Paris Journal 2015 – Barbara Joy Cooley Home: barbarajoycooley.com
“What do you use for cell phone service when you’re in France?” That’s a question I’ve been asked many times over the years. I start by explaining what we use in the U.S.
We have unlocked phones, and pay-as-you-go SIM cards. I used to use AT&T for me, then T-mobile for Tom, and this past year, I switched to T-mobile for myself.
For the past three summers, upon arrival in France I removed the SIM card and replaced it with a SIM card from Le French Mobile. It worked very well, and was inexpensive; the service was designed for English-speaking students studying abroad in France.
But Le French Mobile sold out to Bouygues telecom, and the SIM card I used for the past three summers was suddenly useless.
I read a glowing review in Yelp about a place called The Phone Store, just down the rue du Commerce a few blocks from where we are staying. We’d passed it many times, and I thought that would be a convenient place to go for the SIM cards and advice about what service to use. So Tom and I set out for that shop yesterday, late morning. When we reached its location, we were stunned to see that it has been replaced by one of those ubiquitous electronic cigarette shops.
I guess there still are some people who smoke, but those shops can’t be profitable for long. Aren’t all the smokers quitting? What will those shops do then? Become phone stores again?
Anyway, I just decided to give up and go back to Orange, the cute name for France Telecom. An Orange boutique is right around the corner from “our” apartment.
I used an Orange SIM card for many summers before taking up with Le French Mobile. So, back to Orange again.
Orange boutiques are orderly. In this one, there is a metal design in the wood floor to show customers where to stand in line and wait their turns. We entered the boutique and obediently waited where the floor told us to wait.
Waiting there is almost fun, because you can watch other customers having all their phone problems resolved by the technologically sophisticated staff.
We’d been speaking quietly to each other, but I could tell by the look on his face that the tall young man who had to help us was dreading having to speak English. He was visibly relieved when I walked up, said, “Bonjour,” and explained, in French, what we needed for our phones, to make them work as local phones, inexpensively, for three months.
We could try to do it ourselves, simply buying a SIM card at a tabac. But these days, with the different kinds of networks and the more complex smart phone (mine), there are settings that need to be changed and I don’t pretend to be an expert about that.
The tall young man was an expert. He relaxed and enjoyed my jokes as we went through the process of changing our phones from American to French. My phone is smart, but it is old, and patience was required. The young man’s fingers flew at lightning speed as he changed settings and installed the chips on our phones. Slow phones are a frustration for him, I’m sure, so I felt obligated to entertain him with American humor.
By the time we left, he was all smiles, and shook our hands. That is not something these Orange boutique workers normally do. But now we have phones that work, and we can keep track of each other when we go out separately for errands and such. Having a phone while shopping alone is essential, I think, for you never know when you might need to consult the spouse about a purchase.
And I like to go out for walks early in the morning, sometimes, before Tom gets up and has his coffee. Phones are good for security when walking alone.
Next came the task of memorizing our phone numbers, and learning to rattle them off in French, quickly. Numbers, for some reason, take me more time to translate in my head than words do.
After watching the day’s stage of the Tour de France, I made a reservation for us to dine at Le Blavet, a longtime favorite restaurant that is a bit off the beaten track, on the rue Lourmel.
Before dinner, we made an unsuccessful trip to the hardware store, Zola Colour, to try to buy door stops. They were sold out. I think this is because of the hot weather during the week before we arrived. People opened up their apartments all the way, and the breezes were slamming doors all over the 15th. So, no door stops yet. By the way, a door stop is an arret de porte in French.
Theoretically you can have just two courses instead of three at Le Blavet, but you’d never know it from the printed menu. And the pricing is such that you might as well have three.
So yesterday’s dinner was a big one. I ordered a Landaise salad and Tom had the goat cheese salad for starters. Then I had the filet de rascasse for the main course. I like rascasse because it has much character, but I was also attracted by the prospect of carrot mousse that accompanied it.
Tom ordered the salmon. Each dish was garnished by a crisp, homemade pastry tube with fennel embedded in it. We each had similar beurre blanc sauces, but Tom’s was thicker, and mine had onions in it.
For dessert, Tom ordered his favorite: an apple tart with ice cream. I ordered the moelleux au chocolat which came with a scoop of pistachio ice cream in a pastry cup. Of course, I gave the ice cream to Tom, who just loves the stuff.
The dinner was great, both in quality and size, because of the three courses. We can’t do that often, but when you’re hungry in Paris, and you want a beautiful dinner, check out Le Blavet. One set of the three course dinner options is 26 euros, and the other was 34 euros, I think. It’s great value.
The Blavet, by the way, is a river that runs from central Brittany into the Atlantic Ocean.
After the hardware store and before dinner, we had walked into Le Pario, a new restaurant from last summer’s experiences, and made a reservation for tonight. So we know where our next meal is coming from. The chef there is from Brazil, and he is an expert in French cuisine with Brazilian touches. Pario is a combination of Paris and Rio. From Brittany to Rio de Janeiro. Should be fun!
Thursday, July 9, 2015
The Landaise salad at Le Blavet included generous chunks of foie gras and a few slices of smoked duck breast. A generous pile of chicken gizzard slices were in the middle.
The warm goat cheese in Tom’s salad was enclosed in crispy pastry.
The filet de rascasse (scorpion fish), with carrot mousse, tapenade, beurre blanc sauce, and onions.
Tom’s salmon with a veggie concoction that was tomato wrapped in strips of zucchini, stuffed inside with julienned zucchini, carrot, and something like bits of potato.
The moelleux au chocolat is made in house at Le Blavet.
The apple tart, with ice cream and whipped cream.