OH WE FORGOT TO CLIMB UP THE EIFFEL TOWER,
I squealed to my friend as we were about to leave Paris.
Never mind, he calmly assured me, this will give you good reason to return.
What I didn’t know then, on perhaps my 15th visit to Paris, on that sunny October day, was that a superstition was born and a pact between me and The Iron Lady was secured.
That was at least 10 visits ago and I still haven’t climbed to the top of the Eiffel Tower and don’t plan to do so in the near future.
It is similar to another romantic Paris ritual that I have, standing on Point Zero, to also ensure I return.
When I first arrive in Paris, I hit the ground running, never mind about 35 hour journeys and jet lag, the built up excitement and anticipation fuels my adrenaline and has me firing on all cylinders.
I ARRIVE HUNGRY.
Hungry to achieve, hungry to explore, hungry to discover, hungry to take photos and just plain hungry!
TO ENSURE I DON’T WASTE the first few days sitting in the apartment for half the day, wading through my enormous lists that would resemble a carpet runner, stretching all the way from Paris to Australia, I map out a few routes I would like to explore.
I devise walking tours, incorporating new discoveries and re-visiting favourite places. Call it too organised but I have found that this concept works for me, it kick starts me, puts me on a high and gets my creative juices flowing.
No need to think, just grab my personally designed Paris Adéle walking tour and my camera and I am out the door.
The reason I stay in an apartment is so I can visit the markets, purchase food like a local, cook when I want to, invite people for dinner if it takes my fancy and I can have a hearty breakfast before heading out.
Why is it then, that my fridge basically remained void of food for my entire stay this year?
Perhaps because I headed out to the the Loire Valley the day after I arrived and then with the stolen bag incident, it put me out of kilter.
Don’t fear, I didn’t go hungry, if anything, I over ate.
Generally after a week or so, I calm down and find my rhythm, my Paris rhythm.
This is when I start scanning my lists and cherry picking what appeals to me at the time, or matches my mood.
It is not a plan more like a pattern that seems to emerge and take on a life of it’s own. By the time I get to the last week, I am flat out like a lizard drinking, panicking that there is still so much to do and so little time left, until I resign myself to the fact that I now have another good reason to return to Paris.
Then there is the unexpected.
A tip from a Parisian, an exhibition I didn’t know about, a chance meeting and dinner at Jim’s generally eventuates in new found friends.
After this point, there is no time for plans but to simply go with the flow and this is how the day panned out.
For those of you who have been following my blog for a while, you may remember my mate, the charming French Historian.
Since meeting him at Jim’s a few years back we have stayed in contact and try to manage to meet up a couple of times while I am in Paris.
After my big day yesterday and shaking my tail feather on the dance floor to the wee hours of the morning, it left me feeling a little worse for wear.
If I had been at home I probably would have opted for a day of mooching about my house and watching movies but I was in Paris and time waits for no man or Paris Adéle for that matter. I couldn’t possibly waste one of my few remaining days but what to do. The question hurt my tiny brain and all I could think about was a hearty meal.
Yoghurt and yesterdays rock hard baguette, that would have required a chain saw to slice through it was not my idea of good French food.
The sound of the text message going off on my mobile phone nearly sent me through the roof, it was the French Historian. What are you up to today he asks. I have no answer, all I could think of was food, what about brunch, he couldn’t make it that quickly and that was probably a good thing, it would take some work before I could strut my stuff on the boulevards, so lunch it was.
This is when my lists come in handy. I have a string of cafés, restaurants and bars still to be explored, all anally divided into arrondissements. Today, I was grateful for this type of organisation. I didn’t need to put my brain through anymore trauma. The French Historian trusts my choice and we meet at the metro.
If I am nursing a hangover and I am hungry, this can be a lethal combination, unless I can eat good food. Give me bad food and all hell can break loose. Give me a hard egg when I order a soft one and you might literally end up with egg on your face.
The area of Les Halles, in the 1st arrondissement was once home to a large central wholesale market, dating back to 1183. Local industry developed accordingly, especially cafés and restaurants to serve the tired, hungry merchants.
Since 1977 when the markets were moved out of Paris and the hungry merchants with it, this saw a decline in the once bustling cafés that had served them. Some adjusted their businesses and catered for tourists instead of merchants but unfortunately some had to close their doors. This resulted in a change of atmosphere and a change in the market café’s culture.
Although the French Historian does trust my judgement and he does mention from time to time; I fear sometimes you may know my Paris better than me, he admitted that at first he was a little weary of my choice.
Cochon a l’Oreille didn’t look like it was doing a roaring trade from the outside, which made us nervous. Being a family run café, we feared it may be closed on the weekends.
We tried the door and were greeted with a warm cheery welcome and asked where we would like to sit.
The choice wasn’t abundant. The cosy, tiny café offered a mere 6-8 tables and most were taken. We decided and the owner whipped out a table to allow me to sit on the bench seating, bundled up our coats and belongings, placing them carefully on a small mosaic covered table beside us and we settled in.
Stick with me kid and I will take you places, I bragged to The French Historian.
It was then, that he divulged his weariness and confusion on my choice. Whether I spelt it incorrectly or auto correct did it for me, I had mistakenly but unbeknownst to me, invited him to eat in a hospital, it was then, he checked with his father.
His father who had worked in the area for most of his working life, was familiar with the tiny, quaint café and praised it.
A very small blackboard menu was placed on our table and we both decided on steak and some red wine, hair of the dog.
Whilst admiring the spiral staircase, zinc bar and ceramic tiles depicting the old markets, we both beamed, the ancient café had an equally lovely warm feel about it as did the proprietor.
To confirm our thoughts, a young Dutch couple arrived and had no French but English.
Who speaks English, Madame asks her regular diners. Between them they managed to translate the menu for her guests.
The French Historian could have helped out but I think he enjoyed watching the playful way in which she and her diners went about coming up with the English for chestnuts and making swimming motions to describe the fish. All the while, with her arm fondly, draped across the young man’s shoulder.
We had definitely made the right choice. The atmosphere was welcoming and the food was lovely.
I get so excited when I find little gems of places like Cochon a l”Oreille, tucked away, into the most unlikely places in Paris.
It was nice to see, that despite the upheaval of the area, Le Cochon l’Oreille had managed to keep it’s charm over the years.
After lunch we strolled around to the Les Halles area. The French Historian wanted to see how the re-development of the massive undergound mall was progressing, where once the ancient central market place stood.
I easily managed to entice The French Historian, for just a few moments, to enter Saint Eustache, where Mozart’s mother’s funeral was held and Madame de Pompadour was married. My motivation was to show him the columns that are adorned with fruit and vegetables.
Once, upon a time ago, baskets of fish that were sold in the nearby, but now defunct markets, were taxed in order to fund the building of the gothic church, we were admiring.
It was time to part ways. I waved goodbye to The French Historian as he left on the bus and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself So I simply wandered, until eventually, I found myself back at the apartment.
Feeling a bit tired and flat, I was unsure of what to do next, I didn’t have the motivation to start pouring over lists, whatever I haven’t managed to do will need to wait until next year now but I would be needing dinner within the next couple of hours.
It was probable that I would end up at my favourite bar but Saturday nights the tiny café can get over crowded. Then, like magic, an email came through, it was Jim Haynes, inviting me out to dinner.
I managed to go to Jim’s famous Sunday night dinners every Sunday since I arrived, which is not unusual. After my bag had been stolen, Jim insisted that I wasn’t to pay for dinners at his home. for my entire trip. This included his New Year’s Eve party. This was so generous of him and completely unnecessary and unexpected. Now to top it off, he wanted to take me out to dinner also, his treat he said.
The 1km stroll over to the left bank was pleasant and Jim was already munching on some salsa and chips in the Mexican restaurant he had chosen when I arrived.
He has known the owners for years. Sometimes I wonder if there is anyone that Jim doesn’t know but I guess after living in Paris for over 35 years, it is understandable.
During our introductions, he tells them; she had her bag stolen you know, her new camera, everything, gone.
Dear Jim had been telling anyone and everyone who would listen since the incident and in his own kind way, was trying to make up for my loss. Bless him.
Jim knowingly booked and rightly so, Fajitas was packed. Taking his expert advice on what to order, my first non French meal, since arriving in Paris was delicious.
Strolling through the left bank we came across a jazz bar and decided to have a nightcap before parting ways. Refusing his offer to put me in a cab, I wanted to walk.
There is a certain type of serenity about the city in the evenings, after Paris lights up her ancient, iconic buildings and landmarks.
Harried commuters transform into relaxed strollers and the bulk of tourists are tucked away in restaurants and bars.
This makes promenading the quiet streets, pausing on bridges and gazing down the river, delectable.
With it comes emotions that once laid dormant, erupting and bursting to the surface.
Like a rose blooming on time lapse film, each petal, gently unfolding, nourishing my soul, filling me with love for the city, seeping into my very being, sprinkling my skin with goosebumps and breathing life back into me.
Forever hungry, like an old dried sponge, I soak it up, absorbing every last drop that Paris has to offer.
Pausing on Point Zero, in the very heart of Paris, taking in a long deep breath, I gazed up at the Notre Dame, before heading back to the right bank.
Le Cochon a l’Oreille 15 Rue Montmartre Paris 75001 Nearest Metro: Les Halles, Étienne Marcel, Sentier Fajitas Mexican Restaurant – official website in English 15 Rue Dauphine Paris 75006 Tuesday – Saturday 12noon till 11pm Closed Sundays and Mondays. English menus available Nearest Metro: Saint-Michel, Pont Neuf Jim Haynes Sunday Dinners – Official website in English Jim Haynes Sunday Dinners – information and photos – Paris Adele webpage After Eight TV commercial based on Jim’s Sunday Night Dinners