In Our Paris Apartment, a Smell of Burning, Then Improvisation

Things have been lively in our Paris rental apartment, a block from the Saint Placide Metro stop in a lively corner of the city’s IMG_63326th Arrondissement.  Two nights ago we arrived home with Devon, our 7-year-old grand daughter, to a swinging soiree in the neighborhood.  Luckily, it was an early party and the noise died down by 11.  When we returned last night, we opened the interior door to find the courtyard and stairwell reeking of the smell of what Kathy described as burned cabbage.

No smoke, no flames.

This seemed a good sign. Still, I asked a young woman in the office downstairs what was up. She gave me a shrug.  Oh well. I asked the substitute concierge (Madame Oliviera has left on vacation). No idea. But the smell was strong and a bit unsettling. So I called our landlady’s second backup problem solver, who called our landlady in Cameroon, who called me. By now the smell was dissipating so we dodged the fire department and turned our attention to dinner.

Cooking in a Paris rental apartments is not easy because no one actually cooks in a Parisian apartment. This is Paris and people eat out. But we had bought spaghetti (we did have magret de canard for lunch) and we were eating in. Only Kathy had no apron so she wrapped herself in a bath towel covered by a dish towel and started cooking. There was a pot, only there were no utensils to take out the spaghetti so she used a wooden spatula and a wooden spoon. For the string beans? Her hands.

I, meanwhile, had bought a magnificent chunk of parmesan cheese at the fancy fromagerie at Au Bon Marché, which we discovered was in France’s first department store, designed by Gustav Eiffel.  As cool as that information was, we also discovered back home that we had no way to grate the cheese, a word not in my French vocabulary (it is raper le fromage — honest, but the a has an accent).  So, at 7 p.m., I headed the three long blocks back to the market in search of a grater. Using a mix of words and pantomime, I found myself to a grater 10 minutes later. This cost 19 euros, so the cost of the accoutrements of our spaghetti had risen to 25 euros, included the parmesan.  I settled instead for a 1 euro plastic container with already grated cheese, something that took another 15 minutes to find and is rare in anything but the largest of French supermarkets.

By the time I had gotten home, Kathy had begun the laundry. The washing cycle, she learned, took three hours.  To vent the dryer, a process that continues as I write at 8 a.m., she had to stick the hose vent out the window. The detergent smells of perfume and my underwear turned pink.  Other than that, and the fact that Kathy slept in her Italian dress because her nightgown was still wet, everything worked splendidly (and Devon has been laughing hysterically since she awoke at my pink underwear).

We hope the rest of the laundry will dry this evening. For now, we are pulling in the dryer hose and heading to Notre Dame.

I will tread lightly today. Kathy may be a tad tired.

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