Butte Montmartre, Experimental Cocktail Club, flâneur, Lamarck-Caulaincourt, Le Jeu de l'amour et du hasard, Le Pré Verre, Marché aux Puces, meals, Sacre Coeur, Tao, Taoism, The Game of Love and Chance
Saturday’s weather was a mix of rain and sun, alternating rather frequently. We played hide and seek with the rain showers, and mostly won.
We started the day at Sacré Coeur. Whether because it was fairly early or the weather was iffy the mobs of tourists that I remembered from other visits (and that I had experienced the day before at Giverny) were mercifully absent.
Michael noticed a few people looking out from the top of the dome so we climbed it — almost completely alone — to see the view.
I then gave Michael a tour of the quieter back side of La Butte Montmartre, doing my best to duplicate the tour Antoine had given me a few weeks before. Photos of both visits are up at this link: La Butte Montmartre Photo Set This even included a close encounter with the statue of Marcel Aymé, the author of a favorite story about Le Passe-muraille, a man who could walk through walls, until he fell in love and became trapped mid-wall.
After a drink at Le Refuge, a bar with a great view of the Lamarck-Caulaincourt métro station (again thanks to Antoine’s introduction) we strolled through the northern 18eme to the Marché aux Puces at Porte de Clingancourt. This vendor is holding a 750 euro box — but he made a call and got an even better price, just 500 euros! Alas, both figures were above Michael’s budget.
I find this market fascinating, both because of the incredible quantity and variety of stuff, and the distinctiveness of the vendors. Far from tempting me, however, it makes me never want to own another knick-knack for the rest of my life!
We ate lunch at Chez Louisette, a remarkable little restaurant in the depths of one of the marketplaces. The food is unpretentious and our waiter was downright surly. The bathroom is across a public walkway in the back and the stalls require a 50 centime piece (though restaurant patrons can ask for a free token). You sit at a long table next to other patrons. But the ambiance is gemütlichkeit, evocative of a riverfront guinguette, with a two-man band and a series of quite-good singers belting out French classics.
Mostly patronized by tourists, to be sure, but it does deliver a unique experience, reminiscent of Durgin Park in Boston before it went upscale (then, in 2019, closed).
After lunch in another of the markets we ran across a wonderful Klezmer band, and here is a clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ygdfauUheLI We stayed for four or five pieces and really had to tear ourselves away.
That evening we saw a wonderful production of Marivaux’s Le Jeu de l’amour et du hasard (The Game of Love and Chance). It was at the Théâtre de Nesle in the 6eme. The performance was in a vaulted sub-basement space seating perhaps 50 people. Michael speaks no French, and I have trouble following fast-paced spoken French, but we read a plot summary in advance and gambled that a romantic farce would be pretty easy to enjoy even without getting all the words. This turned out very well since the actors and performances were terrific. I confessed afterwards that I had an ulterior motive in selecting this particular play, since the same phrase had been used in 1875 to describe the apartment I’m renting at 59, rue Saint Sauveur!
After the show we walked over to Le Pré Verre (a punning reference to the poet Jacques Prévert), an excellent, reasonably-priced restaurant in the 5eme that I had enjoyed with my nephew Andy three years ago. The restaurant was full at 9 pm but they took a reservation for 9:30 or 10. A lively-looking young man arrived at the same moment and was likewise turned away. Michael and I had a drink at a nearby café, then returned at the same moment as the young man. We asked for a table for two, and I thoughtfully invited the young man to join us. His name was Ricky and he was a 2011 college graduate on a two-month tour of Europe (to learn about wine!) before starting a job as a choreographer and dancer in New York. After a series of cautious disclosures it turned out that we were all Harvard alumni (Michael has a management degree from the Extension School). To minimize possible discomfiture I deferred mention of my involvement with the Harvard Gay & Lesbian Caucus until the latter part of the meal, after Ricky had mentioned his girlfriend, but it caused no problem and we shared email addresses before we parted.
One topic of our dinner table discussion bears mention. I had articulated my concept of the flâneur, as someone who strolls aimlessly through a city simply to observe what it has to offer, and I added the idea that it matters more what a traveler experiences along his journey than whether or not he reaches any particular destination. Ricky pointed out a resonance between these ideas and those of Taoism, and I confessed to living my life according to Taoist ideas without believing in anything mystical. Ricky dubbed me a functional Taoist, which strikes as apt.
It was now past midnight but was our day finished? Mais non! I suggested a drink at the Experimental Cocktail Club on my street, thinking — correctly — that it would afford pleasure both for my gay sensibility and for Michael’s very straight tastes. The cocktails are great, and on the whole fairly priced at 12 euros. The DJ was different from my last visit, but also very good. Most notably, people were really friendly, often striking up a conversation with me or with Michael. One reason may be that most of the patrons seemed to be foreign students, so they lacked the Parisian reserve. But for whatever reason we enjoyed the outing and stayed for a second drink. We left just before 2 am, when Parisian bars typically close, but I now gather that this one stays open even later.
Mot du jour: “coucou“. Used as a friendly and familiar way to get someone’s attention. You hear parents calling this to their children in the parks, always with a smile, and one young man sent this to me to restart an online chat.