Monday, May 19, 2008

Encore j'aime Paris! (Written 19 May 2008)

Changing planes in Moscow was interesting. Smoke everywhere. Nowhere to plug in electronic appliances. So I was sitting on the ground, literally, next to people smoking, plugging in my laptop. Strange.

Got to Charles de Gaulle, and no real overwhelming sense of anything. RER to meet Cyprien...and as soon as I walked up those stairs, with him sitting on the railing, dreadlocks as eyecatching as ever, and the illuminated Gare de Lyon looming ahead - I was back in Paris.

The tree-lined Boulevard Diderot, and eerily quiet at 23hs, the boulangeries, pharmacies, and every other small shop resting before the bustle of the next day.

Friday I walked walked walked. In the morning I learned of Velib - the new bicycle system introduced in Paris, where for just 1 euro a day you are allowed to use bicycles that have pick up and drop off stations all over Paris - this price is if you only ride them for 30 minutes at a time maximum. What a great system - so 2 blocks from his house there's a Velib station, and we rode to his office on Ile St Louis, and then I wandered around...

Followed my nose and the crowds and came across the Festival du Pain - now, how many countries in the world would you be able to find a bread festival, with about 10 different ovens inside, lots of cute middle-aged men covered in flour with chef hats vigorously using their rolling pins and articulating the virtues of different breads?

I wandered about tasting all the different varieties, some from Normandy, or Bordeaux, or Lyon, or Nice...and when I had had my fill, went find the Produit I repeated the process with cheeses. I am afraid my blog the next few months is going to once again be transformed into a food blog. Ahh well.

I was happily mapless so wandered around alleyways, with each corner revealing a different vista, different cafes with different ambiences, different views over the Seine...marvelous.

Walked all the way winding through St Germain-des Pres to arrive at the Louvre, cycled around the Tuileries, and up the Champs-Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe. I was pretty shattered at the end of this.

Impressions? People are so not in a rush here. So much green space (compared to Tokyo) - with people lounging on park benches, chairs, and grass, leisurely eating sandwiches, drinking coffees, reading books and sense of urgency or having to do anything...I LOVE IT.

That evening, Cyprien and I used his Passeporte Gourmand which gives him great discounts at fancy restaurants around Paris - we went to BOO in Saint Germain des Pres, and I was almost delirious with how good this food was. A scallop salad with perhaps the best bacon I've ever had in my life, mesclun greens where every leaf had its own distinct taste; Veal cutlet with camembert sauce and some sort of potato-like root vegetable...and a tarte tatin (an apple dessert) that you have to order 45 minutes before...with creme fraiche...oh my oh my.

We went to a student party that had free drinks so it made it ok...and at 4am had our bread and cheese snack...we had visited the supermarket earlier which was also euphoric, with all the different cheeses...we had Munster, Chevre (Goat), Roblochon, Roquefort, and Mimolette at home now...

Saturday slept in, went to the Louvre where a friend of his is working on the Jan Fabre exhibit so she took us through the whole exhibit and explained, what a building, the Louvre. Detail and ornateness and luxury...

We went back to Ile St Louis for some top class Berthillon ice cream, and then for our sieste, before his friend Julien came over for dinner. Salmon in a very tasty creamy sauce, roast potatoes, rosemary rice, and I prepared my favorite salad, even tastier in France, with spinach, beets, goat cheese, and mandarin oranges...Julien brought over Camembert and Cantal - my first time with Cantal and very much a new favorite.

Then to Sabotage, this really crazy cool rock DJ party where lots of different rock music and some electronic, punk, funk, everything - totally different crowd that just was out to have fun, cool venue - it was great.

Sunday...lazy start to the day and went to meet Julien (who I met in Japan in 2006) and Mathilde...we went to the Festival dans la Rue, and saw a few different dance troupes and theater groups perform...all for free scattered around the east of Paris, absolutely gorgeous artistic expression...

Followed by good conversation in a cute cafe, homemade crepes of all different varieties...all which has made me fall in love with Paris all over again.

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