Drop yourself anywhere in Paris and your immediate view is a film set lit
The pastry shops do that to you. The chocolatiers are no mere extras either but take their proud place
Dining in this city is notorious for a few things: snippy service —I experienced nothing but gracious welcomes, beaucoup wine —who needs water?, and status as a UNESCO world intangible heritage. In 2010, the UN cultural organization singled out French gastronomy worthy of the same kind of protection as historically significant sites or natural wonders. Certainly, the foie gras ravioli I experienced at the historic Le Comptoir de la Gastronomie in Les Halles —’tasting’ is too boring…here we “experience” the food —was worthy of some kind of protection from overeager dining companions. As was the grilled duck and asparagus cooked for us another evening by our host; dear friends whose idea of hospitality was champagne and strawberries as evening starters to set the mood at sparkling; fluffy warm croissants with coffee and melon from their local market waiting for our sleepy morning kitchen entrances. I’m in, merci beaucoup and Ooh La La and that’s all the French I can remember until you pour me another glass.
Paris in spring means Paris and people. All of them wearing
Every kind of tourist is here along with us but the city holds these players with grace. We joined a few in a pastry class as we learned how to fold the dough encased in blocks of butter. Huge blocks of butter. Did I say yet that I love this city?
We mingled among them as we gazed at the Impressionist Masters and wondered how we could go back in time and warn these models in painters’ studios that someday, their bodies would be out of fashion; warn them that’s just one way the world has lost its way.
We walked by them splayed out on lawns with their wine glasses the night we came to see the Eiffel Tower do its hourly dazzle. Paris by night. Yup. It’s all true.
We joined them in the procession into Notre
The greatest products of architecture are less the works of individuals than of society; rather the offspring of a nation’s effort, than the inspired flash of a man in genius…Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
That any of it would ever be gone wasn’t even a whisper. That I tried my hardest to ignore the rules about photography but failed when I saw this Joan of Arc statue…well I’m glad I did today as I look at those stunning images of flames and mourn along with the rest of the world as this spectacular mise en scène is blackened with smoke.
Paris, like my hometown, has other smudges. On our first day of many walkabouts —my calves are as tight as my beltlines— we were stopped and searched and not permitted to walk along her most glamorous avenue thanks to recent rioting by the “Yellow Vest” protestors: their outcry continues as it highlights problems France has wrestled with for many years. That their protests involve violence is sure to affect Parisians and tourists alike. Parisians are not tilted by any of it. Today at least, there is solidarity and support over a landmark known around the world.
We flew to Paris en route to London. Along the way, we met up with these two, who are currently students in all things Euro, and proceeded to explore that ancient city for days on end. Check back in this space for my Best of London when I’ve recovered.
PS: Je t’aime, Mark. Je t’aime, Kazumi. Je t’aime Connor (and of course, Buddy!) Forget the boulevards, the Arc, the museums and the Art Fair. Forget the tower. Forget the artisanal wonders. You guys are the best in the city.