Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Here we are again

Photograph by Jean Baptiste Peillet

Well here we are again in the City of Light. It never ceases to fill me with wonder as there is nothing quite like it.

I spent some time on the airplane coming from Vienna trying to remember the French word for ‘what’. Just could not think of it. But amazingly – when we got into the taxi – it started coming back – as it always does – and I was chatting away with the taxi driver for an hour on the way in to Paris. He flattered me by telling me that my French was very good.

It is not – it is very bad. But I can get by and that is all I need to do.

I always forget that the French – like the Viennese – are world class smokers and you simply cannot escape the smoke anywhere outside hotels or cafés or the Metro – or indeed – anywhere in the street.

However, unlike the barbarians in Vienna – all bars, restaurants and cafés  are entirely and blissfully free of smoke. I would never have believed the French could do this – it is indeed a miracle – but for which I am most grateful.

Molly and I were to go ducking today but we were a bit short of time because her landlady is selling Molly’s apartment and Molly has to be there when prospective buyers come through – and this happened today.

She needs to do this just to see to the wellbeing of her cat Merlin who is by far her most precious possession. This whole business is a bit traumatic and causing some havoc in Molly’s life but she is doing the best she can.

So today we had lunch at the refurbished Sancerre in Montmartre. This always used to do the best Onion Soup but closed down for renovations. It has reopened – and I am pleased to say that the Soupe à l'oignon is as good as it ever was.

They have kept the same waiters and the same rats – for the sake of continuity – so things are much the same as they always were.

Molly lives in the centre of Montmartre – just off the main street of Rue des Abbesses – and her local bar – or one of them – is the Grand Hotel de Clermont – which is not really a very grand hotel and I think has only four guest rooms - with a shared bathroom.

I once thought I might stay there but Molly did a reconnaissance and suggested that it would not be appropriate for a person of my breeding and with my particular standards of personal hygiene.

It is most famous for once providing long term accommodation for Edith Piaf. It now accommodates as its regular drinking patrons a strange collection of characters – some of whom I have met on my regular visits.

Just down the hill from Montmartre is the Place Pigalle where there is the Moulin Rouge and some of the most unattractive places in Paris. It was always thus and during the war the American servicemen called it ‘Pig Alley’.

It does however have one of the best Japanese restaurants in Paris and it is one of Molly’s favourites. We ate there tonight and I had my usual - and delicious tempura prawns and miso soup.

The worst part about going there is that I always have to brave the attentions of those denizens of the deep who infest the pavements of that area and think that there is nothing that a blissfully happily married man of my age would rather do than go into a dingy rat infested bar - be inveigled by girls with short skirts into buying champagne at €200 per bottle then be slipped a Mickey Finn - have my wallet emptied - my credit cards stolen and then be tossed comatose into an alley 3:00 AM.

Not that I have not done that before – but I was younger then and had more stamina – and Cate was not waiting for me in a hotel on the other side of Paris.

Not that she is indeed waiting. She is conferencing somewhere and as I am writing she is having a dinner – probably in this very hotel.

That has not distracted me. I bought a bottle of French Chablis from room service and am having a quiet glass of fine wine and writing a blog. What could be better that that.


  1. Sounds like you are having a great time - enjoy !!

  2. I dont tlnink Ive ever lneard tlnat word before.
    Especially spelt witln a q.

  3. We slnoulcl raise money to qet freefallinq a new keylooarcl.

    I am having fun making a map of the parts of Paris that you are visiting. Good luck duck hunting!

  4. I love the fact that everywhere Big Daddy travels he finds the ladies that call him Mr. Important or John Wayne.

    I am so jealous of the wine, in Europe the wine is so good and mostly a reasonable price.

  5. fmcgmccllc: I am rarely called John Wayne, more often I am confused with Bruce Wayne, and far more often than that I am called Bruce when I return to my father's old town, where people mistake me for my brother, that's really a sad thing, (for him). That is one of the reasons I avoid going there any more than I absolutely have to.

  6. Me: We will do our best

    freefalling: It is best with a g.

    esbboston: I am prepared to contribute.

    fmcgmmcllc: Yes - we know what you mean about the wine in Asia.

  7. It's been far too long since I've been to Paris.

    So glad you're enjoying yourself.

  8. Ooh la la, sounds fab. Very impressed with your language skills;
    my French is non existent although I did get 38% in year 8 (she said proudly).

  9. Hi Badger (and Cate). I don't know how you keep up with the girl! Heading your way (well to Chamonix) for Christmas. Hoping to keep the wedding on track for March!. Llamax

  10. I dont think there is anything better than that mate!

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  12. (Reissued, fixed silly typo)
    My favorite dialect of French is Fake French. That's where I take an English word and pronounce it all goofy, um, French-ish-ly. My favorite eXample is 'Strawberry Jelly', but making it sound almost like Angelina Jolie, emphasizing every other syllable.

    Looking forward to more Paris ...

  13. smedette: I am doing my best

    Sandy: You should not be - they are rubbish

    Llama: I don't suppose you will ever visit us!

    Simon: Not much!

    esbboston: I am sure you would speak excellent French.