Before I went to bed last night, I made sure that everything was nice and tidy–every dish washed and put in its place. Every bit of clothing cleaned and dried and folded and stored away. The floors were swept and the trinkets were put in place. I looked around me at the perfect order and took a sigh of relief. Then, I grimaced, for I heard Jessica’s door creaking open like in some horrible B movie. I watched in horror as she strolled to the cupboard, pulled out a goblet and filled it from the tap to take a drink. She downed it in one and slammed it down randomly on the counter. She could not understand my panic attack that followed.
“It’s just a cup,” she mumbled, flabbergasted.
I could not explain to her the frustration it filled me with to see that cup staring at me and the water spots that now filled the sink after I had thoroughly dried every single surface. All night long, I glared at that damn cup. It ruined my slumber.
In the morning, we discovered that we had mail. Father and Midget had sent us letters and they were both lovely and quite funny. I love getting mail. Nobody sends letters anymore. Only the occasional birthday card–of which I love.
Breakfasted and dressed, Jessica and I headed out of the apartment. It was another chilly day and it looked like it might rain. We didn’t really want to bother with an umbrella, so we just decided to press our luck. We took a shortcut through Rue Charlemagne and had the terrible misfortune of being surrounded by children. There is a school back there and they were everywhere–wearing their subdued tones, smoking, glowering at each other, whispering into their cellphones, and then one guy had a bigass boom box on his shoulder, but was playing no music. It was a strange place and I was relieved to be away from all of them.
After stopping at ATM, we made our way down the road to a bakery that I wanted to go to that allegedly has some seriously special croissants. We shall see. Here’s a view of the gloomy, grey day.
It was a quick walk to Au Levain du Marais and I look forward to going down that road again to peer into the various shops that all looked delightful–so many espresso sets!
Before long, we were at the bakery and I was waiting in line. There was one woman mulling about, seemingly indecisive, so the cashier asked me what I would like. I ordered a croissant–I was going to get the week-end, too (delicious lemon cake), but I’ll go back. The prowling woman had a sudden fit, claiming that she was next in line and that she was going to order when she was ready. I could just wait. The lady behind the counter smirked at me, rolled her eyes at the woman, and we finished our transaction. It was deeply satisfying. With a bonne journée, I was out the door.
I needed to try this croissant immediately, so we took literally twelve steps to the Place des Vosges and found a comfortable seat under the trees and watched the pigeons. I was charmed by the paper she wrapped the croissant in.
It translates to something like, “Bread gives joy to life.” Very true. It was a beautiful looking croissant–I admire a beautiful croissant almost more than any other pastry. It is very difficult to get them rolled so that they will have an even appearance and this one was perfect.
It was absolutely delicious, with a nutty, rich flavor, which you just don’t often find here. Miss Manon makes a good croissant, so when I have the craving, I probably won’t go all the way to Au Levain du Marais, but it was good. The inside was excellent as well.
Jessica fed the flakes and crumbs to the birds, one even ate out of her hand like she was in Beauty and the Beast.
Jessica now wanted to have a tasty nibble of her own, so went to Miss Manon for a strawberry tart, which sadly wasn’t all that great. It was assembled in a way I have never heard of in Paris–a thick, shortbread like base with a dollop of lightened pastry cream on top, then topped with strawberry segments. She ate it all, but I’m not so sure it was worth the full price.
When we were ready to go again, we crossed the river and continued our explorations on the other side of town. I had heard of a taxidermy shop a long time ago called Claude Nature. There are a few shops of this variety in Paris, the more popular one is called Deyrolle, but I only just recalled that right now, so we went to Claude. It was simple to find and had a lovely exterior.
We walked inside and I was immediately enthralled by the variety of items on display. Jessica, the meat eater, not so much, she took a turn around the shop and then shuffled outside where she was assaulted by a beggar.
I don’t know how long I was inside looking about. There was a neanderthal skull and perfectly preserved chicken and stunning butterflies. I was most taken by the butterflies. They weren’t terribly expensive, from ten to twenty euros, so I decided that I should get myself this truly unique souvenir.
Once Claude had helped the customer ahead of me, he hurried to my side and we talked about his collection of butterflies in Franglais (mixed English and French). He was a charming man who obviously took a deep interest in each of the pieces in his shop. He apologized profusely for not having the name of the butterfly that I chose, but he was not comfortable giving a suggestion as it was a difficult species to pinpoint. I pretended that I knew more about Lepidoptera than I did. I don’t know the first thing about butterfly collecting, but Claude didn’t have to know. He scurried to the back room, his shoulders rounded and hunched from years of delicate work at his workstation, and brought back a cardboard box. He gingerly took my butterfly out and pinned it securely into a styrofoam square. He seemed so proud of his work and took such a delight in it that I couldn’t help but find it infectious. I paid and off we went.
I know that my interest in taxidermy is in direct opposition to my vegetarian lifestyle. I can’t really reconcile the two of them, as an animal has to die for me to use it as art. It really is no better than wearing leather shoes or a fur coat or eating a steak. But I think there is something more in taxidermy–an appreciation of animals. A delight at their beauty–preserving them in their most perfect state, keeping them one way for hundreds of years. I don’t know if I can rationalize that to you, but that’s how it is in my mind. I don’t see carcasses, I see art.
Claude had suggested we visit a monastery around the corner. It was free, so there we went. We walked inside and there was little to see so we walked right back out. Jessica had been so disturbed by the taxidermy shop that she decided the only way to remedy her mental anguish was a slice of cake from the Sugarplum Cake Factory, so off we went, we were in the same area.
I must have got myself somehow turned around, because it only should have been a few streets away, but it was street after street after street. I was confused as I kept seeing the river, so I knew what direction I was going in, but even now as I write this, I can’t explain to you how I ended up so far away.
I’m glad I did wander astray, though, as we passed by a bookstore I noticed an alleyway that I was instantly intrigued by, almost psychically drawn towards.
Amongst the empty storefronts was a fantastic chocolate shop called Un Dimanche À Paris that was on my list of places to visit. Weird how that worked out, isn’t it? The shop was absolutely gorgeous with hefty bars of chocolate, truffles, macarons, assorted miniature pastries, tiny balls of rosemary leaves that were coated in white chocolate and much more. I bought myself a box of six truffles.
[From top to bottom, left to right: Raspberry, Caramel, Orange, Madagascar Chocolate, Earl Grey, Lemon.] They were all absolutely delicious, except the Madagascar chocolate was a bit off. The flavors were subtle and just right. The raspberry and Earl Grey were particularly good.
As we walked along the alley we saw that the store stretched on and on, there was a restaurant, a chocolate lounge, a chocolate school, a chocolate tasting salon and a few others. I will be going back for hot chocolate!
The alley also had a few restaurants, an olive oil shop, and the most curious stationary shop. I wanted everything inside. We didn’t have time to wander about, Jessica wanted her cake, so we hopped on the Métro. How the hell did we end up where we did?
Soon, we were back on the surface and stomping pavement in a race against Jessica’s anger. Before long, we were at the shop and Jessica had her wedge of cake. I ordered the brownie because they claimed it was the best in town. I guess they haven’t tried mine. I didn’t judge them too harshly because it was really rather tasty and they served it to me on an antique plate, so I couldn’t be too mean.
Time was ticking away and I wanted to go to the FNAC near the Saint-Lazare train station to see Brigitte Fontaine, who I have recently become obsessed with. The trains were quick and we missed the beginning by ten minutes, so sadly I didn’t get inside the forum, but I watched with a bunch of other upset people for a bit, hurling ourselves at the glass partition to catch a glimpse of her. I did.
She’s wonderfully insane.
We stopped at the grocery store on the way back to the apartment and then settled in for the night. I had some leftovers and worked on some writing and then mindlessly surfed the Internet for hours. I enjoy that.