Thursday, July 12, 2012

c'est la vie

today was our second day in paris. raining lightly, and chilly, it is as beautiful as ever. we have never been here in the summer, so experiencing the green of the trees, and all of the gardens is a special treat.

yesterday, in our haze, we checked into our cute, cozy 17th century apartment. key words cozy and cute. not much room to spread out. the water closet requres roger to sit down to do his business, and even i have whacked my head coming out of it. we didn't really choose this apartment, as we waited too long to get the apartment of our first choice on the left bank. no worries, though. we are snuggly situated on the wonderful illes st. louis, facing the back of the river, just across from the marais. afterall, it IS still paris!

dinner was easy...baguette, ham, butter, mustard, and these ridiculous frito lay (don't scoff) chips called poullet roti. they actually taste like the potatoes you get out of the bottom of the rotisserie after all of the chickeny goodness has dripped on them with lots of tyhme and garlic. note to frito lay people...these should be brought to the usa on a limited basis. they need to be regulated because they are that good.

to say we are comfortable coming to france would be a true statement. to say that we don't sometimes take things for granted like where we will stay, how long we will be here, and really plan things out...would not. there is a reason for the french phrase, "c'est la vie". bottom line is, we were going to be homeless on our last night here because we booked roger's return date a day too late. solution: book a night at hotel lutece. ok. i am good with that.

last night we reserved bikes to ride around paris. no tour de france action, or anything, but we thought it would be a great way to see thins, and get a little exercise. well, we get to the bike rack (city sponsored bike rental), and can't get the machine to release our bike. after a brief converstaion with a very nice man on the phone, he informs us that roger rented them on line from 10pm to 10pm on thursday. c'est la vie...we walked. tomorrow, we ride!

as we were walking for our morning cafe and croissant, i noticed a beautiful photo of a woman in an art gallery. it made me think of this amazing artist i had seen a movie about several years ago, but i could not for the life of me remember her name. we take our seat at the cafe for breakfast, and along comes a city bus with ARTIMISIA...the exhibit showing through july 15. guess who she was? only the artist i was thinking about not more than 5 minutes prior! c'est la vie...we saw her.

her story is amazing, and her talents were in line with other masters. She studied under her father, painting for royalty and popes. when she was in her teens she was raped by one of her father's friends and co-artists. what could have been the end of her career, not to mention her standing in 17th society, gave her strength and courage to rise above. she withstood torture to prove she was telling the truth, and nearly lost her life in the process. she was the first female accepted into the highly regarded academy of art, and now hangs (literally) with the big boys. my hero.

we had a beautiful lunch at an indian resto we like. butter chicken and curried chicken with the most amazing rice...must find out about this grain of rice! skinny compared to ours, but beautifully prepared.

the rain was coming down a little harder, so we made it back to chez provost, and relaxed with the windows open overlooking a quiet courtyard. two hours later, we got restless, so donned our umbrellas, and set out again. it is 50is degrees here! definitely didn't plan for that.

we ended up at cafe le huitres...raw bar. roger had escargot, grilled squid, and i had skate with lemon and capers. their menus were ipad tablets. cool, i guess, but i kinda like the old school menu. ahh, times are changing.

tomorrow is bike-o-rama day. please pray we don't get run over, or caught in a monsoon, and end up in the seine.

until then, i say bon nuit.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Couscous and a Courtesan

We had a wonderful day today....met with Jim to do the shopping for dinner on Sunday. He took us to his favorite veggie vendor, and we placed our order to be delivered on Sunday. The lady that started the supper club with him 30 years ago, an American, placed the pork order, and then we finished up at the Monoprix for all the other items. Should be a fun menu.

After shopping, Jim invited us to lunch at his favorite couscous restaurant, and asked his longtime friend Suzy to join us, as it was her birthday. On our way there, he gave us a brief rundown on Suzy. She has lived quite the life. Born in Zurich to a poor family, she eventually made her way to Paris in the 60's, and that's when it gets really interesting. She was the courtesan to some of the most influential, and wealthy men in Europe. Given this is a G rated blog, I really can't say too much more.

She wasn't feeling well the day we met her, but in spite of that, she was simply fascinating. She arrived with her little long haired chihuahua dog, Lelo, who like her, had been rescued. She is in her 70s, but has the spirit of a 20 year old. She is in very good shape, and kind hearted. At first, I don't think she liked me very much, but eventually she came around. Very direct, and very funny, I could see why people would be drawn to her. She loves to eat good food, and even now loves a good party. If this is her when she is not in top form, I can only imagine what she is like when she is!

She told us about a group of friends who had been at her apt a few weeks ago, how one of the guests imbibed too much, and proceeded to stuff 50€ bills into her shirt. When she got undressed that night, 8 bills came flying out. She decided she was going to take the man's niece and her husband out do dinner with the money. This is just a perfect example of her fascinating life. She mentioned Bertrand Picasso, the nephew of the artist , and how she had bought a dog (another long haired chihuahua) for him to give to his kids. She is amazing.

Somehow in conversation, my eyes came up. She told me I had cat eyes, and had at least 30 more years to use them to get what I want. I didn't really know what to say to that, but I can tell you sure made me feel pretty!

Once lunch was over, we said our good byes to Madame Suzy, and I told Jim how happy I was to have met her, and how I wished I could know more about her life. "I have a book she wrote about her life, and you can borrow it for your train ride to Nice.". I totally jumped on that, and left his apartment with the memoirs of Suzy Wyss in my bag. I felt pretty special to have been entrusted with this special book detailing her life. I had NO IDEA what I was in for. Let's just say, Paul Getty, a certain Prince of Monaco, and celebrities from all over the world have a chapter in her book. Unlike this blog, it is DEFINITELY not rated G!

Off to Nice tomorrow to celebrate New Year's with S and P. Cant wait!


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Conti-ing our blessings, and a visit from the po-po to our apartment.

Em and I are still high on life after our multi cultured dinner at Jim's, so we decide to make a pit stop at our favorite little bar, Conti. we are greeted by Juan, the waiter from Columbia, with kisses on both cheeks. It is so wanna go where everybody knows your name. well, not everyone does, but it IS nice to have at least one person who does!

Emily has made quite the impression on Steffan, the bartender from the previous night when she went to Conti. We sit down, and immediately some fruity concoction is delivered to our table, compliments of Steffan. There is lots of laughter, talking, and friendships being made all around.

We meet Sara, an Alliance Francaise teacher, and her friends. Sara is committed to only speaking French with us, and 2 hours later, we have improved significantly...or so it seems at least to us. Add two new friends to Facebook after tonight. Gotta love it!

So, we head back to our apartment, only to find the police coming out of the building next door. Feeling happy, we say bonsoir, and they say the same. From here it goes like this:

Police: something in French
Me: parlez Vous anglaise?
Police: yez...a you leeeve ere?
Me: we are ere for ahh-lee-day (yes, I said it like that)is sometheeng wrong?
Police:yez, there eez someone shooteeng firework off wizout uh permeet. May we come to your apatmunt to eenspect it?
Me: oui, bien sur.

so up they come to "eenspect" our apartment. They look in the bedroom, the bathroom, the kitchen, the terrace, and the closets. It appears we are not harboring any ilicit firework bandits. Thank god Roger wasn't here. He is known as pyro-provost for his love of all things fireworks related. I can only imagine if he had volunteered THAT to them! Theese could ave beeen bad.

So, ladies and gents...that is the latest from Paris. Tomorrow, planning the menu for dinner at Jim's, some sightseeing, and who knows what else.

A bientot,

Police: merci

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Dinner at Jim's...friends, flirts, and food!

So with our dinner plans confirmed, Emily and I head out to the metro to make our way to Jim's for dinner. The directions he gives are so detailed, there is virtually no room for error. I mean, he tells you how many steps to take when you exit the metro, how many to take once you hit the traffic light...DETAILED. Love it!

We arrive a few minutes early to find Jim perched on his stool,wearing an apron, with his guest list in hand. He says, "Hello, what's your name?" Gently chastising us for being early, he refuses to shake our hand, but rather bumps elbows. What? Where are we? This is so bohemian, so out there, but so friggin cool. We are in the middle of an ancient building, standing in this kitchen, with this Hemmingway like character.

More people arrive, he barks out introductions like a grandfatherly drill sergeant, and as the room fills, strangers quickly become friends...70 of us in total, from all parts of the world. I am sure there would be some fire code violation in the US, but crammed into this small area, somehow it works.

Soup's on...At 8 pm, the chef of the evening starts dishing out a hearty soup of vegetables pseudo pureed, and topped with creme fraiche. A giant bowl of sliced baguettes are also there to soak it all up. YUM! Elbow-to-elbow, we stand and eat. Now I know why you don't shake can't, your hands are full, but your elbows still can do the job. This is my theory, at least. I will have to ask him. This is unlike anything I have ever experienced.

Neither is my new friend Claude. Claude is apparently a frequent diner at Jim's, and gives the term flirt all new meaning. Charming, handsome, and a male version of a Cougar, he becomes my new BFF. Now, please know, I was not his only new BFF for the evening, as he was good at working the room. My other new friend Marla (from San Fran and Paris...half a year in each city...hate her!)informed me that he is always hitting on the girls at Jim's dinners. Whatever, he asks me to lunch, and for my phone number so he can show me Paris. Ooh-la-la! I am flattered, and a little amused. Please understand, this is sweet, harmless, innocent fun. All in fun, my friends, all in fun.

Main course is served: meat loaf with mushroom sauce, mashed potatoes, and ratatouille. Works for me! Huge portions, and very nice. Emily is making friends all over the room, too, and I sit back and smile. This is what life is all about. I need to remember this moment when I get so stressed out. This cute French girl comes up to me and says, you are American aren't you? DANG IT! She didn't even hear me speak! Am I really that obvious? Apparently so...she says she can tell because I smile so much. I give her my best demure, somber face, and she laughs, says that's much more French. I don't care. I am genuinely happy!

Ironically the dessert is apple tart and vanilla ice cream. As American as...well, you know.

An absolutely lovely evening. As we are getting ready to leave, I am thanking Jim. I can't leave well enough alone. Does he ever need help cooking? As a matter of fact he does. How long will I be in Paris? Would I like to cook next Sunday, January 2. Ahem...guess who is coming back from Nice to cook dinner for 70 people in Paris? You can't make this stuff up? I feel so unbelievably blessed.

Stay tuned.

Peace and love!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Oh happy day!

So Sunday just keeps getting better. An adventure to Gare de Lyon (the train station from which I will be departing to Nice) gets me my tickets, and a bit of an understanding of where I will be going on Friday morning. A little complicated, I will be leaving 2 hours in advance, just to make sure I get on board. This is a peu nerve wracking, but what an adventure!

While we are getting on the train, we are entertained by a gentleman exuberantly playing Hello Dolly in the passageway on his accordion. Emily starts the trend by giving him a little tip, others follow suit, and the next thing you know, people are dancing (including the musician)on the metro platform...ahh, Paris, you gotta love it!

On to the Puce de Vanves...another flea market. Open every weekend of the year, rain or shine, we head out to search for some treasures. I find a painting of a young boy that speaks to me for 60 Euro, and Em finds a couple of gifts for her parents. We come upon a gentleman named Marcel, and he asks us in French if we are looking for anything in particular. No, just browsing, we say, and then in English he asks if he can do anything for us. Feeling giddy and good for the first time in days, I say, "Oui, have a happy day!". He smiles, and breaks into song, singing, Oh, Happy Day! Laughter, two cheek kisses, and a photo later, we have made a new friend, Marcel.

By now, we are starving,so we search out a place for lunch. Emily has a checklist of foods she must have before leaving Paris. Top of the list: Croque Madame. Mission accomplished. I have entrecoute de boeuf with mashed potatoes and peppercorn sauce. The first meal I have had in three days, it was good, but quite tough. The potatoes and sauce were just what the doctor ordered, though. Pure comfort food.

Back to Our apartment to see if we won the lottery...the food lottery, that is. You see we are on the wait list for Jim Haynes Sunday Supper Club. You may remember from last year we joined a group of strangers in a Paris apt for dinner. Well, my friend Karol Ann Thieszan told me about another such group, held at Jim's place. He has been hosting Sunday Suppers at his place for over 30 years. Here is a link to it: Well, we won, we won! We are headed there for dinner!

Oh what a difference a day makes!

If you told me yesterday how today was going to go, I probably wouldn't have believed you.

You may have noticed the distinct sound of crickets resonating in the Parigi blog. Well, that would be due to the fact that for the last 4 days I was down with the grippe, AKA the flu in French. Man, it took me down. I tried to fight it, especially with limited days with Roger, and Emily arriving, but it kicked my ass! I had no energy, no appetite, and at times no will to live. Ok, maybe that is a bit on the exaggerated side, but that is only because I am trying to be the dramatic french woman. : ). Emily is responsible for bringing the life saving pill form serum called musinex to save me, and I am forever in her debt.

So today actually began kind of sadly...Roger went home. First time he has left Paris without me. First time I have stayed behind without him. Sad. Really. Emotional. He texted me from the plane that he was feeling better though, because our favorite AA flight attendant, Pierre,and I quote, "ees awn boward. Awl ees gude.". End quote. Thank you, Pierre. You don't know how pleasant you have made our trips to Paris, and especially this one, without doing anything but being there. Thank you!

OK, so moving on...I have been given an amazing and unique opportunity to spend NYE in Nice, France this year. My sweet friend Sebastien and his partner Patrick are there visiting his sister, and have invited me to come there for the new year celebration. Roger was on board, and my amazing parter, Chad DEMANDED that I go, so, all I had to do was figure out the logistics.

Eurorail ticket...check
AA ticket changed...check
Apartment rental extended...check

Guess who is going to Nice on Friday? Can't wait for this adventure! Talk about making up for lost time!

There's more to tell, but you'll have to wait until demaine...

Merry Late Christmas!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cooking class

For those of you who know me, you know I am a bit of a night owl. I prefer sleeping in and staying up late, so tonight's cooking class was right up my alley.

When I woke up this morning, my throat was a little scratchy, and my head hurt a little. No time for getting sick, but I also thought I should take it easy so I didn't really get sick. Spent most of the day staring out the window at the Notre Dame cathedral, and people watching. Roger made lunch, and then i headed out to my cooking class.

My friend Paula Lambert who owns The Mozzarella Company in Dallas recommended the class which she had taken at the Electrolux Kitchen in the Palais de Tokyo. I usually try to take a cooking class while I am in Paris, and this sounded really interesting.

Side note...Lisa Kelley, thank you! You sending me that NY Times article saved my butt! I couldn't log on to my home computer where all my info about the class was stored, but that article mentioned the Palais de Tokyo, and it all worked out...thanks a ton for thinking of us!

So the concept is Electrolux (think Viking in the US) is the sponsor for this workshop, and they are also partners with this pop up restaurant called Nomiya (think like an uber upscale 48 Nights) with an amazing view of the Eiffel Tower, like you are up there with it, nothing obstructing it. There is a vegetable garden, and then the restaurant. The restaurant only seats 12, reservations are only available 1 month in advance, and it is only open for about one year in total. This is something pretty special. Since I didn't know to try to make reservations, going to the class was the next best thing.

When I walk in, Raphael, our instructor for the evening asks if we have met before. I say I don't think so, but he looks familiar to me, too. More in a really IS a small world!

Here is the menu: roasted chicken with white wine jus, celery root puree with chestnuts, sweet potatoes with sauce verde, endive salad, roasted parsnips and roasted chervil root. Dessert was a chocolate-orange mousse, caramelized orange clafoutis, and kalamata olive ice cream. Very interesting.

We broke into teams, and I went for the protein station. I don't often debone chicken, or break it down for that matter, because we don't have much call for anything other than the breast at Parigi. The guy next to me, a cutie named Paul (spoke no English), broke that bird down FAST! The adorable girl on the other side of me, Vivian from Taiwan, was a little squeamish about the whole thing. She did good though in the end, especially given that she is mostly vegetarian. We deboned that bird, and seared it, and finished it in the oven. Not my most challenging class, but definitely enjoyable. A little bonus was that I asked what Raphael was planning to do with the bones. He said throw them away. I asked if I could have them, he said yes, and voila! We have a chicken stock in the making! That is SO going to come in handy for Christmas eve dinner!

After everyone finished their dish, we plated it, and sat down for dinner. Going around the room we told where we were from, and what we did. That is when Raphael and in figured it out. He makes chocolate for his profession, and I had met him at the little gourmet boutique downstairs from our apartment last year. I bought some of his white chocolate with peppercorns for Chad...crazy! I am telling you this is one small big city.

All-in-all, great day. New friends (gotta love Facebook), and a nice evening doing something totally different.

Night for now!