Day 28–Le Weekend

The gym beckoned as usual, although going at 8 makes it seem like half the day is over already. I thought I would show our route to the gym. (See photos; its very usualness makes it appealing for some reason.)

Fought off the urge for a pain chocolat on the way back and felt virtuous for it.

To do or not to do, that is the question. When you live here, even for this short time, there’s always the semi-rhetorical question, ‘What shall we do today?’ given that there’s an infinite number of new and interesting things to do or see. But if we were in Toronto, we wouldn’t necessarily “do” anything (except work, likely), so why would we here? Any, you really need some down time, along with the museums, etc. (although I suppose, that is “down time” of sorts).

We had a moules frites lunch at a place that my friends Martin and Candy first took me to 25 years ago. It’s a student-frequented, beer bar called La Gueuze, 19, rue Soufflot, just below the Panthéon. When we were first here, I chose a beer called Le Rince Cochon, basically for its amusing name. Closest I could think as translation is “hog-wash” or “pig-swill.” I still drink it almost every time we are in Paris if we are near La Gueuze. (That name must mean something like “guzzle,” I would think.) Shannon, the photos are really different this time.

After lunch, we were going to walk around the 5th arr. (really, the Latin Quarter/Sorbonne area) but, though the forecast was otherwise, it started pouring and, of course, we didn’t have our (new) umbrellas so came home and had a few hour nap to regroup.

Having cleared, of course, we went strolling around the ‘hood, not with any destination in mind, but just for the walk. Then it hailed! No matter.

About 15 years ago, I had dinner with a former CBC radio arts correspondent who was stationed in Paris and to whom I was introduced by a mutual friend as I happened to be here. She told me how difficult it was to break into Parisian society even at the acquaintance level, even for someone who spoke French fluently as she did. She described a very stratified social millieu; people who went to SciencesPo, for instance, hung around with others of that ilk.

Anyway, she chose Chez René, 14, bd. Saint-Germain for dinner, a bistro that’s been around since the late 50s, specializing in Lyonnais/Beaujolais regional cuisine. I don’t remember the food particularly well except that on the off-chance, I asked for fraises des bois for dessert, something not on the menu. (I was in Paris in late summer.) These are tiny wild strawberries, the flavour of which you don’t find in the commercially-produced ones you buy everywhere now (even here). Anyway, they had some and so, with a little crème frâiche, this was our dessert. If Proust had his madeleine moment, this was mine. I took the menu home, stuck l’addition, written in that beautiful old script, in it and had it framed. It’s been hanging in our kitchen since then.

I have been asking all the produce-sellers at the marché if they have any fraises des bois and either we are too early (likely) or one just doesn’t get them anymore. One guy told me that you don’t find them sold anywhere these days but who knows, I’ll just keep looking.

The place has hardly changed since then (although the menu itself is now common and uninteresting-looking) and I am convinced we had the same, charming waiter (possible, as he’s been there 20+ years he told us) as I had 15 years ago. Dinner was fun but the food was nothing to blog home about, pretty ordinary, en fait. Packed when we left at about 10:30. Just goes to show…what I am not quite sure.