Americans in Paris
by Joey Fala
Eight semi-conscious young organists stumbled off AirTransat Flight 710 this morning after a six-hour red-eye from Montreal. After a short train ride out of Charles de Gaulle Airport, we made it to our apartment in the heart of the city, fueled solely by the excitement of finally being in Paris. Not having eaten since last night, we dropped our luggage off and ran out in search of food before finally settling down in a nearby café to enjoy our first Parisian meal together.
As appealing as an afternoon nap may have sounded, we all agreed it would be best to stay awake until evening in order to help re-adjust our sleep schedules. The group spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the city and getting lost in the maze of boulevards. Our wander first took us past Notre Dame, a landmark particularly exciting to me as an architecture student having studied this archetype of the French Gothic. We were filled with awe as we stepped in and allowed our eyes to adjust before tracing the ornate columns up to the radiant clerestory windows and lofty ceiling vaults. After having seen so many photos of the cathedral in the past, some of us noted how the actual experience of being in the space was in a way tainted by the overwhelming sea of tourists. We were glad to be able to see the cathedral even though it isn’t an official stop on our trip since the great organ is currently undergoing restoration.
A stroll along the Seine led us to Tuileries Garden where we enjoyed the afternoon sun around the Grand Bassin Rond fountain. No one wanted to leave but at last Chris recommended we start heading back to the apartment so we could begin preparing dinner. On the way back to our apartment we stopped by a grocery store where everyone was shocked to experience how Parisians shop for food. The entire market was no larger than a small corner store and had aisles that were barely wide enough for two people to squeeze past each other! Portions were small in comparison to what we’re used to in the U.S. and people seemed to be staring as we Americans piled the checkout conveyor belts high.
Dinner this evening was prepared by Executive Chef Jordan, and Sous Chef Joey, with much appreciated artistic direction from Chris. After devouring the exquisitely prepared red sauce farfalle special, topped with sautéed onion, pepper, and zucchini, we made our way over to the living room to watch a three-part documentary on Cavaillé-Coll organs in preparation for the instruments we will be visiting tomorrow. We nearly made it to Part II before Noel and I realized we were the only ones awake—even Chris was fast asleep on the couch! I guess we can’t blame anyone, though, since we barely got any rest last night.
Everyone would have most likely ended up spending the night on the living room couches in front of the TV if it hadn’t been for the two fire trucks pulled up in front of our apartment just around midnight, with their flashing lights beaming in through our kitchen window. By the time firefighters were running through the back alley behind our apartment, there was enough commotion to bring everyone to their feet. Fortunately it seems there had been a false alarm in a neighboring apartment unit, but at least the excitement got everyone up and headed for their real beds. After all, we’ll need a good night’s sleep in preparation for our first organ tours in Paris tomorrow morning!