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Speed dating and snow: Nikki's trip to Paris

Speed dating and snow: Nikki's trip to Paris

Old Apr 3rd, 2013, 01:05 PM
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This is an absorbing narrative, Nikki. I am renting a flat in Belleville near the end of the month so am eagerly awaiting all your cafe info.

I do hope you found an opportunity to buy some boots (as you were in Paris after all.)
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Old Apr 3rd, 2013, 02:01 PM
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Wednesday night I have tickets for a play at the Théâtre du Rond-Point, a theater that shows works by living playwrights on the Champs-Élysées. The director of the theater, Jean-Michel Ribes, has written and directed tonight's play, "Théâtre sans animaux," which is subtitled, "Huit pièces facétieuses", or "Eight facetious pieces".

There are eight short sketches. One of them involves a couple who have seen the wife's sister play the starring role in the classic drama Phèdre at the Comédie Française and are arguing outside the sister's dressing room after the play. The husband refuses to say "bravo" to the actress. He insists that he hated every minute of the play and the sister's performance in particular, that it was three and a half hours of torture where all he could hope for was an intermission that never came.

I have tickets to see Phèdre next week at the Comédie Française, and this does not bode well.

After the show, the playwright is signing copies of the play at the theater's bookstore. I tell him I appreciated the play but did not understand it all. He smiles and writes something in indecipherable French handwriting. I bring it home to read at my leisure. I have started buying copies of plays I see even when they are English, because there is always something that I miss and want to go back and take a look at. It is particularly valuable for plays I see in French, and I enjoy this play even more after reading what they were actually saying on stage.
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Old Apr 3rd, 2013, 02:02 PM
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No boots, tarquin, but I made up for that by buying jewelry. No problem getting the right fit, and it lasts longer (and probably costs less).
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Old Apr 3rd, 2013, 03:24 PM
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Nikki, remember a few years ago, you copied tracks of your favorite French singers for me? One I really like and he was new to me, was Sanseverino. It surprised me how upbeat it was
because the title was Le Tango Des Gens. I'm happy you retiurned to Tartine, My hangout when I traveled solo. So happy they let me buy the two glasses even though it's a different owner and crew. Did you go back to Le Barron Rouge?
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Old Apr 3rd, 2013, 06:08 PM
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Mimi, I got to La Tartine several times, really like their salads. Didn't make it to the Baron Rouge, though, I would have really liked to go there with Alan.
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Old Apr 4th, 2013, 02:22 AM
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Thursday morning I take the bus up toward the Cirque d'Hiver to visit a jewelry shop, Linda Hattab, 7 boulevard des Filles du Calvaire. A lovely woman runs this shop, making and selling her own reasonably priced jewelry and that of other designers she likes. I was drawn in last year by something in the window that I have been wearing happily ever since. I make the hard decisions, decide what to buy, and spend some time talking to the owner.

Then it is lunch time. I go across the street to Le Repaire de Cartouche. The place setting at each table includes a small crusty baguette on the tablecloth. This turns out to be the best bread of the trip for me. There is a lunch menu for 16 euros for two courses, 18 euros for three courses. I have a white foamy cream with foie gras, which is warm, rich, and tasty. Then there is beef with fettucine bolognese, and for dessert a crepe with homemade quince jam.

The chef is a tall and friendly fellow who greets everybody and settles in to chat and drink wine with a table of men who appear to be regulars here, until somebody calls out from the kitchen, "Chef!" and he gets back to work. The waiter is also pouring and sipping wine as he works.

I work on walking off my lunch by heading through the Marais. I pass the Musée Cognacq-Jay and go in to explore. Admission is free but the exercise continues, as there are many stairs. I spend about a half hour here. Most paintings are eighteenth and early nineteenth century French works, but I do enjoy an interesting early Rembrandt and a bed that the museum guard told me belonged to the daughter of one of the kings of France (I'm not so good at remembering historical details, especially the names and numbers of kings).

At the Place des Vosges, the scene is significantly more springlike than the weather that started the week, but while the grass is green, there is still enough snow that some boys wearing yarmulkes getting out of school are throwing snowballs.
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Old Apr 4th, 2013, 07:32 AM
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Hmmm...I think I know what the speed-dating reference is, but won't ruin the suspense. ;-)

You always have such a great mix on your trips: culcha, education, wandering, food, shopping...certainly something for every reader. Merci.
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Old Apr 4th, 2013, 09:28 AM
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We are going to see Paris Combo, although I purchased before any discount codes were issued. Where did the code come from? Are you a member of World Music?
We stayed several years ago in a modern apt. building on rue mornay right near the canal with a spectacular view of sacre coeur, bastille, even the Pompidou.
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Old Apr 4th, 2013, 09:46 AM
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Thursday evening I head out to an event near the Champs-Élysées. I am early so I wander into the Virgin Megastore. The setting is incongruous- a marble commercial palace from an earlier age, filled with beeping, flashing electronics and a crowd that clashes with the elegance of the setting. I can only take it for a few minutes and then find myself browsing the aisles in Monoprix. There is a whole lot of orange underwear on display, it must be the color of the month. I wonder if all the French women are wearing orange underwear under their black and gray outfits. I will never know. I do find some French hand cream made from olive oil (and like it well enough to seek it out at another location a few days later and buy a few more to bring home to carry in my purse).

By the time I finish browsing, it is time to head to 17e Parallèle, a restaurant and wine bar at 17 rue du Colisée, for a session of Franglish. I have been greatly looking forward to this. Franglish is an organization that holds language exchanges several times a week at bars around Paris. People register on the website and there are an equal number of native French speakers and native English speakers. They are paired up with each other for fifteen minute stretches. Each pair speaks English for seven minutes and French for seven minutes, then switches partners. Everybody pays twelve euros for the session (eight euros for students), and that includes a drink. http://www.franglish.eu/en/about-fra...hange-in-paris

I am the first to arrive, so I am given a prime table by the window. I am not sure what to expect. I have been working on my spoken French this year, attending book discussion groups at the French Cultural Center in Boston, and a French literature and conversation class that meets weekly through an adult education program in a nearby town. I am feeling much more comfortable speaking French because of this. But I really want to speak to French people. And I want them to correct me. Most of the people I meet and speak to are way too polite to correct my French.

The concept of Franglish strikes me as similar to speed dating. And I suspect that some people sign up for just that purpose. I have looked at the photos on the website, and the people participating are mostly much younger than I am. But I do see a couple of photos of older people and figure I should be OK. If anyone is disappointed to be talking to someone their mother's age, they will move on in fifteen minutes to a younger partner. When I talk to one of the Franglish staff after the session, I mention the age difference, and she tells me that there are frequently older people. One older couple who was visiting Paris for a month would come together every week while they were there.

I have a blast. I meet a bunch of young guys who mostly work in computer fields and live in the Parisian suburbs. And one young woman who recently graduated with a pharmacy degree who is trying to find a job in the cosmetics industry. She is the least confident with her English ability and has some questions ready for slow moments in the conversation, such as "What is your favorite monument in Paris?" My conversation with her was valuable for me, as she didn't understand something I said in French, and I suddenly became aware of a mistake I have been making consistently.

Most of the people I meet are hoping to keep up their English skills since they don't have much opportunity to use the English they learned in school at their jobs. The oldest person with whom I am paired is probably just about forty years old, but the thrill is that he uses the informal "tu" with me. I don't think anybody has "tutoied" me since my high school boyfriend when we were in French class together in 1968. As a result, I have no clue how to conjugate verbs in the familiar form. So I fumble around a bit.

If I had more free evenings during this trip, I would certainly sign up to do this again. I would like to try some of the other bars in different neighborhoods also. But the next few evenings I have plans, and after Alan arrives, I probably shouldn't be speed dating.

On the metro ride home, two guys are playing accordeon and string bass. I wake up every morning grateful for many things; one of them is that I don't have to haul around an instrument that is bigger than I am.
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Old Apr 4th, 2013, 09:58 AM
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Nikki, my son that works in Asia told me that these types of weekly rendez vous at various bars ot coffee houses around town are also very popular there.
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Old Apr 4th, 2013, 01:55 PM
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What a terrific idea, Nikki. I'd love to have a go, but sadly though it may have got to Asia, it hasn't yet reached Cornwall.

we do have a "Cafe Polyglot" in Penzance - where you can speak French, German, Italian and Spanish all in one evening if you like - but it only meets once a month I think.
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Old Apr 4th, 2013, 02:38 PM
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WOW! I love that, I wish we did that the last trip when you were there at the same time as me.
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Old Apr 4th, 2013, 03:32 PM
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Great report Nikki, thanks, I think. Your reports always make me want to slip away for a week in Paris.
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Old Apr 4th, 2013, 04:07 PM
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I love your "speed dating" experience . Maybe we should start up something similar ... I'm thinking Red Sox fans and Yankees fans may be a good place to start....
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Old Apr 4th, 2013, 05:13 PM
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The language evening sounds fascinating!! I wish I could find something like that in Dallas so that I could work on my Greek
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Old Apr 4th, 2013, 05:51 PM
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Friday morning I walk to the new Alain Ducasse chocolate store and factory at 40 rue de la Roquette, near the Bastille. My mission is to buy chocolate to bring to the two apartments where I am invited to dinner over the weekend. I am a bit overwhelmed when I walk in and am confronted by rows of gleaming chocolate displayed under glass like art. A woman in a lab coat comes to help me. There are samples for tasting, but I wait until I am told I can take them, as I am afraid I will set off an alarm if I reach for one.

I accomplish my mission and might even buy a small bag of chocolate with hazelnuts for myself. Then I walk along rue de la Roquette toward Place Leon Blum. I stayed in an apartment near here last summer. I am hoping the cheese shop still has the cheese with the pressed leaf on the rind that I enjoyed so much, but I am out of luck. I settle for some other wonderful sheep's milk cheese and one small round goat cheese. And walk across the street to the charcuterie for some pâté en croûte with streaks of foie gras in it, as well as two slices of hure, made with pork tongues.

I bring the booty back to my apartment, then go out for a salade chèvre chaud at le Sully for lunch. I walk across the river to the Ile St. Louis and stroll down the main street. Suddenly I can understand the conversations in the street a lot more easily. Unfortunately it is not because my French has improved dramatically.

This evening I am seeing a play in Montparnasse. I became interested and purchased a ticket after reading a review of this production in the publication La Terrasse, which is handed out outside concerts and shows for free and is filled with interesting articles about current cultural offerings in Paris.

I get a bit turned around after getting off the metro at Montparnasse and show up at the theater somewhat flustered. There is a small bar in the lobby and I ask for a Coca Light. The bartender does not understand me at first, so I repeat it, and he says, "Oh, Coca Light". I wonder how I can be pronouncing this wrong, so we discuss it a bit, and it appears I don't enunciate the final syllable of Coca clearly enough. I say I guess it's because in the US we just say Coke. The bartender turns to someone at the bar and says that in US supermarkets, Coke is cheaper than water. I say that in France, wine is cheaper than water. Lately I've been wishing that I liked wine.

The play is "Inventaires", a recreation of a production from twenty-five years ago with the same director and cast of three actresses. It is being performed in a very small theater tucked into an alley among the large movie theaters on the Boulevard du Montparnasse. Three women tell their stories in a format resembling a game show, with an emcee who directs the action. The acting is compelling, but the monologues are presented in very quick stream-of-consciousness run-on sentences in keeping with the "Beat the Clock" atmosphere. I am happy to buy the text of the play as I exit, to review at my leisure. The text is contained in the original program from twenty-five years ago, so I get to see pictures and biographies of the same actresses in the earlier production, which is very interesting.

The play had an early curtain time, as another play starts at 9:00 at this theater. I have made a reservation for dinner but still have some time to kill, so I browse through a bookstore and then walk down the rue du Montparnasse. The many creperies lining this street are quite lively on this Friday night, and I almost wish I had decided to have my dinner here.

Instead I continue to the restaurant La Cerisae on the boulevard Edgar Quinet. I stayed near here with my daughter about ten years ago and ate at this restaurant. Since then I have read several good reviews and I am taking this opportunity to go back and have another meal here. The restaurant is tiny, only squeezing in about twenty people in each of two seatings. I am here for the late seating, so people are finishing up, but my table is ready. The chef is at the back and his very hard-working wife is waiting on all the tables.

I start with a small dish of cassoulet made with escargot and chorizo. This is wonderful. Then I have a piece of milk-fed lamb served with roasted peppers stuffed with potato purée. This is beyond wonderful. The portions are small; I could have happily had more of that lamb. But I settle for a cheese course, with my choice of cow, goat or sheep cheese. I choose the brebis, the sheep's milk cheese, and am very happy with my choice and with the whole meal.

The chef gives me my coat as I get up to leave, and I tell him how much I enjoyed the meal. Then I call it a night and take the metro home.
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Old Apr 4th, 2013, 05:59 PM
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Thanks for all the continuing comments, it really makes me feel good about writing all this.

Opaldog, I do not belong to World Music. I received an e-mail from ArtsBoston offering a discount to three of the upcoming World Music concerts.

Annhig, you could do this in Paris, you're a lot closer than I am.

Seafox, you live in just the right place for a Red Sox/Yankees meetup, but I'm not sure these two groups believe in peaceful cultural exchange.
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Old Apr 4th, 2013, 07:56 PM
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Franglish sounds terrific. What a great idea.
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Old Apr 4th, 2013, 08:09 PM
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I love your trip report Nikki, thank you, I feel like I just went back to Paris for a quick trip.
The Franglish idea is great, I wonder if they have something similar in Italy, for Italian/English practice. That'd be something I'd like to do.

All your food descriptions have made me hungry!
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Old Apr 4th, 2013, 08:18 PM
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I'm really liking your report that's not all about food,
it gives us who don't get there that often a look into the
other aspects of Paris.
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