With the French Pleasure Comes the French Pain
There are two stories to tell. One is pure pain. The other pure pleasure.
It’s not possible to have the pleasure of life in France without the pain of it — it’s a dichotomy with which we must all come to terms. Let me explain with an example of THE PAIN and then of THE PLEASURE. First, the pain:
Thursday evening at dinner with friends in a new and relatively unknown, but exceptional restaurant named L’Hédoniste, a swarm of young children entered the restaurant along with other patrons, circled our table, distracted all five of us by knocking over a glass of wine, reaching into my plate, etc., and as I reached to save my purse from thievery, they scurried out just as quickly with my iPhone in hand that I had been using to take photos of the exquisite dishes.
IPhone thievery is rampant in Paris. There are so many stories to tell — this one being one of the most popular. It wasn’t as if I wasn’t being careful — but I just felt safe in the small, cozy spot among friends, thinking it would be very unlikely for it to be lifted off the table…just — like — that. Exposing your smart phone in any public places these days is a risky affair, period.
Free.fr was able to immediately ‘block’ the number and agreed to send a new SIM card. It was lucky they hadn’t absconded with my entire bag of credit cards, cash, checks and other valuables and that I had another phone to use as back-up (the old SFR subscription, you may remember).
After dinner, I stopped at the local police station (it was my second visit there in a week, and that’s ANOTHER painful story), waited 20 minute to receive a form to complete and bring back in — that is if filing a report would make a difference. As it turns out, it didn’t — the homeowner’s insurance wouldn’t cover the cost of the theft unless it had taken place at home, so at least returning to the police was one hurdle that wasn’t necessary to jump, even if at an expense.
The next morning was devoted to replacing the phone which became Kafkaesque. Free.fr offers the phone at a discount and it’s payable over a period of time, should I choose to do that. That seemed like du gateau (a piece of cake) until the Free.fr Web site wouldn’t accept any of three different credit cards.
A phone call to Free.fr was pleasant enough, but the customer service person explained that some online purchases were denied if my personal details had not been officially verified with my bank. That led to a phone call to the bank. They were nice enough, too, but in order to officially verify my personal details meant waiting for them to send me a “key card” with a personal code number — not by email, not by fax, but only by post.
You see now how the bureaucracy can become so lourd (heavy)? Waiting for all this to arrive by post over a holiday weekend (today is a ‘bank’ holiday in France), meant that it would be a long wait before receiving the SIM card, the key card and then ultimately the phone — especially since Free.fr uses “Chronopost” with which to transport their equipment (do you recall the Chronopost fiasco with the Matisse posters?) Under those circumstances, the wait to receive the phone could be indefinite.
That’s when I made a decision to ‘pop’ into an SFR boutique, purchase an iPhone and be ready to ‘pop’ in the new SIM card, sync the iPhone and be ‘back in business.’ And that’s what I did. It took 10 minutes to pay a little more to have an iPhone in hand at a nearby SFR boutique…until the clerk said that SFR wouldn’t ‘unblock’ the phone for use by another provider for THREE MONTHS!
Six hundred and fifteen euros had just processed on my French debit card for a phone that couldn’t be used for three months! Can you just hear my reaction? You might have heard it all the way to California!
The clerk refused to refund my money and take back the phone, even though the transaction had happened seconds earlier, however, with one phone call he was able to agree to unblock the phone as of Tuesday or Wednesday of this week. “Don’t open the box,” he said, “until they call to unblock it.”
That afternoon, the clerk called me back to renege on his promise — SFR would uphold their policy to unblock the phone only after three months, but if I brought in a “RIB” (bank account authorization), they would take back the phone and refund the payment.
Today I am back at ‘square one’ — waiting on the SIM card, the key card and ultimately the new phone. It’s all a whole lot of bureaucratic PAIN. I WILL live through it, but it won’t be PLEASURABLE.
Then, as is the dichotomy, there was the pleasure:
Saturday, a friend and I hopped on a train headed to Normandy to visit Susan Herrmann Loomis, the well-known chef, author and cooking instructor. We’ve been friends a long time (friends who cook as well as Susan are at the top of my list of great friends to have) and being around Susan is always a pleasure for her warm personality, her beautiful and fascinating house and her amazing culinary talents.
Susan’s tudor home in Louviers (off the A13 on route to Rouen) facing the Notre Dame Cathedral is the subject of her book “On Rue Tatin” and the basis for her culinary business. The house dates back to the 13th-century and has a fascinating history as a convent of the “Sisters of Mercy.” She and her then husband purchased the home in 1993, renovated it as a labor of love and created a kitchen of which every chef dreams. It was featured in our House Hunters “International Historic Country Homes in Normandy, Episode HHINT-2411H” and is one of the most unique homes in which I’ve ever had the pleasure of being.
A stunning example of Normandy tudor, the house was built over different epochs, now sprawling over six levels (including the cellar) with two living rooms, dining room, gourmet kitchen, seven bedrooms, two bathrooms, large storage room and several other spaces used in a variety of ways. There is large front yard, a patio on the side and it’s dead center in Louviers. Susan has it beautifully decorated with antiques and it absolutely oozes charm.
Susan had the wood/coal stove flaming hot in the kitchen. We unpacked a bottle of Ruinart champagne, a box of Jeff de Bruges Easter chocolates and a box of matzah — with the idea to show Susan how to make “matzah brei,” a dish of Ashkenazi Jewish origin made from matzo fried with eggs. It’s a Passover staple with which I was raised and frequently cooked it for my family. It seemed so appropriate to introduce it to Susan on Easter Sunday which was also the second day of Passover.
Twenty-four hours at one rue Tatin was Pleasure with a capital P — not a drop of pain in it. Susan grilled fresh mackerels in the wood-burning stove, sautéed wild mushrooms and fresh asparagus and baked brownies for dinner. (Wildly delicious!) We toured some of the region’s antique shops in the afternoon by car and breakfast Easter Sunday was matzah brei with oranges, of course. In the afternoon, we walked the town and discovered the local architecture.
I’d call it PERFECT and with all this PLEASURE, the PAIN was long forgotten.
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
P.S. You can have this kind of pleasure, too. Susan Herrmann Loomis’ historic Normandy home is available for rental full time as of January 2013. To see the part of the House Hunters International episode featuring the house, visit: Youtube.com. And to learn more about the house and the rental offering, email me at [email protected].
P.P.S. We hope to see you tomorrow at Parler Paris Après Midi when Kristin Shannon and Antonio Meza of PSI Communications teaches us how to “Make friends with your multiple minds!” It’s free and it’s fun! Visit Parler Paris Après Midi for more information.