September 5th, 2005
Saturday evening finds me walking to the Marais, tango shoes in hand. I decide to eat at Chez Julien, a dimly lit but friendly restaurant. I tell the hostess that I don’t have a reservation but can I eat alone – she says “bien sur” (of course) with a tone that says “eh- we gotcha covered”. The waitress who seats me and takes my order is slim and full of smiles. I’m trying really hard with my French, and she is very kind and patient with me. She doesn’t mind speaking English but I want to try to just use French, so she smiles and obliges. She’s one of those nuturing types and I feel very welcome. For my starter I have an arugola salad with pine nuts (yes, one is allowed to eat a salad before the meal in Paris!). My main course is veal with a delicious brown gravy with a side of zucchini and carrots (cooked). Dessert is a chocolate confection that is rich and very very sweet.There is a young American couple seated at the window, the most romantic place in the restaurant if you ask me (being able to watch people pass by on the cobblestones…sigh….) but instead of enjoying where they are, all they do is bicker. It’s rather entertaining and I find myself eaves dropping throughout my meal – they are engaged from what I hear them talking about, and seem to be grappling with the fact that “oh – I may have to spend the rest of my life with this person! AAAH!” – so, it’s fight fight fight. The waitress is still very sweet to them.
After my gorgeous, satisfying meal, I am ready to find the milonga. It’s at a place called “Bistrot Latin” which is above a small cinema called “Le Latina”, on Rue du Temple. I’m walking up Rue du Temple and not seeing anything resembling a cinema or any signage. Eventually out of the corner of my eye I see a poster for an Argentine movie that recently played at the Seattle International Film Festival. I think “hm, that’s an Argentine film. Cool.” And I keep walking – Wait a minute… Argentine film….??? Oh! I turn back around and sure enough, upstairs from that shop front (which turns out to be Le Latina) I can hear the faint cry of bandoneon music.
I make my way upstairs and am delighted to find a small space with exceptional dancers. It’s not long before I am asked to dance. I settle into the familiar milonguero-style embrace, close my eyes, and release myself into the music. Lovely. Pierre, probably in his 40′s with hair that is starting to grey, is very easy to follow and I’m enjoying myself – though I do catch myself thinking every once in a while about techincal things, like making sure my knees are bent just enough and streching my legs back when I step back, yadda yadda yadda. I dance with several other men and then again with Pierre. Though Pierre speaks English, the others allow me to dabble in French, and I do an okay job of answering their questions about why I’m in Paris (pour mon anniversaire!), how long I’ve been dancing tango, etc…Before I return to my apartment in the 5th Arrondissement, I stop at an ice cream shop in Ile St Louis (it’s 1:00 in the morning and things are hopping) for a rasberry sorbet to eat on the way home. I pass by a parked car that seems to be called a “Twingo.” I giggle to myself as I imagine my boyfriend saying “hey baby, let’s go for a ride in the Twingo.”
Sunday morning I take another walk through the Latin Quarter and buy some more provisions at the market – I find that I’m getting attached to this neighborhood and would rather not go any farther than my part of town or even the Marais during my stay in Paris. However, there is more of Paris to see!
Felice, a friend of my cousin OJ’s, has arrived in Paris this morning and we agree to meet at the Louvre at 1:00, as museums are free today. She is there with her friend Julie, who is to be staying in Paris for a month. Understanding that it would take 9 months to see every piece in the Louvre, we decide to just focus on the Italian artists and see the original Mona Lisa. She is smaller and her face in the original is much softer and more Latin looking than any copies I’ve seen. (Remember, France and Italy are Latin countries too!) The architecture of the Louvre is positively outstanding and we all fantasize about how we would build our own homes to look like this. We meander outside, through a garden/park, and in the distance I can see the Arc de Triumphe – it’s so far away and so hot that I decide I can come back to Paris another time to see that part of Paris. (Paris is huge and daunting when you look at the big picture).
We want to see the Musee D’Orsay as well, but are sidetracked by hunger and thirst – it must be 90 degrees out. We choose a cafe on the other side of the river and I have a wonderful salad with tomatoes and mozzerella with fresh greens. The three of us split a bottle of Rose’ and life is good. We stop by Julia’s apartment where she has a partial view of the Eiffel Tower and I help her figure out how to use the voice mail there. By now it’s too late to get to the Musee D’Orsay in time but we try anyway and are turned away at the door as the museum is about to close. Oh well – let’s check out the Eiffel Tower.
We get all the way to the Eiffel Tower and I realize that I forget my camera at Julie’s apartment. AAARGH!!! That’s the worse feeling. Especially when we’ve approached it from a local street so it appears to be rising from the buildings. Luckily Julie and Felice have to get back, so I walk back with them and grab the camera so I can return to the Tower and take pictures. I have fun taking photographs of it from all angles. I’m afraid to go up to the top, so I’m perfectly happy at the bottom. It’s bigger than I expected.
I hop a train to Notre Dame and walk the rest of the way to Place des Vosges, where I am to meet my colleague Laura and her neice Katie for dinner. After perusing various menues we settle on Cafe Hugo where I have the most amazing confit de canard served with potatoes au gratin and a vegetable stew type thing. Katie has just graduated from high school and Laura is taking her to Europe as a gift – not bad at all! We have a wonderful time watching people and after dinner we decide we need drinks – amaretto sour for me. It’s wonderful to connect with a co-worker in a foreign setting and we have a lot of laughs.
I finally get back to the apartment – and wish I could rewind everything. Not because I had such a wonderful dinner, but because everything goes wrong. I see a small roach run under the refrigerator (ew!!!!!). then as I am moving about in the bathroom, I accidentally knock the whole roll of toilet paper into the toilet. The last roll. To top it off, I attempte to pull the string on the Venition blinds, and the plastic rod holding them up snaps in half. I’m ready to scream, but hold back since it’s 2 in the morning. I stress out for a while, thinking I’m going to have to run around trying to fix them so I don’t get in trouble, blah blah, and I finally just take the whole thing off the wall (to avoid having them fall on me!) and fall asleep.
I awake on Monday – my 28th birthday – and call my boyfriend, who counsels me to have a relaxing birthday morning instead of running around. It’s better for me to tell the landlady the truth and let her worry about it, even if it means I may not get my 100 euro deposit back.
I dress up in a flowy red gypsy skirt, black sleeveless top, red necklace, red flower in my hair, red/dark pink patterned shawl (with a fringe) on my shoulders – and I feel like I should be in Madrid instead of Paris. But it’s my birthday and I’m going to dress up all day long. Besides, the weather is cooler today – the sky is overcast – which makes it much easier to get creative with clothing because I know I won’t sweat so much.
I step outside into the finally cool air and begin my birthday in Paris…