Art, à la ficelle, Buttes-aux-Cailles, crêpe, crêperie, Desvouges, Eugène, galette, Jack, La Belette Qui Tête, La Méditerranée, La Petite Bretonne, meals, Musée du Luxembourg, Nabis, neighborhoods, Paris, rue Montorgueil, Rue Mouffetard, Tom
I had rented my third Airbnb for the whole month of June together with my Boston friend Jared R., with whom I had shared Paris apartments for shorter periods in 2012 and again in 2016. The original plan was for him to come for the entire month, and since we would each have a bedroom we could also host close friends who might want to stay with us. I was looking forward to his company, but unforeseen circumstances have kept him in Boston for the first two weeks. He’ll be coming on June 16, so we’ll just have to pack his Paris experience into two weeks instead of four.
For the first two weeks of June, however, I’m “on my own again!” I had extended several invitations to Boston friends, but after getting a couple of definite maybes I came up empty handed. Fortunately, I’ve had some success this year with the much-maligned but unavoidable “apps.” Yes, many sketchy people use them, but so does everyone else, the result being that you simply have to sift through an enormous number of profiles and messages to find someone with whom there is mutual attraction, and who you also would enjoy knowing. Last year, as my loyal readers may recall, I had several nice dinners with a young man who I called “Theseus” but eventually realized that his motivations were mostly monetary (he resurfaced this year and claimed that he had “changed” but I politely declined). I was determined not to make the same mistake again this year, which has required me to do even more sifting than before.
Early in May I started chatting with a Sorbonne student who I’ll call “Tom.” We had really fun and funny online interchanges, often involving French and English language and culture. Our schedules were misaligned, however, so we didn’t meet in person until Tuesday evening. I proposed meeting for a drink at a nearby place that looked cute, La Belette qui Tête (literally, “the weasel who head”, perhaps some French double entendre?). Tom was flabbergasted, since of all the gin joints in Paris I had chosen the bar he had frequented with his ex! We quickly changed plans and agreed to meet at a place along nearby rue Mouffetard. I had fallen in love with this street when I first started visiting Paris, more than fifty years ago: it’s a narrow pedestrianized market street that winds its way down from the heights of the Latin Quarter. I only broke up with the street when I discovered, and started dating, my current beau, rue Montorgueil. Although both attract a lot of tourists, rue Mouffetard has a much higher percentage of foreign tourists, who I find icky. Tom suggested dinner at La Petite Bretonne, a really nice and authentic crêperie that has somehow avoided being ruined by tourists:
One of many “fun facts” that Tom has told me is that « après-midi » (afternoon) is the only French word that can be either masculine or feminine: « bon après-midi » and « bonne après-midi » are both correct.
Update: Only on my third visit, with Jared, did I master the art of dining at La Petite Bretonne. We ordered a galette to share, then had room to order a dessert crêpe to share.
I had virtually met Jack, a Malaysian landscape architect, when I was in London last October. We weren’t able to meet in person then but we kept in touch and he messaged me that he would be flying from Paris to Japan on June 6 so there might be a chance to meet. Everything fell in place and we met for beers at the very same La Belette Qui Tête, which indeed drew a young and hip crowd. After our apéro we had a lovely meal at a nearby restaurant, Desvouges, which had one of the highest online ratings I had ever seen (5.0). We were the first to arrive, at 7:30 pm, and I was a bit concerned to have chosen an empty restaurant. I mentioned to the friendly owner/chef/waiter my hope that others would join us and he humorously agreed! But the place of course filled quickly. The meal and service lived up to the stellar rating! My only critique is that the menu was heavy on red meat and a bit thin on fish.
Jack and I weren’t sure how much wine we wanted so the host offered us a bottle à la ficelle, which he explained (in his excellent English) meant that he would charge us for what we drank. Literally, ficelle means a piece of string, and the origin of the phrase was a knotted piece of string dipped in a pitcher.
My favorite new friend, however, I will call Eugène. He is also a student at the Sorbonne, from an old family based in southwestern France. We started with coffee in my neighborhood on Sunday, leading to dinner in the nearby and charming Buttes-aux-Cailles neighborhood. The next day he invited me over for afternoon tea.
After the exhibition, Eugène and I had lunch at La Méditerranée, a seafood restaurant on the Place de l’Odéon that we had both walked by many times but had never tried. At first I had a bit of sticker shock, but then I realized that there was a reasonable fixed price menu, which we enjoyed, despite somewhat inconsistent service.