A Year In Food

From New York to Costa Rica to Europe to California: 365 Days of Dining Out

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Sept. 8.

Paris, Part One - "It is no accident that propels people like us to Paris. Paris is simply an artificial stage, a revolving stage that permits the spectator to glimpse all phases of the conflict. Of itself Paris initiates no dramas. They are begun elsewhere. Paris is simply an obstetrical instrument that tears the living embryo from the womb and puts it back in the incubator. Paris is the cradle of artificial births. Rocking here in the cradle each one slips back into his soil: one dreams back to Berlin, New York, Chicago, Vienna, Minsk. Vienna is never more Vienna than in Paris. Everything is raised to apotheosis. The cradle gives up its babes and new ones take their places. You can read here on the walls where Zola lived and Balzac and Dante and Strindberg and everybody else who was ever anything. Everyone has lived here some time or other. Nobody dies here." - Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer.

I don't believe in love at first sight. I mock the concept of soulmates. And yet when we arrived in Paris at dusk, I instantly felt an undeniable attraction to the city, a pull, a lure. I'd only been here for three days before, at age seventeen, but that hadn't stopped me from dreaming up its allures and mythologizing them. Now, with the city unfurling before me, against the twinkle of early stars and the streetlamps' citric auras, the packed rues' raucous energy, the songs spilling out of brasseries, the apartments' exquisite slopes and frets, I felt a little shocked. Paris seemed even more beautiful and exciting than the ideal I'd conjured up for it.

Our hotel, a bare one-star in the northern reaches of the dixieme arrondisement of Montmartre, added to the appeal. The room was a lonely white and only had a bidet. Both the toilette and the douche were down the dark-lit hall, with access to the shower restricted to a few hours at morning and night. Staying there, I felt more like an artist, just a poisonous bottle of scotch and an antique typewriter short of the fantasy. The location fit too, as Montmartre used to be the domain of intellectuals, writers and painters, like Picasso and Stein. Today, it maintains its interesting identity as a center for immigrants, most notably Arab and African, and students.

Eager to explore the area, Vince and I set out walking. About two hours in, I was pretty hungry so we surveyed the options still open. The kind of Asian traiteur I had tried in Nice was all over Montmartre, seemingly one or two to a street. They all had the same dumplings and noodles arranged by their entrances. The other omnipresent choice was again doner kebab, which I was more in the mood for. I went with the cutely monikered Paristanbul, where I ordered what they called un sandwich Grec avec frites. The fries were fat and rectangular like steak frites and were pretty good. The so-called Greek sandwich was also pretty good with its lively hot sauce and generous helping of veal, or "small beef" as the owner explained it. It was better than the doner in Barcelona but didn't match the exemplary ones in Granada. Still, I figured from now on I would leave doner for Berlin, where they had truly mastered it. In the meantime, I' d be better off concentrating on the manifold miracles of French cuisine in the heart of its temple.


Blogger Mona said...

hey lonesome hero. from one wahoo to another:) my bf just sent me the link to your blog.. awesome stuff! and i particularly enjoyed the take-it-away review! i just got back from homecoming weekend in cville and we were so pissed they were closed!!!

12:09 PM  

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