Sunday, February 17, 2008


The women in Paris were tres chic. Even out walking the dog, or picking up a loaf of bread, they were dressed in style. Four inch heels, artful scarfs, wool coats, great hair. They bothered. I never saw a pair of baggy pants or sneakers on an adult woman in Paris. Boots and shoes alike had high heels and pointy toes. The women were put together and polished although wearing a what-this-old-thing? casual attitude.

I loved watching the constant fashion show. I did see lots of jeans on younger women, very fitted and worn with high-fashion boots. The under thirty crowd favored very short sweater dresses with tights and boots, the younger the woman--the lower her heels. The other trend I noticed was shorts. Either walking shorts, or banded legs, in wool worn with tights and, of course, the ultra-chic boots.

The men too were dressed much more formally and more stylishly than I see around here, even in leather jackets, jeans, and sporting two or three day beards they were impossibly sexy and smoldering. Plus they like women. Is there anything more attractive than frank male interest?

The men who were paired up did not indulge in flirting, even more attractive. Everywhere, couples strolled hand in hand, with much soulful gazing into each other's eyes. Paris deserves its reputation as a romance capitol.

I've told you the Parisians are tres chic and romantic. The women are also trim. It must be all that walking everywhere in heels because the food was amazing.

Oh I must mention, the French have not heard about the dangers of smoking. There was no smoking in restaurants or public buildings. So one was safe from the dangers of second hand smoke in the museum and hotel lobby and metro (subway) but the streets were littered with cigarette butts and the air thickened with smoke.

I never wore the heels I packed because I wore my suede boots, which were not designed for nearly as much walking as we did. I wound up with blisters tout suite, rendering the heels out of the question. Still don't know if I had the chance to redo if I would pack my walking shoes. Yes, they are better for comfort but they are not even marginally acceptable as suitable city foot wear. This was the downside of vain and shallow--by day two I had blisters and aching feet.

Daughter wore sneakers, no blisters but instant identity as a tourist. However, she's young and beautiful and fit so she can wear what she pleases including her running gear and still garner attention.

Don't bother trying to reason with me, there's no rational point to my foolish behavior. I'm not slim or young or fashionable. Yet, I chose to wear what I deemed acceptable shoes rather than sturdy sensible ones in the fashion capitol of the world.

The French people were more than courteous, they were helpful, and gracious time and again. Not everyone speaks English, though the odds are excellent if one sticks to major attractions and guided tours. Of course we didn't. Where would be the fun in that? Despite my poor command of the language I managed to communicate and gave quite a few Parisians a good chuckle. In turn, as long as they spoke slowly and simply, I was able to understand the gist of the conversation. The concierge was fluent in English and provided a virtual fountain of helpful information.

Our hotel room had a view of the Eiffel Tower. At night, the tower puts on a light show every hour, it never got boring. Since daughter has been before, and I'd already seen most of the Louvre's treasures during various tours, we skipped that attraction other than to marvel at the sculpture court and the sheer size of the place.

Instead, we headed for the Musee d'Orsay, which houses a remarkable impressionist collection and drank in wonderful art for hours and hours, in my case, forgetting my feet were tired as I gazed covetously at Monet's Blue Water lilies, a canvas I'd never seen. In addition to all the paintings, they have a wonderful sculpture collection, which was an unexpected treat. for anyone wishing to know more about the collections and exhibits.

We rode the metro around the city getting lost only occasionally. We marveled at the Arc d'Triomphe and strolled along the Champs Elysee gawking at the fashion houses and venturing inside a few of the icons. The women at the House of Guerlain were incredibly kind, stuffing my modest purchased bag with samples. Pashina scarves were one of the few bargains we found. We both bought some. The long, light-weight scarfs are deriguer in Paris. Unable to resist the pretty accessories I added to my collection throughout the trip.

Daughter photographed our food at several meals and we generally acted like tourists. Drifting down the seine in a night tour was lovely and romantic but we were both exhausted and unable to stay focused for the whole thing, which lasted several hours.

Before I leave Paris to regale you with new adventures, I have to tell you about the food.

The first french meal I had was at a small patisserie (bakery) I selected a sandwich by pointing and asking about the meat involved, settling on chicken. The white meat had a mild curry flavor, slices of potato, fresh mozzarella, lettuce, and tomato were all arranged inside a small whole wheat baguette, fantastic! Each bite a surprise and delight for the mouth. I shared my sandwich with daughter, who in turn granted me bites of her glazed grape tart--a small round of puff pastry beaded with plump green grapes held in place with a grape liqueur enhanced glaze.

In addition to the taste delights for sale, the bakery offered stools and small round table next to a window. Perfect for watching the fashion parade passing on the busy street.

That evening daughter had grilled lamb and I had a fish cake drizzled with a lovely sauce of fish stock, wine, and butter. The bistro we stopped at was a modest neighborhood bar kind of place, and yet, the food was exquisite and beautifully plated.

The next day, Wednesday morning, I skipped breakfast for the luxury of sleeping in--daughter assured me it was a delightful Sunday brunch kind of experience. I had a cafe au lait at a small cafe in the mall we passed on our way to the subway. Great coffee, foamy milk, and two of those tiny paper spills of brown sugar.

Much later, after miles of gawking, we paused for more food I ordered a salad Nicoisse--it came with a mound of rice of no green beans but wore a drizzle of dressing I'd love to have the recipe for--a very light ranch style (meaning much thinner) with a hint of sweetness to counteract the salty olives and anchovies. Strawberry tart for dessert and I wasn't disappointed. The small pastry arrived looking like a valentine present on white square plate--the strawberries had been bathed in liqueur spiked syrup before being arranged on their circle of puff pastry. Not only was the food melt-in-your-mouth-delicious, but the service was speedy and impeccable. Again, we'd selected a small neighborhood bistro a few blocks from the museum at random.

Miles more walking, shopping, and sight seeing later, we garnered directions to a restaurant daughter remember from her prior trip to France. Unfortunately, their menu had changed. The tomato bisque she recalled so fondly was no longer on offer. She ordered small steak dinner and I had a Tandori salad, which of course was wonderful--much nicer than her steak and came with lovely rolls. I shared. Too tired to stick to our original plan to have coffee and dessert at a different cafe, we stumbled back to the hotel and into bed.

The following morning, I got up in time to enjoy breakfast at the hotel. Everything one could want for breakfast and several things I'd never considered were available--I ate entirely too much--buttery sautéed potato slices, slipped onto my plate of creamy scrambled eggs, and just a little of the perfectly cooked thick sweet bacon. Tiny squiggled of puff pastry with bits of apple imbedded seemed modest enough, a whole pot of the amazing coffee and a small pitcher of hot milk kept refilling my cup. Some kiwi's, a piece of dried pear, a slice of cheese (just to see if it was as good as I thought it would be) a slice of the lox with just a dab of cream cheese on a crisp bread. . . Astonishingly, I pushed away from the table and rolled down the hall without stuffing my pockets with pastry, butter, and jam on the way out of the buffet.

We skipped lunch and went straight into tourist mode. Five hours later, we were ready to eat again. Cafe Lorraine beckoned and we sauntered inside, ordering a light snack of quiche plus green salad. The spinach and tomato quiche was incredibly rich and sinfully silky. While the mixed field greens were much better than they had any right to be.

Another four hours passed and we were back at the hotel, dressing for dinner. Perusing the menu thoughtfully, we opted for the buffet. I'm morally opposed to buffets (you already know what happened at breakfast) but we were in Paris and the chance to sample so many different dishes was too much to resist. The buffet was arranged in three main stations--salads and entrees, hot main dishes, and then dessert.

The entree selection was elaborate and endlessly tempting. Yet, I managed to arrange a small plate with discreet bites and stagger back to the table without spraining my wrist. After consuming my choices, marinated palm hearts and tasty little grape leave wrapped bundles linger in my memory, I headed for the main courses. A lovely bit of firm white fish was graced by a drizzle of creamy dill sauce, a tiny portion of cooked squash, which in turn accompanied the merest spoonful of green beans. The unassuming legumes had been prepared with bits of bacon and some kind of love potion sauce. I resisted the siren call of noodles, parsley dusted new potatoes, or rice. Feeling quite virtuous over my restraint so far, I made my way to the dessert aisle with a clear conscience. There in lay temptation beyond resistance. Five kinds of cheesecake each more wicked than the one before beckoned, pasteries shone from glass shelves like small works of art, further on tiny, beautiful, and impossible to ignore--mousses, flans, and custards gleamed seductively in individual serving dishes--most no larger than a shot glass. Surely there was no harm in one or two.

Fortunately, we left Paris at six the following morning with nothing more than a sip or two of an energy drink to sustain us on our journey north.


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