June 25, 2005
Yeah, even though we’re moving on to Brussels, there’s more to tell about Paris!
When I last left you, I was trudging back to our hotel, dripping with sweat but exalted, clutching a camera with a nearly-full photo card, a small bag from Shakespeare & Co., and a copious stack of postcards. It was easily 90* out, possibly hotter and humid as fuck, and by the time The Husband-Type Man met me back at our room for our pre-dinner Adventure Rundown, I’d already spent 15 minutes all but passed out in a bathtub full of cool water. We cranked up the AC, but that didn’t seem to help much. Wilted and bedraggled, we flolloped on the bed and babbled about where each of us had Explored that day, comparing our thoughts on Paris and Parisians and the architecture and food and stores and politics and the weather. (THTM had discovered, amongst other things, a groovy multi-ethnic neighborhood that he dubbed “Little Turkeyo.”) And as we lay there, we noticed that the clouds outside were moving awfully fast. And that the fucking AC was not nearly as cool as one would hope on an oppressively hot, swelteringly humid afternoon. So we opened up the French doors instead, desperate for a breath of cool air.
Suddenly, it got awfully dark outside, awfully quickly.
“I think it might rain,” I ventured, standing out on the balcony and watching the clouds churn in several directions at once.
Not long after, it did just that.
If the rainstorm we experienced in Munich was of Midwestern standards, then this one was freakin’ apocalyptic! Within minutes, it was darker outside than it usually is at 10 at night, and the skies just unloaded with sheets of rain. The streets flooded swiftly, churning violently around the cars and buses that were immediately stranded there. People shrieked and ran, and all up and down our street, others were sticking heads out their windows or stepping out on their balconies to look. We were still flolloped on the bed when, unexpectedly, THTM jumped up, exclaiming “Something fell on me!” I teased him about his morbid fear of raindrops and melting as he pawed around the bed… touched something, and triumphantly held up a… hailstone. About the size of my little fingernail. With an unholy low rumble, more started falling outside, bouncing around on the balcony and ricocheting off tree leaves, big suckers, too!
It poured for nearly an hour, and, not too long after it stopped, Pappy, drenched, came knocking at our door. Maybe it’s wrong to laugh at him for it, but… Pa had to… take shelter in a phone booth! Just down the street! For almost an hour!
Needless, we didn’t venture out to find dinner that night. Pa scored a ticket to the ballet because he wanted to see the inside of the Opera House, and THTM scored us some savory crepes, and we tried desperately to encourage enough cool air from the AC in order to sleep comfortably.
Friday morning we all got up early and, while it was still cool, hopped one of those touristy double-decker buses to get a bit of an overview of Paris without hoofing it thither and yon in the heat. We were done before lunchtime and popped into an Italian place on the Champs-Elysees near our hotel, where I again got to use my Mad Phat Phrench Skillz, ordering, asking questions about dishes, and, of course, commenting on the weather.
Which brings me to French food. We certainly didn’t hit any of the hoity-toity places, and don’t usually eat what is considered by Americans to be “fine French cuisine” or anything when we’re home, but French food in France is a whole ‘nuther category. The best thing, in my opinion, is just good, plain brasserie cuisine; the attention to detail and, especially, the quality of the ingredients, is superlative. The food that we ate while there – pork scallops in crème fraîche sauce, lamb stew, pastas, fresh salads, lots of cheeses, chocolate desserts, bread, Italian food, traditional crepes – was all, even at the mediocre places, extremely good.
Which is why, for the life of me, I can’t understand the insane line of people waiting in the sun for over an hour to get into… Planet Hollywood.
FOR GOD’S SAKE, YOU’RE IN FUCKING PARIS! GO EAT SOMETHING DECENT, YOU MORONS! THERE ARE HALF A DOZEN LOVELY BRASSERIES RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER ON RUE WASHINGTON, EVEN! JESUS MURPHY!
On Friday night, THTM and I decided to wander over to the Eiffel Tower and see it all lit up. Admittedly, I wasn’t expecting to like the Eiffel Tower, but you know we had to go to at least do the token tardly “Bon… Simon Le Bon” thing. But I was surprised when I first saw the Tower how absolutely beautiful and graceful and elegant it is! It may, in fact, be one of my all-time-favorite pieces of architecture. Seeing it at night, paved with shimmery lights, was delightful. We were having all sorts of great good fun taking dorky pictures of each other when, near us, a young British couple also began doing the same. The baby-faced boy posed his ruddy-haired girlfriend in front of the Tower, and then stepped back to take the picture, encouraging “Muppet,” as he adorably called her, to smile. “D’you have the flash on?” she called to him. “I’ll flash if you will!” he called back, causing me and THTM to crack up. He grinned at us. “Ah, English-speakers!” Seriously, these two were cute as buttons, and we all took turns taking each others’ pictures and chatting for a few.
Saturday was our scheduled Travel to Brussels Day, but we had one more important Quest before departing Paris: CHOCOLATE! Specifically, hot chocolate. THTM had read about a particular café down on the rue de Rivoli, and we pre-arranged with Pappy to meet up first thing in the morning to venture to Angelina, a café that’s been around since 1903.
It looked it, too, utterly turn-of-the-century and charming, with its little marble tables and settees and crown molding and glass cases full of dainty pâtisseries, which was enough to woo me.
But the chocolate?
HOLY MARY MOTHER OF GOD, BLESS THESE COCOA BEANS!
If I could have wept chocolate tears of joy, I would have.
We ended up ordering brekkie, too, and I got eggs Benedict that made my limbic system utter a cacophony of hosannas. We ate slowly, because not only was it a meal to be savored, but it was so rich that if we’d wolfed it, we would still be in food comas.
After, while THTM and Pa were selecting confections from the display case to take with, I wandered next door to the store that was now opened: Librairie Galignani, which billed itself as “The First English Bookshop Established on the Continent.” Okay, if I have to.
Ah, guys, it was the Book Orgy I’d been looking for at Shakespeare & Co.! The selection was amazing, and I dove headfirst into the fiction shelves, the biography shelves, the literary history shelves. I scored a new Dickinson biography, as well as one on James Joyce, more Anaïs Nin, an Edith Wharton I haven’t yet read, a study on Fitzgerald, some Stein poetry, James’s What Maisie Knew, Hemingway’s “Across the River and into the Trees”-
So yeah, I’m set for reading material for the rest of the trip.
Which, naturally, you’ll hear all about later!
But first… yeah, Paris is totally at the top of the short-list now!
À tout à l’heure, Paris!
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