After a brief hiatus from the morning run (or to be fair, a shuffle around the gardens at an almost illegally slow pace), I took to the track again this morning. When I perform this routine, I tiptoe down the 87 steps that make the four flights of stairs (not for the purpose of being quiet, but in fear that I’ll otherwise fall down them they are so steep) and then proceed out the huge, heavy front door. Once on the street, busy with rubbish trucks operated by men shouting at each other as they smash bottles into the bowels of their great, huge, chugging machine, I usually spend the first 100 metres holding my breath in every effort not to end up amongst the thousands of crushed remnants of what were once bottles of Beaujolais. I don’t require an alarm clock in Paris, as this noisy and drama filled collection process is an almost daily ritual as well as a full proof, lifetime guaranteed, money back with steak knives included, way of picking up French slang.
Jardin du Luxembourg was bathed in the most magnificent sunlight this morning, with its avenues leading to little alcoves blanketed by trees, whose branches hung over chairs neatly arranged and ready for a new day. Morning dew rested on cobwebs newly woven after being dutifully prepared overnight, and les pompiers (oh, the firemen!) performed their morning sprint drills. Men in short shorts aside, there was a view from each and every angle worthy of a photo, but the morning run is for just that, running, so I reluctantly pushed on, agreeing that there is always later (after my well behaved side of the brain had a quiet word with the lazy side of my brain).
Push on I did, along the western side of the gardens along its winding paths framing tennis courts and neatly kept, plump green lawns, before exiting at the northern gate beside the Musée du Luxembourg. I tottered down the cobblestoned Rue Ferou- after many running accidents, I have a well justified fear of falling over and a not great track record with cobblestones, before making an entrance into the forecourt of the beautiful Place St Sulpice.
The fountain in this magnificent square is best enjoyed under a flawless, blue sky, but also takes on a hauntingly beautiful guise in winter, where it’s statuesque lions seemingly challenge the grandeur of the church, propped up by grand columns and flanked by grey, winter light. I always enjoy walks through the forecourt of this beautiful church, with its ability to take me by surprise every time I turn the corner, and regardless of the season. This morning as I passed by, the fountain gushed heavily chlorinated water- immediately flooding me with a nostalgia for childhood swimming lessons, and I waved quickly to the old man making morning espresso at the cafe on the edge of the square- keeping it brief and not wanting to take a very public spill as I took my eyes off the road.
As with many places in Paris, August has seen the marché St Germain closed for renovations, which has made trips to the ‘supermarché Carrefour’ (conveniently located only a block from home) more frequent. This morning I finished my run on Rue de Seine, just meters from Carrefour and where I observed ‘un homme francais’ leaning casually out the window of his apartment, handsome under hooded eyes and foppish hair. Breakfast of a freshly lit cigarette hung from his lip and a coffee cup loosely from his pinky finger. On my imagined film set, I have a ponytail and I wave at these types of men leaning out of their windows while I jog at pace and with confidence. I wear bright coloured activeware and avoid every possible chance of anonymity, whereas in reality, I shuffle and wear an outfit better suited to backstage duties on the aforementioned film set, and pray for complete anonymity. As I played these thoughts out in my mind, avoiding treading on the cracks that lined the pavement as I did, I almost tripped over ‘strange guy’.
Strange guy is quite strange, but he is also not very well. He lives on Rue de Seine and torments everyone and anything in his path. This morning I found him hugging a street cat as he woke up, blinking in his first light in the doorway of a restaurant (also closed for renovations in August). Each day, strange guy yells at anyone who will listen, he asks unassuming diners for cigarettes before shouting ‘BAH’ in their faces when they say no, and he has a penchant for playing drums on empty rubbish bins. He chases pigeons down the street and negotiates with the immaculately groomed maîtres d’ who keep order on Rue de Buci- the tiny cafe strip that runs off Rue de Seine. I’ve seen him chase down the newspaper seller, who sings ‘Figaro, Figaro, Le Monde, Le Monde!’ before shouting ‘Hilary pregnant!’ in a clever ploy to shift a few more copies of the New York Times. Strange guy can be a bit of a terror, but he is accepted on his strip by everyone who knows him, and who seem to have a way of keeping him relatively content in his seemingly tumultuous mindset.
Last night I watched the Zookeeper’s Wife and was reminded of the unique role that animals play in comforting humans in their hours of compete darkness. I sobbed as a heartbroken and wrongfully displaced little girl hugged a rabbit for days, as she lived in hiding in the Warsaw Zoo after escaping the tortures of war. This morning, as the street cat made no attempt to wriggle free from the arms of its companion, was no different, and a heartening reminder of this.
Pictured: the daily walk home along Quai des Grands Augustins.