Saturday, February 19, 2011

metro musings

I’m sitting at the metro stop waiting for the train. Its midday and I am surprisingly surrounded by women – there is only one man in sight. It is raining so everyone is dressed a little more warmly than as of late. Many carry an umbrella. Most people wait patiently – the French are used to waiting for the trains. I pick up bits of conversation but for the most part, we are all together but all alone.

We move to the train – its fairly empty – I get a row to myself. Bits of chatter pick back up. A man sits diagonally across from me. He wears all black and leans on his arm, resting it on the windowsill. To my side is a typical older gentleman. He alters between crossing his arms and adjusting his classes. The lights flicker off – a regular occurrence – and the gloom of the drizzly day seeps through the windows. A man reading the newspaper sits a few rows away, facing me. He leans into it, reading intently. Its an actual newspaper, not just one handed to him for free on the street. At the next stop several more join us – a few children. They are chipper despite the rain. Two girls share a row, one with headphones, both with bulky black scarves. It is so interesting how entirely close to one person you can be and yet have no need whatsoever to even say hello – ahh, the French way.

The train is beginning to fill up, people start to stand. I uncross my legs to make room. I hear the jingle of a tambourine – yes, its time for some gypsy performers – typical for a midday metro ride. The speckled blue ground is covered in rainy footprints, a few used tickets are scattered on the floor. The lights come back on and the gypsy music begins, today it is an electric violin – a new one for me. His friend, the one who will collect the money, keeps tempo with a tambourine. I pull a fifty-cent piece out of my wallet, I enjoy the music. A man gets on with his bike. He doesn’t look too pleased to be sharing the space with violinist and friend. The man nearest me continues to stare out the window, leaning on his arm. Someone sits down just across from me , listening to her iPod. The violinist begins a slower, almost recognizable melody as his friend gathers donations and the women across from me pulls out a book.

I drop my fifty centimes in. It clinks when it hits the bottom of the little cup and I get a quiet merci. We leave the dreary day to head underground. The familiar voice announces the next stop, twice, Nanterre – Préfecture. The metro music leaves, on to have better luck elsewhere. The metro noises are amplified in the underground tunnel – the sounds of gaining and loosing speed a symphony all their own. Each of us attempts to become as small as possible as the train continues to fill. I look up from my writing and find the window starer staring at me – he quickly looks away. He then stands and we make room for him to get off at his stop. The woman takes his place. Another woman takes hers, dressed less than appropriately for the weather. The newspaper man now reads a magazine, the older gentleman’s arms are still folded, his eyes closed like a few others sitting near. A mother and daughter on the opposite side of the train – they both have red hair – share secrets, whispering in each other’s ears then quietly giggling, as not to disturb others.

As we approach busier stops a sort of metro dance begins – a graceful transfer of people leaving and coming, spots being opened and quickly filled. An occasional bump and pardon, but for the most part the transfer happens seamlessly – its been done a million times. Those who have been standing opt to sit down. A husband rolls on a baby stroller, only a few who got on when I did remain. Though mother and daughter still whisper, most just keep to themselves, staring into the distance, focusing on nothing. One man who sits with his legs out in the walkway folds origami from an old wrapper. Another woman shakes off her umbrella – its purple. A darling little girl with bug-eyed glasses wanders too far from her mother and a large cheetah print suitcase is rolled up just next to me.

My stop is next and I will join the dance, but not until I am approached by another man begging for money and greeted with a less than delightful smell that is just so metro. I relinquish my seat and in doing so drop my umbrella. A kind woman picks it up for me, though no words are exchanged. The train comes to a jolting stop and arms reach out to grab poles as to not go flying into one’s neighbor. I leave the little train, and though I’ll be back on it soon enough, every ride is a little different. Each time I meet someone new – like a man reading ‘herlock sholmes’ or a little bug-eyed girl – even though I don’t really meet them at all. The metro continues to be a wonder; the experience has yet to get old. It is maybe the dirtiest, most unkempt, and least appealing part of the city, yet there is always something to see, some little joy to be had. Oh, the sweet silence of the metro.

written today on the metro. close your eyes and see it!

gypsy metro music:
electric violin edition
i had to take a trip to the institute to print a paper. the keyboards are completely different here, and it threw me for a loop!
i ran into bethany practicing the piano.
i love people
institute/ rain boot
colors make me want to paint.
les deux magots is one of the most famous and high end cafes in paris. my mom told me i needed to go and get a little taste of their amazing hot chocolate, so today i went. i got my own little table in the corner of the cafe, ordered my 'chocolat chaud' and took it all in. it was busy little place, complete with bow-tied waiters and all kinds of french people drinking coffee. my hot chococlate came on a precious little tray and as i sipped the delightful drink i read a glamour magazine, en francais SVP. it was quite the overall atmospheric french experience. and definitely my little adventure for the day.
the cafe from my little corner.
liquid chocolate. so riche.
cutest orange set from the hart g-parents.
so french.
awkward self timer shot in my little cafe corner.
just outside l'eglise st. germain de-pres
this man has quite the pose!
looking good.
cheese never gets old.
emily and i went all out for dinner.
we made ratatouille and watched friends, in french,
while enjoying our delectable meal.


  1. mad.
    Rarely do I read a blog and feel as if I'm actually there.
    This post was magical

  2. yay!! my computer has been broken for like 3 weeks and my darling husband finally fixed it... so i'm back to reading your fabulous blogy blog! i am loving living through all your adventures!!!!!!!! go to PAULS and take a picture of the treats and eat something amazing for me and post it- okay?!
    and go shopping at galleries lafeyette! they have the best assortment of little frenchy souvineeres... i can never get enough of - esp. christmas tree ornaments!
    love love!!!

  3. Shelby said it perfectly because it was magical for me too!

  4. Madsy dear, how we loved seeing you in so many photos wearing the German hand-made scarf, hat and demi-gloves...all in glorious Orange. It is perfect for you and so francaise. I remember Grandma sending me with some of the ladies on our Oberamergau trip to the little shop in Rothenberg to purchase something special for you. How did I do? Little did we know that you would be wearing this outfit in Paris, France. It pleases us that you took it there and that you are wearing with such elegance the special gift. Ahhh, and I did smell the metro scent...burning brakes are peculiar smell only acquired in the Paris metro. What splendid memories of the first mission 1957-1960 to last mission 1997-2000 when we had meetings in Paris to last summer 2010 when we were there for a few splendid fun-filled days. Merci beaucoup pour les bons souvenirs! Grampa and Grandma Hart