, each with slightly different routes, because when you’re dealing with city traffic, the actual direct route from point A to point B can take more time than a more circuitous route through smaller less traveled streets. I have found that what looks to be the most efficient route on a map actually ends up in gridlocked traffic if you leave the office within certain times of the rush hour. Smaller neighborhood routes are graced with stops that conveniently are just next to all the amenities one needs daily like bread, butter, fruit, etc. whereas the central conduits often are surrounded by large squares lined with chain restaurants or sandwich stands and cafes.

Riding by the train station is interesting. I never really thought about it, but it the train station is the place where one is most likely to run into people kissing. It’s really amazing how many times since this began I have seen people are locked in long embraces. She is holding flowers. He’s got a bookbag.

Some young couples stand with their feet facing each other, looking directly into each others faces and aware of only one another. They only bend at the neck as they smooch, a little bit like still wooden dolls feeling the bliss of their stillness in the midst of city movement. Sometimes his hands cradle her head. Some stand side by side and swivel around each other like swans to kiss, intertwining with one another and also with the world around them, swirling into the movement of the hurried world by the sheer chiaroscuro of their adoration for each other, in announcement to the world. Amour mama!

Today I am bedridden, caused by the French phenomenon called the ‘arret de travail’. This is an order from a doctor to stay at home and take it easy. Which generates a paper of which the third copy generates a paper which must be sent by mail along with the second copy to a central depot for papers of this sort. Seems quite complicated, non? I am lying on the couch, with nothing to do but drink water and every so often pop one of Lucas’ mom’s pralined almonds into my mouth. They are like little kisses from a mother. Even if these delicious bites in which the sugar is just the right consistency to resist for a moment and then reveal and mingle with the almond which has roasted in sugar to give just the right tooth within are coming from Lucas' mother and not my own, I am feeling the motherly love with each one. Don't worry, I'm not having too many. Thank you, Lucas' mom. May I have your recipe?

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Blogger wheresmymind said...

I'm a big fan of public transportation...I get to work a heck of a lot less stressed than if I had to drive my car anywhere :)

8:13 PM, January 04, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pas de la gastro?

8:20 PM, January 04, 2007  
Blogger franchini said...

Hope you are on your feet again soon, but sometimes a bit of enforced rest is just what you need. The almonds look very comforting.

8:32 PM, January 04, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in Chicago, where public transportation is also not exclusively for the have nots, and I love it. You can read, zone out with your iPod or just stare out the window at the passing scene.

During a recent snow storm, the el trains were crowded with extra riders and also delayed. As we pulled into one crowded station, I saw that some rider had used his or her extra time to make a small snowman--maybe only a foot tall--complete with baby carrot nose, no doubt pulled from a lunch sack. Made me smile.

I love the beautiful, thoughtful writing on your blog. Look forward to exploring more of it. rest and get well.

9:12 PM, January 04, 2007  
Blogger Jann said...

Enjoyed your post today and do hope you start to feel better-lots to check out on the way to work now and at that train station!

2:16 AM, January 05, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome, from public transportation to kiss to pralined almonds and mom's kiss! Beautiful.

11:22 PM, January 06, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm. In New York City, even our billionaire mayor uses the subway.

5:17 PM, February 20, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you about train stations being the place where people kiss. Last month, I mentioned that in a post when we took our friend to the Montparnasse station. Even though most of the Paris stations are truly ugly buildings (on the interior because they've been privatized and no one has spent the money to spruce them up properly), the people that use the train stations continue to make them one of the most romantic places in Paris (in my opinion).
PS I'm going to add a link to your post on 'blanquette de veau' and try out the recipe tomorrow night.

12:50 PM, April 16, 2008  

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