Can You Say Zahners?

Paris Travel Blog

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How strange it is that immediately after Natalie came and visited me in my city, another American friend showed up not long after. I'm hoping this is a general trend and by the end of next you will all be chilling with me in the new park I discovered the other day, completely by accident:

Leave it to me to find an immense English garden
in the middle of France.

So as I was saying, Nick Zahn came to Paris this week. Much like Natalie, he was here for other reasons--des petites vacances avant qu'il went to Vienna to visit the host family he lived with when he studied there in High School. Must admit, I was a little nervous about the whole hanging out with people I haven't really talked to in years thing, but I don't know, maybe it's the Montmartre air, but the minute I stepped off that metro last Monday we were chummy again.

I met first of all his roommate Allison, who is quite lovely, and then I demanded a sandwich. We got them from a corner shop just down the block from the Moulin Rouge, and when the young guy behind the counter found out I was a student and not a tourist he not only started up a little conversation, he did not get angry when I had no idea what he was saying and just stumbled along making a fool of myself. See, as my french comprehension skills improve, I've gone from just saying "eh?" and "je ne comprends pas" to understanding most of what they're saying. So, in fits of courage I usually refuse to admit I don't know what's going on, and instead I now just repeat their questions back to them.


French Person: Est-ce que vous... blah blah French... ce matin? (Do you ..... this morning?)

Me: Pardon? Est-ce je veux quelque chose ce matin? (Excuse me? Do I want something this morning?)

See, if you give up and just say je ne comprends pas to these people, they'll not only stop speaking French to you and switch to English, they'll usually be kind of rude. But if you just say most of what they just said back in their faces without actually answering the question, they'll be not only more inclined to repeat themselves again more slowly and in French, they'll also probably be too confused to do anything else. Meh, it's an improvement.

Of course, I should add that this nice french man behind the counter was not only not rude, he was definitely hitting on me, even after I spat his questions back in his face. Something about wanting to talk to me parce que le jour est joli et vous etes jolie. Ah, France.

So, sandwiches in hand, we walked the only way one walks in Montmartre, that is, up. It looked like I knew where I was going, but really I was just following the elevation. We passed Le Moulin de la Galette en route, and I think Renoir did some false advertising or something because it did not look at all like the way he painted it:

Still, 'twas cute.

We eventually we made it to the stairs at the foot of the Sacre Coeur... I don't think I need to tell you all again just how much I love this place. It was better this time though, warmer.. more chilled out. I was with 2 people this time, and smokers too so we just fit right in, plopped ourselves down in the middle of the crowd and let the sun warm our faces as we looked out over the city. And sure enough, cute musician who doesn't know the words to the English songs he sings was there too. Life was good.

Eventually we let the momentum take us down the hill and back to the metro. We got off at Chatalet (it's fun to play tour guide), and walked along the river for a while alternating between those book-and-map-and-trinket vendors all along the bank and the pet shops. Seriously, there is a two block stretch on the right bank just west of Point Neuf where almost all the stores are garden stores spilling flowers all over the street... and in between those are the pet stores. Not unhealthy, poorly treated piles of sad animals you can't save pet stores, healthy, happy, Parisian pet stores. Some of them even had chickens. One of them had bunny rabbits, and I really really wanted one. Can you say happy place?

The goal, of course, was to get to Notre Dame. I had to show my baby off. We sat outside in the square for a while--smoking, waiting for people to finish going to the bathroom, and staring at cute French boys (actually, this had been the activity of choice all morning). At one point Nick was telling me some story but then his words were drowned out by the sound of the bells. When they calmed a bit I said to him what became the quote of the day: remember that time our conversation was interrupted by the bells of Notre Dame?

Well Do You?

We walked through the church, and I enjoyed seeing the look on Zahn's face as he made his way... he agrees with me that there is something special about this church, other than the obvious it being the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris. Not too much happened after that. I took them over to Shakespeare's and we toured it briefly listening for attractive non-American English accents instead of books, and then walked down the Blvd. St. Michel to Cluny-La Sorbonne where I boarded the metro. Overall, a surprisingly amazing afternoon.

When I got back to the 17eme I was just in time for my own dinner party. Madame was out of town for the evening, and so I invited (with her permission!) Jen and Jenn over to the apartment to make food and sit around in an apartment not infested with Madames. Living in someone else's house wears on you, obviously, especially when you've been living on your own in your own tiny apartment for years and years. My Madame may cook for me and bring me candy and ask me how my day was, but she also peels my avacadoes for me in front of company. She takes the spoon out of my hand and stirs my hot chocolate for me when she thinks I'm doing it wrong. She makes me postpone my walk for 15 minutes so she can sit me down at my desk and make sure I buy a ticket to the opera that afternoon. She's sweet, but a little tough to bear, and Jen and Jenn's Madames aren't much better. Suffice it to say that it was a very chill evening with music, kitchen messes, and a bottle of 5 euro wine (the good stuff) that was gone in an hour.

If only all Mondays were such a success!
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photo by: Sweetski