Tuesday, 26 June 2012

NINTH WEEK - Dinners and Musique

Earlier this week was the ‘fete de la musique’ here in Paris and I think all over France.  For one day, very open space in the city becomes a stage and bands play in (almost) every bar, anywhere they can fit an amp, basically.  The streets hum with the energy of the crowds, the metro runs til the wee small hours of the morning and everyone’s having fun.  We set off with a bottle of cheap plonk and stumbled home many hours later with our ears ringing and idiot grins plastered to our faces.  We saw some great music – there’s something about the French language that just goes so well with poprock!

As we stopped at the park outside our place to pick a few vibrant pink flowers we saw our friend the rabbit sitting in the middle of the park, ears rigidly attentive to the sound of predators – or perhaps the last strains of the last bands playing in the night (a silver-haired Joy Division cover band down the road, very good).  It was reassuring to see this little bunny still hopping despite all the threats to it.
We had some very nice dinners this week.  My uncle and aunt were visiting briefly and they invited us to dine with them.  We met them at their apartement. Oh, what a pad!  A wonderful, high-ceilinged chamber completely covered in dark, ancient wood panelling, dating from some time in the 16th century.  The wonderfully worn parquet floor sloped severely, in the way that only copious amounts of history can achieve, and though it gave the slight feeling that you were sitting in the cabin of an old ship, it also meant there was no danger of falling out the window.  The floor-to-ceiling windows looked out over the Seine and the Pont Neuf.  A glorious location.  The shelves were thick with leather-bound tomes (‘books’ doesn’t do them justice). The ornate pink marble fireplace sported a golden Rococco clock.  You could almost hear the witty conversations of the wig-wearing aristocrats who must once’ve lived here.   AT the same time, all this sumptuousity was neatly counter-balanced by the one broken knife in the kitchen cupboard and the grimey white plastic of the electric kettle.  Yes, this apartement made an impression.
We walked to a nearby restaurant, a deliciously French place, seemingly unchanged since it was opened in 1930.  A narrow dining area filled with tables of Americans, stiffly starched waiters waiting nonchalantly – delivering the wrong dish, removing the cutlery before the meal and even spilling the expensive wine, but never with the slightest whiff of concern.  It was great.  I had snails and frogs’ legs for the first time since toddlerhood, a delicious garden feast so thick with garlic I need never again fear vampires.  Yum.
  And later, another dinner with our wonderful neighbour Arezki.  This time, his tiny apartement was crowded with two Japanese dogs – his own lovely, ancient and slightly bedraggled Mina and a vivacious young puppy, whose lusturous mane was not quite matched by his name of ‘Donga’ .  The dog had been given to Arezki by a friend to sell; he seems to know everyone in the area, and to do odd jobs for them.  The table was piled with salmon, the wine flowed, more delicious couscous, another feast.  The host popped out and we sat there at the table with the dogs, not quite knowing what to do, the telly softly spurting out Chef Ramsey recipes dubbed in French.  Another friend arrived and more broken French but we feel as though we’re understanding a little more now.
 We walked home in the gentle drizzle, surrounded by the ornate Art Nouveau apartement blocks and the lush green foliage of the gardens, listening to our neighbours chat quietly in their beautiful, and still exotic, language.
And now for something completely different.

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