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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Of mice and cheese

Two rather unrelated incidents from the last lap of my Paris sojourn, the four days I spent there after the mosaic project, and after my travels to Germany and Colmar, France.

As I mentioned previously, there was a delightful restaurant attached to the hotel where I stayed. (El Dorado, I do recommend it if you like funky places.) The restaurant was next door to the hotel, with a bar that also served as the breakfast room at the other end of the day.(Where the wait person apologized to me for being out of bread; they only had croissants and pains au chocolat that day, poor me.)

The restaurant had a lovely courtyard, which is what made the place, for me. A courtyard which I would never have discovered if my room (#26) didn't face it. I ate there my second night, and then again on my fourth, and final, night in Paris. The meals were delicious, but it isn't the food that I wanted to write about. But rather, a little mouse, who scurried from under one table to under another, noticed at first by just me. A few minutes later, others also noticed, as the mouse continued to scurry around the courtyard. No one seemed bothered, everyone seemed amused, and I heard a woman comment "mignon." Which means cute. I agreed, since I am a lover of mice. Have always had a hard time with putting poison in our cabinets in Maine, even after they have ravaged our clothes, food, etc. And more than once, Carolina and I have rescued infant mice, tinier than the fingernail on your thumb, and once even brought one home, where it survived several days.

Well, like I say, no one seemed the least bit perturbed about the resident mouse, which I don't expect would be the same here at home. It certainly didn't prevent me from going back two days later. Sure enough, same mouse(I assume) same reaction from patrons. I don't know what, if anything, this says about the difference between French and American cultures. I just thought it was amusing, and that the mouse was mignon.

Second incident: at the Paris airport, heading back home, during the usual shoes off, everything in the bucket, walk thru the dectector routine, a guard pulled me over for an additional inspection. I didn't think anything of it. He searched my carry-on. Then, asked if there was anything that I shouldn't be carrying, such as a knife, perhaps a cheese knife? I immediately remembered the two cheese knives I had purchased, and readily fessed up. But how had he known to ask about a cheese knife? Was that just a typical item people carried on by mistake? I pawed thru my stuff, unearthed the two knives, and presented them to him. One - cute little cheese knife (mignon) with the handle the shape of a slice of holey swiss cheese, and running along it, a little mouse. It was truly innocuous, though, with the blade of a butter knife,, not at all sharp. The other, however...the second knife was meaner looking, with a serrated blade, and, cut out into the metal of the blade, the letters f-r-o-m-a-g-e. Need I translate for anyone? It was rather obvious that this was a cheese knife, and I assume it would have shown up quite clearly on the x-ray. That explained the "perhaps a cheese knife?" question. But why had he not just directly asked or told me. Oh, these customs people. He must have been scoping me out and making sure my intentions were honorable. There's one place that it seems American culture and French do not differ, in the approach of their customs inspections. I will say, though, that he was quite cordial, and, best of all, that he let me keep the knife. Perhaps that is a difference between the two cultures.

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