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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Paris again, pleasures, problems, puzzles

This is the last leg of my trip; four days in Paris, at the Hotel Eldorado in the 17th. I had made the reservation by phone, in English, several days before, while staying in Karlsruhe with Mari and Falk. Only thing, when I arrived here last night, they had no record of the reservation. I was tired and looking forward to relaxing in the last bed of my sojourn. Luckily, the hotel did have a room, or rather two rooms, for two nights each. But the mystery of my reservation, which I am guessing I somehow made somewhere else, remains.

Last night, I took a one hour or so walk thru the quartier, which was previously unfamiliar to me, and which I like very much. all kinds of interesting people, restaurants and bars, and shops, most of which, fortunately or unfortunately, are on their summer vacation, usually the month of August. There were hairdressers and laundramats, this internet cafe right across from the hotel, several second hand shops and designer workshops, as well as the usual tabac, fruit and veggie stand, and the 8 to 8, which was closing up when I walked by at 10pm. Lots of restaurants filled to the brim. I finally settled on a quiet corner place with a few that looked like locals, a couple of older men with small grocery bags (one kept perusing a jar of what looked like mustard, turnng it over and over in his hands) and a couple with a small boy and a dog.

I ordered a salad, one called a Norvigienne. It had lettuce, tomato, eggs, avocado, tiny shrimp, and layered over the tip, smoked salmon. It was absolutely delicious. It was served in a white ceramic bowl that was set assymetrically, kind of like those plastic chairs from, I think, the 70s, that you now see displayed in design museums. I withheld my desire to ask if I could buy a bowl from them, as well as the glass my citron pressé came in. I already have two great beer glasses from dinner at a brewery house in Cologne, that Dorthe had asked for me if I could buy, and which they had given me.

I wondered if my French-Norwegian salad was any closer to Norwegian food than le bagel Mexicain at a neighboring place, with avocado, cheese, and salsa, was to anything Mexican or Jewish! On that bagel list, they had several varieties, but none with smoked salmon or anything approximating something one would eat on a bagel at home. I'd already been pondering the origin of bagels, which I am guessing is German, while enjoying a wonderful breakfast with Mari and Falk in Karlsruhe several days earlier. They described how pretzels were usually sliced and served sandwich style, with cheese, etc. Since there was also smoked salmon on the table (lachs) I asked how that was traditionally served, and learned that it was with horseradish and sliced hardboiled egg, I've forgotten, though, on what kind of bread.

And, continuing on the ever important food theme, in Colmar, which is just over the border with Germany, and has a strong German influence, pretzels are called bretzels (!) and there are sweet ones as well as the salty ones; I didn't especially like the sweet ones, which tasted like sugar cookies, but did enjoy the various maccaroons (pistachio, chocolate banana, etc), that I of course also had to try.

At the café, while enjoying my salad and then fromage blanc with a mixed red berry sauce (essentially a large bowl of sour cream) I watched the two older men through a window (we were all outside but on two sides of a corner with a window separating us. Perhaps they were watching and wondering about me, too, although the one anyway seemed quite absorbed in his jar of mustard or whatever it was. Then in came a woman with a loud laugh; clearly inebriated. She appeared to me as a drunk, French, Whoopi Goldberg. She was close to out of control, swaying and asking for another drink and also for cigarettes. The bartender said she would sell the woman cigarettes but not another drink. The woman sashayed over to the men's table, had a short conversation I couldn't hear, and then came over to me. We chatted briefly, I told her to go home and get some sleep, and the bartender told her the same thing. She crossed the street to a bus stop, but just waited there briefly and then walked off. I hope she made it home. I asked the bartender if the woman came in regularly, and she said, from time to time.

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