Tuesday, February 17, 2009

brief (or maybe not so brief, now that I am done) redux on Paris

Back in Norway after a wonderful time in Paris. Hard to come back to all this snow. I like sidewalks that are snow and ice free! It was cold in Paris, though, needed coats and gloves and scarves for sure.


Our flight to Paris on Air France was three hours late, which sucked ass. I twittered my ass off about it, but none of my tweets got through, I have no idea why. (Twitter was an epic fail the whole trip.) We had planned to get to Paris in time for a nice meal, but that was ruined by the late flight and so arrived at the hotel around 10pm. I managed to scrounge up a snack of some Vietnamese noshes from a local deli and some wine. It was actually pretty good.


Saturday we wandered around, went along the Rue do Mouffetard and the small back streets and alleys of the left Bank. Lots of walking. Lunch I blogged about, where I discovered the hard way that I DO NOT like andouille sausage even a little bit. We did a Paris Walks tour of the Latin Quarter and took a million photos.  (Honestly, I’ve had a few tours with them and this was not among the best, the tour guide kept telling us in detail the histories of various saints, and that ALWAYS leaves me cold. I find saints very boring. Give me a devil any time!) Paris was overrun by Scotsmen in kilts, there was a rugby match that day, France vs Scotland, and the Scots were out in force, some of them with bagpipes!


Valentine’s Day dinner! After a little rest in the hotel room, we went for a glass of wine at le Select. Dinner was at le Relais du Entrecote, a restaurant that I had been to in London with my cousin previously. (The opened an English branch.) They don’t take reservations, so either get there at the right time or be prepared to wait. They serve steak and fries with a greeny mustardy sauce, and that’s it. You can have your steak cooked how you like it, it is served cut in small pieces with lots of really good fries. You get two servings from a very harried and hurried waitress dressed in classic black and white waitress attire. In our case, the main came before we had even begun to finish the salads. (That felt very American, that did.)  You are packed in like sardines. It is a quintessentially French experience. We had a nice Haute Medoc wine. And a really great dessert. As a romantic place to eat, maybe not quite the thing, the atmosphere is a bit rushed and packed, but from a yummy cow perspective, highly recommended.

After that we went to observe the very chic and (so it looked to me) incredibly self involved clientele at La Closerie Des Lilas. The place was packed with wildly gesticulating people having very important conversations, the women dressed either to meet someone or to keep the undivided attention of those they had already caught. (I was in my red velvet suit, no cleavage, alas. We’ve been together 20 years, I ain’t got nuthin’ that he ain’t seen a million times, showin’ it off doesn’t get me very far anymore.) It was one of Hemingway’s haunts. (Hemingway is to Paris as George Washington is to the Northeast of the US. He slept everywhere!)


Sunday we went and saw the Cluny Museum, which was WONDERFUL. We split up for a bit and I had Vietnamese at my favorite little Vietnamese place right around the corner from St Severin church (one of my favorites as well). We met back up afterwards and looked around the Montparnasse Cemetery where Andre Citroen and many others are buried. (Rich had wanted to go Saturday but I told him NO dead people on Valentine’s Day!). There’s a lovely little Brancusi statue on one tomb called The Kiss, very cute. We were going to see the catacombs at Denfert Rochereau but the lines were outrageous. Then we went and met an old Austin friend, Kory, at Café Fore and had a great time catching up with him. He is happily ensconced in Paris with a lovely wife and child. We had (we thought) dinner reservations at an Interior Mexican place for 7:30 so skipped off to make those, but I don’t know WHAT happened but the place was closed and apparently our reservations were for the previous night. WTF, we were left without dinner plans, so wandered up Montparnasse and ended up at a chain place called Indiana, which has American style food. (I know I KNOW but the dearth of Mexican food to a Texan can make you kind of nuts and the call of the melty cheese is powerful. And remember my experiment with andouille, maybe safe was what I was thinking?). Anyhow, so we were at Indiana on the second floor in a quiet room having a somewhat disappointing experience when we noticed a ruckus at a table by the window. Then we saw flames shooting out of the building next door, right by said window. I mean, flames. 3 feet high. Holy crap, the building directly next door was on fire! We were 8 feet from an inferno!  We and the other few patrons in that bit of the restaurant grabbed our coats and decamped quickly and went outside…..the wait staff said nothing to anyone else in the building of the fire next door, which I though odd. I mean, hello, safety much? Everyone else who could not see the fire just went on eating, not knowing they could be in big trouble a room away. I found that unsettling.


We waited outside (and I took photos, of which I posted one earlier) and watched as the fire department came and put it out. The awning of the building was totally destroyed, as was the roof of the patio area. Seems like the building itself was ok. No one was hurt. Bit of a party atmosphere all told. So we went back inside after the all clear (restaurant still full and blissfully ignorant) and carried on with our meal, which was cold, and when the bill came they charged us the full amount for everything, no fire discount or anything! I sort of think if we had not left our scarves upstairs when we ran, we would have left the meal and gone elsewhere. But they were our favorite scarves (both of ours) and we did not want to leave them.


Monday I caught a Paris Walks tour of the Revolution on the Right Bank, from Palais Royal to Place Concorde, which was much more enjoyable than Saturday’s walk. Had a horrible sandwich and a wonderful pot of chocolate and a dessert at Angelina, and was treated like a queen by the exceptionally nice maitre d’ who really, really restored my faith in humanity. He brought tears to my eyes he was so nice. I kissed him goodbye (Paris style, one on each cheek).


And this I do say about Paris: You get from it what you put into it. If you follow their rules, make a small attempt to say ‘bon jour’ and ‘merci’ and acknowledge those around you, they are the most gracious people anywhere. Yeah, you get the old grumps who shove you aside with forceful ‘Pardon’s on the sidewalk if you are on a tour, but tourists are made to be abused, that’s worldwide. For me, personally, that idea of the rude Parisian is so wrong. They are polite to a fault, you just have to understand their way of politeness!


That’s our trip in a nutshell. I can’t say I was too lucky with the food this go round, so I guess I will just have to rectify that with another visit.

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