Saturday, August 6, 2011

C'est La Vie

Paris is just as you'd imagine it, except grander. Lord, it's fancy here. And historic. And the shopping is fucking epic. (Note: I have done some serious damage.) The food is delicious - though, so far, no better than that in Amsterdam, IMO. The pastry is fairly awesome but it's the ice cream that's blowing me away. Have you ever heard of Berthillon?

I think we can all agree that I know a thing or two about ice cream. I mean, I make my own. I eat it in all the towns of the world in which I find myself. I live in Toronto's gelato-centrale. And this may actually be the best ice cream I've ever had the pleasure to stuff in my mouth, scoop-by-scoop at a time.

It happens I'm staying on Ile St. Louis - 5 seconds from the Berthillon shop. (Scott just read this sentence over my shoulder and is scandalized that I didn't first tell you we are 5 minutes away, and a bridge, from Notre Dame - the bells of which we are listening to as I type.) I don't know how I will continue to fit into the absurdly expensive, chic clothing I appear to be buying at approximately the same pace.

Zut alors!

Let me say that the French people are delightful - very correct, formal, honest and humourous. No, they're not warm. Nothing about this town is warm. The sky is foreboding, the architecture slabbish and extreme. The Seine is beautiful, and grey. I've been wearing jeans and sweaters. Yesterday we were caught in, I believe, the worst storm of my life. Transit had to reroute the buses because the streets had flooded 4 feet. Scott and I were caught in it. 5 seconds into the deluge, with clothing incoherently glued, I was like a drowned poodle, unable even, to see through my glasses - and I was under an awning?! A woman who took shelter in a covered bus stop with us wore a white blouse. She might as well have been naked. Happily for her, she was insouciantly francaise.

We have spoken French most of the time and the natives respond to us in kind. Today, I had a charming, but honest, experience while chatting with the concierge. At one point, it became apparent that I misunderstood part of our conversation (when Scott corrected me) and she said - surprised - "Oh, your husband's French is better than yours...", whereupon she confirmed my accent was superior. Look, Scott is from Quebec. Duh, his French is better, though his accent is definitely dubious. But I sense the concierge was thinking regrettably out loud! Note: She followed this comment quickly with a "your French is excellent too" proviso. Hmmm...

Our hotel is amazing. It's built from the bones of the last indoor tennis court in Paris. Seriously, it's a place of such merit that groups of people stop in front of it, with their tour guides, to learn more about its abundant history. Proviso: So is just about every other building in the 'hood, by the looks of it.

You could walk for days - we've put in about 16 hours over 2 days, so far - and see relatively little. We did go - and I would totally recommend it - to the Le cimetière du Père-Lachaise, the cemetary wherein so many notable historic figures (and Jim Morrison) have been interred. Do you know, you don't get your plot there in perpetuity? Once it becomes gungy (cuz there's no one left to take care of it), you are at risk of being dug up, respectfully cremated, and scattered by one of the larger memorials. FYI, Mr. Morrison's grave, by far the most popular, was in no way spectacular.

The French common areas and parks are horticulturally splendid and beautifully maintained but I'm vaguely dismayed to advise that they torment half of their trees by turning them into topiaries!?! All of these lovely, lofty plants groomed into oblivion... Somehow, though, I just drink more Bordeaux and it's all ok.

A few pics for your viewing pleasure:

Shot of the bathroom in the hotel...

Me, after having ingested something...

Et avec du cafe... (After pastry) Gotta say, coffee here isn't rocking my world... I'm beginning to suspect the best coffee is in TO - which seems rather counterintuitive.

Seriously spooky grave (of which there are thousands at the Pere Lachaise)...

Somehow, in Pere Lachaise, it looked like autumn from every vantage point. The minute one leaves the cemetary, it turns back into summer (of sorts).


  1. i can never get enough of paris. enjoy!!

  2. I love, love, love Paris and I'm so jealous! I've been saving up to take my son in the next couple of years. It's kind of my goto place when I need to regroup. And no, I don't speak a word of French but find the people and atmosphere just so wonderful.

  3. I love Berthillon and I love, love, love Ile St. Louis. as for the coffee, I once read that the French, mainly because of where their colonies were, generally serve the robusta rather than the mellower arabica beans -- and have come to rely on the heavier caffeine ration of the other, trading off flavour (not the way they usually roll, but hey).
    We had a similarly funny episode once with a waiter who complimented my French, and then with a perfectly straight face said, moments later, en français Oh, but monsieur, your french is excellent also. Very droll.

  4. Oh I have to go back. Soon. Wonderful.

  5. Damn woman, I am now super dooper jealous of your European travels. ;o)

  6. I'm impressed that you're both able to converse in French!

    I know what you mean about the coffee. I tended to order expresso.

    The walking sounds wonderful.

    That shot looks exactly like one from my own visit to the cemetery in early Spring, so I guess it always looks like autumn there.

  7. Miss S: It's like a drug!

    Kim: What a lucky son you have.

    mater: I didn't know this. Thanks for the info!

    LPC: Make sure to post daily!

    Monkey: If it makes you feel any better, it appears to be a quarter century kind of experience :-)

    Susan: I did order espresso!!