Mostly recovered, I set out on my first serious flâne in several days, to La Butte aux Cailles southwest of Place d’Italie. This is a rather trendy area which has not yet been inundated by tourists. According to the historical marker, “This village without a church was settled by farmers, craftsmen and small businessmen, in a spirit of conviviality and liberty.” Works for me! I found it a comfortable and lively area, one of a few places in Paris that I could see making my home for a month or two on another visit.
I particularly enjoyed running across the tiny headquarters of the Friends of the Paris Commune (1871), which was founded, I was told, by the communards themselves, and so was likewise celebrating its 140th anniversary. Among the items on display was the plaque memorializing those who lost their life in the Commune, originally placed in Père Lachaise cemetary.
I was delighted to acquire from this friendly staffer my first Paris souvenir:
|(I confess that my politics are not perfectly aligned with the French left — for example, I don’t think the increase in the retirement age from 60 to 62 should be rolled back — but I identify much more strongly with the communards of 1871 than with les versaillais who massacred them 140 years ago.)|
I had planned to find a modestly-priced barber shop in a blue-collar neighborhood since I’ve been needing a haircut for a while. So where should I end up getting my hair cut but in Passy, one of the posh-est neighborhoods in the city? Oh well… At least I was able to enjoy a noisette afterwards on the patio of La Gare in La Muette — one of my favorite spots.
I was pleased with my ability to carry on fast-paced conversations en français with both the Friends of the Commune staffer and the barber. Both asked me where I was from but neither launched into English, or turned up their noses. Antoine’s ambition is to “pass” as an American when he speaks English but I will be content if I can just carry on a conversation; I’m resigned to the fact that I will never be asked what part of France I come from!
Standard meal tonight since the fishmonger boys were offering two fillets for 5 euros shortly before closing. The fillets this year have been rouget barbu, which roughly transliterates as “bearded redfish.” The actual English names for this tasty white fish aren’t terribly glamorous: “red mullet” or “striped goatfish.” I could care less what it’s called, however, so long as it provides the centerpiece of such a satisfying dinner.