A howling wind came up the other night. We like to leave the bedroom window open when we sleep, for the air and the murmur of the city, but I awakened at 3:00 AM to what sounded like a hurricane. Leaves were blowing into the bedroom. Spooky! It’s October, so spooky is good, but the howl of the wind whistling through that huge crane tested my tolerance. What keeps it up when the wind howls?
This morning it’s still standing (see above), so we seem to have survived that brush with disaster.
I just hafta talk about food. Our first night in a restaurant was spent at Beaurepaire, a Basque restaurant on a corner nearby, offering what may be the best veal stew in the land. Our second night out was spent at Auberge de Notre Dame, a goofy restaurant with a mix of Eighteenth-Century chandeliers and what look like late-50s lava lamps. In spite of the atmosphere, the chicken-liver salad (flambéed in cognac) was spectacular.
There have been other restaurants—ten or twelve in all: Stupendous truffled ravioli at Le Grand Amalfi next door, Sicilian pizza at Respiro up the street (twice!), and an exceptional entrecote at Café El Sur, an Argentinian steakhouse a ten-minute walk away.
We’re living in the heart of the Latin Quarter, where competition among restaurants is fierce. There are 23 of them in the picture below, and they’re all within a five-minute walk. They’re all ambrosial and, surprisingly, affordable: The three-quarter pound entrecote was $26. It has been our most expensive meal of the stay.
To me, Paris is composed of many things I love. Food is near the top of the list, but at the very top is … hope.
Some have noticed that our blog of late rarely tells tales of adventure in Paris. There are no ascents to the top of the Eiffel Tower. There’s no strolling along the Champs-Élysées or dodging vendors atop the Montmartre. We didn’t come here for that. This time, we’re here simply to live—to fix a simple breakfast, to bring home a croissant from a boulangerie, to stroll the back streets of the Latin Quarter. Our 2021 Parisian lifestyle doesn’t feed the appetite of a travelogue, but it does feed our joie de vivre—the joy of living that has become so elusive back home in Portland.
That huge crane across the street is the crowd-funded embodiment of hope, charity, and faith. Faith, yes, with a capital “F,” but faith also in what’s to come. Here, people know that soon the scaffolding will come down, the crane will disappear, and Notre Dame will again glow in the light of dawn. People stop, cameras come out to capture not the chaos of reconstruction, but the confidence in the future.
We have a week remaining in Paris. Louise doesn’t want to go home. I’m ambivalent. While Paris gazes upon the reconstruction of Notre Dame in anticipation, Portland huddles behind boarded-up windows in dread. Portland’s most-beloved icons have been spray painted, ripped from pedestals, even burned to the ground. In Paris, icons are revered. There’s an optimism here. Anticipation is palpable.
It’s morning in Paris. We’ve made a date to visit a corner café for a streetside petit-déjeuner—a simple breakfast before the bustle of the day. After that, we will aimlessly stroll the avenues behind the Centre Pompidou, where stalls of vendors hawk Mona-Lisa T-shirts and tiny statues of la tour Eiffel. It’s a simple plan, an effort to immerse ourselves in the faith that is Paris. That’s why we’re here.
And that—along with that chicken-liver salad—is the Paris I love.