Waking, after a good nights sleep, snuggled up in the warmth of a cosy bed, tucked away, from the chilly elements outside, is a wonderful, indulgent feeling. Better still, to remember you are on holidays, stretching, rolling over, snuggling back down, no work, no rush, no need to get up. Glorious.
This, couldn’t have been, any further from the truth. Instead, I thought I had regained consciousness, during cranial surgery.
The drilling was intense.
The renovators next door, have returned. The neighbours bathroom must back on to my bedroom, exactly at the place, where my head rests on a pillow, next to the wall.
Then I remembered. I did need to wake early. I saw a sign on the door downstairs yesterday, informing the tenants that the water would be shut off, for most of the day. No water for a shower, no water for a cup of tea. I checked and re-checked the kettle, not a drop to be found. I had missed the deadline.
I called The New Yorker, she sounded terrible, she has caught my cold. She offers her shower and a ‘cough – fee’, and to bring my own milk. I love the way she pronounces coffee. An offer of a hot shower and a hot drink, was too good to refuse.
I packed a bag; towels, essentials a jar of milk and headed out, over from the right bank, to the left, un-showered, panda eyes and hair stiff with hairspray, from the night before. So much for strutting out in style in Paris. I pushed my way through the crowds, lining up to enter the Notre Dame and wished I had worn sunglasses, despite the overcast, drizzling weather.
The blast of heat, as I entered The New Yorker’s apartment was similar to stepping out of a cold plane and onto the hot, steamy tarmac, of North Queensland. She definitely wasn’t well and needed warmth. The memory, of my back, hard up against the heater, trying to suck the warmth out of it, was still fresh in my mind.
By the time I returned to my apartment, the drilling had stopped and the water was back on. I took in a breath, puffed out my cheeks and let out a ‘puh’ in true Parisian style!
Tartare was on the menu tonight.
Tartare, is basically, raw meat or fish minced. However, this is where the basic part ends and the complexity begins.
Some but not all restaurants, will present, a selection of meats, from which you choose. The meat is either taken back to the kitchen to be minced and ingredients, such as raw egg, capers and onions are added, or they may mince and prepare, at your table. Another, and the more usual method; the freshly ground mince, a raw egg yolk, a selection of ingredients, is served and you prepare your own, tartare, to your taste and liking. Worcestershire Sauce, is generally considered, a main, and essential ingredient.
Earlier in the week, the perfect rendez-vous was arranged.
The French Historian loves tartare and I wanted to try it. He knows of a place in Montparnasse,
What could be better; in the company of a Parisian who has the knowledge and expertise of tartare, an agreement, that we would only speak French, and to explore the area of Montparnasse, which, I hadn’t yet explored.
He chose Les Tontons, which specialises in over 15 types of tartare.
From the moment we met at the metro station, The French Historian began to point out historical facts and places of interest along the way, leading me down a favourite street, a cobbled lane way.
From 1910 to the beginning of World War II, penniless artists and intellectuals, from all over the world, flocked to the area of Montparnasse, to live and be inspired. Zadkine, Picasso, Chagall, Hemingway, Dali and one of my favourites; Modigliani – only to name a few, all hung out, in this district.
Montparnasse, not only known for it’s artists and intellectuals, was immortalised by the incident and famous photograph of the train, that over ran it’s buffer, burst through the wall and onto the street below. Miraculously, only killing, one woman, from the debris, it is also home to one of the six major train stations leading out of Paris.
When I asked The French Historian if he knows about the origin, of tartare, he goes on to tell me about horse meat, kept under a saddle to tenderise it, while the riders rode on, later, they would eat it raw.
My apprehension about eating raw meat started a little earlier in the day, and now my stomach started to churn a little. He asks me, if I am sure I want to order it, with a knowing smile.
Living in a city, where refrigeration of just about everything is paramount and warnings of food hygiene is drummed into our heads, the excitement of tartare was starting to loose it’s sparkle.
I settled on salmon tartare, it was lovely, but I regretted it from the moment I tried a piece of steak tartare, from The French Historian’s plate. It was delicious, subtle, full of flavour, melt in the mouth, and his came with french fries. Mine came with beans. That is not to say, that the salmon wasn’t delicious, it was, every mouthful of it.
At some point, during our meal, I realised, we didn’t order an entrée, was I going to be hungry after this little plate of raw salmon, will I be able to order something else? My concerns were put to rest, I couldn’t eat another thing, and at some point, when I was regretting not being brave, The French Historian suggested, we could order another steak tartare, I was almost tempted.
Both of our dishes were wonderful, the restaurant itself, was a sweet typically French bar, the atmosphere was lively and relaxed and I was the only ‘tourist‘ there.
Later we explored more of Montparnasse, just as I had hoped, all the while, The French Historian pointing out theatres, crêperies, anecdotes about the area and himself. A major intersection, represents the train destinations from Montparnasse. for example; the creperie street, dedicated to Britanny.
Every arrondissement has it’s own character and style, and as I learned tonight, Montparnasse, just like anything, anywhere or anyone you think you know, has it’s own life, style and culture. It reminded me, I don’t know Paris, I have only touched the surface.
It was a wonderful night and great experience. However I have some regrets.
Four in total, and in no particular order.
I didn’t speak French, I had the perfect, patient, willing teacher.
I didn’t order steak tartare, and yet this was the reason for our dinner.
I can’t remember all of the huge amount of information, facts, history and pronunciations, the French Historian bestowed upon me, if only I could bottle it.
And, finally, that I hadn’t visited Montparnasse until now.