Last week Badaude turned two and was cited in the Wall Street Journal (I wrote the IVYParis piece they quote from - that will teach me to call them silly). To celebrate, I am eating out at Au Pied de Fouet on rue de Babylone, just beyond Le Bon Marché
The restaurant is in the 6e, in the heart of movie-set Paris; the part tourists visit to chase a little Saint-Germain romance. Tonight, that's what I want. I don't want to go to Bastille or Menilmont. I want Paris to be like Paris in the movies. It's hot. The batiments of the rue de Babylone have been freshly whitewashed by the set designers. My footsteps echo on the sound stage of the empty pavement. Do I have a date? Yes. Does he turn up? No. I wait. This is less like a movie. I text. I'm hungry. I decide not to wait any longer.
But in Paris, it's ok to eat alone. I often eat alone. Lots of women do it, after all. And I have been out all day, walking. No lunch. So I just compensate by eating for my date too.
I have two courses plus the deux fromages with 2 glasses of wine and all the bread in the basket. I notice I am eating twice as much as any other woman in there. I am double a French woman. I am eating almost as much as the slim man sitting diagonally opposite me.
Au Pied de Fouet is small. "Upstairs," says the man diagonally opposite, who wears Cary Grant glasses and can speak to me across the tiny tables without raising his voice, "is even smaller. The ceiling is low. It is like a maison des poupées (dolls' house)." I look up. It has dolls' house checked tablecloths and a beamed ceiling.
He asks me if I understand what he says. I say, "Yes, null that I might be at French, I comprehend almost everything."
He asks me which quartier I am from. He lives here, in the 6e.
He says, "I like to go to cafe Le Nemrod on rue Saint Placide," he says. "But it's too bruyant. On ne peut rien entendre la-bas. (noisy - you can't hear anything in there). Do you live in Paris? What is your metier?"
I tell him. Then I say, "So you asked me all about my job. What do you do?"
"Oh - I make appareils acoustiques."
"Des apparails acoustiques."
"Qu'avez-vous dit?. Je ne peux pas vous entendre." (What did you say? I can't hear you)
"Hearing aids. C'est a très sexy job, n'est-ce pas? And him." He indicates his dining companion who is wearing a suit. "He works in a banque. Du classe, non!"
The two Parisiens ask me if I know the Sud-Ouest of France, where they grew up. And I say, yes, I've visited Marseilles and Avignon. NO! they say. That is the SUD. The SUD-OUEST is the Pays Basque. It's Carcassone and Perpignan and Pau. It is a pays plein de charactère. Nous sommes de Sud-Ouest!
They insist that I try their local liqueur. "It is an apple liquor," they say." "It's called Mmnmnnm."
But they don't hear me. It's here. In three glasses. Clear as water.
The three of us stand up at the bar; two men with one woman in between, knocking back the colourless liquor. It tastes like sugary pommes vertes - granny smith apples. A dolls' house liquor in a dolls' house restaurant. It would not look unnatural if we broke into a dance routine.
I'll never know what it's called, but, I suddenly realise, I'm enjoying it.
As I glide down the rue de Babylone, I get a texto from my ex-date.
(t'es ou - Where are you?)
He speaks texto. I don't, though, like French, I do usually comprehend. I reply:
APDF - toi?
(Au Pied de Fouet - toi? - Au Pied de Fouet - you?)
Moa No+ O bar en face
(Moi non plus. Au bar en face - Not any more - in the bar opposite.)
Mais il n'ya aucun bar en face APDF
(But there' no bar opposite Au Pied de Fouet)
tê r sBenoit?
(T'es rue Saint Benoit? - Are you in rue Saint Benoit?)
Non, rue Babylone!
(No, rue Babylone!)
(Je te l'ai dit saint Benoit - I told you Saint Benoit)
Tu ma dit APDF. Il existe aussi r SB?
(You told me Au Pied de Fouet. Is it also in rue Saint Benoit?)
(Si!- Oh yes!)
Jentend rBabylone car je ne savais pas...
(I understood rue Babylone because I didn't know...)
(T'es pas fachee? - You're not angry?)
Non, j'ai passe un super bon soiree avec deux hommes.
(No - I had a great evening with two men.)
T la + b'L
(t'es la plus belle a bientot - you are the most beautiful - see you later)
I glide up to the juction at Saint Francis Xavier. I look back down the length of the long white rue de Babylone. It's beautiful. Paris is a movie set. And tonight, it's a musical comedy.