Ice cream in the Tuileries, mobs of football fans, and other memories of 24 hours in Paris

Now, I’d meant to do this week’s blog posting about what everyone’s favorite trail food and snacks were – and just what the meaning is of that mysterious ambrosia called “gorp.” (Some people think it means “granola, oatmeal, raisins and peanuts,” while other people go for “good old raisins and peanuts.” But that’s neither hither or thither.)

The truth is, the attacks yesterday in Paris are on everyone’s minds, and mine too. So I’m going to devote tonight’s piece to une rêverie parisienne.

I’ve been to Paris exactly once, so far. It was several years ago – the family and I were on a trip to England (mostly London, with side trips up to York and out to Bath), our first trip overseas. We decided, before flying home to the U.S., to take the Eurostar over to Paris and just take in the city for 24 hours.

There is a concept, which I thought I’d bring up, called “le flâneur.” (Or, flâneuse, if you’re a woman.) If I understand aright, it’s someone who makes it their business to see or observe the city and the people – or their surroundings. The term evidently started out as a description for idle young dandies in the nineteenth century Paris, but it’s apparently evolved over the years to include different kinds of people who like to go out for walks and explore their surroundings, whether for their profession or just because they enjoy it. Kind of like hiking, I suppose.

Sure, we did some touristy stuff – we paid the mandatory visit to the Eiffel Tower, and in fact had dinner that evening in the restaurant there. (And a massive thunderstorm broke out overhead.)

But a lot of our trip was just taking the city as we found it. After we’d found our way over to our inn, checked in and dropped off the luggage, we’d just wandered over to the Tuileries and bought some ice cream. And we just sat and watched people going by, and a bunch of little kids sailing toy boats in the fountain pool.

There were also moments like being on the Métro, and carrying on a short conversation with a woman about how our train had to stop because some fool was walking on the tracks.

Contrary to popular belief, all of the Parisians we encountered were warm, courteous and general nice people. (It helped, of course, that my mother and I were speaking French.)

Our visit coincided with the Ligue des Champions – Arsenal v. Barcelona, to be exact. So the city was crawling with football fans – and when we boarded the Eurostar in London, it was packed with Arsenal supporters. The Barcelona fans tended to be a lot cheerier – and a lot of fans came in groups of families with kids.

In the morning, before having to decamp to the airport, we stopped at a boulangerie near the inn where we’d been staying and bought a half-dozen pains au chocolat.

I’m going back to France someday – whether it’s Paris or the countryside, probably both. So someday, hopefully not in the too-distant future, you’ll see a few postings on this blog about walks through the Loire Valley or a ramble in the Pyrenees. Or maybe a few postings about urban hikes and history walks around Paris. (You could probably devote an entire blog to that. Someone probably has.)

On the subject of hiking: come to think of it, what would be the equivalent of trail mix in French? Mélange aux noix et raisins secs? (That’s pretty much what the stuff is, basically.) Je ne sais pas. Oh, well – you’ll know as soon as I can find out.

Vive la France!

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