The case of the disappearing waiter

La colonne de juillet/The July Column

Despite being sick with a cold since arriving in Paris on Monday, I managed to get out and see Paris on Thursday.  (We didn’t make it to the car show…bummer!)  I do have a serious love for Paris and every time I visit the city I find myself visiting my favourite places (Champs de Mars and the Eiffel Tower; les Jardins de Tuileries and the Louvre; rue Rivoli for its over-the-top tourist traps).  This time, however, I added something new to my itinerary:  le Musée d’Orsay.

I’ve been longing to visit this museum but, as I usually have the days to myself when in Paris preferred to spend my days in parks or shops.  I prefer to ‘oooh’ and ‘aaah’ with a friend.  On Thursday however, enough was enough and while D was at work I took the metro to the Musée d’Orsay.  Before I get to the art, let me ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ about the building itself.

I was quite disappointed to learn that photography inside the museum was not permitted.  With the number of guards roaming the museum and the fact that I saw two people get severely reprimanded en français — oh, the shame of it all — I didn’t dare take a photo, even without the flash.  I thoroughly enjoyed my visit though and did purchase a book at the little bookshop by the entrance.  That way, I could take the photos home with me.  Some of my favourite artists were on exhibition (Seurat, van Gogh, Manet, Monet, Degas, and Cezanne) and while I have seen some of their works at other museums, it was a treat for my eyes to add to my collection.  The visit to the Musée d’Orsay did  introduce me to someone new:  Gustave Courbet.  I had never heard of him before but I quite enjoyed his, um, perspective.  I’m referring specifically to his oil on canvas Origin of the World (L’Origine du monde).  This is where I clear my throat…ahem…cough.  Ah yes, is that what you call it Gus?  (You have to see the work to understand so click here.  You’ll know it when you see it.)  Anyway, I am thoroughly impressed with M. Courbet’s work and with his influence.  And with his “stick it in your eye” attitude.

A huge urn behind which one can play hide & seek

Before heading to the musée this morning, I took it easy and didn’t rush out.  It was still a little grey and it seemed as though it was going to rain.  I’m not sure how long it took me to walk to the metro at Bastille but it was a good walk and with my iPod I felt like I had skipped there.  By the time I had entered the metro, the sun was out and patches of blue sky could be seen through the clouds. I had decided to have lunch at a little salon de thé that I had visited about 18 months ago.  I had to take 3 different lines to get to metro Ségur and then I walked down Suffren – past the Military College (boys in uni) and UNESCO – before arriving at Aux 3 Cerises.  Lunch was a delicious tomato and goat cheese quiche with a mixed salad and fresh bread.  I followed this up with a coffee and a tiramisu.  I sat on the terrace and watched people and traffic go by.  There I sat for 1 hour and 45 minutes.  Sheer relaxation and calm.  I had time to plan the rest of my afternoon; to decide which route to take to the Musée d’Orsay; to decide where to go after the museum.  I also had time to think about how different the dining experience in France is.

There are three things that happen in France which do not happen in restaurants in Toronto.  First, water appears even if you don’t ask for it.  (I think it’s happened only once or twice where a glass or pitcher of water wasn’t served and we had to ask for it.)  Second, waiters know that wine is served first to the women at the table and then the men and they don’t fill the glass to within half an inch of the rim.  Third, waiters in France are magicians and disappear once you’ve told them that you’re done eating or you’ve said the magic words “l’addition, s’il vous plait!”  Yup, they disappear into thin air.  All that warm, friendly, and attentive service you received during the meal vanishes with the magic words.  Your waiter becomes a ghost, un fantôme, never to be seen again.  I wonder if this is the issue many North Americans have when dining out in France.  We are so used to a quick turn around after asking for the bill that this disappearing act seems a bit rude.  I enjoy the disappearing trick though especially if I feel that I’ve eaten well and been treated well; I’m reluctant to leave.  Oh, but leave I must…

Le Musée d'Orsay

Between lunch and my museum visit I felt I was on cloud 9.  My cold finally felt like it was leaving me and I had comfy shoes on for my walk.  I think the Parisians I passed thought I was on drugs though.  I was humming along to my music – a lovely mix of R&B, old school reggae, jazz, plus some Yves Montand to add to the mood.  I also laughed out loud – and then choked back the laugh when I realized that perhaps I could get locked up for laughing on my own – when I saw three women of a certain age walking down Suffren.  What caught my eyes were a pair of space boots.  They positively glistened in the sunlight.  The wearer of the boots was at least 80 and I’m sure she felt hip and happening and totally on trend.  Maybe she IS on trend and I’m not…

How do you like them boots?

I did have a good time wandering the 7th arrondissement.  The day, in general, was a beautiful day for walking.  The sun was out but it wasn’t too warm.  Also, compared to being in Paris during the busy summer/tourist season, getting around during off-peak hours is so much easier and calmer.  Quite a few balconies caught my eyes specifically for the ironwork.  It’s a talent to be able to work iron into various shapes and forms.  I don’t suppose it’s a revered skill or craft these days.  Hup, the metal into the mold et voilà

Beautiful ironwork

Friday was our travel day.  D had a meeting on the other side of Paris so it was left to me to pack our suitcases and somehow get them downstairs.  (You’ve really got to love the elevators in these old buildings.  Try getting two overweight suitcases, a full garment bag ready to split its seams, a laptop, and a purse downstairs in one of those antiquated beasts!)  We took a cab to Gare de Lyon and headed south for our weekend.  After a little fun and laughter chez les parents it was time to pack — again — for the drive to Nice.

This is where we find ourselves at long last.  Despite the strange, shall we say non-Nice weather, we’re home.  It was such a relief finally to step foot into my own kitchen and see our favourite palm tree.  Surprisingly, and thankfully, the pigeons didn’t run amok on our terrasse.  With nothing for them to perch on, save the railing, they obviously found the environment a little boring.  I wonder what they’ll think when we finally install the ultra-sound anti-pigeon devices.

Just how many bridges are there in Paris anyway?

Oh, and to my friends and family in Canada:  Happy Thanksgiving!

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Categories: getting out

Author:Tanya in Transition

I am a woman in transition. I left my job of 13 years to find happiness and self-fulfillment...in France!

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7 Comments on “The case of the disappearing waiter”

  1. October 11, 2010 at 9:14 PM #

    The Orsay is truly my favorite museum in Paris. The building itself is something to behold, but it the museum chronicles a magnificent change in the way worked their craft. It’s just plain exciting. As for Gus’s l’Origine du Monde….he had a point!

    • October 15, 2010 at 1:23 PM #

      I totally agree…but it did make me chuckle.

      I had to laugh when I rounded the corner in the museum to the l”Origine right there! Bonjour!!

  2. October 11, 2010 at 9:15 PM #

    forgot the word “artists”…oops

  3. Sinead
    October 12, 2010 at 4:47 AM #

    Ok…now I’m hooked on your blog. Congratulations on the wedding and the BIG move to France! I look forward to following your journey via this blog Tanya. LOVE those glittery boots. You seriously have to find a pair for yourself!

    • October 12, 2010 at 8:52 AM #

      Thanks Sinead for the kind words!

      Lol, yeah those boots were something. I need to get me a pair! 🙂

  4. October 12, 2010 at 1:11 PM #

    Wandering around les Jardins de Tuileries on a sunny day with a latte from the Paul’s kiosk is one of my favorite Paris activities. Combine that with a day in Galleries Lafayette oohing and aahing and I’m pretty much in heaven (oh, and saying hi to the Degas ballerina in Musee de Orsay, then I’m complete!)
    Sorry about your cold 😦

  5. October 13, 2010 at 1:23 PM #

    What a great day…just picturing you humming along & then bumping into those moon boots 🙂 Never a dull moment in Paris that’s for sure!

    I really love the Orsay too, only been one time but hope to get back soon…geez, it’s a popular place! But can see why, one of my favorite things is just the building itself, and that great view of the river…oo la la!

    And the French waiters really are amazing…studied them last time we were eating in Paris & they make it all look so easy, but do everything “just right”!
    Enjoy your first days back in Nice 🙂

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