|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.