The Time of the Rain Misadventure

Today we began with a lecture in an outdoor gazebo again, but we only had about an hour before lunch. Each day Monday through Wednesday, Teo is taking 13 students to a formal lunch and I went today. Since Teo knew the employees, I deduced that he must frequent the restaurant, which had a long wooden table set in a darkened room with red curtains. The way we ordered was by each choosing one entree (which I learned is an appetizer because it means “enter”), one main plate and one dessert. Teo was very insistent in teaching us to say, “Bonjour madame. Sil vous plait je voudrais…” when we order, to always be polite.

Out of entrees that included a poached egg, escargot, and melon and ham, I chose the plat du jour – ravioli.  The mini raviolis came baked in a little ceramic dish and supposedly were filled with cheese, but it was green and thus perhaps spinach too. The entree ended up being my favorite portion, because the delicious pastas were bathed in a cream sauce, as in pure cream, with almost burnt cheese on top. They were cute pillows of goodness.

The main plat was a choice between items like duck, steak, poisson du jour (fish of the day), etc. I chose the steak because the day before, Teo told us that we have to try it the Parisian way, which means less cooked. He said there are three ways to cook French steak: bleu, rare and mal cuit (badly cooked aka well done). I ordered it cooked medium, knowing it would be mostly pink because I wanted to try it less cooked than normal. Some people ordered medium-well or well done, but Teo translated it jokingly as “mal cuit” to the waitress, who knew what that meant and laughed.
I never understood when people say meat can melt in your mouth, but this steak did because it was soft. The sauce was really good as well, maybe like worcestershire sauce or gravy. Even the potato slices were soft with a smokey taste.

A few dessert options were a cheese plate, fruit crumble, and mine: moelleaux au chocolat. I didn’t even know what it was when I ordered, but I wanted chocolate. It ended up being like a lava cake, with a soft center like bread pudding. The drizzles were berry and vanilla.

Since I’ve gotten used to only eating bread for meals, this made me extremely full. I had a café creme afterwards, but this was the most food I’ve eaten in a meal in a while, maybe because it was rich or because of my recent habit of simpler foods.
It was nice to eat this meal in courses and talk to the other students, but there were definitely several times when I noticed how loud some of the girls were laughing or talking. It’s sometimes embarrassing when we just go with our habits instead of being mindful of the customs here.

At 3 p.m. we began our walking tour of the day, taking the metro to Odeon near the 6th arrondissement I believe. He said the center is part of the older, original part of France. We walked down narrow cobblestone streets where revolutionaries met. The Café Procope, as he pointed out, is the oldest restaurant in Paris, where Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson would eat. It’s still in business too! The street reminded me of Diagon Alley in Harry Potter.

 

I really enjoyed thinking about the historical meaning of the buildings that are older than the entire United States and which people walked where I was. Also on the tour was the house in which Picasso painted Guernica, covered by a huge iron gate.

 

At one point, we peered across to where the Lock Bridge had been recently taken down, as some sort of red and white material covered the side of the bridge. I’d always thought that the Lock Bridge was just a single, packed bridge, but instead there are locks on almost every single bridge in Paris. Every time we cross a bridge, there are locks attached.

 

Some locks are cutely heart-shaped or have French flags painted on, but others are truly ugly with purple gym lockers with number codes. Teo commented that this trend developed a few years ago and called it truly heinous and ugly because it obstructs views through the rails and he hates it.

While we were looking at Place Dolphine, it began to pour rain so we stopped under some trees but it didn’t stop. It had been very drizzly but now we were soaking even with umbrellas, so we kind of shortened the tour and will continue tomorrow. We stopped just past the Saint Chapelle gates and the oldest clock in Paris.

From there, a few girls and I walked around the same neighborhood on our own, so we could enjoy it at our pace and without a loud group of students. The oldest and most beautiful buildings merely housed little boutiques, like coffee bean shops, jewelry stores, and a book store where we bought some vintage postcards. It felt like a genuine experience speaking basic polite French to the employees and walking around, hair and shoes soaking wet, on this misadventure.

We went into two chocolate shops as well, with beautiful desserts and macarons and pralines and fudge and chocolate shaped like the Eiffel Tower or Sardines or Turtles. We discovered that many of these local French employees are extremely friendly when you try to speak in French, except it can get awkward if they reply in French and I don’t understand.

 

Eventually we wandered through the maze of side streets and cobblestone and settled at a café on a street corner. Poking out from behind the red awning, we watched the rain fall on the pavement as we sipped café, tea or chocolat chaud.

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