11 October 2005

The true price of "choo-chee" shoes

I had originally planned to spend another leisurely day at the apartment, but found that after a couple of days of sleeping in and napping, I was very well rested and ready to go exploring. So, I decided to take Mr. Doo on a walk to Le Jardin de Luxembourg (Luxembourg Garden) in the 6th. That probably sounds really far away from where I live (the 14th), but it's actually quite close and well within walking distance. (If I had a good digital map, I'd show you where.)

The fantastic weather has been holding out, so I was actually able to wear something besides old t-shirts and slicky pants on my excursion. Deciding that I wanted to look a bit more French (and less American), I wore jeans, a sleeveless top with lace trim, and my favorite sandals of all time, purchased this summer at Naturalizer. My friend and New York native Jess Piney often describes great shoes and other articles of clothing with the expression "choo-chee!" and while I'm not sure about the spelling or the etymology of this word, these sandals are definitely as such. (Jess Piney could easily fit into the cast of Sex and the City as Carrie's sister or at least a cousin of some sort - and Jess, I mean that as an utmost compliment, as this is one of my favorite shows!!)

So ... me, my choo-chee shoes, and my goofy dog set off for Luxembourg. The walk there was fantastic - great weather, hardly a cloud in the sky, and I actually walked like I knew where I was going. (I am what the p.c. folks call "directionally challenged," or what the everyday folks call "unable to find my way out of a paper bag with a map") Leading up to our destination was two smaller parks, Jardin Marco Polo and Jardin R. Cavelier-de-La-Salle. Neither one allowed dogs in, though I have no idea why. Seriously, there was absolutely nothing special about either garden whatsoever. But, Didge was "interdit" so we headed on to Luxembourg.

The first gate we walked to ... no dogs allowed. Luckily, I decided to go right, and the next gate I encountered allowed dogs to enter on a leash. Had I chosen to go the other way, things would not have worked out nearly as well. More on that in a minute. Anyway, we went inside and paid very careful attention to the signs so that we didn't accidentally slip into non-doggie territory. I was beginning to feel rather unwelcome, to be honest. This is one of those "cultural differences" I have to get used to ... in the US, dogs are welcome (and in fact expected) to go on the grass. In Paris, they can go anywhere EXCEPT on the grass. OK, it's really nice grass, but seriously, I'm not sure that it's worthy of protection on par with what we would grant, say, a bald eagle.

As it turns out, there is just a narrow little strip of Le Jardin de Luxembourg that allows dogs, and it is the least interesting section. So, we walked all over that sucker, and I even took a couple of pictures, much to the amusement of passers-by. (Hey, I asked Didge to take my picture, too, but he kept mumbling something about not having opposable thumbs. Oh wait, maybe that was just a burp...) The other nice part about this little section was that they had a small exhibition of photography posted on the gate, so I was able to walk along at look at the pictures. There were some really amazing photos, so it was worthwhile.

Anyway, having already walked "all the way" up to Luxembourg, I decided to make the trip worth my while. We set out to loop the park around the fence. After all, it's not that big, right?

Well, as my last French teacher and friend Lori McMann was fond of saying in class, "No, no, et no." That was, in fact, a really long walk, for which I earned numerous blisters on my feet. (Hence, the true price of my choo-chee shoes...) The only interesting thing I saw on the whole loop was the fact that, had I initially gone left after seeing the "dogs not allowed" sign, I would have been very discouraged. There are only two gates that dogs can go in, and they were both on the east side of the park. (Going left took me to the west side) So, I am thankful for what little sense of intuition I had this afternoon to turn right in the first place.

Just when I was ready to write off this dog-hating jardin all together, I got a real treat: my first coherant exchange in French with a real French person. As I walked toward the exit, a man sitting on a park bench called out, "Elle est vielle?" (Is she old?) I replied "un peu" (a little), which clearly wasn't a good response to the question. He asked, "Vous êtes anglaise?" (are you English?) I replied yes, even though I'm not British (remember, I was trying to be less American today, so I took his question as a compliment). He rephrased his question to ask how old Didge was, and I told him that he was around 6 years old (Didge turns 6 in February). He chuckled, and with a smile and a thumb-sucking gesture replied, "Il est un bébé!" (He's a baby!) I told him he was very kind to say so. We ended the conversation with, "Ben, vous êtes anglais, alors bye-bye!" (Well, you're English, so "bye bye!") "Au revoir, monsieur!"

Feeling much better about my excursion, I shortly thereafter stumbled across this oasis especially designed for my four-legged friend. A very greatful puppy took a long, hearty drink at "the refreshment bar for dogs," and I felt much better about the whole experience, blisters and all.

Thanks to everyone who replied to the request for e-mail! It's nice to know what's going on stateside, as well as to know that someone besides Colin is reading this blog!!

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