Sunday, 25 November 2007

Café Couleur

Heading down to rue Cler for Sunday morning post-ACP, the bakery at the end of rue Jean Nicot is covered in faux log-cabin wood as workers are constructing the annual holiday deco, which if I remember correctly will include a waving Santa from an upstairs window. Walking down St. Dominique, I passed the shiny new Starbucks, just open, and of course there's a buzz of hungry clients and steamy chatter. Sigh. Yes, I will eventually stop in for a coffee milkshake or a fancy flavoured latte, but it's a jolt to know that my neighborhood has been chosen by a mega-chain. It's all the fault of Rick Steves.

Next disconnect comes from a couple pushing their baby toward me down the sidewalk – it’s a colleague from the office! The brain scrambled, sirens blaring, to mesh the Alison personas, fumbled a bit then – clunk, personalities syncronised, introductions, small talk, move on quickly. Turning down rue Cler, passed a gorgeous black sofa upended on the sidewalk, while a meter a way a couple of homeless guys are begging seated long-legged on the sidewalk. I suppose if they sat on the couch it wouldn’t look serious?

Approaching the market, I could hear a violin and classical music, turns out two young women are playing, lovely, while I made my way to Tribeca for a ringside seat and, gasp, the sun pierced through the clouds (direct quote from the waitress). Un grand crème and a warm croissant finally clears the overdose of wine from yesterday’s Salon des Vignerons Indépendents (note: find out how Sabrina did, we kept up with each other at each tasting booth!).

Here comes an elegant French woman with a stylish bright purple hat and scarf set – the red lipstick and heels help pull it off. And there goes a woman in a pomeranian hair style with matching dog. Meanwhile, a little boy in a yellow helmet is struggling with his bike in front of the grocery store, as a dad pushes a toddler by in in one of those push-tricycles, but wheelie style, her front wheel in the air, wonder what she thinks floating off the ground like that. My downstairs neighbour trundles by, no chance to nod a hello, as a waitress walks out looking like she spent the night in an SM dungeon, all breasts and naked arms, outlined in black leather and silver chains, leopard belt on her hips. Friendly enough.

And omigosh, here’s another purple scarf, on a man this time. The sun has faded, I’ve plotted out my mom’s agenda for her visit at Christmas, just about finished my orange pressé, when here comes the purple coiffed lady again, this time with a white fluff dog she is setting on the ground. Looks like it’s time to get home and dig out my own purple scarf.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Life’s spectacles: Sunday on rue Cler, Paris – pedestrian market street extraordinaire

Coffee and croissant at a terrace table at Tribeca on Sunday mornings, what a yummy and privileged position for watching the Parisian parade, the postures, the clothes, the boots, the ages and energy. Overhearing conversations in French, English, Italian, American, Spanish, the fruit vendors crooning their musical sales pitch, children squealing at the front table, customers shouting for the waitress, the knock of shopping trolley wheels against the cobblestones. So much to absorb, from the clichéd to the crude, the tots and tourists, shoppers and strollers, spotting the occasional jogger and VIP, with street music and Paris chiens oblige.

This morning was lovely, brisk and not sunny enough to over-crowd the terrace, had a clear view of the street after saying goodbye to Damen and Pat, heading home for Christmas. I settled in with a second crème and became an audience of one, craning my neck as I watch a homeless man join the hapless music vendor, singing “La vie en rose”.

Just as a shiny BMW rumbles slowly through the crowd, steered by an elderly gent with a beret and glasses peering over the wheel, his English spaniel leaning on his shoulder as navigator.

And the pretty, tough newspaper vendor across the way leaves the stand to the charge of the fleabitten vendor of toys, tapping the door code of the building behind her, going in for change? The young bookstore owner en face is busily re-arranging books in the shelves outside, and my attention is caught by a young father and his giggling little girl sneaking up on mom who’s walking slowly ahead, waiting to be surprised.

Meanwhile the table on my right has changed couples three times this morning, each pair sitting down, ordering their coffee and settling down to read the morning papers. Here comes a single woman to take the table on my left, and her longhaired pup, with bangs perfectly combed, politely pokes his head between us to say hi. His attention is diverted when the waitress sets down coffee and tartines; an eager bark, and, yes, they are sharing breakfast. The couple on the right snarl disapproval, but the canine and his mistress ignore them.

I look up to see that the music vendor and his crank organ have been liberated of the unwanted accompianist and are now churning out Montand’s “A Paris”. Yes, it’s a perfectly content Sunday on rue Cler, à Paris.