Sunday, January 13, 2008

Rockin' the Suburbs

I seem to have made a habit of this in Paris: Walking around at a late hour, trying to find someplace to eat, and repeatedly striking out.

Only I'm in Clichy, a suburb a few kilometers from the official border of Paris, so instead of this happening at midnight, it happened around 9:00 pm.

I finally started feeling hungry again, then realized it was 8:00. On a Sunday. I'd best get to walking around and hunting down some dinner. To my surprise, there were a good number of places open during my hour-long walk. Unfortunately, most of my choices seemed to be things under heat lamps, kept warm on steam tables, or presented by the enemy of gourmands everywhere: Menus in English. Mostly at crappy-looking hotels.

At one point, I approached the périphérique where the darkness of the suburbs started to give way, the glow of neon signs and open businesses luring me like the siren's call. But this trip's all about avoiding the obvious. (That and, umm, work.) So I headed back another way toward my hotel. Things looked ever more depressing as I trudged along. To quote an email from one of my co-workers here, "Don't stay all the week-end in Clichy ! (it's so sad)"

Well, it's not fully sad. The nearby Allée Léon Gambetta and the city hall are gorgeous when lit up at night, the trees covered in tiny white lights and casting long shadows across the boulevards of grass. But all the night time beauty in the world won't feed me.

An hour had gone by. I'd about given up when I noticed the Turkish kebab shop right by my hotel was still open. I went in and ordered a platter of shawarma to go - no sauce, no drink, the mixed salad, and a plastic fork, please - quite a feat when mixing my heavily accented French with the shockingly more accented French of the guy behind the counter.

This was the best decision I made all day. Being closing time, he hooked me up with all the meat remaining on the skewer. The rice had time to steep in whatever grease it sits in before being served. And he also gave me some extra bread. And it was all fan-frikkin'-tastic. A gorgeous meal, all wrapped up in a styro box to enjoy in my little hotel room. Now you might think, "What's the big deal? You got a kebab platter to go." You don't understand what a feat this is back at home. In San Francisco, there's plenty of good falafel. Something about a huge vegetarian hippie population. But you can barely find a decent kebab to save yourself. This shit is the domain of Europe, Australia, and most likely the Middle East.

Speaking of the Middle East, it's been entertaining watching the news here - something I've been doing a lot. It looks like Nicolas Sarkozy (a.k.a. Sarko l'Americain) is mimicking his hero Bush, as they're both doing little tours of the Middle East. While CNN here is full of sensationalistic reports about US sabre-rattling toward Iran after the patrol boat incident in the Strait of Hormuz, the European media is treating it with a bit more... let's say... incredulity.

Don't get me wrong - they skewer Sarkozy quite a bit. But it seems the hatred of the Bush administration is even greater now that it holds sway over France's current president. Obi-wan Kenobi once wisely said, "Who's the more foolish? The fool? Or the fool who follows?" Obviously, the French place more emphasis on the progenitor of the foolishness.

The French news is also blissfully devoid of hoopla about the US presidential campaigns. They make some mentions whenever actual news come out, and people here are following it closely, but I've yet to see a clip of Hillary crying like a bitch or Huckabee selling his evil-wrapped-in-a-nice-guy package.

Anyway, the ten o'clock hour is approaching, and it seems like a good time to get out and have a drink at a bar.

Only looking out the window, everything is closed.

What a difference 4 kilometers makes.

No comments:

Post a Comment