Updated: Feb 3
by Francesca Arniotes
Preparing for my February 1st cooking class, “On A Little Street In Paris Night”, Dean and I were reminiscing about our last stay in Paris. It was in 2015, with two good friends, Tom and Dianne, and it was an add-on to our month-long exploration of the United Kingdom for our joint 40th wedding anniversaries. We had visited wild and wonderful Scotland, including the Orkney Islands, the Isle of Skye, Inverness and Edinburgh. We walked town to town across the moors in England’s Lake District. The actor who played Lord of Bones on Game of Thrones gave us a tour in character as the “shire reeve”, which became our word “sheriff”, of a reconstructed 12th century village in Wales where everybody died of plague and everything -- pots, dishes, food, clothing -- was just left where it was. All they did to restore it was to rethatch the roofs.
In keeping with our travel philosophy, we spent a minimum of three days everywhere, in a rental house or apartment, so we could food shop, talk with vendors and fellow shoppers about their everyday and claim-to-fame recipes, and merge into the local culture as best we could. We had a four-day slot before our final adventure in London and we decided to take the train through the Chunnel and spend them in Paris since Dianne had never been.
We emerged from the Metro onto La Rue Monge and walked the two blocks to our
first-floor flat. A large window in the salon opened out to look down on the quiet street behind. There were two little bedrooms and a bathroom which, in a 6’ by 8’ space, contained a commode, a sink and a showering area. Tucked between two tiled walls, we showered standing on a slightly sloping floor, designed so that most of the water would flow toward the drain. There was a squeegee to gather up what escaped. It worked. What more did we need?
Now, the kitchen was truly remarkable. It was a 6” step up to a floor which measured 18 inches by 48 inches. Straight ahead as we “entered” the kitchen we faced the cooking unit - a four burner gas cooktop and underneath it, a convection/microwave. To the left was the sink, 18 inches wide with an additional 24 inches of counter to the outside wall. Another 6 inches of countertop to the right of the cooktop and we hit the right hand wall which contained - I kid you not - a refrigerator and a washer-dryer. The tiny refrigerator was on top. Below there was a small, wall-mounted front-loading washer, which also became, with the push of a button, a dryer. Isn’t that wild?! I have a really hard time with the symbols on the various buttons that are supposed to be universally intelligible. So there was probably an inordinate amount of time spent during our short visit to Paris using trial and error in order to do a couple loads of laundry, but then again, it was a unique experience and some insight into daily life of the locals in the City of Lights. Sure, we have our granite countertops and stainless steel refrigerators the size of guest rooms, but I’ve never seen a washer that is also a dryer. That was wicked cool!
Our flat was a block away from a market street where there were produce vendors, butchers, fishmongers, wine merchants, bread and pastry shops and a shop with maybe all of the 365 different French cheeses! There were walls of chickens on rotisseries with new potatoes below, roasting while being basted by the dripping chicken fat. Food-inspired travel is what we are about, remember, so this was going to be heaven! So, upon arrival, without wasting any time, the other three went off so Dianne could see Notre Dame Cathedral, and I headed up the street to Rue Mouffetard to start making friends and learning how and what the locals cook.
To be continued...