The City of Night and Light
It’s really weird and it happens all the time. For one random reason or another, I will find myself in the same neighborhood three or more times within one week — an area of the city I don’t normally spend much time in or haven’t been in a very long time. This week it was the 7th arrondissement, near la Tour Eiffel.
TEST THE WATER
Rather than Métro back and forth between appointments, I chose to find a spot in which I could have a drink or eat something, plug in my laptop and enjoy wifi. On Wednesday afternoon, that turned out to be Le Champ de Mars, a café conveniently located at the edge of the Champ de Mars with everything I needed. I hadn’t been in the café for more than 20 years, because the last time I was there with a friend, and took the liberty of using a napkin to stabilize the table, not only were we yelled at by the waiter, but we were told we’d be charged 25¢ for the napkin! She pitched a fit and I never went back. With so much “water under the bridge,” I decided to give it another chance. It turns out that was a mistake.
The sun was bright and the sky was blue. Inside behind all the glass and happily plugged in and working while enjoying the scene “en terrasse,” a young waitress took my order of an “avocat-crevettes” (avocado and shrimp appetizer).
“What would you like to drink,” she asked.
“Un carafe d’eau, pour l’instant,” I replied (a carafe of water for the moment).
“We don’t serve water “en carafe; en bouteille,” she explained. What that means is that the café wants to sell their water, rather than give it away.
I ordered a sparkling water and then remarked, “But, it’s illegal to deny a customer water.”
“Not in this establishment,” she said with a glare.
I Googled the law and started a Facebook post. As it turns out, a restaurant must provide water if a meal is ordered, and a café does not — if not a “carafe,” but at least a glass. She did not say that. And I recalled how many times that I may have asked for a carafe of water, but the wait person brings a glass, to which I have never complained.
She spied what I was doing, saw the post on Facebook that I was in the midst of constructing, stopped to glare at me with daggers and then with a very sarcastic tone, told me I was behaving “very kindly.”
I explained, in French of course, that I’m a journalist and report on life in France. That in all the years I’d lived here, 25 (!), it was the first time I had ever been denied water. I also explained that she should have told me that she wouldn’t bring a carafe, but would bring a glass of water.
My Facebook post has gotten 149 Likes, 70 Comments and 5 Shares. Author, Ann Mah, posted that the same thing had happened to her several years ago and she wrote a blog post about it.
But, you may be surprised that the café was within its rights and I was wrong: In a restaurant, a carafe of plain water as part of the meal is included in the price of the meal and obligatory (decree n° 25-268 of June 8, 1967). In a café, it is not obligatory to deliver even a glass of water to accompany a coffee, but the customer must be informed about the price of this service (display of the price inside and outside of the establishment).
Either way, regardless of the law, it seems reprehensible to have denied me water when I was ordering food to eat. So, now you know, and if you wish to support the effort, avoid Le Champ de Mars Café…as will I.
For the details of the law, visit: economie.gouv.fr/dgccrf/Publications/.
LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION…OR NOT?
Like an idiot, even after having written about the 130th year celebration of the Eiffel Tower in last Monday’s Parler Paris Nouvellettre®, advising all to see the special light show from the Esplanade and the Gardens of the Trocadéro, as well as from the Pont d’Iena, I took a friend to the Champ de Mars at 9:45 p.m., as if on autopilot from years of seeing the fireworks on Bastille Day from that spot. When 10 p.m. came and went and the tower was black — literally black, we finally realized that the show was actually taking place on the other side and I had “blown it” big time. Not to be daunted and relentless in the pursuit of the special event, I stood on the Esplanade with friends on Friday night, amid a formidable crowd of spectators, to witness the show. It was tough to see around the people taller than me, especially the men with their kids on their shoulders and the number of smart phones held high in the air to capture it. The show itself wasn’t anywhere as exciting or beautiful as the fireworks display on Bastille Day, so in truth, it would have been better to have stayed home and seen it on Youtube rather than battle the crowds and fear for the pickpockets!
GOURMET MEAL OF MYSTERY
École Grégoire-Ferrandi is one of France’s leading professional training schools located in the 6th arrondissement of Paris in a 25000 square meter site. The school offers three areas of training and specializations within each area: 1) culinary arts: cooking and service, catering, bakery and pastry, 2) restaurant management, and 3) craftsmanship and interior design. There are 1,500 students and 2,000 professionals in continuous education with a success rate of over 90% for job placement six months after graduation.” (Source: Wikipedia.org)
“Le Premier” is one of its training restaurants, and it’s tough to get a reservation, so plan in advance. This is where they want their students to face “real life situations” while learning under the guidance of their teachers. As we talked and dined, the young rosy-cheeked wait-staff were busy buzzing around, all dressed in their black and white uniforms designed to present an “image professionnelle.” You could see they were a bit nervous as supervisors and instructors wandered among them, one holding a clip board and making notes, another a woman looking like a stern Madame Brassart, the proprietress of the Le Cordon Bleu school in Paris from 1945 to 1984 who told Julia Child she had no future in haute cuisine! Seeing that woman made me even nervous myself on their behalf!
I gave these young students a challenge to honor my strict diet, which does not allow for any dairy (“quel horreur” — no butter or cheese!), nor grain (no bread, can you imagine?) and no sugar (what, a French meal without dessert?). This was real life, and they had to deal with it…which they did very, very well, as a matter of fact.
Cara and I caught up on each other’s lives over the three hours we were there. She has a new Aimée Leduc book coming out June 4th — her 19th, Murder In Bel-Air (12th arrondissement). While this is her 19th murder mystery, it’s only the 18th arrondissement (out of 20), because two have been written that take place in the 4th: her first book, Murder in the Marais and later, Murder on the Ile Saint-Louis. What’s left? She’s working now on a mystery that takes place in the 15th and her last one of the series by district will be take place in the 19th.
(Special note: Enter to win a Parisian scarf hand-picked by Cara Black when you buy a copy of the new book! Visit books.sohopress.com/cara-black-scarf-sweepstakes for more information.)
LA NUIT AT THE MUSEE D’ORSAY
The rain came down as we queued up during the dinner hour to enter the Musée d’Orsay for free entry Saturday night as part of the annual La Nuit des Musées. It didn’t take long to enter, but the crowds were massive, as to be expected. Rather than run upstairs to the permanent collection of impressionist works, we headed straight for the special exhibition, “Le modèle noir de Géricault à Matisse,” on until July 21, 2019.
The exhibition focuses on three key events: the abolition of slavery (1794-1848), the era of New Painting (Manet, Bazille, Degas, Cézanne) and the early 20th century avant-gardes. I was moved by seeing Edouard Manet’s “Olympia,” a poster of which once hung in my bathroom many moons ago and then the various reproductions of it: a painting by Paul Gauguin that is near to perfect as a copy, and Larry Rivers’ sculpture, “I like Olympia in Black Face,” evoking the treatments of blacks in the U.S.: “a twofold opposition of master/slave and black/white, denouncing the arbitrary nature of social conditions for Afro-Americans.” (Source: centrepompidou.fr/)
Josephine Baker was well represented in the exhibition, including a video playing in a loop of Baker “Dancing Up a Storm in ‘The Charleston‘ (1926-27) (that was hard not to love). It was surprising to me to learn that Alexandre Dumas, the author of “The Count of Monte Cristo” and “The Three Musketeers” was the son of a general born in Haiti and a black slave, who was taken to France by his father. He was a known womanizer himself, who was known to have had at least four illegitimate children and was described as “the most generous, large-hearted being in the world. He also was the most delightfully amusing and egotistical creature on the face of the earth. His tongue was like a windmill — once set in motion, you never knew when he would stop, especially if the theme was himself.” (Source: Wikipedi.org)
For more information about the exhibition, visit musee-orsay.fr/fr/evenements/.
IKEA IN THE CITY
Ikea opened its doors earlier this month in the heart of Paris at Place de la Madeleine. It’s the first in the world to take center stage and aren’t we happy? While it’s one-quarter the size of a standard Ikea, lacking a full range of furniture items, it’s a welcome addition for those of us who enjoy their low-cost housewares and accessories without having to schlep out to the “banlieu” just to buy their zip-lock bags or wine glasses by the dozen. According to Ikea, this is a test, but from the looks of the queue at the cash registers on Sunday afternoon, I’d say they already have their answer.
SRO FOR TIMOTHY JAY SMITH
Author of Finding Pegasus, third in The Eddie Grant thriller series, plus Treasure of Saint-Lazare and Last Stop: Paris, John Pearce, attended Après Midi last Tuesday, where Timothy Jay Smith attracted an SRO crowd to hear about his latest novel, The Fourth Courier. Pearce, scheduled to speak at the monthly event this coming June 11th, posted a report on his blog about the event. Visit parttimeparisian.com/ to read all about it and mark your calendar to attend! This is your chance to talk with the author, get your copy of his books, and get them signed. It’s free and it’s fun!
A la prochaine…
P.S. If you haven’t already done so, make plans to join us for Meet the Authors in Nice June 15th, 3:00-5:30 p.m. For the line-up of authors and all the details, please visit our Events page on our website. See you there!