We accomplished two major goals today: hot chocolate at Angelina’s; and soufflés at Le Récamier, our favorite restaurant in … hmm, THE UNIVERSE. (Francesca’s second favorite restaurant is the truffle restaurant on via Fiori Chiari in Milan, that via being my favorite street (ok, I’ve said it; Rue Cler is my #2).)
As usual Francesca ignored the muggles queuing outside Angelina’s, pushed through to the front of the line, and went into the little shop near the door. In there can you not only buy worthy items to take home, but also cups of their finest hot chocolate to take to the park across the street. She read somewhere that this is how the locals avoid lengthy lines of tourists.
As to Le Récamier, well, words do not suffice. However, there was a comprehensible bonus. At a nearby table sat a pleasant looking woman, and a sterner looking Frenchman (maybe; his provenance was never established). Behind the woman, on the ground, was a container with screening on the top. Periodically a little face would poke out of the top and bark. We, of course, were thoroughly entranced. Two soufflés later the little guy escaped and made a beeline for our table. As the woman seemed unconcerned, we proceeded to treat the wee pup like our dearest long lost friend. He responded in much the same way and licked our hands vigorously. Unsatisfied, I got up, moved around our table, knelt on the ground (we were seated outside under their awning) and proceeded – to the dogs utter delight – to commune properly. Later, my possibly flagrant violation of protocol finished, I told the headwaiter, “Pardon, mais j’adore les chiens.” He replied, to my utter delight – I kid you not – “Mais oui.” Perfect. I’d only ever heard that phrase in movies.
The dog’s owner, by the way, is an American woman living in Paris. The dog herself was born in New York City. Perhaps it overheard our conversation and recognized kindred spirits. Or maybe it’s just … (the woman told Francesca that the dog loves Americans because they’re the only ones who respond right. Francesca thinks that the dog overheard our conversation, had us pegged for the right sort, and made every effort to escape confinement before it was too late. Excellent.)
Francesca and I are more effusive than most – and way more effusive than your average Parisian – in showering affection on receptive canines. A pair of youngish French women witnessed me frolicking on the floor of the restaurant, being vigorously licked by a bundle of cuteness. This seemingly overcame their French reticence, and when they got up to leave they sauntered over to the dog’s owner, who now had her boofy dog-faced beastie on her lap, and took their turns with the little beast.
Francesca succumbed finally to my illness, and since I proved myself covid free on Monday at a nearby pharmacy, we now know it’s a different virus. A bad cold. Still, we had enough energy today to go up the Eiffel Tower – a fifteen minute walk away. Anthony Bourdain advised against this touristic activity, and with good reason. Still, the view is impressive, and the misery of standing in line to get tickets, then again to get on elevator 1, and again for elevator 2, then that whole ordeal repeated in reverse to get back down, it was only half as bad as Anthony suggested, because covid had greatly reduced the number of tourists, especially Americans and Chinese (zero). By the end I was worn out and “rough”, Francesca’s way of describing my mood near the end of a tiring day. After another 15 minute walk we were back at our favorite cafe on Rue Cler, and shortly after that I had a beer in hand and was cured.
(Saying the Eiffel Tower slog was half as bad as it could have been is like saying an Iron Maiden is half as bad as it might have been because the inner spikes are slightly blunted. I’m not saying don’t do it, but if you’re over 70, and tall, and not fond of mobs of people … Still, nice view.)
Two more full days in Paris, avoiding the creepy guy who lives downstairs, trying to see a couple more places, then – or so we hope – scoot down to pharmacy, get official covid negative stamps, get luggage, check out, get taxi, go to Gare du Nord, and put ourselves in the hands of the fuchsia Vogons until we land in Boston on Monday. Details to follow.
Oh my fuchsia gods
So, ok … wait … trying to hold back tears … trying … not succeeding. (Wait for it. Starting to encounter roadblocks re getting home at this point.)
The creepy guy, and the woman whose apartment was directly across from his, were possibly more than just creepy (but probably not; keep reading). He latched onto Francesca on one of her solo shopping trips. That was Tuesday. Later that day, spotting us entering the building, he shouted at us, ran around the stairs up to the 6th floor, and with his small amount of English, and my meager French, managed to get us to accept an invitation to drink champagne with him and the creepy woman the following day, Wednesday, in the morning at an undefined time. Francesca, ever the one to maintain certain social proprieties, suggested we go buy some flowers and a small cake to contribute to this gathering. Keep in mind, everyone on Rue Cler knows everyone else. It’s like a small village in the midst of this grand city. We described to the florist what we intended to do the next day, and she looked concerned. She warned us that the guy had a reputation of being bad with women – even dangerous. But she looked me over and determined that I could protect Francesca if necessary. The couple, by the way, are likely 5 to 10 years older than I am, so bring it on.
Francesca’s enthusiasm for this fête had by this point dropped to zero. She confessed to me that the morning he had glommed on to her, he had tried to convey that he was a photographer, and he showed her some pictures of women he’d photographed, and without exception they looked like they could have been drugged. I made a vow that I would use my cancer as an excuse not to imbibe in anything offered.
Wednesday morning dawns, and Francesca is now sick enough that she will spend the day in bed. Together we went down to the floor in question and knocked first on his door. Eliciting no response, we tried hers. She opened up and I tried to explain that we could not come to their little party, as is too sick. Three things prevented her from understanding what I was saying: my French; her total lack of English; and the fact that one of her two brain cells had died some time ago. We handed her the flowers and cake, and, ignoring her perplexed demeanor, went quickly back upstairs, and put Francesca back to bed.
(Actually, we first went to the wrong floor, and, after knocking on a door, a woman came out, saw two people she quickly determined were Americans, one of whom was holding a cake and flowers. She told us we must be looking for the Americans staying in the building; they’re on the sixth floor. Oh but that’s us. I don’t recall how this confusion was resolved, but the point is that she – and maybe everyone else on the street – knew 2 Americans were staying on Rue Cler. Funny place. At our home in New Hampshire there are 3 neighbor homes within 150 feet of our house. In 3 years we have spent 3 or 4 minutes (total!) talking with any of them. It’s been months since our last interaction. Exactly like Rue Cler? Sigh.)
But creepy guy was not to be so easily put off. He knocked on our door around 11am, and when I cracked the door, still in my pajama top, he vigorously and enthusiastically told me to come on down for cake and champagne. And he did mention the cake, so he had talked to creepy woman, but even if he understood from her that all bets were off, he was not to be deterred. In a raspy voice I explained that ma femme was too sick (mauvais rhume). We would not be able to attend. Did he commiserate? Express sympathy? No, he looked pissed, and, having shot his bolt, departed.
Later, spying me from his window leave the building, when he saw me coming back he went downstairs and when I pushed the elevator button he casually walked by outside the door, eying me suspiciously, in his best creepy guy way. No bonjour, wave, or anything friendly; just creepy guy suspicious. As I was alone, and carried a bag of medication from the nearby pharmacy, what could he do but stew?
The lady at the pharmacy became our favorite person in the neighborhood. More on her later.
As to the creepy guy, on our last day, as we headed out to do some touristy things, from the elevator we heard his door close, the sound of his feet scurrying downstairs, and when we exited the 2-person lift he pretended to be just coming in and gave us a friendly bonjour. I am hoping he did this to get back on our good side so that he could at some later date get us to drink his iffy champagne. I hope this, because discovering us gone the next day would certainly put his knickers in a twist.m
Parisians are not known for their effusive friendliness. If a Parisian is effusively friendly with you upon first meeting, well, that Parisian is likely a mass murderer, and on simply that basis alone it’s wise to avoid them. When we first arrived at the apartment building this guy and the woman were all over us (she insisted on fixing flaws in my attire – wrinkles and whatnot; and only in hindsight do I see this as beyond creepy in a mortuary kind of way). I was slow to read the signs … well well.
The matter did not end there, as I exchanged messages with Paris Perfect about our concerns. They actually investigated. The best case scenario: the man is eccentric, but likely not harmful; the woman has dementia, which we were anyway guessing to be true. The two of them seem to have a symbiotic relationship: he supplies the brains; she the money. From the moment we entered the apartment building they were all over us, and it was mildly off-putting. Anyway, … anyway … I wish them well.
Before leaving our home in New Hampshire I had read about a newly refurbished department store/indoor mall, called La Samaritaine. The building had been empty for 30 some years when Bernard Arnault, 3rd richest man in the world, got hold of it, gutted the place, and on its steel framework hung a lavish and very very pretty alternative to the Galeria (Paris; not Milan). The locals were pissed, because it used to be a kind of Sears, selling crap to the masses, and now it seemed distinctly aimed at rich tourists. Well, we were tourists, although not even in the top ten of the world’s richest people. Still, we were tourists. And the place was worth a visit. We had lunch there, looking out over all the splendor of its interior. I liked it. A lot.
In one of the upscale shops they had a single shoe on display. Francesca and I love this thing, and not as an actual piece of footwear, but as a gloriously offbeat work of art. It’s a good thing we’re a couple, for I can think of no one else in my life who would deem it praiseworthy. My sister, in particular, cast aspersions. I think one of us is adopted. She’s long suspected that we only share one parent. This shoe, and our various reactions to same, corroborates her suspicions.