Joined: 28 Mar 2008 Posts: 9 Location: Hollywood California USA
Posted: Thu Apr 03, 2008 5:10 am Post subject: Un-named Sandwich Bar Paris - Latin Quarter
The Left Bank Sandwich
I arrived in Paris France. I got lost. I couldn't find my way to my hotel: Hotel Familia on the Left Bank. I had a map. I can read a map. I couldn't find my way from Metro Maubert-Mutualité to Number 11 rue des Ecoles (about 4 blocks). So there I was at the corner of Boulevard St. Germain and Rue St. Victor when I had to ask two fellows standing on my right for directions.
"Perdonnez-moi, je suis perdeu" I said, forgetting that perdeu is closer to lost soul than lost on the street.
"What are you looking for" came the response in English.
"The Hotel Familia on the Rue des Ecloles" I answered.
I was then pointed towards the Rue des Ecoles. Which even once I was sure I was on it, couldn't locate Number 11 for quite a few pass-bys. Oh Well, they had the most recent Seinfeld and it wasn't dubbed, they had French sub-titles. That's how hot Seinfeld was in Paris. And it is a lovely hotel.
I had nothing but trouble finding the foods I wanted to eat in Paris. I'll save the bulk of that for another post.
Lunch time, I couldn't find a thing to eat. Dejected at my inability to find a Parisian lunch I went back to my hotel. Was I surprised. When I had left early that morning to explore Paris for the first time, the shop holding my special French sandwich hadn't been open. When I arrived at Hotel Familia near lunchtime, it had opened and was doing a good business for a true 'hole in the wall' The place had only a cold case, a small table to assemble the sandwiches and a basket of baguettes. No tables, no chairs, take-out only.
Patiently I waited, hungry as I was for some food. At last, I ordered. And received: about 4" of baguette; on which was placed: soft brie cheese, egg fritata and wafer thin slices of prociutto ham. Nothing else.
I've never eaten a better sandwich. He gave new meaning to the expression: submarine sandwich.
A few days later, while on the MontmartroBus I chanced by the Lapin Agile. It was well known to me as the haunt of the impressionists and Pablo Picasso. My heart thrilled to see this, as I had not remembered it when I was planning my trip to Europe. As the bus wended it's way around Montmarte I arrived back at my hotel: Le Bouquet de la Fleur de Montmarte. What I did with the rest of the day, I can't recall, but that night, after eating, I rushed to the bus stop and hopped on the bus for the Lapin Agile.
The interesting thing about this place is that is has the semplance of a London or English pub. The rest of Paris has cafés. They have wine, liquor, food. But the Lapin Agile was different, special. It ooozzzed charm. So, as the twilight gathered, I arrived at the hang out of my artist-heroes. The lights were off, the door locked! Nuts! I thought I was too early. Near the front door, across a walkway was a park bench. I sat. And sat. And stood and saw a flight of stairs off the Montmarte butte down to regular Paris below. I walked down that long stairway. The street below showed crowds of people thinning rapidly. The merchants were closing their shops. The store fronts that were lit, were not exciting; but I knew I had to kill time. So I walked. Finally my feet grew tired of waiting I climbed back up to the top of the butte. The park bench was still there, the lights on the cabaret still dark and the door still locked. So I sat. In a few minutes to very tall Teutonic girls showed up. They looked at the Lapin Agile and saw that it was dark, but unlike me, an American, they knocked on the door. As though they were begging to be let in to the place. Much to my surprise, a light appeared behind the glass window in the door, the sound of a key turning was heard and a moment later the door opened and they were let in. And before I could stand up and get the to door, it closed. And I had to knock and wait to be allowed inside as well.
As you come into the Lapin Agile, in front of you is a bar. Not well stocked, but adequate. The room is somewhat oblong, maybe a kitchen off to the far left. And immediately to the left of the bar an opening or doorway to another room. The proprietor directed me into this second room. It was very dimly lit. The tables and chairs were black with age. And picnic tables at that. I took a seat at the west end of the room and the Teutonic maidens sat clear across the room at the east end. Nothing happened. I looked around. The tabletop had many carvings in it. But I didn't see Picasso's name. A few more people came in, took seats and waited. For what? At last the proprietor sat at a piano and played a few notes. More people came in and the piano playing stopped while they were seated. The proprietor went into the barroom and a few minutes later returned and started taking drink orders. I heard him speak German to the Teutonic gals, and when he got to me, he spoke French, I answered in French saying I couldn't speak his language and he judged me American by my accent and told me in English that there as a two drink minimum. I asked him if what they had to drink, and he said what he had and that the house had a cherry wine. I asked him to give me a minute. He took other drink orders. And as I sat there, I realized that this place was not where artists went anymore. It was strictly for tourists. But I thought there might be music and that would be worth the hearing, and I was, after all is said and done, a tourist. The proprietor retuned and asked me what I wanted. I had considered his house wine, but I thought to myself, "I'm sitting were Utrillo and Picasso had been inspired, where countless conversations about art and life had taken place and it dawned on me as to what I would drink."
"Champagne" I ordered.
"We have none", he replied.
That did it. He was insulting in closing the door before I could walk up to the Teutonic twins, and too brusque for a waiter. I stood, declined his hospitality and as I exited, I left his door open so others could walk in without having to be made to wait.
I walked the block back to the Montmartrobus stop and waited. And waited. And waited some more. Then I decided the bus didn't run after dark. So I tried to recall the path the bus took to the cabaret. There wasn't a soul on the street. Anywhere. I walked and turned and walked and never saw one person. Who says Paris doesn't roll the sidewalks up at night? I know better. Finally I came to an intersection and knew I had to turn left or right, but I had no idea as to where I was. I guessed to-the-right and after a long walk, I arrived on Rue des Abbesses. That is where my hotel is, so relieved I continued to walk along. I had been feeling very apprehensive since I left the Lapin Agile and still I didn't see the familiar sight of the subway stop, or other buildings I could easily recognize, even though I had been in Paris only two or three days. Walking, walking, walking. At last I came upon the little intersection I recognized. I was tired, but finally felt safe. And I walked into the first café I came across, the Café Houdin (corner of Rue Houdin and Rue des Abesses, 18th). I sat at the bar, ordered a beer and a moment later, the musicians started playing jazz. I was so happy to have a special Parisian moment, after the let down of the Lapin Agile, that I told the bartender to buy the musicians a drink. They thanked me for the drinks, the jazz played on and I had another beer: a Kriek St. Louis. I had as good a time as Picasso, after all. _________________ Author of California Mission Cookery
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