Saturday, October 17, 2015

Oh, those Grumpies! Yes, even in Paris!

Friday morning, we woke in Paris. That should have been enough to guarantee happiness, but it was a cold grey Paris we woke to, further narrowing the options in my carry-on-only capsule wardrobe. So I was already a bit disgruntled as we pushed through the faded burgundy doors of the brasserie just kitty-corner, up across the cobblestoned road, back behind the Pantheon. From behind the bar, the server called out Bonjour M'sieur'dame, and we Bonjoured back, working our way to a table. Paul pulled out a chair for me, and we settled in to wait for our server. We could have stood at the bar and saved a coin or two, but we had some time to kill before heading to our art expo; watching the regulars chat energetically over coffees at the zinc counter seemed an easier way of easing into the day than trying to join them there.

Settling into our table in the corner, we were also settling, I think, into the comfort of knowing what to do in a French brasserie after ten days of not being quite sure what was what in the Italian counterparts. Too soon, though, that comfort; too easily felt, and thus suspect. Sure enough, just as the tiny, interior back-slaps and high-fives were arriving to bolster our French self-esteem, the server (or owner, as we have come to believe over subsequent visits) arrived at our table NOT to take our order, but to tell us we'd have to move.

My disgruntlement quickly returned, aimed in the direction of my husband who, after all, had made the embarrassing choice and sat us down (disgruntlement is no guarantor of logic of fairness, let us admit!). But although it took me a moment or two, as we shifted tables, I recognized with a little thrill that every word we'd said or heard since we'd pushed open those doors had been French. Rather than marking us as outsiders, the proprietor's request that we move tables to accommodate his morning deliveries signalled our belonging inside the language.

It's a conditional, tentative belonging, to be sure, but it exists in enough strength to encourage our efforts. I have more examples and more thoughts about the challenges and rewards of learning a language and the differences between travelling with and without a basic ability in the dominant language of the place you're visiting. Those examples and thoughts will have to wait until we're back home, but I offered the brasserie anecdote as a bit of an antidote to the grumbling ahead and to assure you that while I do slump, occasionally, in Paris, I generally find something here that reminds me of my affection for the city.

If you've been keeping an eye on my Instagram feed, you'll have surmised that we spent a very pleasant day wandering Turin before continuing our train journey to Paris. In Rome last Sunday, we peeled off sweaters as the October sun coaxed the thermometer up to 22. Turin wasn't as warm, but I took my Uniqlo light down jacket off in the sunshine there while we drank our Negronis in the afternoon.

Paris, though, when we arrived Thursday afternoon? Well, at least it didn't sport the dusting of snow we'd seen on fields in eastern France as our train moved out of the Alps, but at 5 degrees Celsius, it wasn't doing much better! Nor was this blue-sky crisp cool Fall weather. No, this was the miserable, insinuating damp cold of migraines and sulks and even the occasional snarl about the impossibility of dressing smartly for cold weather from a carry-on wardrobe designed with late summer/early fall in mind. . .

And scarcely had we worked our way through the crowd of passengers disembarking from two trains onto one platform (oh my God! Must they cluster around those stupid torch-like bows, held high by the tour leader for visibility and quasi-military organization that more closely resembles a high-school band trip and Really, if you must bring a bag so large you can scarcely move it, couldn't you wait to let the less encumbered, more mobile, screamingly impatient among us pass by? And finally, How I miss being able to claim PMS when I'm feeling this out-of-sorts, grumpier and, oh, just say it, bitchier by the moment), scarcely, as I was saying, had we got through these crowds and found some breathing space to organize our walk to the hotel, than I realized something that wound my foul mood even tighter.

I'd left my knitting pouch on the train. Probably on the space between our two seats where I'd put it down after contentedly knitting an inch or so, moving along the instep of a second sock, not yet ready to measure it against its completed mate in anticipation of the toe-shaping. Yes, the completed sock was in that pouch also. And two sets of my favourite wooden double-points....

He offered to go back for the bag, my good man. But fighting his way back through that crowd, only to see if he could gain access to a train that was being prepped to go somewhere else? Perhaps I should have said , "Yes! Run!" Perhaps I should have run myself, elbows working agressively through the luggage-challenged stragglers. Instead, busily trying to think of ways it was his fault, even while I knew perfectly well it was my own, I reconciled myself to the loss (Not so the Italian woman who had passengers get up out of the seats backing on to hers so that she and her husband could look underneath them. We never did discover what she had dropped but it was precious enough that train personnel were recruited to the search as well and everyone rousted from their seats yet again.).

I'm writing this on Saturday afternoon, after two 15+-kilometre days, several wonderful meals, exciting (and feet, hip, knee, and back-defying) art expositions, and I've almost let go of those socks. We may stop by the Lost and Found on Monday, but probably not. I'm trying to save for napping any moments left over from galleries and walking and long lunches, in an effort to stave off a threatening sinus infection (yes, more cause for grumbling, but I'll focus on the good food and the great wine and the way the constant walking mitigates, I hope, against the calorie intake).

The grey lifted a bit today. I've been enjoying tea made in the kettle my husband insisted on buying our first evening here (along with a mug and a box of tea bags because he knows I'm a happier camper if I can have a cuppa in the morning and another in the afternoon. So thoughtful, so sweet, even if he does make me leave my knitted socks behind and chooses the wrong seats in brasseries). And we're heading off soon for dinner with friends we haven't seen for almost 30 years, friends whose Paris visit coincided with ours, connection facilitated by FaceBook . . My wise husband reminds me that our last days in Paris are often tinged by an awkward ambivalence. There will always be a gap, desires unmet in a city that evokes them so compellingly, that space between longing and belonging that has everything and nothing to do with place. Soon we'll be home, and I'll sift through my memories for whatever truth or illusion nourishes my Parisian self, such as she dreams of being, and enriches, I hope, the self who lives where she really must. . .

Meanwhile, the big question: do you ever settle in to a patch of disgruntlement when you're travelling? Please tell me you're not as petty as I am and that you never take it out on your travelling companions! Any great techniques for pulling your better self back into the room? (I sent my guy out for a Leffe at that Brasserie across the road while I napped and then tapped away at this on my iPad while sipping a cup of tea--sometimes solitude is the best cure!)

I did try for pictures, but my photos are taking forever to land in the cloud from my iPhone, and I'm using Blogsy on the iPad. The marvels and complications of technology. . . Pretty pictures of Paris coming your way soon, I promise. Happy Saturday! And if you're Canadian, and we don't chat again before Monday, Please Vote!

30 comments:

  1. I am a little amused and totally bemused as to why you would bring your knitting on a day out in Paris. Clearly you have totally given up on appearing chic and Parisienne at this point!!!! Poor Pater. You are very high maintenance. Hopefully posting has helped, calm is restored and you'll both enjoy the last part of your trip. Lovely and all as it is to travel, I think there comes a point when you've had enough. All the best Mary

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mary, I brought my knitting out on the 6-hour train ride from Turin to Paris. Perhaps that's something only other knitters would understand. And we knitters don't think our hobby precludes us from being chic, even Parisian, but we might just be fooling ourselves. Pater appreciated your sympathy and I'm going to assume that you are being tongue-in-cheek in accusing me of being high maintenance. . .occasionally grumpy, yes, but high maintenance I am not. 😉

      Delete
    2. Oops I see I got a little lost after the cafe story. Knitting on a 6 hour train journey I can understand. I'm a knitter myself and have done plenty of knitting in my time though never socks and never on holiday! Agree anonymous below has given you sound advice Mary

      Delete
  2. I think it's " too-much-vacation24/7-packed-in-with-husband/carry-on-and-unexpected-feelings-dredged-up-by-being-with-the-kids ".
    Advice: book yourself into a cozy motel room, re-buy the yarn and needles, take some books and the Paris kettle…… stay a week, by yourself to decompress. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous, I wish I knew your name so I could better thank you for this brilliant advice! In fact, we have scheduled some days apart once we're back home, not specifically for that reason ( he has a conference I decided not to attend with him) and I think the decompression will be a very good thing!

      Delete
  3. Oh, this could all so well be me :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So glad to hear I'm not the only one, M-O. Every nice in a while, a girl's just got to vent!!

      Delete
  4. Oh-la-la! My friend, Janet, called me "grumpy princess" during our second Europe visit together. The first year, I was studying and doing my own thing. Second year.. trains to catch, food-poisoning, swollen ankle..I got "short" at times. I also wake very early so mid-afternoon, I have have "tired, leave me alone time" It is how it is. Travel days, leave-taking days, cloudy days. I know that sometimes I am just best by myself. You are not the only one for sure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Another example of our "must have been separated at birth" likenesses: I really need time to myself in the afternoon (ideally a nap as well) because I get up early. Luckily, Pater is wise to my ways and generally tries to accommodate but it's not always possible when traveling. Sometimes I'm a Grumpy Princess too!

      Delete
  5. I haven't traveled at length in forever! So I don't know. I think I'm usually the one putting on the cheery face but I could be completely inventing that:). I love this post. So honest. I mean, this is life, this is how we are as humans, this is what retirement gives us the chance to dive into and surface from.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think ing being fairly accurate in thinking I'm generally what I think of as "a trooper" but sometimes I just want to whine and sulk and even cry a bit. And thanks. I do want to dig and dive a bit, now that I have the time.

      Delete
  6. Mater, here's what you should do; do you know Aimee, the American sometime blogger who opened up a tea shop near Place d'Italie? I believe she now has a wool shop around the corner from the cafe. Go there and buy yourself some new wool! :0)
    http://www.loisivethe.com/
    P.S. Our family all voted last week!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do know that delightful shop. Blogged once about visiting the charming Aimee there and now she's got a second shop. Good idea and I was going to follow your advice, but just got too lazy, busy, tired. A knit-free plane ride home for me, a first!
      Good for your family and good for you, raising voters!

      Delete
    2. Ugh! Cyberspace guzzled my first reply to you. Thanks for reminding me about L'Oisive Thé which I posted about visiting once upon a time. Didn't make it there but thought about your good idea. Just got too busy and tired.
      Congrats on raising voters! Young people seem to have got much more engaged this election.

      Delete
  7. I'm sorry for your lost knitting,I can completely understand the feeling. I have to admit that I am always grumpy first day of travel,my poor beloved son(I borrowed this from Lisa because I like it so much),he was always guilty for something !
    And it took some time to realize and accept this fact,all responsibilities,new environment,I try to rest first a bit,take a deep breath and remember to enjoy the moment
    I'm so proud of you, ma Parisienne! It is essential to know a bit of language when you travel. Have you been to Hungary or Greece? I was totally lost ,luckily I traveled in a group to countries where you can't even read a word and they don't speak english a lot
    I like your post very much
    Dottoressa

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haven't been to Hungary or Greece yet, but struggled with language in Portugal (although at least I could read a bit from similarity with Spanish). My language abilities are so limited I wouldn't want to restrict travel only to where I can speak a bit, but what a difference it makes. I envy your polyglot capabilities!

      Delete
  8. I know this grumpiness so well. It comes to us all. I think that we expect too much of ourselves on holiday. Too much togetherness, too much change - all can be wonderful and stimulating but also exhausting and irritating.

    Patricia has sage advice. Kit yourself out with new wool and needles and the result will be s souvenir of your trip. And the needles can be the starting point for one of Nana's stories for ever after

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So glad you understand and that I'm not the only one. I didn't get a chance to pick up new knitting supplies, but I will be heading home to a copious stash. And I can still pull a Nana story out of the loss--a cautionary tale😉

      Delete
  9. It is being surrounded by too many people in languages and rituals that are not your own, poor old brain having to work hard just to understand the basics. It is knowing that you should (dread word) be relishing every precious second and hopelessly elegant European moment and instead you are frowning at the person opposite who is just that bit too noisy. It is leaving something behind because you are furious at having to struggle with bags and push through people (Europeans brilliant at taking no notice of anyone else). It is wanting a cup of tea. It is high expectations of yourself and every other damned person within a radius of a yard and everybody failing to meet them.
    Yes. I know that feeling. It passes. Have a drink. A bientot.

    ReplyDelete
  10. When it's all too much I spend several hours at the hammam at the Mosque of Paris, which is a reasonably-priced (woman only) oasis. Not luxurious, old and mellow. Your worries slide off with the exfoliating gommage and the steam, the old mosaics and mint tea. Get a massage there, too. It always works. Also, there must be some magnificent wool shops in Paris, why not find them and replace your needles?

    ReplyDelete
  11. Wool shops to visit in Paris (even if you had not lost your pouch!)
    La Droguerie 9-11 rue du Jour 75001 (près des Halles)
    Lil Weasel 1 Passage du Grand Cerf (145 rue Saint Denis) 75002

    ReplyDelete
  12. Love reading your honest reactions, Usually pwople gloss over any pain while in Paris. You have wonderful readers with exellemt ideas. Tellus what you decide upon.

    ReplyDelete
  13. This afternoon was better though, wasn't it? The sun even peeked out a time or two. :)

    ReplyDelete
  14. As alwas I admire the honesty of your post. I feel like you on extended holidays ...I think its all about "Expectations" Like Christmas we want everything to be just perfect and it rarely is ...We then become a little agitated with those we are closest to and love the most!
    Take care,
    Rosie

    ReplyDelete
  15. That sucks about the socks and needles - but you've got good perspective. I'd be very out of of sorts under those circumstances!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Anonymous' diagnosis is brilliant. This could well be me, grumpy in Paris (quelle horreur!) I try to build in a little solitude on extended vacations, or even shorter ones. A walk by myself or splitting up in a museum does wonders for my state of mind. Hope that you are feeling much, much brighter!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Smiling in recognition... I quite often feel this way.. A splendid trip, new places to see and I'm grumpy😁 Your other commenters named a lot of the causes.. hungry,need to
    be alone, too much togetherness etc.. Then we tend to take it out on the one we love most!! I enjoy your honesty.. I suspect most of us have felt the same way.. Enjoy the rest of your trip and look forward to time alone to muse on your trip at home.. All the best Coco

    ReplyDelete
  18. Oh my...do I...do I? In the last few days of a long, long trip I am the queen of disgruntlement. Trying like hell to make everything Hubby's fault. But that never works. I'm just tired of travelling and missing home and my own tea pot and my closet full of season appropriate clothes. Love that Pater bought a tea kettle. Must remember that for our extended trips when one DOES miss a cuppa whenever one wants one!

    ReplyDelete
  19. For me it isn't grumpiness, it's a bout of anxiety that takes over and obsesses me for awhile. It's the same thing, though, because it drives my family crazy. So when I realize that, I try to calm down and savor some treat - like an outing in a favorite museum or maybe just buying a French magazine and enjoying the pictures while expanding my vocabulary.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Lovely, truthful, post! Just like a small child I think I get over-stimulated by just managing daily life, eating, drinking (lovely choices but still decisions that I don't make as often at home) dressing out of suitcase (versus my extensive any weather selections at home) and full time life with another person 24-7. Love the duchesse suggestions and might put that on a list for my next Paris visit. Safe travels home.

    ReplyDelete

I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...