Friday, April 17, 2009


The past ten days have been surprisingly busy and I've missed my blog. MCM and I had a lovely Easter, complete with lots of chocolate cloches. (Instead of the Easter bunny, French kids learn that huge church bells - cloches - leave Rome on Easter Sunday and fly out over the world, clanging and chiming and dropping chocolates. If only.) I metroed into town on Sunday morning and met Mazarine for Mass in the posh St Germain des Pres neighbourhood. We went to St Sulpice, an 18th century church that has become famous for featuring in the Da Vinci Code. On the side walls there are small signs that say "That silly book is wrong and full of lies and there is absolutely nothing weird about this place, so don't believe it, okay?" (I'm paraphrasing slightly).

St Sulpice is also famous for its enormous organ, and thus the 10.30am Organ Mass seemed like a lovely idea. But I'd forgotten that St Sulpice, though beautiful, is a dark, looming church built of greying stone, the altar weighed down with thick gold candlesticks and heavy ornamentation. Then BAAAAAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAAAMMM.... the organ. I recalled the delicate negotiations I had last year with the primo uomo organist at the church where MCM and I got married: he really wanted to play the organ through our nuptial mass, and I wanted piano: organ, I argued, wasn't right for a fresh, light, happy occasion in the summer. We ended up having to compromise - organ for processional and recessional, piano for the rest.

"This is like funeral music," Mazarine whispered. And it was, all through the Mass, altogether more Lenten than Paschal. Plus, it's very difficult to sing along to an organ. Especially in Latin, and there was a lot of Latin. Or French. French is not sung the way it is spoken - the endings of words are pronounced (Ha! I thought when I first learned that, So you admit that they are there!) and I'm always suprised by where the singer puts the stress on the words.

One hour and fifteen minutes later we filed out into the Parisian sunshine. "This is the kind of Mass that Catholics are embarrassed to show Protestants," I said to Mazarine. "Really? I've never been to a Catholic Mass that wasn't like that," she replied. Oh, the horror! And people wonder why Mass attendance is down in France; the experience, for me at least, was one of tradition without passion. I usually find Easter joyful and uplifting; this was ponderous and left me feeling a bit empty. That might just be me. Oh well.

We got American tourists (a family from California toting a bag of Pierre Herme goodies, a blonde college student in a pink Lily Pulitzer skirt) to take pictures of us in our Easter dresses in front of the fountains outside St Sulpice. After we strolled down to Cafe Flore, one of the famous "literary" cafes in St Germain. Neither of us had ever been there before - it seemed too touristy, too obvious. We sat outside in the lovely enclosed terrace and, I am amazed to report, their coffee is really, really good. Pricey (10 euro for two coffees), but excellent. Such a famous place could easily scrimp on quality, but they don't. I also got the faintest of sunburns on my exposed collarbone. I felt great.

MCM made a lovely lunch, featuring a roast leg of lamb and gratin dauphinois, followed by a strawberry tart with vanilla pastry cream. Wow, I love my husband. I had thought about choosing a Puisseguin St Emilion (Bordeaux) wine to go with the lamb, but my local wine guy had talked me out of it and told me that I needed a stronger Bordeaux wine - a Medoc. Yikes. I think my instincts had been right on this one. The Medoc was great - heavy, tannic, complex, a bit musty - but overwhelming. It was demanding: drinking this wine and trying to eat at the same time was totally freaking out my tastebuds. It mellowed after it had been open and breathing for a while but it was still too strong for our delicate spring lamb. I drank it anyway (yes, what a sacrifice).

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