Friday, June 24, 2011

An Idiot, A Broad: Paris, Part One

When Midnight in Paris ended, Rosemarie turned to me and said, “You do realize that if we didn’t have this trip planned you’d have to carry me out of here in hysterics, don’t you?”

Occasionally you get lucky. Only a week after seeing Woody Allen’s beguiling bauble of a film we were winging our way to Paris to celebrate our twentieth wedding anniversary. It was the first visit to the city for both of us.

Some people consult guidebooks before an excursion. Others check with a physician. Me, I ask my bartender. A few days prior to our departure I stopped by the Zig Zag Café to find out where to drink in Paris. I could last ten days without watching baseball, but no way was I going to give up cocktails. Erik advised me that Paris, like much of Europe, didn’t have an active cocktail culture, then preceded to mention several suitable bars. Next, I asked if I could bring anything back.

Amer Picon,” Erik said without hesitation, naming the bitter orange liqueur featured in drinks like the Liberal and the Brooklyn. “You can’t get it here. It can be tough to find even in France.”

I now had what I needed to make this vacation complete. I wasn’t just going to learn how long a man could subsist on nothing but gazpacho and Calvados. I had a quest.

Day One: Transit. A long but pleasant flight, punctuated with surprisingly decent airplane food. Air France’s many entertainment options allowed me to catch up with a terrific French film not yet released in the United States. In The Night Clerk, Jean-Pierre Bacri is the manager of an upscale mountain resort forced to cover up an accidental death caused by his son. The title character, a recently paroled young convict, knows what happened but keeps schtum, leading to a bond between the two men that is destined to be tested. It’s the kind of elegant, chilling thriller that only the French can make, and it got the voyage off on the right foot.

Day Two: Paris Fog. I know Day Two happened. I have receipts. But a readjusting biological clock has reduced most of it to a blur. We trained in from the airport, settled into the small, modern, functional apartment we’d rented near the Louvre for our stay, wandered out for a croque-monsieur, then slept most of the day. That evening we strolled over the Pont Neuf to the Île de la Cité for the first of many languorous French dinners. We found a lovely restaurant in a small square, which a pair of jazz musicians took over for the evening, and gazpacho was had. On the walk back, Rosemarie noticed that one of her brand new shoes sounded odd. Turns out the cobblestones on the street had pried loose the heel. Checking online, we discovered that a cobbler – the only one authorized to replace the red soles on Christian Louboutin shoes – was located directly across the street from us. Clearly, this was to be a charmed trip. (NOTE: The preceding is a literary technique known as foreshadowing.)

Day Three: Darkness in the City of Light. We spent the day strolling through the Marais, swinging past the Centre Pompidou and visiting the Musée Carnavelet, a town house now given over to the history of Paris. Fascinating shops abounded in the neighborhood. None carried Amer Picon. That evening we headed to the Cinémathèque Française for the start of the Perles Noires series. Our friend Eddie Muller, founder and capo of the Film Noir Foundation, had been invited to present some films, and we pushed our trip back a month to coincide with the festival. The opening night feature was the FNF-restored Cry Danger. I’ve written about the film twice before, and can only add that it plays as well in France as it did at Noir City. A late dinner with Eddie and the Cinémathèque staff followed. We’d be spending a lot of time at the theater in the days to come.