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C’est la Vie Paris on a ‘Ratty’ Chinese New Year Day

Every Saturday morning about 10:15 a.m., I head out for the weekly Parler Parlor French-English Conversation Group that starts at 11 a.m. at Lutèce Langue on boulevard de Sébastopol near Châtelet, taking a different route each time. (Would you believe that Parler Parlor is about to celebrate it’s 10th anniversary March 17th?! Stay tuned for celebration details coming soon!)

That morning’s “trajet,” went straight down “rue du Temple” (not to be confused with “rue Vieille du Temple”) as I like to eventually turn right on rue Rambuteau to see and smell the fresh produce stands with their perfectly placed colorful inventory of seasonal offerings. Along the way, the red lanterns signifying the Chinese New Year hung high overhead from the classic Paris lanterns, dotting the street with red dots. Not many people were out at that hour and the sun was just starting to beam.

This is the Chinese year of 4706 and this is the year of the rat. Those born in the year of the rat, it is believed, have some of that animal’s personality. They claim that those born in rat years tend to be “leaders, pioneers, and conquerors…they are charming, passionate, charismatic, practical and hardworking.” (Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Affleck, Samuel L. Jackson, William Shakespeare, and Mozart were all born in the year of the rat. Don’t laugh, but I’m a “Dragon Lady.” Somehow, it does seem to fit!)

On one corner of rue du Temple, a row of bikes had been burned to a crisp along with the door of the building just in front. It didn’t appear to be fresher than a day or two as there was little left of the charcoal odor. One pink bike had a bit of paint left to hint that it had once been a child’s and a child’s back seat was a shell of its former self. The event or cause of the vandalism was totally unknown by me, but it was a pathetically sad sight in contrast to the stunningly bright day.

Parler Parlor was hopping, having filled all the available classrooms, and everyone walked in beaming from the evidence of the beautiful sunny winter day ahead of us. Usually, the group, or at least a good portion of them go to lunch together — an excellent way for them to continue their conversations and have some social time together.

Normally I take a different direction, this time down “rue des Lombards” which changes name twice along the way, to “rue de la Verrerie” (impossible to pronounce correctly with all those
French “ERR’s” running together!) and then going west to “rue de Roi de Sicile.” Just before it arrives at that point is a tiny Vietnamese Restaurant (Minh Chau, number 10 rue de la Verrerie) that has become my favorite Saturday lunch spot, in spite of the wait outside to enter.

It’s both take-out and sit down, although it can’t be more than 15 square meters nor seat more than 20 people. The tables are tightly packed, making it a logistical nightmare for both the diners and the servers. None the less, a small selection of absolutely delicious Asian fare gets served hot for a ridiculously small price. It’s tough to spend more than 12 euros. No wonder there is always a line to get in! Dining Asian was in preparation for the Chinese New Year Parade scheduled to start one block away at 2 p.m.

We took a key spot at the corner of rue de Rivoli and rue du Temple, just where the parade begins from the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville, with the warm sun on our faces, the Hôtel de Ville and the BHV (Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville) in our line of sight. The crowd was getting restless as the parade was an hour late starting. People where trying to cross the street by breaking between the front row of onlookers, which became annoying to say the least, and a fight broke out among a couple of ‘not-so-young’ men across from us.

The police put a quick end to the scuffle, but with too many errands on a long list of ‘to-do’s’ for the afternoon, we surrendered leaving our front row seats to the ‘die-hards’ behind us. I’d seen the parade many times before and the glimpse we got of the main dragon as he sauntered down rue du Temple prior to the parade was enough for one afternoon.

It’s the last week of my stay in “Le Provençal” while my apartment is under renovation and I prepare for leaving for Miami where we are holding the 20th Living and Investing in France Real Estate Conference this coming weekend, leaving it to the next wave of vacation renters. (See /frenchproperty/conference for more information as there’s still time to register!)

It’s been such a delightful stay, that already the nostalgia is setting in. Saturday afternoon the flower-printed bedspread got a washing at the laundromat down the street and the housekeeper came to make the colorful tiles sparkle. It’s absolutely impossible to be depressed in the sunny apartment, mirroring the equally sunny day, but while she worked, I grabbed the laptop and headed to Le Café du Marché on the corner to work on the presentations for the conference and drink a frothy café crème.

There at the café were three little Chinese girls with big pink balloons and an overabundance of energy. The elders with them were not Chinese — not one that I could see and I wondered how they had come to be together. They were yet another ray of sunshine, disturbing my work, but adding another dimension to the already eventful day. These were three little Franco-Chinese “filles” speaking perfect French, full of life. We four ‘bonded’ over photos they could see on the laptop and their curiosity over my strong American accent. The youngest tried asked if I spoke English and desperately tried to get me to pronounce a French word correctly — to no avail, leaving her pouting with frustration.

What a rude awakening, that a Chinese five-year-old should upstage me in French. Oh well, “c’est la vie à Paris” on a ‘ratty’ Chinese New Year Day.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

 

 

P.S. Don’t miss next week’s monthly coffee gathering at Parler Paris Après Midi, Tuesday 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at La Pierre du Marais. Visit /parlerparis/apresmidi.html for more information.

P.P.S. Yes, in the photo that’s my shadow walking right down the middle of the street prior to the parade, and yes, those are all those restless parade-goers. I chose not to be one of them.

 

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