Travel

July 13

We had a hot spell in Paris in early June, which was miserable, as air conditioning isn't standard in these northern European climes. I'm desperately hoping for no revisitation of the blistering weather of last summer that killed 15,000 people.

But now, in early July, it's as cool and fresh as fall. Aside from automobile emissions, there's no pollution. You can really breathe the air. So I went running this morning to the Jardin de Luxembourg. Ten years ago, on one of my first visits to Paris, people looked at me as though I was a nut when I went out running. Now, lots of people suit up and hit the pavement. In the Jardin de Luxembourg, there was positively a runners' traffic jam. It's nice there, though. The tracks are gravel-paved, which is kind to the knees. And then there are those lovely green metal chairs to rest on, which look on to the palace built by Marie de Médicis in the 17th century, now the home of the French Senate.

The Orangerie at the Jardin de Luxembourg has a free exhibition through the end of July on the history of the garden. It covers Roman settlement of the area in the 3rd century, the advent of Chartreusian monks in the Middle Ages, Marie de Médicis and the garden as it is now, labored over by 80 gardeners.

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Larry Peer of La Costa, Calif., wonders about my decision to spend seven months in Paris. He says he can stay here for only four or five days at a time. "Small doses," he says, "in large numbers. By contrast, I can spend three weeks in London or Vienna." I too could spend a few weeks in London or Vienna. I'm beginning to think that it isn't Paris I love so much but Europe. Life is just a little different here, easier and more stylish. I have stopped acting like a tourist. I just go about my daily business in a place where there's beauty at every turn, and I find it profoundly pleasant.

Nicole Walker of Glendale remembers encountering a little girl in a blue wool coat, on her father's shoulders, outside the Louvre, who greeted her with a bonjour. "I almost fainted," she says. "I was pretty sure I had just met Madeleine. That was my defining Paris moment. Have you had a chance to observe French children?"

I have, and they are delightful, dressed to the nines and well behaved. I have read that kids here are tightly disciplined, that only in adolescence do they get to act out a bit. That's the reverse of our system. But I wouldn't begin to pontificate on which approach to child rearing is better.

Another blogue correspondent -- "blogue" for "blog," when it comes from France -- says I'm a hack, no Adam Gopnik, the author of that lovely book "Paris to the Moon," which became a bestseller in the U.S. It makes me sad because, of course, I'm not in competition with anyone, wouldn't dare to be. There is, however, a fundamental difference between Gopnik and me. From reading his book, I got the impression that he was ultimately floored by Paris, became a Francophile. I'm sitting on the fence, waiting to see whether this country and city will press my buttons and make something new and different of me.

The same blogue correspondent says I write too much about myself. I take his criticism but defy it. I could give figures and facts -- and do so in my Her World columns. But in these Postcards, I mean just to tell you occasionally how it feels to be living in Paris in 2004.

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