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To Life, To Life, Le Chaim and Ganesha — All in the Life of a Day in Paris

Eighteen years ago today I boarded a plane with my daughter and husband headed for Paris, France. Like all flights originating from the U.S., we landed the next morning on September 4th at the height of “La Rentrée,” just as it is today when the entire population is scurrying to get back to work, back to school and back to their normal lives.

Our lives were never the same.

We intended to come for one year to see what it might like to live in Paris, with anxiety and reticence from our eight-year-old who had never been to France before. One year turned into 18 in the ‘blink of an eye’ with no regrets and a lifetime of fond memories. In Judaism, the number 18 stands for “life,” because the Hebrew letters that spell “chai,” meaning “life,” add up to 18. This is all coincidental, or not?

Life in Paris has been one adventure after another. Nary a day goes by without a story to tell or something to report as unusual or enlightening. No other city in which I have ever lived has compared: New Orleans, New York, Tel Aviv, Knoxville, or Los Angeles. While life in these other cities was certainly full of fun, good friends, good food, etc., they lacked the kind of daily happenstance on which we thrive in Paris.

Just the past few days events have reminded me of the reason I stayed all these years — the merry-go-round of life in the City of Light. For one reason or another, the events took me to every corner of the city spending a lot of time on the Métro and buses, but realizing how easy it is to travel all over town with total freedom.

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On Saturday an almost one-hour Métro excursion took us to the Porte de Versailles to attend the last day of the “Toutankhamon, Tombeau et Trésors” exhibit (a tribute to his life!) only to discover that entry wouldn’t be until 6 p.m. that evening. Deciding to forego the idea, we then trekked back by bus to take in the sights along the way, then walking a good distance before arriving home two hours later, but having seen every part of city between the extreme southwestern and the northeastern parts. Turning around one hour later again on the Métro I headed to the extreme southern part of the city just for dinner with friends to return home by midnight.

Just to give you an idea of what a typical day in Paris can be like, Sunday was not exactly one of those do-nothing relaxing days like one might have elsewhere:

8 a.m. – Wake up to do the usual Sunday morning chores and get dressed for the day, stupidly break an apartment window with a hammer (don’t ask!); cover broken window with plastic
10 a.m. – Parler Paris Apartments concierge stops by for supplies
10:10 a.m. – Concierge reports homeless man sleeping in entry of Parler Paris Apartment building; police phoned; man leaves
10:15 a.m. – Concierge reports she can’t enter building due to electrical outage; guests arrive by taxi; locksmith called; electric company called; suitcases brought up in dark stairwell using iPhone flashlight app
10:30 a.m. – Métro to Gare to Nord for arrival at Ganesh Festival in 10th arrondissement
11 a.m. – Watch Ganesh Festival from 5th floor apartment of friend with other friends and eat scrumptious home-made lunch
12:45 a.m. – Métro to Charles de Gaulle Etoile to meet landlord and client at new long-term rental apartment
3:30 p.m. –    Finally, arrival of client two hours late
4 p.m. – Métro to Le Palace des Vosges for surprise visit with newly arrived shareholder
6:15 p.m. – Walk home
8 p.m. – Friend arrives ‘chez moi’ in panic after wallet stolen on bus; calls made to credit card companies, etc. to cancel and replace important documents
9:30 p.m. – Dinner at Chez Omar
11 p.m. – Movie at home on new DVD player

Naturally, the Ganesh Festival was the highlight of a charged up day. If you haven’t experienced it before, the Ganesh Festival takes place every year at this time in the “quartiers” near La Chapelle filled with a riot of sounds, smells, colors and flavors of India and Sri Lanka. The parade began on rue Pajol and moved down rues Perdonnet, Faubourg Saint-Denis, Marx Dormoy, Ordener, boulevard Barbès, rues Labat and Marcadet. It included musicians and dancers, with coconuts broken as an offering to Ganesh (the shell symbolizes the illusion of the world, the flesh individual Karma, water and the human ego). Drawn by two large fiber ropes twenty meters each, a “tank” about five meters high, housed the statue of Ganesh, the elephant-headed hindu god. It was entirely covered with red and white fabric and decorated with many garlands of fresh flowers, arrangements of whole bananas, coconut and arecanut leaves.

We watched from above and took in the sights, sounds, color and aromas. On the street, many of the Indian and Sri Lankan restaurants were serving up their best dishes and the shops were open selling their finest saris and other native garb. Being a part of the festival is the closest thing to being in India or Sri Lanka without having to go through airport security!

Learn more about Ganesh.

See my video of the event.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

(appropriately Ganeshed)

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P.S. On the subject of hindu traditions, yoga “chez moi” starts up again this coming Wednesday. We are looking for one or two more participants in what we lovingly call “geriatric yoga” — classes with teacher Nancy Szczepanski that are designed to get our old bones and muscles flexible and healthy in an easy and fun way. The cost is only 15€ each for three ‘reverse-aging beginners’ (30€ if only two show up). All you have to do is dress comfortably, bring your own mat, the cash, and a good attitude. If you’re interested in attending on a regular basis, email us at [email protected].

P.P.S. Mark your “Rentrée” calendar for September 11th, when Francisco Leiva is going to teach us how it takes “Two to Tango” at Parler Paris Après Midi! Visit Parler Paris Après Midi for more information.

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