On Friday morning, John would arrive the same time I did on Thursday (he took the same flight). Because I napped for six hours Thursday afternoon, I woke up at the crack of dawn on Friday (around 6:30 am) and decided to go exploring before John got there after 10 (the flight landed at 7:30 so I figured it’d take him 2.5 hours to commute to the hotel). Since I hadn’t made friends with the Metro yet, I decided to purchase a three-day Metro pass (the orange “week” card could only be bought on Monday) and I rode the train to the Opera station because it seemed very central.
When I got up the stairs, this is what I saw:
I think it’s one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen. And in that morning glow, it was magical.
I walked around the area and it suddenly seemed very familiar…
Why does this look familiar?
Have I been here before?
Suddenly, it all came back to me when I gazed upon this place:
This was the restaurant attached to the hotel from when our parents took my brother and I to Paris my freshman year of high school. I remembered the restaurant vividly because every night when we walked through to get to our hotel the waiters would all sing out: “Bonne soirée! Bonne soirée!”
As the scene dissolved back to the present, I decided I was hungry and I followed a group of Parisians to this stand where I purchased for myself a pan chocolat:
It was way tasty. Much flakier and less greasy than the one I usually get next door to my apartment in Chelsea. I did some more exploring and then, looking at the time, decided to ride the train back to our hotel.
[Our hotel, incidentally, is near the Malesherbes stop on the 3 Metro. This has become my favorite word to say. I say it as if it were an English word: Male Sherbes. Like there are male sherbes and there are female sherbes. If I were in a band, I’d call it Male Sherbes. If I had a veneral disease, I’d call it Male Sherpes. I find this endlessly amusing.]
Back at the hotel, I plopped down on a couch in the lobby and expected not to see John for another hour. But somewhat miraculously, he strolled in about ten minutes later and I showed him to our tiny tiny room and we were raring to go.
“Aren’t you tired?” I asked. “Don’t you want to eat around here?”
“No,” he said with great energy. “Let’s go see something.”
He showed me a map our teacher Gary drew of a cute neighborhood near Notre Dame so we decided to make our way over there. John rode the Metro in from the airport (a much more economical choice) so he was quite the expert. He navigated us here:
Ah, Notre Dame. It was cold and drizzly and windy that day. I carried an umbrella that was completely mangled like a hunchback.
“Hey I’m not mangled,” said Quasimodo. “I’m just…different.”
Because John was starving (those Wheat Thins and peanut butter don’t really fill you up on the plane) I pulled out my Time Out and my Moleskin filled with places to eat and began a very systematic approach.
“Can’t we just find something close by?” he pleaded.
“I don’t want to waste any meals,” I insisted. “We might get caught at tourist trap.”
I found the name of a restaurant near Notre Dame and we stumbled into a hotel to ask the desk clerk if she knew where the restaurant was. She didn’t. We stumbled back out and attempted to find it ourselves to no avail.
“Please…” begged John, feebly. “Can we just eat something close by?”
At this point we were right near the entrance to the cute little area that Gary recommended and behind us we spotted this place:
“This looks good,” suggested John.
Le Petit Plateau: Salon De The. I’d have to do some investigating. Was this in my book? Did anyone recommend it?
“I’m going in,” said John, his love for survival greater than his love for systematic food obsession.
Once inside, I got a very warm feeling about the place. Most of the customers were French and the menu was in French with an English option (as opposed to menus with pictures and both languages printed directly on them.) John and I decided to each have the lunch special: a quiche, salad, glass of wine and dessert for 10 Euros. Quite a deal!
Here’s John with his glass of wine:
And here’s my salad with onion quiche:
Would you believe that in my life I don’t think I’ve ever had quiche? John was incredulous, but I don’t think it’s a very Jewish thing to eat quiche. I’ve never seen my parents eat it or their friends or Dustin Hoffman. The only people I know who eat quiche aren’t Jewish.
“This is really challenging my religious belief system,” I declared as I bit in. And the quiche made a solid case for conversion. Light, fluffy, flavorful but not overwhelming, the top was dusted with herbes de Provence and the overall effect was quite lovely.
“Mmmm,” I said. “How’s yours?”
John was busy scarfing his down, famished from his plane ride. Soon a little French ambassador came to great us.
“Bonjour!” he barked.
John pat him on the head.
If I liked this place before, I liked it even more now. How many New York restaurants have little French poodles roaming around?
(Incidentally, this poodle didn’t like me very much. I kept beckoning him over and he ignored me to favor John. Did he sense my discomfort around quiche? Or was he just more fond of John’s sneakers?)
For dessert, I had the meringue in some kind of almond sauce (I forgot to write it down):
John had a cheese plate:
I could never pass up dessert for cheese, but John enjoyed his decision. Actually, he only enjoyed 1/3rd of his decision. “I like this one cheese,” he said pointing to one cheese, “But I don’t really like the others.”
Soon John’s tiredness caught up with him. “I don’t think I can make it to Notre Dame,” he said. I told him to go back to the hotel to take a nap and I’d meet him there later. He consented and we parted ways.
I peaked into the little neighborhood Gary was telling us about. (It’s right across the bridge behind Notre Dame):
It looked very cute but because it was cold, windy and rainy I decided it wasn’t a great day for it. Instead, I followed my inner quiche lover into the great cathedral:
What a giant window. Cold air swirled around me and I wondered for a moment if the trinity as represented in Christianity is a more rewarding prospect than the simple “one-God” approach of Judaism. But then I realized that “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” is an inferior Disney movie and I renewed my love for my faith and “Fiddler on the Roof.”
Where was I?
Oh yes, in Notre Dame. Would you believe I nodded off for a second sitting in a chair? I think it was the afternoon wine. I rode the Metro back to the hotel and when I arrived John was in a deep slumber. I finished my unpacking and reveled in the fact that we finally had hot water. I took a shower and at 5 pm John’s brother Chris (who lives in Geneva) arrived. He rented the single room next door to us. When John went to retrieve him downstairs, he found this brochure in the hotel lobby with a stack of other brochures and we had a good laugh:
It’s the “My Sexy Dreams” sex parlor in Hamburg. Look inside:
Look, an S&M room! A Sauna! Inga & Mike!
After a good laugh, we rode the Metro to a very specific destination. John, many years ago, took a cruise with his father and on that cruise they met a couple–Ralph and Patrice–who live in Paris. When John told them we were coming, they invited us to join them for dinner on Friday night. And so that is what we did.
We met them at their apartment, which has a gorgeous view of the Eiffel tower (among other things). This picture is way grainy, but the most amazing thing happens every hour: the Eiffel illuminates in bright sparkling halogen lights. It looks like one of my mom’s purses or the dress she wore to my Bar Mitzvah:
And so in Ralph and Patrice’s apartment more guests arrived (their friends Pascal and Cynthia) we drank several bottles of champagne (I was a bit tipsy) before heading off into the night at 10 pm. Because we were all so hungry, we chose the nearest restaurant that could take a party of seven. That ended up being Le Loup Blanc:
For those who took Spanish in high school, that means “The White Wolf.”
Our meal was fine–not great–but that’s not what this evening was about. This evening was more about international camaraderie. The menu allowed us to choose one entree and two sides. I chose the mixed grille (with duck, tangerine pork, and beef) with fiddle head fern salad and mashed potatoes.
Looking at it now, it actually looks pretty good—but it’s just not the sort of thing I came to Paris to eat. But I did come to Paris to learn the culture, and I felt like being there in this bustling room of young Parisians made that possible. Here’s our table of sprightly individuals:
We were there until 12 and then Chris, John and I grew concerned about getting back because the Metro closes at 1. (Ok, I was the only one who was concerned–I’m neurotic, what can I say?)
We said our farewells to our genial hosts and headed back to the boondocks. We may not have feasted like Parisians but we drank like solid Frenchmen. And for that one can certainly say “oui oui.” Drinking makes me oui oui several times in one night.
I think you’ll forgive that joke and our less-than-Frenchified dinner meal when you see my next post. Yesterday, John, Chris and I tackled the great breads, cheeses and pastries of France. We even made a video but you won’t see that til I have time to edit it in the states. So until post #3, I bit you all “au revoir” and Happy Sunday eating.