My excursion to Belleville was, like all my ex ursions, part planned and part discovery. It’s best, I think, not to be too set in your plans, because what you discover is usually as interesting as what you intended.
I wandered in and out of the 11th and 20th arrondissments, because they border on each other, and the part I wanted to go to was right along the border. I never did get to the Buttes, will probably have to save it for another trip, although I think Loring would like it. It is cultivated and arranged like all the Paris parks I’ve ever been to, but in a wilder type of design. I can just imagine picnickers of yore relaxing on the grass among the boulders. I was supposed to meet some friends from my volunteer group there on one of my previous trips, but it’s a vast place and they weren’t where they described they’d be. I did finally come across them but the place warrants a return visit. If not this trip, it will have to be the next.
Let me backtrack a bit to Paris Plage. I’ve been there twice already this trip, and plan to go back with Loring. It’s a hoot, an artificial beach along the Seine, with truckloads of sand hauled in, plus lounge chairs and ice cream stands and a dance floor, and a lending library where you can lounge and read. On a previous trip, there was a large swimming pool and aqua aerobics going on when I sauntered by. The scene was surreal, lots of women and a few men, all in bathing caps and goggles, all moving in unison adjacent to the river. I promised myself to go back someday and participate. Judy Collins may have had her visions of dancing along the Seine, mine was to do aqua aerobics! Not really, I don’t think I could bere to put on a bathing cap, unless it was one of those flowered ones from the 50s.
But alas, the pool at the Plage is no more. Actually, the pool still exists, it is built on a barge, and is elsewhere in the city. It even has a retractable roof so it can be used year round. But it is no longer a part of Paris Plage. Couldn’t find out why.
The other thing that had specifically appealed to me on my previous visit.was a dance area where I remember couples doing traditional dancing. I had taken pictures of one hetero couple who didn’t appear to know each other, and one gay male couple who did. So last week I went in search of the dance area, while Marie was here. We did find it, and the dancing, which happens every day from 5 to 8 pm. There were lots of people dancing, kids and adults, people of every ilk. But the music when we got there was Zumba, and later turned to techno and other current stuff, and most people seemed to know the lyrics and sing along. It was appealing in its own way, but more like a wedding or bar/bat mitzvah. But what better place for a dance party than along the Seine. Marie and I sat at the adjoining café, (there are a number of cafes along the Plage, as in every other part of Paris.) I had ice cream, three scoops, and seemed to be some of the best I’ve ever had. Or was it just being swept up in the atmosphere? I had three scoops, chocolate and coffee and coconut. The coffee and chocolate both had lots of flecks of chocolate in them. And although they didn’t serve cones the dish came with a wedge of a waffle cookie that was better than any ice cream cone I’ve ever had. I’ve only had ice cream a couple of times here, and croissants a couple, fruit tartes a couple too. And a wonderful cream pastry with chocolate chips that was reminiscent of a cannoli.
I really enjoyed watching the dancers. There was one man I wish I'd thought to video . I dubbed him Mr. Rubber Band. But the name doesn't really do him justice, because he was a very graceful good dancer as well as as loose limbed as anyone I've ever seen. And there was another man wearing a yukata, a summer kimono. Marie and I decided that he was very drunk. The dj later mentioned something about someone getting married that weekend, We think it was that guy.There were plenty of women, children, couples dancing too. Of all ages. Very freely. Marie and I basked in the atmosphere and danced from the edge of the stage. It was wonderful.
Yesterday I finally had steak tartare, which is raw ground beef, a French tradition. I’d never had it before, and decided it was about time. I do love raw burger, especially scraping it off when it’s just cooked around the edges while it’s cooking. And I read that it is one of the ways to prepare it here, just seared on the outside. But since I didn’t know how to request that, I just ordered the tartare. It was very tasty, but perhaps a mistake. My stomach was a tad upset last night. But I’m glad I tried it once.
The preparation is mixed with a raw egg and some herbs and what tasted to me like horseradish. When I googled recipes later, they mentioned anchovies, I think. Or was it capers? And served with salad and frites like almost every café lunch here, and a basket of baguette slices. The waiter also brought over ketchup (Heinz) Tabasco sauce, and also Worcestershire. But I found it quite good as prepared.
Whoa, a burst of music suddenly from the park. I am sure it is one of the Luxembourg bandstand concerts. Maybe I should wander over. Or I could just sit on my little balcony and listen.