Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Wednesday, August 15: Many Words, Many Photos

Let me start with an apology to those of my readers who are familiar with the French language. You have probably noticed by now that many of my words are missing the proper accent marks. I can't be bothered to figure out how to put them in. Be warned that I will continue to transgress in this manner.

Here are some pictures of Hillary's building that I neglected to post before:

Today we had glorious tea and glorious pastries at the glorious Laduree on the glorious Champs Elysees. "Glorious" is a word impossible to over-use in this case. I'd walked by Laduree before but was too frugal and too intimidated to ever venture in. Pish posh.

What a fine time we had, sipping our oolong tea with orange blossoms. And my passion fruit tart topped with raspberries so unblemished that they hardly looked real only strengthened my resolve to lobby for another trip to Paris in the future.

After tea we considered revisiting the Decorative Arts Museum, but Hillary seemed to be getting sicker, so we decided to cut back on the activities. We headed instead to the Palais Royal, a palace built in the 1600's to which shops and arcades were added in the late 1800's. In 1986 this sculpture by Daniel Buren was installed. The almost universal tourist reaction to it is to jump on a column and ask for one's picture to be taken. Hillary and I resisted this urge, though she enjoyed taking photos of OTHER people doing it.

The shops were all closed for a holiday, and it was probably just as well, for there were many wonderful window displays of vintage couture clothing. I wouldn't be surprised if it were the very hand of God that kept me from walking in, trying something on, falling in love, and then having to explain to Nels why we can't afford for him to go to preschool this fall, after all. Other shops included out-of-my-league boutiques like Rick Owens and Marc Jacobs, which were no big deal for an L.A.-dweller such as my sister, but gave a momentary thrill to this Boise resident, who doesn't even have a Nordstrom at which to shop.

Window displays also included costumes from opera and ballet productions:

Creepy opera cat costume

Tutu detail

We opted for a long and leisurely walk home, past the Louvre and the recently cleaned Cathedral of Notre Dame.

The tea and pastries were scant fuel for the trek, but we waited to eat until we got to a cafe two blocks from Hillary's flat that she'd always wanted to try. Oh, how glad we were that we'd held out. We were planning fondue for dinner so we went for the opposite of bread and cheese. That would be salad, of course. But not just any salad. Mine had hearts of palm, sweet bay shrimp, hard boiled eggs, smoked salmon, and plenty of lettuce, dressed in a lemony vinaigrette. Hillary's salad had prosciutto, chunks of cheese (Edam, I think), fried potatoes, and other delicious things that I can't recall. The best part was that it came with a fried egg on top. The photo I've included isn't that great, but we loved this place so much that I had to share. The rain came and went and we watched the fountain and the people and it was just great. I was sad we hadn't tried it sooner. I'd have eaten there every day for the potatoes alone. The man with the grizzled beard in front of us ate an enormous plate of them (in addition to the other part of his meal-- his entire table was covered with food).

The next order of business was, of course, a nap before dinner. Our second attempt at a fondue dinner was successful, though we did have to wait for quite a while out in the drizzle before a seat was free. The restaurant has only two tables which run lengthwise down the small room. Because of the set-up, one counts on meeting new people at Le Refuge des Fondues, and this evening certainly did not disappoint. To my right, a loquacious and somewhat shameless French man and his shy friend. To my left, a very nice couple from Winnipeg, the girl with a very loud and piercing voice, the boy sounding EXACTLY like Harvey Fierstein. Uncanny.

The French lothario made his very best attempt at wooing. At first, despite my wedding ring, it was unclear whom he was going to to woo. I think he was waiting to see if either of us would show a particular interest. After a while, though, he focused his attention on Hillary. This was good, as she was across from him and next to his friend, who would occasionally look up from his plate and calmly say things like, "Can you believe him? Don't believe him." Our new friend's self-esteem was dealt a serious blow when Hillary refused to give him her phone number: "What, you don't want to learn to speak French? You don't want a French friend to talk to?" THEN she asked if she could take his picture. Just his hand holding his smoking cigarette, eating sorbet out of a lemon. Now he thought she was just making fun of him. He left with very few words and a hurt expression.

We belt bad for him for about five whole minutes. That's when we passed the window of the resturant next door, and Hillary saw him talking animatedly to the pretty curly-haired blond girl he was sitting next to. I wish I had remembered at the time that, in high school, an entire lesson of the "French in Action" series we used was dedicated to this phenomenon, apparently not uncommon in France. It was called Le Dragueur, a slang term whose nearest English equivalent is "pick-up artist." Vive le dragueur! Here's to having the whole French experience.