Tuesday, March 3, 2009

March on, march on...

I can't believe that it's already March. Today I had a good, full day, and it made me realise how I don't want to leave Paris, as I've only just started to find my way around. By find my way around, I really mean that I am just starting to know Paris the way I know London, where I have a mental map of the metro system, a sixth sense for where and when things are happening, and an instant list of places where I know I can get a good coffee/haircut/clean bathroom facility/winter coat.

Today one of my classes was cancelled and I am proud to say that I actually used my free afternoon on fun and useful work. I taught for four hours, then ate my baguette sandwich in a park near work, then hopped on the metro and tunneled over to the Pont Marie stop. I got out, donned beret and gloves, wished I had brought my sunglasses for the cold winter sun. I crossed the stone bridge over the Seine onto the Ile St Louis, passing creperies, antiques shops, and art galleries, and walked through the 5th arrondissement to a small library I frequent for research. There I spent a few hours quietly reading and researching for Book 2. I took a long way back to the metro, opting to go straight to my metro line rather than change lines, walking through the Jardins du Luxembourg and the laocooning cobbled streets of St Germain.

Small epiphanies: I like Paris more when I am getting writing and research done. And when I am walking a lot - I love to walk. And when it's sunny. Shocker!

***

Here's a little observation that I thought I'd share. Walking home from the metro, on the way to the boulangerie to buy my evening baguette, I passed by one of the many small shops that caters to the region's large North African population. This particular shop combined a halal butcher, a selection of fresh produce and a range of dried goods. This caught my eye near the front door: a display of pre-packaged microwave meals with the descriptions on the yellow cardboard package written in both French and Arabic. That's not strange, except that the meals were hachis parmentier: a French dish kind of like a shepherd's pie, with leftover meat shredded and topped with mashed potato.* So observe the process: France colonises North Africa. France leaves North Africa. North Africans move to France, open shops where they import and sell North African food. Said shop sells traditional French dish, (presumably) produced in North Africa and sent to France to be consumed by North African French. Hmm.

* Parmentier was a French napoleonic general and the term "parmentier" refers to a dish topped with potato and baked. For the record, when I leave this earth and head to the great big Paris in the sky, I could think of no greater honour than to have a potato dish named after me. My real name, of course: Parisian potatoes is not quite distinctive enough.

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