During Week II we made it a point to get out and about more and we discovered, of course, fine art, great food, busy tourist-weary Parisians and, happily, that there are a lot of Americans in Paris.
What? Kit and Alan are happy to see Americans abroad? That is impossible!
It is official, we have become Those People. It used to be that when we traveled abroad we hated being seated next to other Americans; after all, we didn’t travel so far to overhear the same conversations, in the same accents, that we could while sitting at home. But after nine months in Europe (and over a year with just each other to talk to) we are happy to hear an American voice. And so we have become Those People: The ones who sit beside you and engage you in conversation. The ones we would have avoided like the plague if we were here on a short vacation. Mon dieu.
As for the tourist-weary Parisians? They can be a bit rude as evidenced by the day we were window shopping along the Boulevard St. Germain when a lady, and I use that term generously, and I nearly collided. I looked up (and up and up—she was well over six feet tall) finally finding her face into which my, “Excusez moi” froze onto a field of ice. It was like looking into the eyes of a cobra. A cobra with a long, long nose. She did not smile, she did not move, she only sent a penetrating chill down my spine.
But this has not been our experience of French people in general. Americans typically think of the French as rude and vice versa; however, many Americans experience the French in Paris and Paris alone. That is like experiencing Americans in Manhattan. Most of our time outside of Paris the French people were welcoming, helpful, and interested in making our experience of their country extraordinary; much like you might find in Texas or California. But Parisians? Mais non. To Parisians, like Manhattan-ites, tourists are nothing more than speed bumps; dark grey lumps designed to slow your progress.
And so typically we don’t get the cheery, “Bonjour!” to which we had become accustomed in the small towns; although when I am out on the early morning constitutional with The Noses we often get mistaken for locals (who else would have two terriers in Paris?) and garner more welcoming nods and even a few, “Bon matin”s—but not until they are finished with their effusive greeting of The Noses.
Taking the advice of a friend of SP’s (P1), we ventured out to dinner at Le Relais de l’Entrecote and what an experience that was! Insider information was again very helpful: Armed with knowledge that there is always a line at the door (opens at 7, no reservations) we arrived at 6:45 and joined the queque. P1 also prepared us for the only three questions we were to be asked that evening: How do you like your meat cooked? What do you want to drink? And, What would you like for dessert?
You sit where they indicate, answer the three questions (the house red wine is quite good and a bargain at €17/bottle) and wait for the food to arrive. First up is a fresh, simple green salad with a fantastic dressing. Then the steak arrives, sliced and served from a large platter, followed quickly by a delicious light cream sauce on top of which the pommes frites float invitingly. They keep an eye on you and as soon as the first helping is done they are at your side with more steak and frites. Both are so delicious it is difficult to stop. P1 recommended the profiteroles for dessert, but I opted for the crème brulee (I am afraid they used the torch, a staple in US restaurants which I had hoped was banned in France) and SP had the peach melba. Next time we will follow P1’s suggestions all the way through. Oh yes, there will be a next time.
Alas, there is more to Paris than shopping and food and one day we even managed to get to the Louvre. Thankfully the lines are gone and we were able to walk directly to the ticket counter (opting for the machines) and then into the museum. It was still plenty crowded particularly around the popular ladies (Ms. Lisa, Ms. Milo.) I don’t profess to be an art expert but I know what I like and I was completely uninspired by both ladies. However, the plasticity (and yes, I have been waiting since my Humanities 101 class in college to use that delicious word in context and so will do so again) the plasticity found on many other sculptures was simply incredible: The drape of the robes looked so soft and realistic I thought it entirely possible to just reach out and make a slight wardrobe adjustment. My favorite area of the Louvre, so far, was the seemingly outdoor sculpture garden; although I am reserving judgment until my next visit during which I will find my way to Napoleon’s Apartments.
As for The Noses? I can’t say Paris is their favorite spot: They spend an awful lot of time indoors or on leash weaving through crowds of people while trying not to get their eyes gouged out by the corners of expensive shopping bags. Our morning walks are a highlight for all three of us as they get some off-leash time in the Palace Gardens during which Rosco digs for moles in the shrubbery and River simply runs as fast as she can in any direction, often complete circles. We follow that up with a short off-leash walk along the Seine before leashing up and walking through the crowded shopping streets back to the flat.
Paris, in general, is welcoming to The Noses although they were disallowed from the public bus for being too large. (With the crowds that are often crammed onto the busses, I don’t blame them for not wanting dogs that cannot be held on a lap.) We have seen larger dogs on the Metro but I can’t get enthused about navigating a turn-style with a terrier. We have had no trouble bringing them into restaurants but the tables are so small and close together that even sticking them underneath doesn’t really work. So we opt to give them their exercise, leave them sleeping in the flat, and then go out and enjoy some human time.
Coming next week: Kit finishes updating her wardrobe and a visit to the Musee D’Orsay and then . . . Guests!