Routine, and traveling by staying at home

Our neighbor Julie has a morning routine that I’ve long wanted to adopt. She wakes early and likes to have a coffee. Her husband Pat sleeps late and doesn’t. So Julie gets up quietly and beelines for the corner boulangerie where they know her order. She has a coffee and croissant and reads her current book for an hour. The various neighborhood characters come over to say hello while they’re picking up their breakfast or first baguette of the day. I love the idea. Cafe culture is one of the main draws of Paris in my book. Yet I have a hard time breaking my conviction that coffee is best enjoyed in pajamas. And though I am an early bird relative to Mark, we have a rule to keep the peace in the tinyhouse: if your spouse wakes you, and you are not wearing earplugs and an eyemask, it’s your own damn fault. This applies equally to me as I go to bed hours before Mark. But in a “eureka” moment, I realized having another later morning coffee in a cafe is a fine combination. (Who says eureka moments have to be earth shattering? Habit shattering is enough.) So in addition to our new restaurant quest, we’ve added a cafe quest. At least twice a week we pack up whatever we’re currently working on, go settle into the one of seemingly thousand or so cafes in our neighborhood and impersonate Parisians. (Notice how I’ve couched the idea of lazing about reading and drinking coffee as a quest to make it seem heroic? Yeah, me too.)

A new fav is called Les Cent Kilos. We’ve been there for summer sidewalk drinks before, but we have a new appreciation for it after seeing it in a book of old postcards from our arrondissement that we recently got. It was long ago the headquarters of a club of men who weighed 100 kilos or more (back when that was unusual of course), which is pretty damn funny if you could see how tiny it is. A friend was giggling uncontrollably at the idea of all these sumo-wrestler like guys bumping bellies in greeting and bellying up to the bar. We like it a lot; it’s old-school and friendly, and there’s a scale outside the door in a nod to its illustrious past. We were there on a rare day when the sun actually came out for a moment. Mark exclaimed, C’est comme par magie! The waiter laughed.

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In my last missive I was talking about our then-nebulous theme of the year and how we planned to park it in Paris for a while. We now have the bumper-sticker phrase: Traveling by staying at home. It sums it up for me. To spend the year diving in and exploring the close rather than the far. We’re well aware we live in a destination city, but I thought I might remind you, my friends, that so do a lot of you! Our friend Rosemary gave me some pretty fabulous ideas on how to travel by staying put that I thought I’d share. She mentioned a mutual friend who has 2 jars. One is filled with bits of paper on which is written the name of each of the 77 neighborhoods of Chicago. Each week she and her husband draw a name and spend a day exploring that neighborhood, having lunch there, going in all the public buildings and otherwise just nosing around. The other jar is filled with the names of rooftop bars! I find the random factor very appealing. Then if that isn’t sticking close enough to home for you, let me tell you how Rosemary and her husband travel from home by picking a cuisine they know nothing about, acquire the sometimes exotic ingredients and learn to make it. They’ve chosen Iranian cuisine this time and are now obsessed with Persian dried limes.

Till next time my dears, cheers! Here’s to busting habits and enjoying being right where you are.


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