Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Day in Paris with Chicamericaine

I was delighted when Chicamericaine (who sadly does not have a blog but kindly comments on many Francophile blogs) emailed me about meeting up in Paris. We met at the Métro station near my apartment and then decided to head up to Montmarte (her old stomping grounds) for a drink and perhaps some wandering. We sat outdoors at a bistro and she introduced me to menthe à l'eau, a very refreshing beverage which is made with a bit of green mint syrup and water. Such a simple concoction and so delicious! We sat for quite awhile, eagerly sharing stories and our love of Paris. She so graciously brought me gifts: a guidebook for the city's bus system and a dual language copy of Colette's Chéri.

She told me about her life in Paris and gave me all these great insights into things to do, great Paris reads, and guidance on picking up the language. In no time at all, it felt as if we'd somehow known each other for many years. Our leisurely afternoon at the bistro gave way to the wonderful idea to go back to her neighborhood and purchase some cheese, bread, and champagne to enjoy on her terrace. I enviously listened to and watched her interact in French with the cheesemonger, the smiley wine and champagne shopkeeper, and the chilly woman at the boulangerie (chilly because she knows Chicamericaine usually purchases her baguette elsewhere). When I applauded her on her French, Chicamericaine laughed and told me that she had her priorities with the language... namely, being able to order food! Always the best place to start!

We talked about so many things and so freely in our afternoon and evening together. It was nice to hear someone else affirm the day I cursed Paris, Chicamericaine telling me that one hasn't truly experienced Paris until that day! Carra also reiterates this to me in an email following her read of the post and I so appreciate the truth in that now more than ever. I am always so grateful for these moments of connection. How little I had known about Chicamericaine before our visit and how wonderful of her to share glimpses of her life with me and to listen to pieces of mine. We share an appreciation of the dark side of life... well, maybe the more somber and imperfect side of life. I laughed so heartily and ate and drank eagerly, feeling absolutely welcome. And she sends me home with her copy of Véronique Vienne's "The Art of Imperfection" - soul food.

And speaking of food... look at this beautiful assortment of cheeses that Chicamericaine selected. I simply told her my favorite cheese is most often a more semi-hard cheese. It was as though she had known me and my food preferences for years, picking out four cheeses... all of which I really, really liked. I was particularly fond of the Comté cheese (the upper left hand corner of the image), a semi-hard cow's milk cheese from Comté, an eastern region of France. It had a great texture and a nice nutty flavor. I will be consuming much of that while here! And I was so thrilled to see that the Washington Times recently featured an article on Comté with some great looking recipes I'll be trying at home! The cheese on the bottom right had, as Chicamericaine so aptly termed it, "a great salty sheepy" flavor. They were all delicious and washed down nicely with two bottles of champagne between the two of us.

We then proceeded to red wine, which I so elegantly spilled over the remaining cheese and on myself and Chicamericaine, breaking the glass. It was as though I had spilled water in a sink to her... she and her wonderful husband (who joined us later in the evening) were so very kind about it and even poured me another glass!

After a wonderful evening in wonderful company, Chicamericaine walked me down to the taxi station at the end of the block, we exchanged bises (kisses on the cheek) and I was whisked away at the midnight hour. In my delightful champagne, comté, Chicamericaine buzz, I felt so very much in love with Paris. The taxi whisked past illuminated historical buildings and cafés still buzzing with people, through tunnels and back up onto tiny, veering streets bearing a lovely midnight glow. It was exhilarating.... the feeling of really being here in Paris!

Many thanks to Chicamericaine for such a wonderful and memorable Paris experience!!


carra said...

The food is the most important thing for my husband, where ever we move, first I have to find the best cheese the horrible stinky stuff that smells like old socks, god I miss my cheese lady every Wednesday in Sarrancolin, finding good cheese is a task and only after a while I grasped the science of knowing the cheese and then of course it was the turn for the wine! I still remember the year we were in France on the third Thursday of November (if I remember right) when Beaujolais comes out. We drank over 5 bottles on the first day! I just love Beaujolais (young wine a very good tradition comes from somewhere around Burgundy) so yeah my priorities on learning were also on food, and soon enough I knew the names of best cuts of lamb, beef and so on. The butchers taught me a lot and so did the cheese woman and the wine cellar owner. I miss that, here in this forgotten land I feel lucky if I find blue Shropshire cheese and a bottle of decent Bordeaux. This country loves every wine but French! Yuck. It was the same with Spanish, and my breakthrough in English came after a visit to butchers (Graham forced me to go) to buy a pound of sausages. So yeah food is a good way to learn, I suggest you start filling your fridge!

chicamericaine said...

Too much fun! I thoroughly enjoyed hanging out with you, as did Mr Chic. I'm looking forward to another imperfectly perfect outing with you this week. ;-)

Bisoux from the not-so-chic-Chicamericains

La Framéricaine said...

It's really nice that you were able to connect with and enjoy the company of such hospitable residents of Paris. I can't think of a nicer way to become accustomed to a new environment than with compassionate guides!


Briconcella said...

Comté...A royal cheese. Very good choice. Do you know that in the fall, for a short while, you can find the lesser known Beaufort and Abondance cheeses in fromageries ? They have a very small "terroir" up in the mountains so you will never find them in supermarkets. I am always surprised, as a French woman, to see there are so many dedicated francophiles on the Net :) I even know a site (rather, a social network) you may like, for francophiles just like you : . Feel free to open a cheese group there !