Saturday, September 19, 2015

There's something about Paris

September 19, 2015 -- Even when we’re holed up all day, working at our computers, there’s something about being in Paris that is special.  Certainly we feel that something when we break out in the evening to walk and dine.  But we feel it even when we’re at home in the apartment, with the screen in front of us looking pretty much the same as it would look no matter where we could be – provided there’s an internet connection available.
Le Blavet is a river in France.

Maybe it is the light flowing through the balcony doors, even on a cloudy day.  Or maybe it is the sight of the geraniums through the sheer curtains.  Or maybe it is that view over the higgledy-piggledy rooftops – especially when I open those sheer curtains in the dining room.

I look down from the balcony and I see shops with everything we need for daily living and more.  I know I don’t need a car to run the daily errands. 

When the cashier at the grocery shows that he knows us, we feel just as much at home as we do in our small town back in Florida.  We feel that way even though we don’t know anywhere near as many people in Paris as we know in Florida. 

That’s by design.  We like the seclusion we enjoy in the big city.  People leave us alone, yet we know they’re out there.  Parisians care; they’re good people, with generous hearts and spirits.  When we’re out and about, we can rely on Parisians to be polite, except for the occasional odd duck, of course.  But the odd ducks seem to be amusing, somehow.

I love to see Parisians lined up out on the sidewalk, waiting their turns at the butcher’s counter so they can buy one of those heavenly-smelling roasted chickens on Saturday or Sunday.  Roasted chicken, leg of lamb, roasted potatoes – all steaming and waiting for the customers who are not steaming, but waiting patiently.
The blackboard in Le Blavet in July.

I love that “bonjour madame” that I hear as soon as I walk through the door of the wine shop or the fromagerie.  I love that exchange of merci-au revoir-bonne journée as I leave the shops.

I love the professional poise and decorum of the servers in the restaurants.  It is always a jolt when I hear a bubbly, “Hello, I’m Jennifer and I’ll be your server today” when we return to the U.S. and its plethora of casual dining spots.

Many Parisians – but not all of them – still have that casual elegance that seems to come so naturally to them.  Oh the scarves – even the men wear them well.

Parisians have an understated warmth, a hospitality, that is not unique to Paris.  I felt an abundance of that warm hospitality when we were in Rome, for example.

I remember a very rainy evening in Rome when we ducked under an awning over a shop’s entrance, just to wait for the rain to lighten up before we continued.
The shopkeeper came out with a worried look on her face.  I thought she was shooing us away, so, with disappointment on my face, I turned to leave.  She stopped us.  No, she was inviting us to come in to her warm, dry shop, even though we were dripping.  She was kind to strangers.

Last night it was raining as we walked to dinner at Le Blavet.  What would normally be a 20-minute stroll was a 15-minute brisk walk, because in the cold rain, one doesn’t stroll.  So we arrived at the restaurant 5 minutes early.
Decor at Le Blavet is a little stark.

We could see that the staff was still sitting around having after-dinner cigarettes inside, because it wasn’t quite opening time.  We stayed out under the awning, respecting their time and space.
When I thought it was 7:30 (but it was really 7:28), I turned around to open the door.  It was locked!  I was mildly shocked.

After a minute, the host came over to the door and looked at me like I was a bad child because it was a minute or two early.  There was no concern for customers waiting in the cold rain; customers who’d walked through the rain to get there.  He unlocked the door.  I didn’t forget that look on his face because it was not normal; that isn’t how Parisians normally behave.

Nevertheless, we were polite, saying “bonjour,” “merci,” “ça va,” as we entered and placed our dripping umbrellas in the proper receptacle.  We settled into our regular table in the front window.  I just wish the restaurant didn’t have bright klieg lights in that front window!  That light is too harsh for a romantic dinner.
Shrimp ravioli came in a buttery sauce with a parmesan crisp on top.

The chef did a wonderful job, and he’s the reason we love Le Blavet.  One of our starter courses, a foie gras entier with a roasted apple on a slice of spice bread, was scrumptious – almost as good as the last time we dined at Le Blavet.  The other starter, a shrimp ravioli, was very good, but the buttery sauce needed seasoning.  Fortunately there was salt and pepper on the table.  That isn’t always the case; often some restaurants’ staff believe that salt and pepper aren’t needed because their food is perfectly seasoned – as it should be.  In those places, you must ask for the salt and pepper if you want it.
A wonderful foie gras starter course.

Tom and I managed to have “surf and turf” by sharing our main courses – sole meuniere and a beef filet with foie gras on top, a couple of steamed potatoes and some scalloped potatoes.  All of it was excellent, but copious.  We used two ZipLoc bags to carry leftovers home.  Mort au gaspillage!

(We just had a little of the leftover foie gras on small toast slices for today’s lunch, with a few fresh raspberries from the Dia grocery on the side.)

Le Blavet structures its menu so you have three courses each.  Fortunately, the desserts we selected were light – one thin crepe with a few delicious cooked apple slices and a light caramel sauce, with a very small scoop of ice cream.  Very good, and manageable.

Other diners didn’t arrive until we were almost finished with dinner.  We were surprised the restaurant didn’t have more customers, because the food is so very good.  But we suspect the weak business is because of the restaurant’s copious 3-course menus.  The menus are reasonably priced, one at 26 euros for three courses, and one at 34 euros.  However, nobody enjoys wasting food.

We had a pleasant chat with an Asian-American family just before we left.  The daughter has recently started a job in Paris, and her parents are visiting.  We complimented the daughter on her choice of living in the 15th arrondissement.
Sole meuniere.

We walked home alongside the Place du Commerce park, the heart of the Grenelle neighborhood, and enjoyed the smell of fresh rain on the chestnut trees, filtered light and laughter from the Commerce Café across the way.  

There’s something about Paris.

1 comment:

CDStowell said...

Nice riff on the charms of Paris and its people!