“How can one be expected to govern a country that 246 kinds of cheese?” — Charles De Gaulle
This post is not about French cheeses. We have yet to delve into trying anything beyond burrata mozzarella or chevre. This post is about French people, and we heard this DeGaulle quote while chatting with Parisians.
Last night, we walked about about fifty feet past our front door to have dinner at L’Ecurie, a tiny place that specializes in steaks and frites. We sat at a table on the sidewalk, and before long, a couple roared up on their motorcycle and sat at the table next to us. It’s hard to ignore other diners two inches away from the one’s table, and before long we exchanged pleasantries as well as some eye-rolling about a street musician whose guitar playing left something to be desired.
We seem to have USA painted on our foreheads — could it be my bumbling French, or Mike’s bright green golf shirt?– and the woman struck up more conversation. Their names? Veronique and Patrice. Before long, we’d shared the basics of our lives. They’ve known each other for fifty years, but married other people first, and now they’ve been married for twelve years. Veronique was fluent in English; Patrice, an architect, less so. Both had lively senses of humor. Our conversation bounced around a range of topics– Patrice’s motorcycle, his love of cheese, Veronique’s secret chocolate mousse recipe that she wrote down for me. Language barriers slipped away as the men discovered their mutual dislike for chocolate. Veronique shared her favorite shopping spots; Patrice said his favorite place to shop was Porsche. By the end of the evening we were laughing and toasting each other with tiny glasses of calvados, just like the Gil and Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald in the movie “Midnight in Paris”.
Today, a gentleman named Jean-Jacques, a volunteer guide for Paris Greeters, took us on his self-prepared tour of Montparnasse. He highlighted the places where the artists and writers of the early 20th centuries hung out — Picasso, Gauguin, Sartre, and our Oak Park’s own, Ernest Hemingway. He filled us in on historical facts and gossipy tidbits, and showed us their favorite haunts– Le Dome, Le Select, La Coupole. Jean-Jacques loves his hometown and his thorough research is a labor of love. We’re excited that he invited us a second tour through the Ile de Cite’.
There are all kinds of Parisians, just as there are all kinds of Americans. In only a couple days, we’ve met three that are charming, warm, and patient with visitors like us.