Shakespeare & Company was one of the places in my bucket list that I’d been wanting to visit. While planning our itinerary for Paris I immediately charted out a decent block of time for this book store. On our second day after a visit to Notre Dame, which by the way is stunning, we walked across the bridge to Shakespeare & Co.
The bookstore was originally established in 1919 by Sylvia Beach and is now housed in a gorgeous 17th century building. The ground floor is packed with books from the floor to the ceiling. The musty smell of old books and the warmth makes the place feel like home. The upstairs area is basically a huge library with old, worn out chairs and beds where the hopeful writers and artists are welcome to live. This book store was at one point of time home to the greats – Hemingway and Fitzgerald. There are smatterings of writings on the walls and pictures of Orhan Pamuk, Truman Capote, etc pinned on to doors.
I cannot describe the bohemian nature, but I can show you in pictures :
I wanted to purchase a book here as a souvenir. And what better book to choose than Madame Bovary, one of my all time favorites, written by Gustave Flaubert. A Parisian book in Paris, it was apt.
I don’t need to say I love you in those exact words.
I don’t need to prove my loyalty.
No grand gestures or writings in the sky.
You are in me as I am in you, and nothing can separate us.
I don’t need to say I love you, but I want to.
I love you, with every fiber of my life, from the bottom of my heart, I love you.
Happy birthday, Madras. You beautiful thing, you.
Immigration Officer : “Sir, you aren’t supposed to enter here. Can I help you?”
Man with Jamaican accent : “Yes, I’m looking for my baby.”
Immigration Officer : “Your baby??”
Man : “Yes. My fiancé. She’s waiting in the line.”
Best conversation I’ve ever heard.
Girl leaving Pinkberry with a large bowl of yogurt and toppings : “You know, this is more nutritious than a cupcake.”
When we started discussing about our trip to Europe, the first thing I was super excited for was – breakfast. To rephrase, breakfast in Paris. I am a sucker for all things loaded with carbs, and bread, is my weakness. I’m the person who loads up on free bread and butter in restaurants although a good main course is next. There is this Italian restaurant near my house that serves mediocre food but their whipped butter and fresh bread is killer. I LOVE that place. So obviously I was very psyched to try all the different croissants and baguettes.
I’ve had my share of decent croissants but guys, believe the hype when I say that the French take croissants to a whole new level! The first day we decided to have breakfast at one of the many cafés that were strewn around our hotel. All cafés in Paris follow the same theme – red, they all have outside seating and EVERYONE smokes. The tables outside these cafés are placed so close together you could totally join in the conversations and pick food off each others tables without even stretching. One day we decided to have lunch in the outside seating area and this guy was blowing smoke in my face throughout the whole meal. It was unpleasant to say the least.
While visiting most cafés we realized that the ‘locals’ had their coffee standing at the bar. We were the noob tourists “sitting down” for coffee. We later realized that coffee served at the bar is infinitely more cheaper than if you “sat down”. Its one of those “European” things that I don’t get.
Most cafés have a set breakfast menu offering one of each treat – croissant, baguette, pain au chocolat. We tried the breakfast set for a couple of days and switched things up with the Nutella crepes (chewy, chocolatey goodness) and Norwegian smoked salmon with the fluffiest, creamiest, most decadent scrambled eggs I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. Coffee in Paris is good enough, but the coffee in Rome was the best. If you are visiting Paris first I’d recommend holding off a little on the food until you visit Rome, because that is where the magic lies.
If you were wondering where I’ve been these past couple of weeks well, I was prancing around Europe, seeing beautiful things and eating scrumptious food. We visited Paris and Rome for a week. While we did not manage to see EVERYTHING in Paris and Rome this trip was by no means a vacation. I was exhausted from walking on the first day so we took it easy for the rest of the trip.
Paris is a charming city. There are tiny cafes serving overpriced coffee at every turn, tourists as far as the eye can see, freshly baked baguettes and croissants. I consumed an insane amount of carbs in that four day period. While I did try some French food, it was not made for my Indian palate.
I love to people watch, and Parisian women are now my favorite. None of them brush their hair. They’ve all managed to perfect the just-got-out-of-bed look while still looking like a million bucks. They don’t wear a jeans and t shirt with sneakers like how Americans do. They either wear dresses or knee length skirts. Most of them wear practical, yet chic flats, blazers and no make up. How is it physically possible for you to look so perfect?! I think fifteen minutes is all a Parisian woman takes to get ready in the morning.
Note to self: Master the art of looking put together in fifteen minutes.
It took less than a day to feel like Paris owned me. At the end of four days I did not want to go back to my seemingly monotonous life. There were too many places that I hadn’t explored yet. The Parisian life of hanging out in cafes on a Monday morning, smoking and drinking espressos called out to me.
In the past twenty four hours I have eaten :
1. A slice of bread with Speculoos cookie butter
2. Strawberry flavored yogurt
3. Ten gummy bears
4. Tea with milk and a huge spoon of sugar
5. Half of a berry smoothie
Although I was fasting, I am reeling from an intense sugar high now! This sweet tooth problem is getting way out of hand. Somebody really needs to cut me off.
Tamil Nadu has a bustling “snack scene”. While most Tamil households practice the “tiffin” culture, (a small meal between lunch and dinner at around 4 o’clock) that consists of idli, dosa, adai or such, my family partakes in the “evening tea”. And no, we’re not British. I have fond memories of my extend, boisterous family spending our evenings talking about politics, religion and sharing anecdotes (some even for the millionth time) over bottomless cups of tea and golden brown masala/paruppu(dal) vadais.
The combination of tea and vadai was the most popular item in my house. My mother would fry batch over batch of crispy vadais, enough to satisfy the endless stream of guests that waltzed in to my home (many of whom I think came just for the tea).
I remember hovering impatiently over the hot kadai pestering my mother to “make it soon”. ‘Cause Lord knows, I was always hungry. Considering the amount of time I spent talking to my mother in the kitchen, I never actually managed to cook anything. So when it came to the vadai I took care of the consumption while she did the manufacturing.
Cut to last week when I decided to make these vadais because what’s Ramadan without some oily goodness clogging up your blood stream . I scanned the Interwebz high and low for a recipe that fit. Nothing managed to click. Finally I gave up and decided to just wing it. I soaked the dal and chopped the onions, green chillies and ginger. Few hours later I was frying up slightly misshapen, but delicious vadais. Turns out the time I spent in the kitchen was of use. While I didn’t pay attention to what or rather, how my mother made the food, my brain was passively recording everything for future use.
And that, my friends, is why you should never take yourself for granted.
Also, y’all are welcome to my house anytime for tea and vadai.
“My dramas don’t help me sleep, they simply allow me to pretend that I’m somebody else, someone who’s not lying saucer-eyed on a sweat-drenched mattress, watching minutes flap forward and awaiting the dawn of another dry day.”
- Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris
.. not the movie. I’ve been doing a lot of self reflecting this Ramadan (don’t laugh) in order to become a better person on the whole. I was thinking about grudges and how some of them consume us like a fire. I have decided to not hold grudges against anyone and not feel so strongly when someone else holds a grudge against me. I realize that everyone is dealing with their own issues and holding on to one hurtful thing that someone said eons ago is not going to make my life any easier. Holding a grudge is like adding on an excess weight to my shoulder that I do not want. I don’t want to waste precious time in my life from wondering why so and so was mean, rude, etc.
I’ve decided to be carefree about these things and not let them gnaw at my brain. ‘Cause really, no good can come from these resentful thoughts.
P.S : How horrible was that movie The Grudge? I despise the entire horror genre.
“If everybody likes you. you’re pretty dull.”
- Bette Davis