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It takes time to get to know yourself and what you really need. It can take time for others to get to know you. My theory is that once you know better who you really are, the opportunities to meet other like-minded people will show up…almost magically. It seems to be a law of the Universe…or maybe just the Universe I have decided to live in.
I have done a lot of work on myself and tooted around Paris the last 4 years of visits, getting aquatinted with what I feel to be a City for my Spirit. It was time to meet up with more friends this year…and test out my theory. Sometimes you don’t realize what has happened until you are down the road a piece.
Friends from both California and Paris really made this a special year. They treated me to all kinds of unexpected adventures, eating talking and otherwise.
One great evening out was with friends, Jim & Ellen, who actually live near me in Alameda, across the Bay. They made reservations for us to go to a special restaurant they had found, Mon Vieil Ami, on I’le St. Louis. So excited were they to have me experience this small restaurant which did exciting things with vegetables that they reserved before they left for Paris, a week earlier than my own arrival.
I took my time on a beautiful, warm Sunday evening to actually stroll over from my apartment, walking up and down the narrow streets of the I’le… stopping into different boutiques, and patisseries to see what was going on. I have had a great framed poster on my wall since 1999, showing this restaurant in its former life as, Le Monde des Chimeres. In the poster there is a black racing bike parked out front…very much like my first bike. I tried to find Le Monde last year, but when I could not; I just thought I had gotten the address wrong. When my friends asked me about going to this restaurant, I was in a dilemma, thinking in my heart that I really wanted to go to Le Monde. After accepting the invitation I went on line to see what I could find out about Mon Vieil Ami, and be somewhat prepared. What a great surprise…The Mon Vieil Ami owner bought the space from Le Monde back in 2002…Magic? Magique!
As I walked around I noticed many places I would like to return to another other time. I know I am not alone in liking the feel of this small island but perhaps because I live on a small island in California, it has special appeal. It really does not matter; your feelings are your feelings. I just know that it feels as though I know the place, without really knowing it…yet.
Finally meeting up with my host couple, we went in. Our 7:30 pre-made reservation seemed not to be on the books but we were graciously seated at a table right up front anyway. Our servers were charming and funny. The place was pretty full when we arrived, and all evening people were being turned away. Pretty popular place. My friends shared a venison stew with fresh vegetables, and a sauce that made them swoon. I remember the pre-dinner complimentary drink with fresh fruits and watermelon…yum. I also remember that my dessert was exceptional but my memory fades as to what was in-between. I do remember that walking back to the apartment I felt just great. I think the conversation was the “food” I needed most and that I do remember well!
On Tuesday, it was Afternoon Tea with friends Ted and Lillian Williams… back on I’le St. Louis. I had asked if they knew Boulangerie Patisserie Gabriela, on the Rue des Deux Ponts. I was surprised and delighted to find they had gone out and gotten pastries from there to go with our tea…along with some delightful lemon cookies Lillian loves. Again, there was wonderful conversation going over the history of their 17th C. Pied-a-terre and the delightful 17th &18th C. collections they have filled it with. “Food” of the best kind.
The very next day, I had the pleasure of dinner at Café Marley, in the more formal indoor section. The view of the Cour Carre at night is marvelous and the Coquilles St. Jacques I chose absolutely matched that… This was another catch-up conversation with my Parisian born amie, Mme Suzanne, and her son Jean-Marc, our translator. I thought I was bringing her birthday gift bag, only to leave with a large goodie bag myself. I also left knowing a bit more about what it was like growing up in Paris after WWII. We are working at learning each other’s languages… sometimes one frustrating word at a time. Somehow it works though.
On Thursday, it was lunch with my buddy, Terrance Gelernter, founder of Paris-Expats. He was on his Paris side of life and would be showing up in California soon. Another surprise surfaced when I arrived at the address he had given me, and it turned out to be the Paris design studio of Myra Hoeffer of 21st Arrondisement here in Healdsburg Ca. This is the same Myra I had written about right before this years visit to Paris! He treated me to lunch at Chez Janou, the bistro across the street, where I had the excellent borscht. My fish was also good, and he convinced me to at least try my brussel sprouts. The best though was the unexpected giant bowl of “all-you-can-eat” chocolate mousse! I insisted I only wanted a taste…well, you can guess how that went…I had read somewhere that this was also Myra’s bistro du coin. I can understand why.
Coming out, we were stopped by 5 young women in town from Hong Kong. They were on a treasure hunt; directed by their instructor to find certain items in the area’s shops. What absolutely amazed me was that these young women had never been to the States, yet sounded like any other teen born and raised in the Bay Area, This is a new generation of kids, and they had no audible accent, British or Asian. I listened closely but this was a linguistic surprise. Their instructor had to be good for them to be that proficient. It felt as though I were talking with people from the Borderless World that is forming in our very midst. I found it stimulating!
Next day I met up with my friend Jean-Marie in Place des Vosges. We headed over to Musee Cognacq-Jay, the home built for the owners of Sanmaritaine, Grande Magasin /Department Store. Earnest Cognacq and Marie Louise Jay (the founder of La Sanmaritaine) willed the house museum to the State. It holds an impressive collection of mostly 18th C. art, furniture, tapestries, and objets d’art. The collection of detailed paintings give you an amazing view of what people looked like and how they dressed in earlier times. This couple may have made their money selling 20th C merchandise, but their choices for what went into their private mansion, the 16th C. L’Hotel Donon, was from carefully selected time eras… not 20th C…much to my delight.
Jean- Marie had an appointment to keep, and so we left only half way through, and he treated me to dejeuner at relatively new restaurant he had recently discovered. Monjul, a short ways away, is a decidedly contemporary place to me. Fusion foods done in a very artistic manor is the best way I can describe it. I really needed something chaud, due to a very sore throat and laryngitis. In my haste, or misunderstanding the menu, I did not ask, and my soup turned out to be froid! Ah! So… on to desert, which was a delicious chocolate layered bar, with a nice scoop of sorbet on the side. The fusion part came with a caramel corn on the side of the fabulous chocolate bar, and what tasted like rice crispies underneath. Creative, I am…but not quite up to this level…Well, who knows about next year?
I am beginning to grasp that, like many people living and constantly dining in their home towns, Parisians tire of the same old thing. Jean-Marie commented on how everyone hangs out at the corner café and few were trying this new place with it’s good prices and innovative foods. Well, thought I, “new” sometimes needs to be broken in. That does not always happen overnight. As we left, a lot more people were coming in. Perhaps they overheard Jean-Marie’s comments?
Personally, since I had dropped out of the food and restaurant scene, I am now looking for more traditional things I have missed. My California psyche got stuck back in the early 80’s. Fortunately, this decade is much more about simple, fresh, even old fashion foods. I feel right in step again. However, as to Paris, I know I am shifting in and out of other eras as I gain a deeper appreciation for this City. One thing I do understand about Paris, is that if you truly feel right in this city, just keep looking for what you love. It will show up…along with a few surprises.
Jean-Marie walked me close to Cognacq-Jay, and went on to his appointment. I went back to finish my tour…”eye candy” for my soul. I was truly filled to the brim.
Sometimes we just have to keep moving on down the road of life before many of those delightful details merge…to catch up with our soul.