A birthday in Paris

I spent my 23rd birthday in Paris, at the end of my two years stay in France, armed with a bucket list of things to do before I left the country.

One of the things on my list was to get a new battery for my watch, which had stopped sometime that week. Calling in on various watch shops in the Republique quartier, I had no luck, until one of the store owners pointed me down the street and told me that there was someone who could do it for me a few blocks down. When I got there, the glass door was locked with a note on the door that said the owner was away. The tiny shoe-box shop typical of the city with high rental prices was filled with small boxes of watch parts and effectively, no owner. Just when I was about to give up, the owner called from across the street, came back, and opened the store: he had seen me coming up just as he was leaving. He was efficient and got my battery fixed in 3 minutes, charged me a nominal sum, then we were both on our ways. I like that in Paris, small businesses like this can still carve a space (albeit very small).

We then got to Holybelly for lunch, sliding in the door just before noon, and happily, got to order the pancake stacks.
Despite my few visits here, this was the first time I got to sit in the inner long table, and I liked being able to see the hustle and bustle in the kitchen. As it was a weekday, the restaurant was less crowded and we felt less pressured to leave. As usual, I had a London Fog (earl grey tea with milk) to wash down the pancakes.

After lunch, the next stop was the Musée de la vie romantique: a tiny museum I had often heard about, but that I never got about to going. This museum is free, with a suggested donation, and the passageway into the museum was charmingly shaded by trees.
In the main cobblestone courtyard stood the museum, a delightful green and white concoction of some almost forgotten era. The museum itself was not big, and housed a few curiosities – hand casts of Chopin, jewelery, family heirlooms, paintings, a preserved drawing room and some portraits. An altogether pleasant way to spend an early afternoon.

The other thing on my bucket list was to go up the Notre Dame towers. The long queues had always daunted me before, but I figured now or never, especially as the towers are free for those under 26. (Incidentally, I’ll miss that about Europe: that “youth” prices are valid until 26!)

So up the steps we went, and at the top, while trying to avoid the shuffle of tourists, we ducked into the side room where the old cloches were kept, so heavy that we don’t know their exact weight even today. The odd wooden cabin inside the tower housed a guard who probably spent more his time reading instead of guarding the bells; in any case, he didn’t look up as we tiptoed past him.


And so I finally got a view of the famous gargoyles, and couldn’t help but sing “Il est venu le temps de cathédrallllleeees”, although I’ve never seen the musical. What a hidden gallery of art pieces, most somber and some even grotesque, so high up that surely when it was conceived it was not meant for the audience it has today. The other side of the walkway offers a better view: I do like this square in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral, with the tiny people figurines coming and going, with the zero kilometer sign too small to see. The view from up here over Paris was a good way to end my time here.

(Except it wasn’t really the end: we popped into Shakespeare and Company to pick up a birthday present, and then got into the RER and climbed up the way too many steps back to school. This too, is the France I’ve grown to love.)


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