Sunday, April 5, 2009

wish you were here...

Place Dauphine. Paris. Springtime. The lime trees in the place have leafed out even since yesterday. We have long been coming to this triangular sanctuary, cool and tranquil, in the heart of one of the busiest sections of Paris. We sit at the Cave au Palais where we have always sat to have a glass of wine or a hot chocolate on gray, rainy days in the city. Today, we have lunch. The sun is out, and perhaps our northern skin has gotten a bit too much light and heat this morning when we sat earlier in the open, treeless expanse of the courtyard of the Louvre and drank café crème and watched the people walk by. So we sit now in the cool of the shaded awning. Three men play boules, and an older couple sits on a bench beneath the broad canopy of trees. La Madame wears a pink suit. I am wearing a silk scarf bought years ago in Paris, a gift from my parents when I got married. Sunlight filters through young leaf and branch creating a chiarocscuro on faces, a hand, a fine shoe. We come to Place Dauphine every time we are here., a pilgrimage based on two or three sentences in novel, a French policier written by the formidable George Simenon. We’ve long followed the stories of the irascible Inspector Maigret who sits in the Palais de Justice that fronts on the Place Dauphine, the inspector who always orders sandwiches and beer from the restaurant on the Place during the most intense moments of a case. We should be eating sandwiches and beer, but we cannot reject the salad of grilled shrimp with orange and grapefruit, the block of foie gras, the simply grilled dorade served smoky and with lemon, the entrecote, my favorite cut, cooked rare with a classic pepper sauce, or the rich boudin noir served with fresh greens. How can we say no to perfectly salted and roasted potatoes, and buttered green beans? Impossible to turn down a Bordeaux, with a vintage of nine years ago for a relatively paltry sum. The meal is long and finishes with cheeses and a perfectly torched crème brulée. The sun has moved, the air a bit cooler now, only a small shot of thick coffee to warm us and close the palate and the meal.

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