Expat Magazine

A Stroll Around the Block in Paris

By Sedulia @Sedulia

It's a beautiful day today, and my very pretty American visitor had stars in her eyes. After making her practice saying "Je ne parle pas français" and "Merci" and "Bonjour," I took her to the metro and showed her how to get to Notre-Dame and she was off. If she doesn't wind up with a French boyfriend after this week I'll be amazed.


Then I stopped at the newsstand to get the Pariscope (which we buy every week; it has all the Paris museums, events and movies, and costs 40 cents) and the paper, and after paying, walked off. After a half-block, I heard "Madame! Madame!" behind me. I turned around, as there were no other madames visible, and saw both the kiosquier and one of his customers running after me. "You left this behind," he said, proffering the envelope where I had kept all my cash. There was €75 in it. 

That put me in a good mood as I walked on to the corner store, where I owed Mohammed €60 from the other day when I didn't have enough cash. I was only a few euros short there, but he waved his hand and told me to pay the entire amount later as it would make his accounts simpler. I had forgotten about this for several days, but today I brought the money by. Mohammed, as usual slightly unshaven and smoking a cigarette in the doorway of his store, did not remember the debt. "If you hadn't reminded me, I would have let it go," he said. 

"I don't want you to go out of business!" I said. Aside from the fresh milk and the good wine that he carries, I also enjoy chatting with him about everything under the sun. 

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Heading back to the house, I noticed a small crowd around the butcher shop entrance. There were two small tables set out on the sidewalk, one with a selection of charcuterie, the other laden with slices of freshly cooked beef and pork. The pink-cheeked owner's daughter, Stéphanie, was standing behind the table grilling small slices of beef on a portable gas grill and pouring out rosé wine from an earthen pitcher. "What is the reason for the exposition?" I asked her. 

"Just that I have good taste," she said. "Un petit verre de rosé pour aller avec?* Bonjour, Madame Cassale!" she said to another customer. "Come and taste! Would you like to try some saucisses aux noisettes**?"

I went inside the store to buy some Saint-Félicien and some Saint-Marcellin cheese, and a fresh-faced very young boy waited on me. He had to ask the owner for help with almost everything. "Is it your first day?" I asked him.

"No, he's an old-timer," said Stéphanie's father. "He's been here since Tuesday!"

In the States, the boy would be doing a temporary job in this shop, but in France, where it's more like an apprenticeship-- hard to get, then hard to lose, he is likely to be working there the rest of his life. Maybe not so well paid, but with pleasant working conditions, 35 days holiday a year, health insurance and a pension. 


*A little glass of rosé to go with it?
** hazelnut sausage

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