Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Paris: Day 2 (Dec 29th)

the night before, i confessed to salina what basically everyone in my life already knows: i'm a control freak. everyone has a touristy kind of strategy and here's mine: i need structure. when i traveled with soy aka rit my travel buddy, we made a schedule with all of the days available to us, all of the touristy attractions we agreed upon visiting, and then just fit them in based on location and priorities. this worked for me, because even if we didn't hit everything on our list, we could shuffle around and toss what we didn't REALLY want to see and keep what we were burning to see (interesting side thought: i don't think there has EVER been anything i've ever a burning desire to see traveling-wise. oldest temple in japan? meh. the louvre? *shrug* okay. that hugeass statue of jesus in brazil? we'll see. big ben? who's that?) salina, being the greatest tour-friend one could ask for, acquiesced and made me a schedule, which unfortunately necessitated getting up early a lot.

which is how i started the morning waking up to and despising salina's alarm clock. for early morning, it sure was chirpy. also why doesn't salina snooze? i'm accustomed to (and so is clyde--he's very quickly learning that it's going to take several rings til he gets to eat) hitting the snooze at least a few (read: 5 or 6) times before i roll out of bed, but not for salina! it was ring and she'd practically leap out of bed.

at any rate, our differing morning routines dissolved when it was breakfast time. i'm not sure why, but i envisioned going to cafes every morning drinking cafe au lait--the only french word coffee drink i could conjure at the time--and eating fresh croissants, perhaps being served by a waiter who wore a beret, striped shirt, and one of those magnificent meticulously manicured moustaches that curl up at the ends. obviously i would be wearing cute boots that magically disguise my abnormally giant calves (i blame marching band) and maybe a beret myself. here's what breakfast actually was: salina and i dicking around in our pajamas with a couple slices of baguette (and by a couple i mean 4 or 5), our 125 g block of buerre being steadily whittled away morning by morning, a variety of jams plus creme de marron, duh, twinings (of all things! BRITISH?) vanilla tea, mueseli for salina, yogurt and a couple of clementines each.

sound paltry? mundane? un-french? i think if i were to have a similar breakfast in new york, i would agree. i'd also feel boring and like a loser. but it was perfect. i loved that we took time to set the table, that we actually sat down and savored every single bite. i liked eating breakfast with another person. i liked eating slowly and feeling leisurely. it was basically the opposite of my work morning breakfast routine, which is: sleep in late (see: snoozing pattern above) throw together breakfast while making lunch at the same time, feed clyde, and eat standing up in the kitchen over the sink so i don't have to wash dishes. anyways. i digress. this is supposed to be a fake-travel blog, not an examination of my piss-poor eating habits.

salina and i ventured out into our neighborhood, which for paris seemed oddly suburban. our apartment was tucked away in an off-road sort of quiet area, but right around the corner was this amazing market on rue de mouffetard. grocery shopping in foreign countries has to be my most favorite thing to do--there are so many different customs and rituals and food items to be had! it was hard to choose, but we were on a mission: to feed ourselves and cook dinner at home that night. we walked up and down streets, examined clothing all manner of stores, bought more things we didn't need and eventually decided on dinner: roast chicken (not roasted by us, obviously. i've never roasted a chicken in my life and don't really foresee me learning. my mom's roast chicken is perfect--she says the secret is the chinese wine, of course--and if she loves making it for me, why the hell should i ever learn how?), fingerling potatoes, mushrooms of dubious nature, endive salad with freshly cracked walnuts and baguette of course.

in my previous post i had promised to elaborate on my love for baguette, and here it is: i LOVE french baguette. it is dense, chewy, salty, crusty in the right places, and substantial. it serves as a perfect sturdy platform to spread still-cold butter on and not tear up the bread. it is equally useful in sopping up sauces, preferably the kind that are made of lots of butter. it tastes like bread. in fact, so spoiled was i by our daily fresh baguette habit that when i bit into the "dinner roll" offered on american airline's "meal tray" i could actually taste the preservatives. let go of all other preconceptions of "baguette" that you've had in any country: this baguette will blow your mind. go ahead and cry "food snob" on me, i've heard that one before. but for those who are quick to pigeon-hole me into some hipster brooklynite sad excuse for a stereotype, i've got your number: i also sometimes like to eat mcdonald's apple pie. the deep-fried-in-beef-tallow kind (which sadly is no longer offered in this country. so eat your french foodie hearts out.)

i realize that so far i have only managed to describe food that we cooked ourselves--hardly interesting travel blog fodder. moving on. after breakfast and food shopping, we headed to the "christmas markets" which were not much different from the holiday markets here in New York, but more lackluster, since uhm, christmas was sort of over. there were even holiday market type foods, but instead of cider and other tidbits, there was vin chaud (mulled wine), hot chocolate and sub par canellones (cannelones? another one of those things i just don't care about: french spelling). mostly there was just a lot of artwork and winter accessories sold, not anything to get super excited about.

sort of a side note that i fully intend to tie into some kind of a grand theme somewhere in this post: in our search for this elusive and ultimately disappointing holiday market, i urged salina to ask a random passerby for its whereabouts, thinking that if she at least asked in french, we wouldn't get that world-famous french un-hospitality. this older lady we had the misfortune of choosing not only didn't answer our question, she refused to make eye contact, walked faster, and gave us a dirty look. it was sort of like how i would react to a very persistent homeless man except we weren't homeless, even if our hiking shoes were unstylish. in short, this lady was an asshole. who does that to tourists? apparently, the french do.

thoroughly shaken by the experience, salina and i took refuge in the nearest shoe store, where i urged her to take solace in a pair of beautiful blue-grey-black boots. she conceded that this was probably the best course of action and xxx euro later, we were in considerably better spirits, at least enough to start making our way to our first tourist destination of the the trip: notre dame. since i had bought a 10 ticket pack of train tickets, we opted to walk along the seine river, take in the scenery, and of course look at all the junk vendors were selling along the river bank.

it's astonishing the shit that can pass off as "antique" or "art." old newspapers? put it in a plastic sleeve and charge 10 euros for that! paper reprints (not even paint!) of washed out parisian landscapes? FIFTY EUROS. pages that appeared to be torn from old babar the elephant children's books? the one i wanted was 30 euro. i love babar, but i do not think i will ever 30-euro-love babar, no matter how cute a baby elephant he is. there was all sorts of crap lining the road and yet we insisted on a leisurely stroll-by, lingering over old copies of books that i couldn't decipher the title of (of course, i couldn't--i don't speak french). apparently our pace was not sufficiently speedy for this british couple behind us, because the she-devil half of the pair bypassed salina, muttering under her breath, "fucking slow as shit!" without even the decency to make eye contact. say that to my face, bitch! salina, being from suburban norcal, actually apologized. myself, having spent the last year in the bronx, wanted to chase her down and... i'm not sure. bitchslap? kidney punch? good old-fashioned push-her-the-fuck-down-playground-style? however, my passive asian heritage trumped once again and i ended up grumbling about how rude she was. the moral of the story and long awaited theme: rude people do not just come from France. they come from all over Europe. but not America. definitely not America. (in case you, dear reader, are far too obtuse to detect the heavy sarcasm, my daily dealings with rough and tumble American assholes are probably what drove me to therapy.)

impertinent brits aside, the walk along the seine was lovely and we eventually made it to notre dame which was... magnificent. the line to get in? not so much. this would be an annoying re-occurrence at basically every tourist attraction we ever went to, since apparently i am not the only genius who thought that new years would be a great time to go to paris. i consistently underestimated the go-getting nature of my fellow tourists, being thwarted by long lines even at opening time and cursing my naive optimism in the slothiness of other gawking visitors of the city of light. notre dame itself was beautiful, detailed, intricate, ornate. it's hard to imagine that it was hand crafted. the entire interior of the church was alight with votive candles, which was beautiful and somehow mysterious. every single candle represented some person's fervent hope, desire, prayer. it made me wonder at the infinite number of reasons a person might decide to light one of those candles. unless of course, that reason was a punk ass kid's who just wanted to light a candle in a cool old church in paris, which then is a little less wondrous.

after notre dame, we headed to sainte chappelle, which i kept hearing as "dave chappelle" and thereafter insisted on calling it so. however, the line was not only long, but there was a worker there who turned away people at the end of line because it was closing soon. tourist mega line fail. instead we went to a cafe, paid for and reluctantly consumed some sub par reheated crepes in exchange for the privilege to use their bathroom.

at this point, i have a confession to make. at the end of each night i would try to jot down some hasty notes to remember what actually transpired each day. and in this paragraph of cryptic two-word phrases that i thought only i would understand, i came across a phrase that can best be deciphered as "haundery shopping." yes, at times, my handwriting is illegible even to myself. moving on then.

we got home, started cooking dinner as described above and it. was. amazing. it may or may not have been enhanced by some pretty strong champagne that tasted completely like juice (how can you blame me for drinking a lot?). plus the chicken was perfectly flavored and moist, the potatoes were pan fried in butter and shallots, the endive salad tasted great (and i do'nt even like endives). simple yet satisfyingly delicious. it didn't take long for this drunkyface to shower and pass out, which is exactly what we did.

1 comment:

  1. Your comment about apple pie fried in tallow reminded me of that Simpsons episode where another company tries to woo away Homer, Lenny, and Carl:

    Homer: You can't win us back with mere doughnuts.

    Mr Burns: Oh, but these aren't just any doughnuts. These doughnuts were made the old-fashioned way, the dough is sweetened with Cuban sugar from pre-Batista plantations, then it's deep-fried in the tallow of three different animals, two of which are now extinct.

    (Homer, Lenny, and Carl take and eat)

    Homer: That is the most amazing doughnut I've ever tasted.

    Mr Burns: Well, if you stay on at the Springfield Nuclear Plant, you could have one of these tasty beauties every day.

    Lenny: One of these every day might kill us.

    Carl: Can we get a health plan to go with them?

    Mr Burns: Sure, you can have a health plan...or two doughnuts a day.