We'll probably never know personally the neighbors in our building, but we'll have plenty of knowledge of them from the sounds they make. Madame C, for example, despite her regular gal appearance and her house on Corsica and skiing trips to les Alpes, is a fierce Disco Queen, judging from the music she plays when she's around. The couple on the other side of us in the next building are zen masters or deaf, content to let their tadpole wail for long periods in the mid afternoon and then again exactly 15 seconds before I would otherwise have fallen asleep. But it's the people upstairs who are the most intriguing, because the noises you hear from below are very different from those you hear alongside. It's easy to decode the walking around, but the other sounds are a lot harder to attach probable activities to. I swear somebody bounces a ping-pong ball on the floor while lying in bed for about 10 min every night. There's never any other sound, no shifting of weight on the floor, no walking-- this is very focussed and skillful ping-pong ball bouncing, undoubtedly the result of the dedicated nightly practice. That may sound like a stretch, but how many things can you name that sound like a ping-pong ball bouncing on a wooden floor?
I do actually wonder what the neighbors hear of us. Unless there's a bike race on (for some reason, I can actually understand Jacky Durand, and that scares me a little), the TV in our apartment is silent if it's on, we haven't been in the habit of playing much music, and we take off any hard-soled shoes as soon as we get inside the apartment. But since sounds in this building are well-conducted through the heating ducts (building has central, coop heat), the elevator shafts, and the column of bathrooms, they probably heard more from us last week than anybody wanted.
We're full-on into Spring here, now. Going to the pâtisserie this morning for 2 baguettes tradition (oh, how I've missed eating bread every day this past week!) and 2 chocolate croissants for breakfast, the flowers were out, the birds were singing, even the pushy Parisians kept their elbows to sheathed in the bread line: it was like living in a Disney cartoon.
My understanding is that Spring is a welcome relief for a lot of people here not so much from the cold as from the dark. I remember learning in a geography class in grade school that Chicago and Rome are on approximately the same latitude. Living within Chicago's TV airwaves range and having just visited Rome when I learned this fact, it seemed like a great injustice. It's one thing to accept that you live someplace frigidly cold because you're so far north, but the cold seems so arbitrary and so much more hurtful when you realize you could be on the Mediterranean instead of Lake Michigan. Philadelphia's European latitudinal doppleganger is Madrid. If it were in North America, Paris would be alongside Gaspé at the very northern tip of New Brunswick, Canada on the east coast, some 620 miles north of Philadelphia, Thunder Bay on the north side of Lake Superior in the midwest, or the US/Canadian border at the western end. That means that already the sun doesn't set here until after 8:30, about the time it'll set in Philly in mid-June. And Paris will gain another 90 min in time of sunset before mid-summer. More time for ping-pong ball drills.