Sunday, April 21, 2013

"Licking the Windows"

             Lèche-vitrine is a French word for window shopping. Lick the window. How wonderfully these words embody the desire, the sense of the urge when it fills one's mouth. I prefer, though, the descriptive Hebrew expression, “rinse the eyes.” It offers the experience of enjoying the beauty without the overwhelming desire to own it, so clearly implied by the French word.
            But the stores are safe from me. In two weeks here, I haven’t had the time. Always running to classes, to French conversations held all over the city, and back home in between to catch some rest of which I don’t seem to get enough. When I finally had a free Sunday afternoon and set on the mission to check the better fashion stores, I discovered that they were closed on Sunday!
            The birds-and-flower market was more than a great compensation. So many chirping birds were ready to be adopted into families where they would welcome spring, and so many flower pots ready to be planted—the majority, it seems, are in window sills, which cannot be imagined in urban New York.  
           This week, the famous Hotel Carillon, shut down for major renovations, allowed the public a couple of days of viewing the contents to be auctioned. Rooms filled with antique furniture, art, concierge uniforms, Baccarat china, and wine and rare liqueurs displayed in their natural settings, in decorated suites with their sumptuous gilded ceilings. This is was a world where honored guests made history since the mid-1750. One bedroom showed a photo of young, beautiful Claudia Cardinale sitting on the same bed I was looking at. 
            On Friday, hubby Ron arrived for a few days—as did my cousin Michel and his wife Bernadette from Besançon (a town southwest of Paris,) and his sister Gaby and husband Hubert from Nice. While Ron’s visit takes me back to English, Bernadette and Hubert who speak only French provide me with long hours of French conversation that more than make up for the classes I miss. They’ve all commented on my French improvement, even though I feel that my vocabulary still needs a major pumping of new words. But I do chat along, catching up on our lives in as quick a French as I can muster.
 (Photo: Restaurant La Fermette Marbeuf)
            In what is either French tradition or this family’s practice, each couple has treated us to sumptuous dinners at magnificent restaurants. Walking around all day has not balanced the calories consumed at these Parisian establishments whose chefs are dedicated to preserving the reputation of French cuisine down to its rich sauces, which we in the States have long put behind.
            And then there are the potatoes. I am unable to order a salad anywhere without this staple. Yesterday, though, it was replaced with rice. Potatoes also appear routinely on the side of main dishes, and servers are surprised when I ask for a replacement. The standard café’s kitchen is too busy for adjustments.
            Spring has finally showed its warm face for a couple of days this past week, only to shy away and let the cold replace it this weekend. No matter. I am taking three days off from classes for sightseeing.
            Or to lick the windows still from distance, as once again, I have no time to savor the merchandize….


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