Well, it is now definite. Susie and I will sell the little Paris apartment that we bought 17 years ago. During the first 13 or 14 of those years, until I was well into my 80s, I would take long early morning walks in the old part of Paris – the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh arrondissements. Leaving at six in the morning or a little bit later, I would walk for an hour or so, watching Paris wake up and start its day. I had seven or eight different walks, and in this and subsequent posts I am going to describe them, one by one, as a way of enjoying them one more time and finally saying goodbye to Paris. These posts have no political significance whatsoever and the usual commentators may therefore wish to take a vacation from the blog and be about their other business but perhaps there is someone out there reading these descriptions for whom they will evoke pleasant memories.
The apartment is on the ground floor of a 17th century building in the fifth arrondissement on a little street running from the river to Place Maubert called rue Maître Albert. That was not always its name. When I bought an 18th-century map of Paris to frame and hang in the apartment as decoration, I discovered that the street used to be called rue perdu (the lost street.) The current name, which was given to it as part of Baron Haussmann’s renovation of Paris, is an allusion to the great medieval scholastic philosopher and teacher of St. Thomas Aquinas, Albertus Magnus, who is believed to have taught nearby. I have always liked that fact about our little street.
My first walk begins by turning right as I exit the building and walk to the quays. I cross the street and turn left, walking west along the river, first past Notre Dame, which is right there almost at the end of the street, then past Shakespeare and Company, the famous English language bookstore where I used to hang out in the spring of 1955, past Place St. Michel, past the Academie Française and – across the river on the right bank – the Louvre, past the Musée d’Orsay, which began its life as a train station, past the row of large batobus parked for the night on the Seine with the two little ones at the end named Jean Gabin and Yves Montand (pictures of which I have posted on this blog) and finally to the Pont de la Concorde, which leads across the river to Place de la Concorde. At that point I would stop, look left at the National Assembly, turn around and walk home.
That was my very first walk and for years it remained my basic go-to walk. Early in the morning I would see joggers, tourists pulling roller bags and heading for the RER station to take the train to the airport, couples who had been out all night and were now reeling, slightly tipsy, toward their beds, and the occasional Gendarme.
By the time I returned home, Susie would be up, we would have breakfast and the day would begin.