Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Paris Top Ten Countdown

#10: The Windows Of Our Apartment

It is a lazy Sunday in Paris. It's been rainy all weekend, chilly and muggy at the same time. The air feels heavy, almost tropical in spite of the fact that it's not remotely warm out, especially not for late June. Normally I hate the rain, but for some reason I'm not minding this rain. This morning, I braved a break in the storm and took the landlord's wheeling shopping cart out to the corner markets, where I ran into the upstairs neighbors, also wielding their wheeling shopping cart, who invited Max over to play this afternoon. That is where he is now, having "le play date" with two French children named Iris and Merlin, which is why I find myself with the time for a quick entry here, after having been too busy for a while.

It's hard to believe that we have only 2 weeks left in France. Matt and I are playing a sad little game to try and make ourselves feel better about the dwindling supply of days. Starting at about 2 months, we'd tell each other (rightfully) that for most people, 2 months in Paris would be an incredible amount of time, and that we should try to keep this in mind rather than feeling sorry that our stay was already coming to an end. The same was true at 1 month. Even 2 weeks is a good sized vacation--by workaholic American standards, in any case. But very soon we're going to have to stop deceiving ourselves, and then we're going to have to get on a plane--and lord help us, that plane will be in the American Airlines fleet, so it'll probably be another 2 weeks between when we board at Charles deGaulle and actually land. Maybe we'll land in Mexico and then come up by bus.

In the meanwhile, Matt and I keep making lists of our favorite things here: things we want to make sure to do one more time before we leave; things we don't want to forget. Since writing helps me to remember, I thought I'd use this space for 10 of my Paris favorites, and today's entry is dedicated to the windows of our apartment.

To understand why I love the windows of this apartment as much as I do, you need to know a little bit about the windows of our San Francisco apartment. 1) They're on the ground floor. Technically you mount about 8 stairs to get to the landing and front door, so we only see the tops of people's heads as they walk by on the sidewalk. Still, a very thin pane of glass separates us from the street and its (often less than savory) denizens. We have to keep the blinds drawn at all times, or else we're putting on a peep show. 2) There are probably 7 or 8 of windows total in the apartment, and all but 1 have been painted shut. The one in our bedroom opens, but there's something wrong with the weight pulley system, so it has to be propped open with a book or else it falls and slams shut. And if you do prop it open, you could literally reach out and touch people as they walk by (see issue #1). It's impossible to get a good breeze in the apartment, although the glass panes are cheap and don't seem to keep out one particle of street noise, so they might as well be wide open. Most often we hear the thumping bass of the sound systems of the cars passing by, "aural graffiti," as Matt puts it. Basically, these are the worst windows in the world.

By contrast, the windows of our apartment here are the best windows in the world. Our apartment is on the 5th floor and overlooks a courtyard. Having to mount five curving flights of stairs isn't ideal when you're out of shape from too much wine and cheese, and have bought too many groceries. However, the quiet of a fifth floor courtyard apartment can't be beat. There are huge, door-sized double windows in every single room (save the bathroom) that open to the inside. Sleeping with them open is almost like sleeping in the open air. They let in so much air and light that you can stay indoors all day without feeling any cabin fever. They also frame the sky perfectly. I discovered this one day, when I was doing a yoga video in the living room and, at the end, I lay down with my head against the wall, under the open window, and the view of the sky was like nothing I've ever seen before. That is because Paris has the best clouds I have ever seen. They are enormous, and they create a perfect wild panorama over the antique gray skyline, and I don't even know how to describe them because in the end they're just clouds, but they're also not. I've tried to take pictures of them, lying on my back in the living room, hoping that I could frame the pictures just so and have a souvenir of this view from the best windows in the world, but the pictures never come out. Matt has taken some better ones with his real camera. But still, nothing compares to the real thing. There are flower boxes in two of the windows. One of them holds the herbs that Max has learned to pick and choose to season the soups that we make. The other has flowers, including some he planted with seeds he got at an Easter event at our favorite library.

Today, the sky keeps shifting between slate gray and pale blue. When it's blue, it seems impossible that it could rain again. When it rains, the flash flood sounds like gunfire when it hits the cobblestones of the courtyard, and it seems inconceivable that the sun could come back out. Right now, because I'm alone in the apartment, I've got all the windows open. Occasionally I can hear the sound of kids laughing upstairs, and I know one of them is Max. The wind is blowing hard, and it's a little chilly, but I don't want to miss out on one minute of it.

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