I’ve been eagerly trying to write and submit this entry in this month’s #MWWC12 in spite of the distractions that abound. Work, deadlines, crying babies (not mine, the neighbors, they break my train of thought,) wine club pick-up parties, unexpected houseguests (aka ant infestation,) in-laws, parents, clergy, it’s so darn busy these days trying to make a buck and then you bonk your head “I shoulda written that post for the MWWC!”
But never fear! There isn’t a deadline that a little caffeine, spousal abandonment and chutzpah can’t conquer! Here goes….
The theme: Local. The place: Paris. The era: 2014, during the war on terror, Ebola outbreaks, overly bearded men and babies on iPads.
I’ve just strolled the Jardin des Tuileries adjacent to the Louvre, when I was nearly accosted by a band of gypsy girls asking if I spoke English. “Why yes! I thought you’d never ask!” By the auspices of lady liberté Marianne, a Parisian woman appeared on what looked like her daily stroll. Middle aged, simply chic, a touch snooty, she pulled her Alain Mikli glasses down to the tip of her nose, shook her finger vigorously at me from a distance signaling “Non.”
If it were not for the kind disdain of this local Parisienne, those gypsy kids would be selling my passport on the steps of the Cligoncourt Metro station and using my lip gloss. I grabbed my bag, checked my pockets, downed my glass of park regulation wine (red something I bought at a kiosk) and shooed the gang of nefarious tweens away! Allez! Allez!
Tragedy averted. Merci beaucoup Madame.
As the park was feeling rather tainted with the rouse of wayward youth, I then decided to stroll along the Rue de Rivoli. I was enjoying the crowds of “fashion people” sartorially posturing and desperately being au courant outside the show tents. Emaciated and fabulous, the very sight of them triggered hunger pangs. I had the altruistic need to eat copiously for these people so they can continue to parade along the Rue du Faubourg free of shame for I have taken it upon myself to eat for them. Shop, shop, shop and pile on the bags and bags of luxury labels that you will eagerly tuck away in the trunks of your Bentlys, Aston Martins and Ferraris.
Before you could say “LaDuree Macaron” I was fortunate to land my generous behind on a bench inside a Tabac on Rue St. Honoré. I wanted to have a cigarette. Please don’t hold it against me – I know the dangers, I know the grave impact on others around me, I’ve seen the cancerous lung matter from a corpse of a smoker on the outside of cigarette cartons. For the love of God, I live in CA where you can legally be shackled in the town square, beat with sticks of patchouli incense and fronds of kale while your flogger inhales biodynamic cannibus thought a cruelty free humidifier while eating gluten free brownies – and all that for smoking within 10 meters of a bar, outside – harrowing!
A ciggy and a glass of spirits are made for each other and where better than Spain or Italy can you imbibe+smoke? France! But alas, not inside the tabac – Mon Dieu! All the romance of café societé, writing, drinking and smoking simultaneously was lost in a Hemingwayian Fitzgeraldesque dream as a result of some overzealous legislation by some health nuts – geez I might as well be in San Francisco.
The proprietor of the tabac saw the tears welling up in my eyes, so she consoled me by saying, “Ok, I shall move this table to the street for you where you can smoke, what will you have to drink?” Like a child given a red balloon, I was elated at the thought of acting like a local, sitting at a cafe, drinking, eating and tittering at the fashionistas and ogling the motorcycle boys. Yippee!
Can you guess the nationality? Hint: one of them is a local, the others Italian, Japanese & Americans
I was soon with beer in hand (I enjoy an Amstel light on occasion when not chugging cheap wine or sipping Mezcal) and chomping on crisps, smoking the skinniest cigarettes I’ve ever seen. I smoke “rarely” so I didn’t want to get carried away and get sick in the street with all the other British nationals visiting for the weekend. Those Brits know how to paaaaaar-teeeee! Whooohoooo. (see below, low, low, low)
I had front row at the Rue St. Honoré Spring Summer 2015 fashion show and the constant throng of the world fashion elite and not so elite was barreling down my sidewalk runway past my table urgently to their next show, after party, photo shoot, meet and greet, celebrity sighting. I was perfectly happy snapping pics drinking beer smoking and eating more calories in one sitting than any of then will have for days….I was content.
The sidewalk catwalk:
One cultural benefit to being a lady traveling alone in France is if you are seated by yourself in a respectable establishment someone will feel sorry for you and buy you a drink – possibly a man, woman, child, poodle – it will occur as long as you are humble, amiable, not too dour and semi-pensive. I suspect it is beyond comprehension for the French to see someone eating and drinking alone. It elicits painful, sad emotions with the surrounding patrons – make it stop – buy her a drink and parlons already!
Sure enough, a gentleman swooped by, snatched my iPhone and took pictures of me without my consent but I went with it as he was charming and not a gypsy youth. He then insisted on buying me a beer and chatting to me. His English was as comprehensive as my French, and this led to a quick end to our deep conversation. But I could express my gratitude with “merci beaucoup” and all was good that eve with Franco-American relations – diplomacy at the Tabac – enchanté mes amis!
My hotel was a few blocks away and I promised to return. The proprietor Cyril and his wife, both young, very attractive, friendly locals, happily welcomed me back and gave me a card. Sadly, my next day was filled with other local adventures and cut short by an early night to catch an even earlier train to Reims. Fortunately for this digital age, I was able to connect with them on Facebook and one day plan on returning to the neighborhood to reclaim my front row seat, glass in hand.