Monthly Archives: January 2011

Rubes in Paris: Yelling in French and Tattooed, Harley-Driving Cooks

A few scenes as we make our way down the hill from the Sacre Coeur.  This was one of my favorite scenes. I waited it out like my favorite photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and waited for the “decisive moment” when that kid kicked that ball.

Cute little cafe

One of the windmills in the same neighborhood as the Moulin Rouge.  But far enough away that by that point, I didn’t care to walk all the way there.  Seeing this windmill was enough for me.

Another favorite image.  So Paris.

It rained for about 5 minutes and gave us this pretty view.  See all those people with umbrellas?  Tourists!  Run for it, Marty!

At a little pub we stopped at for a pint.  We were exhausted and had to get something to drink before venturing on to our dinner reservation that wasn’t for another couple hours.

Then these people showed up.  I was always impressed by the talent of the street performers in Paris.  This guy was playing a muted trombone, his partner was on the upright bass and they were fantastic!  A little girl was really enjoying the music and what I marveled at was her mother was not concerned at all that she was running up and down the block while her mother had a drink with a friend. She’d run up the street, back down and dance a while to the music, sing along for a bit, then run back up the street.  Such a laid-back atmosphere!  And laid back parents!  I only wish people were more like that here.

That’s the mom in the pulled back blonde hair

And that was the little girl who was very excited about singing along with the band

This isn’t the best video, but you can at least hear the music and see the little girl shaking her booty.

Afterward, the musicians went around asking people for money.  They really deserved it because they had charmed everyone.  I can’t help but think this particular woman heard songs she hadn’t enjoyed for years and I am envious to think about what “her Paris” must have been like.

After that sweet moment, Angela got into a raging argument with our waiter because he brought out our bill (we never saw the price-list which is a no-no in Paris.  It’s mandatory they have a price list posted outside any establishment, even Louis Vuitton) and our beers were a bit steep – 8 euros for a smallish glass (about $11.)  The waiter yelled back at her, claiming this area was “posh” and so the price stood.  The lady next to Angela came to her defense saying, “I live here, this is NOT a posh neighborhood”  and so it went back and forth for a while until Angela went inside with the waiter, argued more but paid (we didn’t know this) and he followed her BACK out where they continued to yell (it is so rad to hear someone yelling in French – especially when one of them is your old high school friend)  Matt and I tried to pay, to which Angela slapped my hand away and said, “Don’t pay him!  I already did!” To which the waiter said, “Get out of here! Leave now!” To which Angela said, “Gladly!”  As we walked off, she was flushed and Matt took a pic of her telling us what was said (because we were SO in the dark on what had happened) and ironically, a Banksy drawing just happened to be in the background that said (click on it to see it bigger):

So dinner.  Another recommendation from Matt’s dad’s friend, Dr. Walter Lamar.  This one had more promise.  It was on a pretty lonely street, barely looked in business from the outside and when we went in and were seated, we were handed the chalkboard menu to look at.

Paint was peeling, wallpaper was completely falling off the walls, plates, which were hung perhaps with care in the 70s when they were originally hung, were shifting and threatening to fall.  The place, Le Felteu (no link, they are not with the times) is run by a husband and wife who look like they opened the shop 40 years ago and haven’t been home since.  I don’t know their names so I will refer to them as Mr. and Mrs. Felteu.  Mrs. Felteu came by to get our order and with our appetizer, she brought The Bread.  This bread will forever be ingrained in my memory as the best bread I have ever experienced.  It was still warm, the crust was incredibly crispy, almost like a croissant, but tougher, and the interior was nutty and chewy and with a cold pat of butter, I could barely contain myself.  I recall Angela’s look of surprise at how much I was enjoying the bread.  It was really impressive, what can I say?

Mrs. Felteu cutting the bread with her paper-cutter-turned-bread slicer

This was our appetizer.  A humble pork pate, with cornichons and The Bread.  Matt noted that even the garnish, that salad beside the pate, was excellent.   We note things like this because it’s impressive to us that the French care so much about every little detail.  You know how here you can have some wilted lettuce at the bottom of a dish, or an inedible piece of “parsley” randomly thrown on the side of a plate?  Unheard of.  Why would you serve something you didn’t intend for someone to eat?  There’s no such thing as “pretty” plates at establishments like this – mom and pop places.  They just serve really good food.

Angela ordered endives, wrapped in prosciutto and baked in a cream sauce.  I was dipping The Bread into her plate all night.  Thanks, Angela 🙂

Matt ordered the Osso Bucco, and they brought out the wrong dish, not sure what it was, and Mrs. Felteu came back in a rush to give him the right dish, but not before I took a photo of it, because what if we were wrong about what Osso Bucco was?  I wasn’t about to correct her!

The wrong dish

I ordered the duck confit.  Again.  Because it’s nearly my favorite dish now, and Frenchies just do it right.

Matt’s Osso Bucco.  Yeeees, that looks right. Oh, so right.

Dinner was amazing.  Everything was completely licked clean, and if only I had more of The Bread, I would have been 100% satisfied.  It stands that my favorite eating establishments are not the $200 chef’s tasting menus type places with white linen cloths and starched napkins and a different wine glass for red or white – it’s this kind of place.  Run down, humble food, but recipes used for a lifetime that everyone loves and that you can be sure when you walk in, it will taste like it did last year because the people don’t change, and apparently, neither does the wallpaper.

We had heard from Walter that the manager had tattoos of Jesus and the devil and liked to ride motorcycles.  It was my goal since I heard this news to get a picture of each tattoo.  I was nervous.  For one, Mr. Felteu was NOT a talker.  More of a stare-er, really.  He worked the bar and clearly wasn’t into schmoozing.  INSERT TOKEN FRENCH SPEAKER!  Angela!  Angela would ask him!  She will throw grass on Indians, she will smuggle sausages in her purse for stray dogs, she will fight with bar tenders over the price of beer!

So she asked.  A slight smirk flickered across his face.  We knew he liked the attention and so in about 2 seconds he showed me each forearm tattoo:

This. Was. Awesome.  Thanks again to Angela for making dreams come true.

We walked on – sad that our day together was about to come to a close.

We strolled to a nearby neighborhood where Angela wanted to take us to get a Canadian dish called poutine – a dish of French fries, smothered in gravy and sprinkled with cheese.  I was stuffed, exhausted, weary, wanted to lay down and at that point, the sidewalk was looking pretty comfy. But we squeezed one more run out of ourselves and found the pub and settled in for the last snack and last drink of a very fulfilling and unforgettable day with Angela, our French-speaking angel.

Next Post: Food.  Lots and lots and lots of food.  And maybe the Louvre.



Filed under General Hoo-Ha

Rubes in Paris: Dead Celebrities and the Sacre Coeur

This will be mainly a picture-post.  Not a whole lot of stories to tell.  We went to Pere Lachaise Cemetery to see a lot of famous peoples’ tombs.  Sepulchers?  They were more than mere tombstones, they were more like small houses.  This graveyard went on for acres and acres.

Yeah, that’s a gravestone.

I wanted to see Frederic Chopin’s grave:

While we were looking at the tomb, we noticed a herd of paparazzi hovering nearby.  I tried to see what was going on and apparently the French director, Claude Chabrol, died the previous week and his funeral was being held while we were there!  I can only imagine all the French actors who probably came to his funeral!

This was the memorial for people who died in concentration camps during WWII

I was very excited to get to see the grave of the great singer, Edith Piaf. I became slightly obsessed after seeing La Vie En Rose, which is an amazing film about her life.

This was just another beautiful tomb memorial on our way out.

We hopped back on the metro and made our way to another landmark, the Sacré-Cœur Basilica.

We had heard about the aggressive vendors in Paris, but hadn’t experienced them till we climbed the steps to ascend Sacre Coeur.  A “bracelet man” grabbed Matt’s wrist and said, “Do not worry, my friend.”  If they catch your arm and weave a bracelet on your wrist, you have to pay for it.  Sneaky cusses.  Matt got away, thankfully and we climed all the way to the top of the hill and sat on the lawn where we had an incredible view of part of the great city.

A couple of Indian boys were sitting below us, clearly drunk or tripping on something good, and singing.  LOUD Bollywood hits at the top of their lungs while throwing handfuls of grass on each other, laughing, feeling the good vibes of the day and their singing.

So because Angela is Angela, her natural thought was to gather up some grass of her own and throw it on them as we left.  She figured they’d like that.  Loved having her around 🙂

At the top of the hill by the church, we saw two cats being fed by a couple of ladies who apparently feed the cats at the Sacre Coeur every day.  Cats in Paris eat well!

This one of the priests is my favorite from the Sacre Coeur.  It’s got a hopeless vibe to it.

Next post: Angela gets in a screaming fight with a waiter, and the greatest baguette of my life, baked by a man with the devil and Jesus tattooed on either arm.


Filed under General Hoo-Ha

Rubes in Paris: Intestine Sausages and Stray Dogs

We had recommendation to go to a restaurant in a posh little shopping area by the Bastille.  The restaurant was Ma Bourgogne and specializes in steak tartare and other traditional French dishes.  Matt had always wanted to try steak tartare at a place that would do it right and not kill him.  Wikipedia says it’s not a dish for “those with a weak immune system.”  If you didn’t click the link, steak tartare is raw beef, ground, spiced with capers, onions, Worchestershire sauce and served with either a raw egg or tarter sauce and fries.

What should be noted is that the person who recommended this place to us, said he personally couldn’t order the “dog food” even though every single Parisian around him had ordered it.  Apparently they did the dish well and with honor, but that couldn’t convince Dr. Walter Lamar to eat the stuff.  We saw this to be true – everyone around us was ordering the tartare, so that clearly got Matt excited as we perused the menu.

Our waiter was a little snobby.  It was almost exciting that after a week of France, we had yet to run into a snobby Frenchman!  They are truly nice people who are often misunderstood (maybe stuff for another blog) but this waiter – oh, he loathed us.  From the time we sat down and promptly ordered fries to eat with our wine (okay, that was a little tourist, but we thought we’d be good since our French-speaking friend was the one who ordered! Not always a magic trick)   he made it his mission to make sure we knew we were idiotic, not first on his list to serve, and clearly American.  Because we needed that reminder.

So, Matt orders the tartare, Angela orders some pretty sausage and potato dish

(lucky) and I, deciding to be bold, order the Andouiette – intestine sausage.  Hey, all sausage is made with scraps, right?  Everyone loves sausage and chorizo is probably the grossest and yet most tasty!  So I figured this wouldn’t be much different.  I’m not one to scoff at something I’ve seen on virtually every menu in Paris.  I’m generally of the mindset that if the locals like it, hey, maybe I will, too.   You never know if you’re one step away from your new favorite dish.  And I firmly believe that if you always order what’s familiar to you, you will never truly embrace another culture, as food is the life-line that nearly every culture holds in highest respect.

So I order the Andouiette.  The waiter literally says, “Do you know what eet eees?”  “Yes”  (raises an eyebrow as he walks away)

I still believe that this sausage has every potential of being awesome.  This didn’t happen to be this sausage’s day.  From the moment he sat it in front of me, it gave off a whiff of…sour metallic wet dog?  Oh but you bet your sweet hiney I tried it.  Twice.  And so did Angela and Matt.  We all stomached a bite (accompanied by a fry) and all determined that something had indeed gone wrong with Mr. Andouiette.  It was just…off.  I was defeated.  The snobby waiter was right – I didn’t know what I had ordered.  I expressed my distress and Angela whispered, “Cut it all up – I’ll put it in my purse and we can surely find a stray dog – they’re everywhere!”

See all the pretty folds of the intestine?

So we left enough on my plate to be believable.  That yes, the American had eaten most of the bile-soaked sausage, but no, she didn’t finish it.  It was far too big of a portion for an American anyway!  🙂 I still love Angela to pieces for the look of sheer glee on her face as she stealthily grabbed the sausage with her napkin and shoved it in her purse once our waiter was out of sight.  We paid our too high tab (or maybe it wasn’t too high since Matt didn’t develop E.Coli from his tartare, which, by the way, was like a nice dipping paste for the fries – I know you all just threw up in your mouths a little.)

On our way out to go find a dog, we saw these handsome men playing for change.  They were fabulous.

And since I hadn’t eaten much lunch at all, we stopped at a little cafe for coffee and sugar in various forms:

happy now that I have sugar.  And look, that’s the pretty scarf I got that morning!

We munched on our Opera cake, pistachio brownie-thing and chocolate sable cookies for a while and suddenly, Matt shouts, “look, there’s a dog!” Angela and I SPRING to action – she grabs the sausage, I am there, crouched by this handsome pup with my camera, ready for action.

Look, doggie!  Nice sausage!  Already smells like dog food so you should be elated!

He smells the first piece…

He smells the second piece…

tries out the third…

looks completely depressed…

And then looks at me like, “vous plaisantez, non?” (you’re joking, right?)

NOT EVEN THE DOG WANTED MY LUNCH!  A French dog at that! We looked back, mortified to see this dog’s owner, a very well-kept looking older lady coming up behind us.  Angela explained the situation to which the lady laughed and said, “Ah, he’s just a picky eater”  Riiiiight.  I don’t know what was more funny, the fact that the dog refused the refuse, or that Angela picked the dirty things back up off the ground to try and find another dog.  We did eventually find a drooling beast that very nearly knocked Angela over when she approached because he was smelling her purse.  Those sausages weren’t on the ground for more than two seconds before that dog had them gone.

This is the brute that scarfed down the intestines for me.  Thanks, chien gentil.  I owe you one…


Filed under Eating Adventures, Food Stuffs, General Hoo-Ha, Trips

Rubes in Paris; Part 1

Friday, September 17th –

We woke at 8ish – way too early after our crazy night, but unwilling to miss out on even an ounce of what Paris had to offer.  You simply can not be lazy in this town. We were to meet Angela at the Notre Dame at 10 and so we grabbed a few pastries at a corner boulangerie and hopped on the metro.

This is what we see first thing in the morning – happy Angela, ready to roll.

across the street from the Notre Dame

and there She is.  We walked around, taking in the magnificent detail of this structure, which took 400 years to build.

each statue is different.  And it spans the entire front of the chapel

These archways were amazing, too.  Three separate arches on the front of the chapel and see those little figures carved in the arch?  They are all unique.  Saints?  I forget who they represent.  The detail was so mindblowing, and Angela wanted to point out that everyone marvels at the front of the church, but no one notices the sides and back, which are all equally intricate:

There was a cute little shopping area just over the bridge by the Notre Dame so we walked around for a while and I bought an awesome teal leather purse and my first French scarf.  The cute lady in the store had been drawing sketches of how to tie scarves and showed me this way: (this is my drawing)

It was funny because Frenchies really do whatever they want.  Even store owners will casually open their stores when they feel like it.  10:30, 11, maybe after lunch?  Who cares!  It is definitely not all about making money (unless you’re on the Champs d’Elysees)  We enjoyed the street scenes and searched out a place for hot chocolate, but sadly, didn’t find any on our particular street.  It’s a misconception that you can find whatever you want, wherever you want it in Paris.  Like water.  Or a bathroom.

This was a VERY typical scene 🙂

Crossing the bridge by the Notre Dame over to the shopping area on the little island.

one of my favorite images from Paris.  Two shop owners taking a break after their hard day of…nothing yet.  It was 11 a.m.

Everywhere.  Flowers everywhere.  Matt carrying a bag from getting Julie and Shannon a scarf from Diwali.

The Bastille

One of the many awesome doors.  I loved them all.

The next blog will be about eating intestine sausage, raw beef and feeding presumed stray dogs.  Stay tuned.

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Filed under General Hoo-Ha, Trips

Continuing Night One in Paris

After dinner at Le Chateaubriand, we went in search of a bar at our waiter’s suggestion, which I don’t actually think exists.  So we abandoned his suggestion (for Deux Amis) and asked a few random couples (well, Angela asked them, God bless her) and one couple suggested La Mercerie, which Angela heard as La Mere Souris (mother mouse.)  So we wild goose chased (in high heeled boots) La Mere Souris for about 15 minutes until Angela said the name again and Matt piped up, “Oh, I saw that word on a building a ways back!” So, we got to La Mercerie at last:

It was quiet, filled with college age types and didn’t serve wine (whaaaat?) So we ordered (Angela ordered) some cider and just hung out and chatted for a while.

that cute little glass is a Kir.  I grew quite fond of them on this trip.  It’s cassis or other flavored syrups added to champagne or white wine.  Pretty popular as apertifs on menus all throughout France.  I loved the eye-bleedingly red this little place was, but I needed a break and loved these next two black and whites.  Because going black and white is the only way to make this pic something other than the color of marinara.

At around 1:30 a.m., we decided to part ways.  Angela was staying at a hostel in a different district and even if we wanted her to, the possibility of her staying at our hotel was out the window, unless she wanted to spoon with us on the full sized bed.  So we all headed down to the nearest metro stop together and Angela went for one line and we hung around for ours.  Unbeknownst to the other, neither of us made our line.  (sweet Angela had to rent a bike and ride to her district!)  The signs showed that another train was coming, but suddenly the sign just turned off.  Metro was closed.  Only a few straggling teens hung around down there so after sitting, exhausted for a while, Matt and I decided that we didn’t have much choice but to try to find a cab. It was about 2 a.m. by this point.

And there she was: a half-crazed, fully drunk Italian woman speaking very slurred French, carrying a fast food sandwich, a bottle of water and shouting angrily at the closed Metro.  We began walking in the opposite direction, but she spotted us, rushed up and started blabbering on and on, speaking very passionately about what to do about our situation.  We smiled and told her we didn’t speak French and so through various crude attempts at English and sign-language, we all agreed on a few words:  Taxi!  You, Tour Eiffel!  Me, My House!  FEEFTY-FEEEFTY! (fifty-fifty – she liked that one cause it meant we’d split the cab fare)  I will never be able to explain to you how crazy this woman was.  On the way out of the metro, she 1) Got in a fight with a guy passing by and they shouted dirty things at each other for a good minute before flipping each other off and her continuing to order us around and 2) she at one point handed her phone to Matt, telling him to talk to her friend, which he tried, but handed it back to her and said, “your friend doesn’t speak English” which she thought was simply hysterical.

I wasn’t so sure we wouldn’t be taken out to an abandoned lot somewhere and left for lost since we were at the complete mercy of a drunk.  We did hear her say something to the cab driver about the Eiffel Tower so we figured if we were dropped off anywhere near it, we could find our way home.

We hopped in the back of a cab with her.  Matt was squished in the middle of me and the crazy.  She talked.  A LOT.  And very loudly to the driver the whole way.  Twice she tried to get Matt and me to eat her sandwich (we didn’t) and at one point got in a fight with the cabbie about “why can’t I smoke in here?” and then asked for a kleenex to which she promptly let fly out the window.  I knew I had to document this lady in some way, and so I turned on my camera in my bag to the record just to get her voice.  It’s not good, it doesn’t even half-way show her insanity, and there is no picture but it’s better than nothing.  So, for your listening pleasure:

When we arrived at our stop, I didn’t even want to attempt to figure out how to split the fare with this chick.  So I just handed the guy a 20 and when she saw this, that I was going to pay for it all, she lunged over Matt, grabbed my head with both her hands and pulled me over to her so she could give me two very firm kisses.

Welcome to Paris.


Filed under Eating Adventures, General Hoo-Ha, Trips