samedi, mai 29, 2004

Jottings from Paris

Sipping Veuve Cliquot with charming and witty friends on the grass of the Champ de Mars overlooking the Eiffel Tower is a perfectly sublime way to pass a sunny May afternoon. Having repeated the experience with a different champagne, a different park and view, and another friend no less charming and witty, I can definitely say that this risks becoming a favorite past time of mine. I never really thought a picnic basket would be a thing of use in Paris, but I am now slightly regretting having put mine up for sale in the yard sale last December...

If at all possible, do try to avoid going to an exclusive, tasting menu only restaurant where reservations must be made three months in advance, in the the full throes of a head cold. You will not be able to taste a thing, and this will make you feel a million times worse. Take the starter, a green pea mousse with a cream topping served in a delicate glass and tiny spoon, which you are advised to plunge into all layers to get the full array of flavors. It will taste like, and please pardon the image here, nasal congestion. The lovely pale champagne, whose bubbles will barely penetrate your stuffed head, will taste like, yes, slightly bitter head congestion. You will cry out with delight when the crab and lobster millefeuille with paper thin slices of avocado manage to awaken your dulled tastebuds, but you will curse Willie the janitor who infected you when you cannot perceive the slightest flavor of the mysterious white wine chosen for you by the arrestingly handsome waiter, which you still, in your stubborness insist is Viognier, despite not being able to taste much more than, you guessed it, nasal congestion. It will be a bittersweet experience, sort of like going to an opera in Vienna and not being able to hear a note. But you promise yourself to try again, and take your vitamins religiously for weeks leading up to the day of the hard won reservation. And this time you'll split the bill.

Is there any way to truly thank someone who has helped you beyond what you ever imagined possible? How do you thank a guardian angel? Is it enough to simply try to deserve them? Chocolates from the Rue de Rennes seem not quite up to the task...

Mint juleps are indeed a pain to make in Paris, especially if you insist on using a stainless steel contraption that will only crush a total of 5 ice cubes at a time, which will then immediately melt upon contact with straight Kentucky bourbon. But if your suggestion of a dishtowel and a hammer have fallen on deaf ears attached to an Austrian head determined to use a German engineered stainless steel contraption, you must conjure up your Southern gentility and smile it away. You will then, days later, amusedly watch a thoroughly Parisian bartender in the most Parisian of cafe bars whip up a perfectly delightful mint julep in the space of three seconds, complete with mint spring, and chuckle to yourself at how you, and others, can complicate things unnecessarily.

While Paris may indeed truly deserve its reputation for coldness and indifference, I find it a magical place, where possibilities abound and people never cease to surprise me. Sometimes, it is a simple gesture, like a coffee on the house, or the metro train door opened for me as I struggle with my shopping bags by a young Arab teenager with shyly smiling almond eyes. This is, after all, the city of my guardian angel, of the sweet and warm Isabelle, of Laurent, Nicolas and many others who are sure to touch me and enrich my life, but who I cannot possibly yet imagine.

jeudi, mai 27, 2004

Romantic French Wedding Songs

Well, kids, I'm back from France, where I spent a nice ten days. The weather was gorgeous (sunny and 75+ degrees even in Paris) and I had more than my share of fun, despite having been infected with Willie the janitor's cold a day before I left. (From an innocent whassup hand shake, thank you very much you dirty minded people.)

What I gathered from this trip:

The funny raunchy girl working in the chocolate shop on the Rue de Rennes is my kinda gal, and if I get to go back, I will look her up. We could definitely hang.

Pointy high heeled sandals look really good in black and bubblegum pink, but they really suck for walking to the park and back.

The cafe/restaurant near headquarters has the most overpriced watery coffee in all of France, but damn that little spin your spoon and flirt with the guy next to you ad for colored contact lenses that is encased in the cafe tables is a clever little idea. Not that I need any encouraging to be outrageously flirtatious. Especially in France.

Out of the three (count them, THREE, including the one I just got this trip) job offers I have gotten from Paris headquarters, I have never actually had an interview. It's always been more like let me tell you about this job to see if you are interested. I could get used to this. Now if only the French Labor Department adopts this attitude, things will be just peachy.

For some inexplicable reason, most French weddings I have ever attended have played "YMCA" and "I Will Survive" during the reception. There is a part of me that remembers these songs from birthday parties at roller skating rinks full of boys in headbands and girls in leg warmers scarfing down neopolitan ice cream bars, and I can explain it away by concentrating on the nostalgic for the seventies party-like atmosphere, but most of me associates this with flamingly gay festivities. If they had started playing "It's Raining Men" I think I would have really lost it.

Why is it that I can wear the same makeup, clothes and shoes in Atlanta, but in Paris I feel glamorous and beautiful? Now who ever heard of a better argument for moving than that?

More later, kids.

mercredi, mai 12, 2004

Paris, Pampering & Possibilities

I'm off to Paris on Friday. Yippee!

No, not for good - yet. It's time for a little indulgence, a little shoulder rubbing at company headquarters, and a wedding in the South.

My guardian angel in headquarters wants to discuss some "possibilities" and some "ideas". Have I mentioned lately that I love this man? He called to ask me to come a day earlier to meet someone else with whom he has been discussing me.

"Come see me 30 minutes before we are supposed to meet with him, and I'll tell you what to say and what not to say," he told me. I laughed, saying that was just the sort of thing a guardian angel is for. "But," he advised, "don't laugh like that."

Don't laugh like that? Oh, no, does he realize how much that will make me want to laugh now? Plus, the mystery man I am supposed to meet is named Portebeouf. How will I make it through those first few minutes without thinking:

"A pleasure to meet you, Mr. Wearsbeef."

"How generous of you to give me some of your time, Mr. Carrymeat."

or better yet,

"Mr. Schlepsteak, charmed I'm sure."

Must find way to simultaneously turn humor brain off while leaving brilliant, charming, dedicated and utterly employable brain on full steam.

Good thing this meeting is planned for Monday afternoon. Gives me all the time afterwards for either celebrating my stunning success at winning over Señor Schlepsteak, or drowning my sorrows in much wine at the hopelessness of it all. Ahem.

I am bringing a bottle of bourbon and a mint julep recipe from Kentucky Derby country with me. If need be, I can break into it early. I'm planning to whip up some frosty ones to thank the fellow Georgia Peach transplant who tried to help me with my visa troubles. I hope I can find enough ice in the city of Paris to make the suckers. If not, what the hell, we'll drink it straight.

So, also on the agenda for fun and excitement is catching up with some old friends, meeting and making new ones, and some serious culinary excursions. Such as the place where they serve you whatever they feel like concocting, and it's up to you to guess the ingredients. This is going to be fun.

A bientôt!