Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tears and la Tour Eiffel

Every time I go to Paris, I vow that I am not going to take dozens (hundreds?) more photos of the Eiffel Tower.  I mean, how many does one need?  How many do I already have?  How many of the 23,929 photos in my iPhoto folder are of la Tour?  Aucune idée.  No idea. 
But did I keep that promise to myself this time?  Absolument pas...

As soon as she came into view on the bus ride from the airport, I started snapping away.  And I did not stop. 

Sunset while crossing the Seine...
As I headed down Rue St. Dominique to the hotel...
Across the city from the rooftop of Galeries Lafayette...
From the top of l'Arc de Triomphe...
Up close and personal...
In different light...
At night...
And when the sparkly lights came on.
I just cannot help myself, I guess.  Silly promises made in North Carolina before the magic of Paris takes a hold of me.
This year, I had a total meltdown on the top, though. Well, on the second floor, actually.  You can now go on-line and buy group tickets.  What a marvelous idea.  I did it last year and the only hitch was that I had miscounted and didn't buy one for myself.  Pas de problème.  Not a problem.  I've been up many times.  That gave me time to scout out nearby cafés and find a place to have dinner with my band of 8th graders and my other chaperone.  I strolled all around the base, took photos of it (of course), watched it sparkle, sat underneath and talked to a Marseillais who was visiting for the first time in his 65 years.
This year, I went on-line in mid-February to buy the tickets.  I saw that the third floor was closed for a month, but it was scheduled to reopen before we got there.  Pas de problème.  I registered my school's name, put in the school's credit card information (merci, Dr. Dupont!), counted very carefully to make sure I would get to go up this time, confirmed, printed, filed the paper away in my pink trip notebook and all was good.  I had checked on-line to see what time sundown would be on March 9 so that I could time being on the top when the lights of Paris came on.  Que je suis intelligente!  Aren't I smart??  I was arranging a magical moment for the kiddies.  What a great teacher.
We all got in line (I did have to wait for the other chaperone and some stragglers who were haggling for a good price on key chains...), passed through security and got to the first check point.  I asked the fellow letting us through (in my very best French, of course) why we didn't have individual tickets, the kind we had always had where they tear off the corners for each floor that you visit.  He told me that they'd gone to a new system.  Ok.  Who am I to question a new system?  We rode up to the first floor, not getting off yet, saving that for the way down,  and headed on up to the second floor where you have to change elevators.  It was very, very cold and windy that night.  We found the line for the third floor elevator and made it to the next ticket-checking fellow who informed me that I had only bought tickets to the second floor.  Mais non, I told him.  There must be a mistake.  I explained, once again in my very best French, and he shook his head and said that at that time they weren't selling tickets to the third floor because it was closed.  Fine, I said, but why didn't his buddy downstairs tell me that then I asked?  The famous French shoulder shrug.  I was told to go buy the supplementary tickets at the ticket machine.  Ok.  Pas de problème.  Until I got to the machine and discovered that it took a carte bleue, a French credit card with a special chip in it, or CHANGE.  No bills.  And I am not in the habit of carrying around 63 euros, approximately $82, in coins.  And no one was working the window on such a cold, windy night.  Uh-oh, I could feel the tears just on the brink of escaping my little green eyes.  And I was not wearing waterproof mascara... (It had been a stressful day, the majority of it spent at CDG airport sending home a girl who was homesick-a first for me)  Just as the tears started spilling down my cheeks and I started looking for the elevator to head all the way back down to buy the tickets (my students would get to the very top, no matter what), a woman employee noticed and told me Attendez, madame, ne descendez pas.  Hold on, don't go down yet.  She found someone to open up the ticket window for me and I bought the tickets.  But once the tears start and you are tired and cold and more than a little stressed, it can be hard to stop.  After digging around in my bottomless purse for the little plastic packet of tissues I always carry around with me, mopping up some tears and wiping away the mascara, I found my group and tried telling them what was going on.  One of the girls grabbed me, gave me a huge hug and said something to the effect of "Oh, madame, you need some lavender right now."  They know that I keep some on my desk, just for emergency moments and when I want to pretend that I am in Provence.  But that hug is why I teach...
Oh!  The reason the top had been closed was so that they could install a champagne bar, it seems.  And we did witness a champagne moment as a guy got down on one knee and whipped out a lovely diamond ring for his unsuspecting girlfriend.  One of my girlies heard the girl gasp and ask, in a very loud voice, in English, a question containing language that I cannot repeat here.   But they didn't buy champagne.
Well, in spite of all of that, I still love la Tour Eiffel.  I always will, I guess.  Maybe next time, though, I will carry my little bottle of lavender with me or at least a lavender sachet, just in case, along with the tissues and the waterproof mascara.

This is my favorite salad and I eat it as often as possible when in France.  With the help of my Frenchie friends, I've recreated the recipe. There are many variations, but this is my favorite.  The BFF and I served this salad at our Sabbatical Chef Dinner last weekend.

Salade de chèvre chaud

Line plates with your favorite lettuce or baby salad greens.  Add cherry tomatoes.  (I found some red, yellow and green ones at Whole Foods that worked well.)  Drizzle this with vinaigrette (recipe below).

Cut goat cheese into rounds.  (I used Bucheron from Wine Authorites.  Randy cut the rounds into 1/3-inch slices for me.  I cut the slices into quarters.)  Dip the pieces first into egg yolk and then into bread crumbs.  Fry in a hot pan with olive oil until golden brown on each side.

If you wish, instead of frying the goat cheese, you can just place it on slices of a baguette and warm it up in the oven, under the broiler.  Do not dip in egg or roll in bread crumbs.

Place the goat cheese on the salad greens.  Add a touch of honey (a "tear" according to the Frenchie who sent a recipe!) to the top of the cheese.  (I brought lavender honey back from the Arles market just for this.)  If you do not use honey, you can drizzle the cheese with a bit of good olive oil.


Use the best quality ingredients you can for this simple dressing.  You can adjust the quantities, but you should stick to a 3:1 oil to vinegar ratio.

1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp. vinegar (wine, balsamic, sherry,etc.)
1 heaping tsp. Dijon mustard
Freshly ground pepper

Whisk all ingredients together.  Serve at room temperature. 
You can add shallots, garlic, herbs, whatever you desire to spice it up.

Bon appétit, la Tour Eiffel!


MPK said...

I want to go back!

The Sabbatical Chef said...

I can't promise not to cry... but I do promise a lot of fun and even a visit to the Musée d'Orsay. They have paintings and stuff in there, you know.