As I have mentioned previously, my Sundays are usually spent escaping the city and enjoying the company of good friends in the suburbs. Today was no different except that, in honor of the first race of the Formula 1 season, our small Sunday night dinner was expanded by a few to make a full-fledged house party. Dinner was bountiful and delicious, as always. After the race, we all stuck around to watch Manchester United whomp Fulham in a pretty good football match. I even surprised myself by tweaking the typical lasagne recipe and making it tastier. All in all it was a good day.
The hardest part each Sunday is getting out of my neighborhood and out to the ‘burbs. I live in an extremely touristy part of Paris. Despite the overflowing racks of Paris, je t’aime berets and Amélie posters, I enjoy my neighborhood. There are tasty wine bars hidden amongst the touristy cafés, and it is hard for me to remain frustrated about science long when I can spend the evening watching the sunset from the steps of Sacré Coeur.
On Sunday mornings, however, when all I want to do is get away, pushing my way through the sightseeing throngs can prove exasperating.
The main road between the Basilica and its designated metro station, Anvers, is closed for pedestrian traffic each Sunday. And walking down the hill, towards the train against the flow of determined visitors, heads tucked down into city guides, can be hazardous to one’s health. I wear a pretty bright red coat, and I am not whisper-thin. I know that everyone is anxious to see the crowning jewel of Paris, but trying to walk right through me to do so is not going to work.
Without the threat of four-wheeled competitors, locals blast the latest Lady Gaga song while hocking sparkling, neon Eiffel towers and Moulin Rouge paraphernalia. Buskers grab a piece of sidewalk to serenade the international hordes as they make their pilgrimage to the best view in Paris (let me tell you, the combination of dance pop and accordions is not a pleasant one). Certainly a great place to grab a coffee and people watch. Something high on my list once the spring warmth sets in a bit more.
Most fascinating to me are the gamers (for lack of another nickname, as usual). These men set up their makeshift tables (usually stacked cardboard boxes) in the middle of the street, about 15 feet apart, all the way down their hill. Like we’ve all seen in a million movies, they place three large, black felt dots face down on the boxes. One will have a smaller colored sticker on the face side. Bet you can’t follow the red dot as he shuffles them around…
I have stood and watched these guys go. Talking the whole time – obviously trying to distract the patron from catching whatever slight of hand is being attempted. It really is impressive. People seem to ‘win’ all the time. The cash flows back and forth, but rarely can a winner resist the challenge to repeat the feat, ‘double or nothing’.
Once I push my way through the crowds and enter the Anvers station, I am on my way. And with this face waiting to greet me at the other end of my journey
All that pushing and shoving is well worth it.
This view, on the return trip up the hill (after the visitors have tucked into a nice meal or returned to their hotels), is not to shabby either.