On this, my last morning in Paris, am up with the pigeons and the street sweepers, men wearing green trousers and green shirts, the green bristles of their brooms matching. I have made a promise to myself, so in spite of the miserable cold rain, I’m walking crossing Seine, walking the narrow streets of the Ile Saint Louis, on my way to Notre Dame. More than fifty years ago, I sat in an art history class, a college sophomore, my professor’s wooden stick, pointing to a large grainy screen, her voice extolling the virtues of a flying buttress, and I wondered: What the hell is a flying buttress. I couldn’t find the thing. Couldn’t imagine the thing. And this morning, I saw not one, but a row of flying buttresses, those amazing, arched structures that allow the massive Cathedral of Notre Dame to stand.
Crossing back over the Seine, the wind blows cold rain into my face. Still, I head for the Marais, the old Jewish neighborhood that I have been exploring and writing about in recent essays. How easily I find my way along these streets, rue de payannes, to rue de franc bourgeois, then looping around to rue de rossiers, the Jewish heart of the Marais. Stores are still closed. A few people walk briskly, a number of them Orthodox Jews wearing black suits with wide flat brimmed black hats or yarmulkes, and I wonder if today is a Jewish holiday? There are many Jewish holidays, I, a Jew, can’t name.
Now a stroll around the places des voges, always peaceful whether the heavens send rain or sun. My hotel is near here, and I’ve come to love this neighborhood, but I’m not ready to do my last minute packing. Also, nearby is my favorite patisserie and boulangerie, Aux Desirs de Manon on rue St. Antoine. The shop is long and narrow, with a glass pastry case on one side and a long narrow counter on the other. There are no stools. I stand eating my croissant au beurre and sipping my café express. My grand-daughter has asked me to bring her one thing, a croissant from Paris, a real croissant. In a bag on the counter packed for travel, I have four croissants au beurre. How can I not bring one for my husband, my son, and for me, too? A taste of Paris tomorrow morning on the blustery coast of Maine.