I’m beginning to think that being sick in any place other than your home is cruel and unusual punishment. It’s just far worse than it would be if you were lying at home on your couch watching TV and eating soup. Having an apartment makes it a hair easier, but it’s still tough. Not only do you have the pressure of the money you’ve spent, and the thing you’re not seeing, but when you’re feeling down it’s simply nice to be surrounded by your own stuff.
Today we bucked it up and went and met Dermot and Hui on the Pont des Arts, a little pedestrian bridge from the Rive Gauche to the Île de la Cité known as the place where the enamored place padlocks as a symbol of their commitment to amour. While it would be romantic to think of the practice as venerated and the bridge antique, both are untrue. The original early 19th century bridge was knocked down and replaced in 1984 and the lock tradition would seem to be somewhat less than 30 years old. But alas, if you’re going to be a romantic tourist, be one, with gusto and don’t let the quotidian details dissuade you.
The fact that it was a beautiful day made it a tiny bit easier. Paris just wakes up to my eyes when the sun is shining on the buildings and the parks and the boulevards. It was not as warm as yesterday and there was a bit of cold breeze but we stuck to the sunny side of the street and the walk wasn’t all that far from our apartment.
This being our anniversary extravaganza, I planned ahead and brought along an old unused padlock that’s been sitting in a drawer for years. Miraculously, it had its combination written on its back so it was ready to go. I locked it to the outside of my suitcase for the trip over, lest someone think it was a timing device.
The view from the bridge was beautiful this morning. Clear blue sky all the way down the river, commercial barges and tourist boats chugging back and forth under the arches. The bridge was full of people doing the same thing as we were, placing locks, having a kiss and taking some photographs. We had a nice visit with our Ireland pals, placed the lock and took the requisite snaps.
And that’s when we met Nina. A young American student spending a year abroad, she told us she was creating a blog of the stories of couples on the bridge, and that the four of us would be her first two pairs if we were willing to share our respective tales. Lately in the French press, and even in my most recent issue of The New Yorker, there have been lurid tales of tourists being separated from their cash and passports by distractions in public places. A common ploy is for youngish kids to ask a busy traveler to stop and sign a petition while their associates deftly remove items that the traveler really didn’t need. I’ll admit, that was the first scenario that went through my mind, but she seemed sweet and legitimate so we regaled her of our meeting at Carla Spencer’s 40th birthday party and how we were married a year later. She took our photo and one of our lock and went on to interview Dermot and Hui. When done, Hui told me that Nina was from Taiwan of Chinese/Indian extraction, which opened an opportunity for us to have a brief chat in Mandarin and talk about how much I love Taipei. When we parted ways, I checked my pockets for money and wallet and they were still there. I guess sometimes you can trust a stranger.
The late afternoon walk back made me wonder why no one paid attention to street layout in the 12th century as the low winter sun was absolutely blinding us as we wound our way back down the narrow streets. For some reason, the sidewalks were filled with distracted senior citizens that forced me down the curb on more than a couple of occasions. Getting stuck behind the distracted or the smoking is a genuine operational risk in the narrow old streets. I’ve probably smoke 40 cigarettes second hand in the last 4 days alone.
I dropped MLW off at the apartment and went back to Le Bon Marché to collect some dinner. I have to say, if you’re going to find yourself with a head cold and uninterested in eating in some of the finest restaurants in the world, there are infinitely worse places to do it than on the border of the 6th and 7th arrondissements in Paris. We may be feeling down, but we’ve been eating very, very well on food that Bon Marché provides. A little bit of serendipity to offset our otherwise bad luck.