Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Exploring your city and Finding your tribe

Do you ever feel unorthodox,  eccentric or perhaps wayward?   All the others seem to find congruency everywhere but you are always the "odd-ball"?

 This must be true of me or how do I explain the more than 50,000 sterling reviews that have shown up on Amazon for a popular thriller that I read for my book club when I,  of course, thought the book was rubbish. 

   I have gotten to the point that if a zillion people like a book, then I deliberately avoid it.  I am suspicious too of tastes in films.   I realize that this might mean that I miss out on some good stuff but who likes disappointment? 

  At first, not being "main-stream"  bothered me,  then puzzled me, but now I own it.   It must be said, though, that there is a certain pleasant feeling on finding a person (or more than a few people) who sees your point of view. 

So I felt delighted to attend a Nice book club and find that many of the people in the group agreed that "Girl on the Train",  by Paula Hawkins is a very unsatisfying read...  with minimal character development, unsympathetic characters, a predictable ending and a painfully slow plot development. 

It was satisfying to spar with new acquaintances to agree and disagree and gently ( ha) eviscerate the book.  I guess that is the point of a book club, to disagree but still have a lively, good time.  So "get- togethers" like this can be a good thing even for odd balls like me.  

 And there are loads of clubs and events like these to choose from in Nice now. 

  Just today I walked by the "Little Resto Cafe" on Rue Bonaparte.  Besides serving food, my friend told me that they have a "meet -up" almost every day of the week.  On first glance at their Facebook page, past events have included,  knitting nights,  philosophy discussions, used clothing exchanges, art lessons,  musical evenings and more.
 At Little Resto these evenings are conducted in the French language but there are hundreds of meet-ups in English if you prefer and there are many more venues and areas to choose from.

Little Resto Cafe  happens to be located in my new favorite area of Nice, Rue Bonaparte.  It was in this neighborhood that a friend and I ended up having lunch yesterday. 
 We wanted to try Chez Papa, a wine bar/resto.     The menu there has an refreshing mixture of classic dishes and some with Asian influence.   There was a friendly, jovial vibe and the "carte" was reasonably priced.  

 I ordered seared tuna on a bed of wok-prepared vegetables .  The tuna was barely cooked,  close to sushi, the way I prefer it and the vegetables were well spiced.  My friend ordered and enjoyed  Salmon tartar.  Our dishes were quite similar in fact but our over-all impression was favorable.   Its great to find something a bit different from the norm.

The seaweed covered salmon tartar with wok vegetables on the side

The perfect finish to such a meal was to share a plate of ice cream profiteroles.  The serving size of these puff pastry delicacies was "grande" with plenty of Chantilly and chocolate sauce.  It was certainly fine to share,  although I could have polished off a plate of my own ( shhh).   That dessert just disappeared so fast, it was scandalous really.

We both agree that Rue Bonaparte is a section of town that is becoming one of the most attractive and worthy of further exploration. Bonaparte itself is a walking street but the side streets are spilling over with cafes and imaginative boutiques as well.  

This area has a gay San Francisco aesthetic with a  shabby chic authenticity of its own. There is that "je ne sais quoi" don't have to define it because it is apprehended . 

  So have a look...Go, seek and find your tribe.  They are out there waiting for you in one neighborhood or the other. 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Sunday in the Cafe

I am fully aware that I have resisted writing in my blog since the tragedy of July 14 in Nice. 

If I look at that it is possibly because I felt my "flip, breezy" style might be offensive after such an event.  I was one of the least affected by the tragedy.... although I know I was shocked by it.  We all were.  A tribute was held yesterday.

Instead of writing though, I suddenly became obsessed with making art and since that time I have returned to my studio with a passion for learning new techniques with new materials.  I don't know quite how to explain this because it has been a good many years since I painted anything. 

Today though, at the suggestion of a friend, I realized that I really wanted to go out and celebrate something ( the full moon ..why not) in the only existing Parisian style cafe in Nice: Le Grand Cafe de Lyon on Av Jean M├ędecin.

As a tribute to the Parisian vibe I even thought about getting "dolled up", putting on a saucy dress or heels, but in the end I put on cropped yellow jeans and turquoise ballerina flats which is probably more Parisian nowadays anyway. 

 Besides,  I am "frileuse" a wonderful French word  which can mean "sensitive to cold"( frileux masc.) This morning there was a distinct Autumn chill when I emerged so I put on several layers. 

Certainly the food at Cafe de Lyon is mediocre, we all know that, and that it is over-priced.  But that is not why one goes there. 

   Our quiche Lorainne was perfectly acceptable. But one goes there to sit on the sidewalk and behold,  witness,  survey,  comment, and short to watch the world unfurl before one.  

And we go there as Americans for the ideas that we have in our heads...probably from every French film we have ever seen.....  to re-live every visit we have ever made to Paris and to attempt to capture those iconic film images for ourselves. 

Here we go. 

...A man sits at a tiny round table ( ditto Cafe de Lyon) with his minuscule generic white cup and his pack of Galoise....and he gazes, discreetly ogles and smokes  ....seemingly for an hour or more.
....two old girls with mashed flowered hats whose tiny dogs lie resignedly under the table, sit and sip their pastis or "citron presse"  .  They come every day.  Sometimes they say little.
....the artists and intellectuals are there arguing over some point or they are just pouting and smoking and seemingly never leaving to get any work done. How many coffees have they had?
....the waiter never stops moving with his brief white apron and he has the sulky "attitude" we have come to expect.   (although at Cafe de Lyon this is not on display.) 

So we possibly go to Cafe de Lyon to create for ourselves what we missed....

1)because we were not born
2) or weren't living in Paris
3) or it was the war or just after and we were babies
4) or because we can't possibly "get" what it is that we are missing.

 But it seems we are missing something.

And that last one is the enigmatic strangeness.  We don't even necessarily like the Parisians but we want something of what they are.  

Maybe we want to just be able to toss on a scarf and make it look effortless instead of fiddling with it for 10 minutes and then taking it off altogether. 

Or maybe we want to be content with just some white shirts and perfectly fit blue jeans that the wearer makes look like a perfect outfit every time somehow.  What is that?   

Today I saw several bike clubs pass by as I waited for the bus.  If I were a guy I would want to be in that clan of attractive guys 40, 50, 60, and 70 years old who go on these long rides every Sunday ending in a long French feast , jokes , laughter and songs.  This is so sexy.  How do the French manage to make a thing like that look like normal, easy, un-calculated fun?

I wouldn't say that The Cafe de Lyon is sexy but you can bring the sexy "Cafe Les Deux Magot" attitude with you.  You have to take your time there...get a meal and a couple of drinks, three hours minimum and go with someone who really "gets" it.  Own the place.  Take it all in and be in Paris. 

 Perhaps Paris has some edge but they don't have our southern clime....  A perfect 20 degrees, 68 F. today. As time wore on, I took off all of my layers down to the last one,  my chartreuse short sleeve top and my turquoise necklace. 

Then I threw my scarf over my shoulder... "just so", sipped my "Aperol spritz" and watched the crowd with the proper "insouciance". ... that being the perfect French word for the occasion. 

It takes a certain attitude to enjoy the Cafe de Lyon but I will miss it when its gone... as surely it will be one day.