I have had one souvenir goal for this sabbatical; to buy a charm for a bracelet in each city that I visit. Some cities have sold charms that were pretty easy to locate and others were not quite sure what charms were or who would ever want one. Clearly their charm bracelets went out with poodle skirts and saddle shoes. But for the most part, I have been pretty successful in my search and will have a very noisy piece of jewelry once I get home. (The point of wearing the thing of course, is to drive those around you crazy with the jangling noise) I found two wonderful charms in Paris, The Arc and The Eiffel Tower. But Paris held many charms for me that were not of the metal variety. They are the kind of charms that, in any other city, would make you grimace and hiss through your teeth, "What is wrong with this place?!" But in Paris, you take it all in stride and murmur lovingly, "I just love this city and all of its charms!" I will tell you about three of them that endeared Paris to me forever.
My first "charming" experience occurred on my very first day of walking the streets of Paris. Our family had just left a department store where I had purchased two charms. (see above) The clerk had put them in a little shopping bag with handles, about the size of a piece of bread. I only note this to make a point in regard to how small and harmless this bag was. And, keep in mind, that bracelet charms do not weigh very much. I could have just as easily carried my purchase in my pocket but the clerk was wisely wanting me to feel like I had truly purchased something, justifying my self-indulgence.
As I walked along, I noticed a woman ahead of me with a similar shopping bag except that hers was the size of a refrigerator. I make the size reference again only to prove that this woman was carrying a personal weapon on her arm, in the shape of a shopping bag. As I walked the crowded sidewalk, I realized that I needed to move my arm and bag away from her direction or I was going to bump her with the teeny sack I carried. Even with my best efforts, as I passed her, my sack grazed against her Frigidaire-sized bag. Holding her bag out in front of her and swinging it with all she had, she hit me full-force with the weapon. Just like those little old ladies do in the cartoons with their purses. I was so surprised, I didn't know what to do or say. I just kept walking, asking my family, "Did you see that? Did you see that French lady hit me? Did you?" They hadn't, but thought it must be some type of charming French gesture. Kind of like an initiation. My arm felt otherwise.
My second charming experience involved French food. May I just say at this point that I loved Paris, its architecture, its people, its culture, its music. Everything, except its food. I tried all types but just could not find anything beyond dessert that I liked. Our medium-well cheeseburger was bright red throughout. The chef who made my club salad had only one criteria; throw in anything that was bigger than a golf ball and see if the silly American will still eat it, even when it's covered with oil and vinegar. One evening, my husband's special French dish was a plate covered with watery mashed potatoes with a sausage swimming in the middle. Not bad for only $27, no? In defense of the French, I could live off of glace, which is French ice cream. In fact, I tried to accomplish this goal, every single day. Thank goodness we were only there 3 days or I would have gained 12 pounds.
My last charming experience occurred in our hotel. On our first night in Paris, I laid in bed, drifting off to French dreamland when I was awakened by a scratching noise. I sat up, thinking that a bird was trying to enter by way of our window. I turned on the light and looked out the window. No bird. I turned off the light. The scratching returned. It was then that I realized that the noise was coming from within the wall, just under the window. I've read about the sewer rats in Paris. I saw the Pixar movie "Ratatouille". This was Remy come to visit. I laid awake, trying to gauge how much further he needed to chew before he was part of my room decor. But, this was Paris, where all things charming happen. I tried to think of him as Mouse-atouille since that sounded so much friendlier.....and smaller. The noise continued on the second night, as well as the third. By the third night, I found the sound to be comforting, in some weird way. The animal was not planning on coming into my room or he would have made it by then. He was just doing some kind of remodeling project within the walls of this old and charming hotel. He probably even wore a little black beret. After all, this was Paris, always a charming place.