Nope, it isn’t any of that stuff, that is what I love about Paris.
This is what I don’t like about Paris.
I never look forward to it, in fact I dread it, I get emotional and anxious. I don’t like to think about it or talk about it.
My last day in Paris. There, I said it. That is what I don’t like about Paris,
my last day and leaving.
‘All Good Things Must Come to an End’ – I detest this saying, why should all good things come to an end? Why?
Normally I start packing up early, a little bit here and there, so I don’t have to waste valuable time on my last day.
A late night, a couple of days ago, I got home from dinner and basically threw everything in the case. The next morning, looking at everything piled in my case in an unruly manner made me realise that this was not going to work, I couldn’t shut the case!
What to do on the last day is always a challenge. This year there was a multitude of things I didn’t achieve and not because I was too ambitious with my planning (well, perhaps maybe a little) but dealing with burly plumbers, a broken toe, apartment moves, internet issues, all stole from me, valuable time.
I am not the kind of girl who sets out to shop. If I do, mistakes are normally made, I prefer to be seduced by a well done display. Something catches my eye and voila, I am strutting out of the store with my new purchase.
Today I broke my rules. I hadn’t stepped my broken toe into Galleries Lafayette since I arrived. For the first time, in the past five years, I missed viewing and photographing the giant Christmas tree that they install under the giant stained glass dome.
Wanting to buy a gift for a friend who kindly agreed to pick me up from the airport and help me with my bag, was my excuse to go shopping. It’s true, really, but when in Rome, or Galleries Lafayette, what is a girl to do, I ask you?
This is how it started out.
A little in-flight, I mean in-metro entertainment to get me in the mood along the way.
But, I couldn’t seem to get in the mood. I really wanted to be at The Grand Palais, viewing the Niki de St Phalle retrospective, but I had missed my chance. The gallery was closed today, my last day in Paris.
I tried on that white dress twice, from one of my favourite French brands, American Retro, I loved it, it suited me – I didn’t buy it.
See those signs, 70% off.
This is not a joke, this is a genuine sale, or soldes as the French say. For some reason I hesitated. I just couldn’t get in the mood.
Trying to find a gift for my friend was equally as difficult.
It was my melancholy state. I didn’t want to leave Paris and not even 70% off, could get me out of my funk.
Maybe some fresh air would do me good, and I climbed to the rooftop for a free view of Paris.
Maybe the air isn’t so fresh after all. I wasn’t sure if that was smog or mist but seeing the Notre Dame and the Pompidou Centre in the distance, only made me even more miserable.
Take a good look I thought to myself, this is the last time you will be seeing this for another year.
No, not a year, a year is twelve months, I only have eleven months to wait, I tried to console myself.
Maybe a bite to eat, or a glass of champagne at the champagne bar. None of this was working and my foot was beginning to throb.
But somehow, hours passed, I did manage to buy my friend a beautiful scarf, which I hope I will have the willpower to give her and not keep for myself.
And, a cashmere jumper or cardigan, well both or two!
A Parisian girl isn’t worth her salt, unless she has a fine collection of cashmere jumpers. I remember reading that somewhere once, and I am a believer.
A couple of sweet little tops with shoe string straps reminded me that a new bra was in order. If you are going to see bra straps, they had better be pretty ones. With that, I took myself over to the lingerie section.
A few years back I had a wonderful bra shopping experience in Galleries Lafayette.
A petit woman, patiently waited for me to struggle with my French.
I now know that a bra is un soutien-gorge. I tend to remember this word with a giggle, because I think of a gorge – a narrow valley running between two hills, but back then I didn’t know the word.
What I did manage to tell her was; ‘I would like something like this, as I pointed to a lacy bra, but I have a problem, I tell her as she patiently listens, I am small here, I point to my back but big here and cup my breasts’. She smiles and tells me she understands and asks what colour I would like.
Phew! That was exhausting but she came back with a beautiful bra that fitted me like a glove, perfectly separating my hills with a gorge.
The perfect soutien-gorge.
After the transaction was completed, all in French, bad French but all the same in French. She came around to the other side of the counter, as the French often do and handed me my bra, all neatly wrapped in tissue paper and for the first time, in English, says to me; well done, keep up practicing your French, you did well.
You can imagine how I felt, I floated out of Galleries Lafayette on a cloud, wearing the biggest smile on my face that was possible.
I find the Chantelle stand, safe in the knowledge that they make bras for women like me and they have a collection on sale.
Taking three bras to the changing room had me disappointed, none of them fitted properly or had the look I was after, I beckoned the assistant into my cubicle and she sees the problem and promptly comes back with a bra the colour of a peacock, although I wanted black.
Bra shopping has always been an arduous exercise for me and it has not been unusual for me to leave a shop in a not so good mood after an assistant, insisting that if I take a larger size all will be fine. They are wrong if the cup size isn’t right, it simply isn’t right, a larger back size achieves nothing.
She smiles, it looks beautiful she tells me in her patient, gentle manner. Could this possibly be the same woman from a few years back? She is right, I would have never picked that colour but it was beautiful, just like a peacock.
She shows me another, slightly more sensible but pretty all the same. This one does come in black also, but it is not on sale, she tells me.
Rather than put myself through the task of having to soutien-gorge shop again at a later date, I decide to take all three!
Did I say I didn’t buy anything or wasn’t in the mood? Something shifted. Perhaps it was the charming assistants approach.
By this stage, I am certain that she is the same petit patient lady who helped me a few years back and I tell her of my last experience and how kind she was to me.
She begins to carefully wrap my bras in tissue paper but all of a sudden, without notice, she instructs her colleague to take over and she is off, couldn’t see her for dust.
Strange. Maybe she was late for her break, I did take up a lot of her time, the sales are on and she was busy.
Handing my credit card over to the woman, who seems to be taking much longer than necessary to finish wrapping the soutien-gorges, she stammers in English; please wait, and serves another customer, very odd but I wait.
I’m not in a rush, I still have time to get back to the apartment and find space for my shopping in the haphazardly packed suitcase before dinner. My last dinner in Paris.
Flustered, Miss Patient Petit Soutien-Gorge Saleswoman Extra-Ordinaire comes running across the lingerie section of Galleries Lafayette towards me.
Almost out of breath, she hands me a box, I have a gift for you, thank you for waiting.
She must have ran down to the basement to their storage supplies. It is just something small, she adds, a scented candle, a gift for you to remember Chantelle.
Seriously, where has this woman been all my bra wearing life! Ever since I turned sixteen, I have dreaded bra shopping.
Let it be noted, I will never buy another bra again, unless I am aided by Miss Patient Petit Soutien-Gorge Saleswoman Extra-Ordinaire and that, is final!
Racing back to the apartment, I needed to pack my shopping and get the apartment sorted, ready for tomorrows early morning departure.
Dinner with Julien was on the menu.
Some people would probably prefer to watch paint dry or have a wisdom tooth pulled, than to watch Julien and I go through a restaurant selection together.
However, we both love it.
It is important to both of us that each other is satisfied with the outcome, and that means the location, price, atmosphere and of course, the food.
Julien graciously puts up with me always insisting on French food but overall, we both aim for the same things in a restaurant and maybe that is part of the reason that we get on so well.
Before Julien arrives to my apartment, I trawl through my ever growing list of restaurants that I would like to try. The initial choice is up to me and after that, we will narrow it down together.
Over the years, I have complied a list of restaurants, cafés and bars that I would like to discover but way too many to ever get through in one visit. It has become increasingly long as I continue to add to it, all filed away by arrondissement.
This may sound anal, but I continually find it to be useful and makes for a quick and easy selection at times like these.
I scan through my list, favouring those that are within approximately a 1km radius, so we can walk and enjoy each other’s company before arriving at the restaurant and no need for metros.
Some that I have chosen, I know are either too expensive or too fancy for us but I have them ready. Websites, where available ready to browse, peruse and evaluate.
My secret wish is a tiny place on the island of Saint-Louis.
I feel sad when he arrives.
He enters my apartment with his usual big smiling face. As he untangles his scarf from his neck, he offers his cold cheeks for a kiss on either side and makes himself comfortable. It feels normal, natural, relaxed, familiar and bitter sweet. I will miss him.
He doesn’t allow me any more time for melancholy. Show me your list, he tells me.
Excitedly, I shrug off my sadness, there is plenty of time for that later, and animatedly launch into my reasons for my choices.
He hovers over my restaurant of choice. I would really like to go to this one, I say a bit coyly with an impish smile but we are late, it was already 8pm, they may close early or maybe booked out.
He phones them on my lime green phone and after he hangs up, he smiles at me adding; he sounds nice, I have a good feeling about this place.
Oh goodie! My spirit had lifted and my last night in Paris blues, had dulled, for the time being.
A group of 8, sitting at a large table near the entrance of the very small restaurant, made me fear the worst.
Dreading a loud bunch of tourists, I began preparing myself to ask Julien if we can leave. However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was a table of young Parisians and I learned very quickly, that I was the odd girl out.
I was the only tourist.
Entering any establishment in Paris is always greeted with a bright and cheery Bonjour or in our case, it should have been a Bonsoir, given the time of night.
Forever keen for people to get the most out of their trip to Paris, especially first timers, my advice is always to never forget to announce your arrival, acknowledge that simple Bonjour or Bonsoir. It is extremely rude not to do so and no matter how bad your pronunciation is, and no matter how awkward you feel, it will be kindly observed that you made an effort.
We hovered near the doorway, waiting for our greeting … nothing.
Remember, I warn Julien, it is small. Now hoping that he will not change his mind and want to leave.
One man runs the restaurant on his own, he does everything.
We wait a bit longer, waiting for that familiar Bonsoir and to be shown to a table.
But we can see a man busily cooking up a storm in the kitchen out the back.
Bravely, I crouch down, so that he can see me and call out a cheery; Bonsoir Monsieur!
Now everyone will know that I am a tourist, they can sniff out that bad accent a mile off.
He spins around with a big smile and gestures for us to sit down, he will be out, tout de suite!
I smile at Julien, willing him to love the restaurant we had just entered, because all of a sudden, I already did.
Was it because I had read about this man, running the whole show on his own? Was it because it was my last night in Paris, my last dinner with Julien and I wanted everything to be pleasant?
We need to be mindful that he can’t do everything, I offer to Julien for good measure. Julien remembered what I had told him about one man running the restaurant on his own and I had no reason for concern, the smile on Julien’s face told me that he already liked the place too and we seated ourselves down.
With this in mind, we patiently waited until he, the One Man Show attended to us.
Observing him tend to his small group of patrons with such warmth and pride as he presented each dish to them, cheered our hearts.
We hadn’t ordered, we hadn’t tried the food, yet we were already in love with this tiny little Auberge on the Isle Saint-Louis.
My guess is that I have you confused, you are not sure where this will go.
Was it good, was it bad?
The slightly shy, One Man Show man arrived at our table. We were disappointed to learn that the entrée of foie gras had sold out, which was our choice. This also meant that the steak with foie gras was also out of the question. Given that it is a small restaurant and that he had a table of eight and that we were late, this was our bad luck.
Normally opting to try different dishes to one another, which gives us the opportunity to sample more, strangely, this evening, we decided upon the same dish.
With a gentle, shy nod and a smile, he takes the worn ‘white board’ menus from our hands and he is off into the kitchen to prepare our meals, on his own.
Although Julien and I would have normally talked about something else, if we were some place else, the entire concept of one man, running a tiny restaurant on his own had us fascinated.
How much will be pre-prepared we ask one another, what inspired him to do this, how long has he been doing this for, it must be stressful, yet he doesn’t seem stressed, in fact he looks like he is totally enjoying it, it is like being in someone’s home for a big dinner party. Imagine having to cook for this many people, how does he do it when he has a full restaurant, and that is how our conversation went while we waited for our entrée, which wasn’t our entrée of choice.
I don’t think I understood the description on the menu properly, for some reason I thought I was getting something cheesy, perhaps served in a ramekin.
The One Man Show very quietly and proudly presented us with our entrées. A salad.
For the uninitiated, a salad is a very normal and a popular entrée, the French adore their salads, but this is not what I was expecting, despite having a translator, in my good friend sitting opposite me. However, the salad you see above was our entrée.
What appeared to be a big slab of smoked salmon on some lettuce leaves, proved to be so much more. I am still wondering how I can replicate the recipe!
Creamy thick slices of roasted eggplant/aubergine was the base, thin, fluffy lettuce leaves was the next layer and a generous slice of smoke salmon, topped with freshly shaved parmesan cheese. But it was the dressing that pulled it all together. We wracked our brains, pulled it apart but we couldn’t work out the One Man Show’s secret recipe.
We were more than pleasantly surprised that a subtle unassuming dish would knock our socks off!
The main was good but I think that the unassuming salad had lifted the bar much higher than we expected.
To say we were disappointed in the main would be too harsh, we enjoyed it, however, watching people munch away on perfectly cooked steaks, topped with foie gras made us feel slightly jealous and wished we had arrived a little bit earlier.
Julien cannot have a meal without cheese.
If he wants to dispute this, let us see if he comes on to my Paris Adèle website and tells us differently. Otherwise, I stand by my claim. Julien cannot have a meal without cheese. Of course I am being provocative, maybe it is my new bras!
Although I like to eat and can pack away a fair amount of food for my size, and have probably eaten way too much this year, in Paris, given the lack of walking I was unable to do, due to my broken toe, two courses is more than ample for me.
Most restaurants offer the choice of a two or three course ‘menu’, which means a special price to choose from their selection of entrées and mains or main and dessert, or all three courses, or …. if you decided to have cheese and dessert …. four courses.
This is what we had.
Julien needs his cheese, I love cheese and prefer it to dessert, but we had both.
Just in case you are unaware, cheese is taken before dessert.
Which therefore means, if you fill up on too much cheese and you are a dessert lover, good luck with a bloated tummy and I hope that you have an elasticised waistband.
The cheese plate was lovely and both Julien and I were happy.
But we had also ordered a crème brûlée … to share, of course!
Please let me explain myself here, or perhaps justify.
I know that I said I am not a dessert eater but to watch the One Man Show appear with a piping hot, round flat iron on a long stick and smoke it down onto other patron’s crème brûlées had me intrigued.
I guess I could have watched from a far, but it was my last night in Paris and I wanted to see the piping hot flat iron come to my table in the hands of the charming but slight shy, One Man Show man.
Crème brûlée, it was, crème brûlée we had!
Do I have yet another crush on a restaurant owner? In particular the One Man Show man? Maybe. However, I think it was the way in which he served his customers with so much unflappable pride, the way that he casually presented his meals made with love that had not only me, but also Julien bewitched by this man, the One Man Show man.
Full to the brim and a school night, Julien kindly offered to have a nightcap at my favourite bar in Paris; Au Petit Fer a Cheval.
Last year saying goodbye to Julien was not easy but this year was even more difficult.
We stood outside the bar for what seemed a short time and yet an eternity, hanging on to those last moments.
He had to work tomorrow and I had an early start – unlike last year, we embraced, with a warm generous hug. I will miss you I told him and I will miss you too – although this made me happy it brought back my sadness.
I didn’t want to leave Julien and Paris behind.
Taking the very short walk home, I felt the urge to run around the now quiet streets of the city and suck the life out of it.
I could hear singing in the distance, an operatic voice.
Standing on the street, outside of a bar, with a simple stool in the doorway that warned the bar was closed, inside I saw a privileged few listening to a man singing his lungs out to nessun dorma.
Was he a visiting opera singer?
Probably, they saw me standing there, watching from the outside in, and the small privileged group broke into a hearty round of applause as he finished his aria.
I smiled, shook my head and thought to myself, yes this is Paris and I am going to miss you.
*I don’t always like to share tiny little gems like Auberge des Deux Ponts, in fear that it may be over-run with tourists, but who am I kidding. I don’t even have a follow button on my blog, so goodness knows how many people even stumble across my rantings.
The sign in the window read; that if you are not satisfied to let him know and if you do like it to share – so here you are, I am sharing this tiny little hideaway on Isle Saint Louis, where the One Man Show man, greets his guests, takes the orders and then cooks and delivers to your table with a smile. Remember to be patient, he has a lot on his plate and I would recommend that you book, it is small.
Paris Adèle’s Information NecessaireGalleries Lafayette – official website
40, Boulevard Haussmann
Monday – Saturday 9.30am – 8pm
Thursdays 9.30am – 9.00pm
Chaussee d’Antin-La Fayette
Chantelle Lingerie – official on-line shop
Auberge des Deux Ponts
7, Rue des Deux Ponts (Ile Saint-Louis)
Phone: (33) 01 46 34 29 33
no website available
Menus from: 15 euros
Tuesday – Sunday 11.30am – 11.30pm
Pont Marie & Sully-Morland