SATURDAY: Woke up late, showered (no push button!) and decided… TO HAVE A DINNER PARTY. Yes yes, cooking dinner in an apartment in Paris. Much Googling and French cook booking later, and we needed lunch. Picked up delicious sandwiches in the local bakery (tuna, lettuce, tomato on fresh baked baguettes) and walked to Luxembourg Gardens. Luxembourg is deLuxe: an old palace in which the senate now works and old gardens in which the plebeians now lounge. The weather has been odd in Paris – a nonstop confederacy of clouds just consistent and thin enough to completely eliminate the source of light while washing everything in numbing, nature’s-fluorescent white. We sat under that odd bleaching sky (next to an arrangement of pristinely manicured and ultra-bright flowers) and ate our sandwiches and Pim’s cookies while Cassie taught us a game. There is nothing quite like playing a word game with folks with large vocabularies and tidbits of arcane knowledge. We had a long lunch – apparently Paris is known for long lunches? – and then meandered through the Montparnesse Cemetery to the market street near Paul’s house. Some street produce and a supermarket later, and we were ready to cook. In an apartment in Paris. The full menu was as follows: Hors d’oeuvre: baked brie and raspberry preserve in puff pastry garnished with almonds (Cassie and Camille); Salads: red onion and tomato variety and green salad with gorgonzola, walnuts, grapefruit, pear, and raspberry vinaigrette (Sarah); Main Course: veal with tomato and fried eggplant on a bed of angel hair pasta (Paul); Dessert: chocolate mousse with crème fraiche, raspberries, and chocolate leaves (the last bit made by me, everything else by nature and the supermarket). There is really very little I can say here: everything was incredible. I think Cassie and Camille win for best simple dish that turned out to be an absolute and utter knock out (I loved it. Lurved it, even). For Paul’s: anyone cooking meat wins my admiration (the veal was actually gourmet), and Sarah’s salad with grapefruit was divine. Overall, everything was a resounding success.. except my French: Paul invited his Parisian friend Jen to dinner, and she and her boyfriend spoke little English and I much less French. So that was a bit awkward. I could occasionally nose out the subject and then how the group felt about it on the whole. Fortunately much of the time I was preoccupied with the baked brie, so… we cleaned up from dinner, said goodbye to Jen, then hit the town. We took the Metro to the Fleche d’Or (Golden Arrow for those of you speaking British), where a live girl band from Sweden – cheekily but accurately called The Models – were rocking hard. They were great. They were hot. It was terrific. Then the Euro-techno-Euro-trash dance music started: Smells Like Teen Spirit induced a mosh pit. Who knew? It was exceptionally hot and one had to buy several drinks in order to be able to stand anywhere cool, so after an hour or so we hit the streets for the walk and bus ride home. Bed around 4:30. Apparently this is the way to go.
SUNDAY: Woke up…. oh, that’s right, late, you guessed it. Got dressed and took the metro to the two lovely islands in the middle of the Seine. Right outside the metro exit we stopped at a small market that seemed to traffic mainly in birds and birdseed and cages and flowering plants. There were some stunning parrots in a cage – I think perhaps parrots are too smart to be in cages – and some parakeets – one of which was too smart to stay on my hand and moved to my hair. It was great. We then went to… L’As du Falafel (Falafel Ace, if you will), which was raved about by Paul, The New York Times (which did a feature on it), and Lenny Kravitz. We took our falafels to one end of the island and sat on the pier by the river, watching the tour boats go by and eating THE BEST FALAFEL maybe evah. To say that my falafel experience is limited is an understatement, but even so, I loved every second of consumption, and felt my heart leap into my throat when I accidentally dropped one ball of fried chickpea delight into the Seine. Some fish fed well, that’s all I can say. We walked to an ice cream shop and I had a perfect sugar cone with amandine glacee. Paul departed for a visit with friends, and Sarah, Cassie, Camille and I made our way up river to the Louvre for Round II. We walked past a series of booksellers offering everything from old pamphlets on venereal disease to posters of Al Pacino’ Scarface on Montana currency. Then the Louvre. It’s actually just a monster. We bought our tickets and had an hour and a half until they began clearing folks out of the galleries. There’s just not enough time or museum energy in the world: ancient Egypt, Napoleon’s Rooms, the Crown Jewels, and a walker’s digest viewing of the whole (or rather some small part) of French sculpture. As the museum closed we made our way out of the glass pyramid and through to the Tuilleries, where we could see storm clouds looming. About five minutes in, just as we were about to stop for coffee at a café, a cloud burst hit the garden, and we took refuge just in time under one of the umbrella tables. It was an absolute downpour: our waiter had to run from the restaurant area to the table so the cappuccino foam wouldn’t get wet. At one point it was raining so hard through distant sunshine that parts of the garden faded and disappeared, and our umbrella began to leak on our sugar crepe. It was charming in retrospect, but a little too wet at the time. We walked through sandy mud to the obelisk and from that spot could see the Arc du Triumph, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the Tuilleries… pretty cool. We navigated the metro sans problemes, bought bread at the bakery down the street, and made it back to the apartment to dry off a bit and get ready for dinner. Walked to a nice restaurant of Paul’s choosing, then left because the main dining room, a central feature, was closed for renovation. When Paul’s disappointment registered with the waitress, she apparently immediately “understood” and let us know it was reopening tomorrow. Oh, oh. C’est la vie. We went across the street to a different restaurant, this one all red seating and paintings of naked women, and had a delicious dinner. I effectively had steak frites au poivre… an incredible pepper sauce and French mustard with the fries. It was delicious. We meandered home through Gaiety Street (an amalgamation of Japanese restaurants, small theatres, and strip joints) then bought crepes at a street stand before going home to cook and eat the second wheel of baked brie Cassie and Camille created. A lot of laundry, cleaning, eating (of course, though how is that possible?!), and some preliminary packing (including the leftover brie) later, and then sleep… for four hours.