22.08.2010 - 24.08.2010 20 °C
I have to apologize for the delay in updating you all as to my activities- I have been ill! Yesterday I was completely horizontal all day, but thankfully today I was able to at least get myself together to go out and walk around for about an hour and a half. I do believe it was the stomach flu; I will spare you the details, but I will just say that I had two sleepless nights spent voyaging from bed to bathroom.
So, I now have to rewind 6 days (!) to catch you all up to speed. I'll gloss over some of the boring days, like last Sunday, which was unfortunately spent mostly on the phone with Directv (yes, I'm still in Paris). Joe and I had several increasingly frustrating phone calls with Directv because our receiver just "failed"...at least that's what they said. I, being slightly stubborn and extremely ticked that I lost everything on my DVR (hello! Mad Men started while I was gone and they don't replay that), refused to pay the $21.90 charge they were claiming I was contractually obligated to pay to have a new one shipped to me. After two days they gave in. I feel VICTORIOUS! Although, I still will have no Mad Men when I get home... To cheer myself up, I got Berthillon ice cream. I'm a simple lady and it doesn't take much to make me happy.
Speaking of being a "lady"...an almost imperceptible change has happened in my life. One of those changes that you don't notice when you look at yourself in the mirror every morning (ok, maybe I'm starting to notice it when I don't have on any makeup in bright, flourescent lighting). One of those changes that no one can tell you when it started- not your mom, not your boyfriend, not even your dog (and she knows EVERYTHING). It has happened, my friends. I am officially a MADAME, which one could liken closely to Ma'am in the Southern states of our dear USofA, but that in France, indicates a woman of a certain age or one that is married. It has happened. I am no longer getting the excusez-moi, Mademoiselle, mais... (excuse me Miss, but...). Oh, no, no, no. I am a full-fledged, grown-up, adult woman in France. I guess it had to happen sometime, but I didn't expect to happen before the age of 30. A few weeks ago when I got that word thrown in my face by a waiter at a cafe, I downed my Chardonnay and ran straight for the nearest Pharmacie to explore my options in under-eye cream. After deciding that I saw no new facial lines and my hair is sufficiently devoid of gray, I bravely ventured back out into society hoping it was nothing but a fluke. Those hopes were quickly dashed. Everywhere I turn, I'm a Madame. I didn't think it would actually mean that much to me when I made this right of passage, but it kind of did. It's like the end of an era... So what if I enjoy sitting on my couch, popping popcorn, and watching the Golden Girls? Does it mean I'm getting old that if I get a call to go out and I'm already in my sweats, that 9 times out of 10 I won't go? Who cares that my right hip hurts when it's cold and damp! I'm only 28...DON'T CALL ME MA'AM! However, with this newfound maturity that I've acquired, I thought at least young men would start giving up their seats to me on the subway...no such luck.
On Monday, this Madame (wait...that makes me sound like I run a brothel in the Wild West...) took herself out shopping to what I like to call "Disneyland for Grown-Ups with Money"- Rue Saint-Honoré. Now, since I'm neither convinced I'm really a grown-up nor blessed with an indispensable income, I am not able to go on "all the rides" here on this famed street of extravagant shopping. I am only tall enough to enter one store (well, 2 if you count the store where the Arab guy sells purses that look like they fell off the back of a delivery truck)...
Oh, Longchamp, how pretty you are! I went in with one aim- get a purse for mom, get a purse for myself. The same purse, actually, just two different colors. For this special occasion, I put on a sensible dress, cardigan, simple black flats, my big Jackie-O sunglasses and tried to act like I belonged. I entered, "Bonjour, Madame, Bienvenue à Longchamp" (Good day, Madame, welcome to Longchamp). There's that word again. I wandered through the gorgeous displays of purses by Kate Spade, leather wallets that smelled so good I wanted to bathe in them, and trench coats that cost as much as my monthly rent. I finally arrived at the purses I wanted, picked them out, but continued to browse. I finally drew the attention of a saleswoman who must have decided I was here to spend money...or steal something...because she followed me around for the next twenty minutes holding my future purchases. I can't blame her. I'm sure next to the guy from Saudi Arabia shopping with his harem I must've looked like I was on welfare. Doesn't matter- I got what I came for and they are perfectly gift-wrapped and ready for transport back to the USA.
I was unfarely reminded that summer was quickly coming to a close during my trek back up the Rue de Rivoli, next to the Tuileries Gardens and the Louvre, where I witnessed the dismantling of the Ferris Wheel that Morgane and I went on my first official night in Paris...
I guess all good things must come to an end.
Tuesday was a busy and also extremely important day in my life. August 24th is Joe and I's anniversary and it has now been three years since we started dating. Dating sounds weird to describe someone you've been living with for quite a long time... Ok, so it's been three years since we've been partnering? (like in ice skating?)...committed? (now it sounds like we met in the Psych ward)... oh whatever. You know what I mean. The first thing I did was email Joe when I got up to tell him I love him and that I miss him...blah blah blah. I thought I did pretty well. I mean, the first thing he'll see when he wakes up and checks his Blackberry is a lovely, sentimental email from me. Sweet, right? I know, I thought so too.
Minutes after hitting send, my cell phone rings. "Madame Ashlee Mae Cummings? Vous avez un chronoposte à chercher à la Poste rue Ledru-Rollin" (You have a package to pick up at the post office on Ledru-Rollin street). I do? I asked the lady if she was sure and if she knew what it was. "Oui, Madame, je suis sure. Je crois que c'est une bouteille"" (Yes, Madame, I'm sure. I believe it is a bottle). A bottle? A bottle of what? Thankfully the Poste is only minutes away from my apartment...
Guess whose boyfriend totally showed her up on their anniversary? That's right- this lady's! Joe sent Champagne and chocolates to Paris and somehow timed it just right so that they arrived on our anniversary. And I sent an email...
Joey was also very concerned about what I was going to do in Paris to celebrate our anniversary, so I didn't want to let him down. Even though I would've preferred to be here with him celebrating, I had to go out and do it on my own. I started out with a stroll through Saint-Germain-des-Près and a stop at the most beautiful cafe in all of Paris- Les Deux Magots.
Les Deux Magots and I have a touching back story. In 2002, during my first summer study in Dijon, France, one of my best friends Ryan, and I took a group of our fellow students up to Paris and lead them around for the day. He and I have a common problem- we love Paris, know Paris by heart, and always end up here with first-timers so we go into tour-guide mode. We vowed that we would do something for us in between running from the Bastille to La Defense- eat here, at this famous cafe where Jean-Paul Sartre and Ernest Hemmingway sat and wrote- and we did. Yes, we only ate from the à la carte lunch menu and yes, it was damaging for our student budgets...but it is one of the best memories I have This was our first and only trip to France together and he has not been here for quite a few years. He sadly posted a comment to my blog last week about the fact that he no longer feels French. Well, my dear friend, this one's for you.
Because, I vow, we will one day go back together! You've not lost your French-ness...it's just buried a bit and if anyone can help you uncover it, it's me. I had to efface your distressing post with a trip here... A lot like shopping at Longchamp, you wonder if the people around you know that you ate pasta for three nights before this so you'd have enough money for a glass of wine. The couple next to me had shopping bags from Chanel and Hermès.
Next, I headed over to Les Invalides, which was once a hospital for injured soldiers and now houses the French National War Museums, to see an exhibit that I've been dying to see for weeks (and one that I should've left more time for...). In honor of the 65th anniversary of the Liberation of Paris from Nazi Germany, The Musée de l'Armée was featuring an exhibit on the political and military life of Charles de Gaulle. I am a big fan of this museum, however I have one gripe. It is so overpriced- 9 euros! 9! That's the same as the Louvre. There is no way that should be the case. However, I am fascinated with Wars, so I paid it. (Side note, it is only 7 euros on Tuesday evenings after 6, but 75% of the collections are closed...again, RIP OFF!)
The thing I love about this museum is that you are not stuck inside the entire time; however, this does mean that everything is really spread out, and you have to navigate from one end of the complex to the other, which can be confusing. Thankfully, I had a plan, although it turned out not to be a very good one because I left virtually no time for myself to visit the World War II collections, which was one of the reason I wanted to go here in the first place.
I was pretty much fascinated with this moccasin, which is located in the room dedicated to those who fought in our War of Independence.
While seeing Napoleon's tomb is awfully impressive (there are 6 coffins in there), I was most struck by an odd artifact from his life in the museum itself. While scanning room after room of armory and uniforms, I saw, tucked away in a dark passageway a...wait, no that can't be...a HORSE? A stuffed, taxidermy horse? Yes, my friends, it was Le Vizir, Napoleon's beloved stallion on display in all his glory, grossing out anyone who walks by. It was even branded with Napo's seal... and I thought I'd seen just about everything there is to see in Paris. Much like photographing Marie-Antoinette's hair, I thought a photo of this would just be too distasteful.
I must've spent too much time gawking at the dead horse because by the time I made it to the WWII area, I had to run through the exhibits. The historical on Charles de Gaulle was highly informative, and if you like that sort of this, check it out. It was a little too "multi-media" for me; many videos and interactive screens and such. I am old-school, I like a good ol' artifact and an actual print photo. (Says the girl writing the blog...but hey, this is a museum!) I was impressed with this WWII US Navy uniform from the Pacific:
It caught my attention mainly because my Grandfather Richard Jones was fought with the Navy in the Pacific. It was in beautiful condition and it made me proud to be able to stand there and think about him and what he did for our country. My paternal Grandfather, Paul Cummings, who just passed away ten months ago, was a Marine and was at both Iwo Jima and Okinawa. My next stop was the displays of both of these battles when I heard, "Madame! Vous devez sortir. On va fermer cette salle." (Madame! You must leave. We are shutting this room.) Remember I told you that after six only 75% of the rooms stay open for the late night... this is how I found out. I was more than bummed. Even more so when I found out that Napo's tomb is open later and I could've gone there last and been just fine! I guess this gives me a good reason for going back another time...
I really did need to get going anyway because I was supposed to meet Diana...but I took time for a few more photos along the way.
Following Joe's recommendation, we headed up near Butte Montmartre to find a restaurant that he had been talking about for weeks- le Cul de Poule (translation- the Chicken's Ass) at 53 Rue des Martyrs in the 9th. Now, I know this sounds like I lead in for some sort of scenario where all they serve is, well, Chicken Asses, but it's not. This place was AMAZING, which I discovered everyone else in Paris must already know because getting a table was not going to happen. The waitress said that we could eat upstairs if we wanted. Sure, why not? I don't need a table outside. I just want food. "You'd better go up and look at it first," she said. Uh-oh. That doesn't sound promising. We ventured upstairs with two other people in the same boat as us to find a little loft space with built in bench seats, almost like big comfy couches. Instead of tables, there were TV trays. It was adorable.
I almost preferred this to being at a cramped table surrounded by strangers. If there had been a tv, I might've moved in. The menu was short (which I like- the fewer choices, the better) and incredibly priced (22 euros for 2 courses, 26 euros for 3). Cul de Poule uses fresh, local ingredients and even thanks their suppliers in the menu, which is printed on colored copier paper and put in a plastic sleeve from the Office supply store. This place is not fancy nor super upscale, but it almost feels like the type of place you walk into and immediately think to yourself, "I'm soooo not cool enough to be in here." Thankfully the staff doesn't make you feel like that at all.
So, now for the important stuff; a rundown of my food. I opted for the 3-course meal and why not for only 26 euros? For starters, I had the plate of Charcuterie, which was Jambon de Bayonne this evening, and a glass of Santenay 2008. As I mentioned earlier, the menu was small but changes daily depending on what meats, fish, cheeses, etc. are provided by the farms that they work with. I think this is genius since the menu is always fresh and new, and it allows the chef to play with the ingredients.
This ham was so flavorful. I loved starting out with a simple dish like this of ham and grainy bread. It came with a jar of cornichons, which I know are just pickles and mini-pearl onions in a jar, but they taste so good when you're in France. I ate the whole jar...and I'm not kidding.
Next up, I went with the fish of the day, a filet of Bass served with rissotto. There was just a simple, light sauce that Diana thought had cinnamon in it; I though cardamom, maybe.
The flavors were very well-balanced and the rissotto was a greet accompaniment to the Bass, which was cooked just right (but they cut the head off before they brought it out, which disappointed Joe when I told him). Often times when a chef is trying to do "new" and "original" French cooking, and he/she starts throwing weird ingredients in for the sake of being different; the result, in my opinion, is usualy less than stellar. I like my food to taste like what it is. Here, you could definitely taste that it was a good piece of fish and the spices went well with it.
And now- the dessert... Oh My God, the dessert.
This was HEAVEN in a jar. The bottom layer was war Tapioca with caramel and WHISKEY (Oh yeah.....), then it was topped with cold, freshly whipped Chantilly. I've never tasted anything like it. It almost tasted like an Irish Coffee with caramel...only better. The consistency was interesting, but I love Tapioca pudding so I thought it was a hit. The whipped cream with so light and fluffy...oh my...I wanted to dive into the jar and eat my way out of it. I don't even know what else to say... Diana had the "Faux Tiramisu" which was not Tiramisu but almost like a Nutella Mousse. It was also delicious.
On the wall behind me was a giant word search where people not only searched for words, but also wrote messages about who they were and when they were there. I added my own contribution...
All in all, an amazing dinner and I'm so glad we decided to make the treck up there for dinner. It's really convenient if you're heading up to Montmartre anyway and much better than any of the restaurants that you'll find trying to pull in tourists. But make reservations if you don't want to sit in the reject attic!
Ok- I think that's enough for now! I've got to get out and enjoy my day since I feel a little better. I was finally able to have coffee this morning, which I had not been able to tolerate for days! Baby steps, I guess