Saturday, May 18, 2013

Saturday Morning in Montmartre

The favelas of Montmartre
It's 10 o'clock and I'm expected at Café Le Sancerre on the rue des Abbesses.  In bubble wrap is a print of a photo I took of Montmartre from the top of the Arc de Triomphe in 2010.  It's for the previous owners of my local charcuterie (deli).  After 12 years of loyal service, they've just sold and they're moving away.  This is my going-away present, my tribute to all those succulent roast chickens that have welcomed me back every time I've landed in this, my other home.
     "Oh, thank you so much.  It will be a nice remembrance for us, wherever we go," says Nathalie, with the typical two-cheeked kiss.
     Then, over a cup of something, come stories about their customers, including someone they only call Mémé, or Granny "We delivered lunch to her each day.  She could no longer come to the shop.  Now she is 93 and in a retirement home in the far suburbs.  We always send her a postcard when we travel."  And they never fail to remember her birthday.
Chickens roasting in front of my charcuterie
     Their daughter was only 2 when they set up shop on the rue des Abbesses.  I've seen her grow into a young lady, sometimes manning the cash register like her mom.  The new owners of the deli seem like nice people, although they appear to be counting more on tourist trade than the regulars - which, in my humble opinion, is a mistake.  Cold meats and salads are fine once in a while, but this is France and people want a warm meal at lunchtime.  So I suggest that they suggest the new owners should offer more than an either/or choice of hot dishes.
     "Can we have your address?", asks Nathalie.  I write it down, wondering whether I, too, will get a postcard.  More probably a photo of where they hang my photo in their new place.
     Now past the handshake stage thanks to my gift, we do the two-kiss au revoir and I walk away, sad that I won't see their smiling faces on my regular grocery run any more, or eat Christian's most excellent sausages.  ("Je fais l'andouille depuis 14 ans," he admitted to me once, a play on words that means "I've been making andouille sausage since I was 14", but "faire l'andouille" also means clowning around, and Christian Durand always has a notable twinkle in his eye.)
Just part of a mind-boggling selection
     Down the street is the wine shop.  This early in the day, it's deserted.
     "Bonjour, Madame Sandy.  Back already from Amérique?"
     And Manu guides me through the selection of a dozen bottles for my depleted wine cellar.  They'll be delivered this afternoon, for an additional 3€.  I've known this shop since it was opened (see Caves des Abbesses, Feb 22, 2013) and they've never steered me wrong.
     The sun is shining and the sky is blue.  So it's off to restock the garden.
     "Bonjour, Madame.  You are back?  Your garden is not happy, after this terrible winter we have been subjected to?"
     And the lovely Asian lady, who remembers I have a tree that casts a great shadow, suggests plants that might do well in my garden.  I leave with two potted herbs - basil and thyme - and a fuchsia to replace the one the "terrible winter" has killed, along with a campanula plus a bouquet of peonies to remind me of the ones I'll miss enjoying in my garden back in the States.
     Balancing all that, I head back up the hill and stop in at the mini-market.  I'll never be able to carry any more, so I stock up on things to reach the 60€ limit for deliveries.  The mini-cart is full but...
     "That will be 58.77, s'il vous plaît."  But they'll deliver anyway.  I take the two ingredients for my lunch, rearrange the pots of flowers and start off again uphill in the bright sunlight.  In a side street, I meet the man who delivers the groceries, coming in the opposite direction.
     "Bonjour, Madame.  You have groceries for me?" he inquires.  And I tell him I'll be in all afternoon, planting the flowers.  He looks them over and declares that "they will do nicely".
     The easiest climb back to the house is by the Southwest Slope, and it takes me past the news seller.
     "Bonjour, Madame Sandy.  You have come for your crossword?"  They know I always buy the International Herald Tribune on the week-end, as much for the Times Sunday Puzzle as for the news.  "How is the weather in your north country?" they ask.  "You have once again brought to us the sun back" they add, pointing up at the sky.  "And for this, we thank you."  It has become the legend that when Sandy arrives, the sun comes back from wherever it has been hiding.  So once again, my reputation is safe.
     "Yes," I reply, "but now it is up to you to keep it."
     When I open the gate to my garden, I see that the box of wine is already waiting on my doorstep.  In spite of my speed, the wine shop has been faster than I managed to be.
     I set the flowers in the garden for planting after lunch and put water on to boil for the Luncheon Pasta.  A bit of music while I'm cooking, I think.  Something perky, to go with the sunshine.  Maybe even something Brazilian (although I may be overdoing it there).  I look through my "discothèque".

     Suddenly the delivery man knocks at the door with my groceries.  I give him a tip and he's off, with a "Merci, Madame.  Au revoir."
     "You've forgotten your bag!" I call after him.
     "No, it is for you," he says over his shoulder.
     And a very fine bag it is:  bright colors and a sturdy fabric with woven fabric handles.  Ecofrance is stamped on the bottom, and it really is made in France, not in China.  I fold it up until my next trip to the flower shop. Or back to their grocery.  And it didn't cost me a centime.  Just a smile, I guess.


As I write this, the blue sky has gone and a light rain is falling on the newly-planted flowers.  With a sweater on, it's just warm enough to leave the door open and enjoy hearing the raindrops on the leaves of my guardian tree.  Life is good.

1 comment:

  1. I visited Mom and Dad and the lilacs are in full bloom and the peonies just showing the green balls which shall bloom later.

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