We spent a lazy morning doing nothing and enjoying the scenery from Adriana’s apartment, then decided to venture out to the Marché aux Puces by Porte de Clignancourt. Hélas, the vast majority of the vendors were en vacance…although one very dapper older gentleman made us a good offer on any of the seventeenth and eighteenth century furniture in his shop. Sadly, we had to decline; as Adriana explained, she is poor student, donc her mother is poor as well. He then dismissed us with a careless “Bon fin d’année.”

Sensing we would not get much further at the Marché aux Puces, we briefly explored the neighborhood (it reminded us of Philadelphia) and then headed back into the city center, deciding we would have better luck amusing ourselves in the Marais.

First, though, we had to pass a full Monoprix, to which Madame Louise was drawn as though a puppet on a string. We tested every shade of lip crayon, as she had promised a color to every one of her female coworkers. Then, across the aisle, perfume…we continued to test every single bottle of those as well.

As we were in the middle of our search for the perfect scent, an elderly French woman came by to advise us––avec gentillesse, she assured us!––that the perfumes that weren’t sealed spread germs terribly from the other shoppers, and we would be better off not to indulge. We professed great gratitude and then returned to testing them as soon as she walked away.

Madame Louise also recommended Indra perfume, which she adores, to another French shopper who had been contemplating whether it could possibly be any good for the seven Euros. The French shopper later returned the favor by pointing out a gift package that included scented spray deodorant.  Adriana also helped another tiny elderly lady find les batonnets pour les oreilles. We were just making friends all over the place.

Nine lip pencils, a bottle of shower gel, perfume, and a package of egg noodles later, we were ready to leave. We wandered over to the Place des Vosges after a brief argument about how to get there, and happened upon a perfume store where we thought we’d ask about the elusive carnation scent Madame Louise loves.

Little did we know that when we entered the store, we left the real world behind and entered another one entirely.

Into the tiny elegant shop.  Swooped upon by an elegant man who resembled Robin Williams un petit peu.  He pronounced us princesses, sized us up, and chose a perfume and an alternative for each of us.  Pour Madame, the erotique and sensuel parfum a l’oeillet, but it actually smelled quite strongly of tuberose – lively, lovely, but not carnation.  Leather and mandarin, chosen to give this avocat an air of authority was surprisingly the one that “fit.”   Pour Adriana, a summer scent evoking butterflies, and another, more sophisticated for winter, sans sucre, sans fleurs, black black pepper and mushrooms.  No, it was not the basis of a ratatouille, but in fact a lovely subtle, grown up perfume.  Of course, after such a show (and being offered his signature “scent of the wolf,” which indeed, smelled of the wild and a bit of animal urine, though not unpleasantly, and another that evoqued Mozart’s spirit) we bit, one perfume each.

The next morning we couldn’t figure out whose perfume was whose, but we’ll cross that nose when we get to it.

After M. Le Parfumeur, we stopped at the nearby Café Nectarine, which was très chic, and watched the Place des Vosges foot traffic over a café allongé and a “chocolat epée,” which may in fact be the best hot chocolate ever created (guess who had which one?).

We returned chez Adriana just in time to prepare dinner, as she had invited a friend over. The day before we had gently simmered plump chick peas with garlic, onion, and pepper for hours. We served this family recipe with the egg noodles and grated cheese, as well as a fresh salad made from the baby leaves of yesterday’s head of escarole, and the leftover white bean and escarole soup. To properly make the salad, you must remember to remove the paper from a clove of garlic and use it to season the inside of the salad bowl; simply rub the clove against the sides of the bowl several times. The garlic oil will delicately perfume the salad and greatly improve it. Throw in some good olive oil, salt and pepper, chopped onion and tomato, and a touch of oregano, and you’ve got a classic franco-italian salad.

For dessert, clafouti aux pommes, adapted from a plum clafouti recipe Madame Louise has had since the early days of her marriage. Parfait!

While we were talking after dinner, disaster struck! Adriana’s roommates, not especially known for their prudent behavior, had ensconced themselves with a fifth of vodka in one of the bedrooms during this dinner, not wanting to partake of the food, or at least of the adult conversation (Adriana comments, “They’re not very good at the last”). As we couldn’t help but overhear in slowly mounting horror, there came a huge crash and screams; Adriana rushed in to see an armoire knocked over on top of the guest we’d made breakfast for only that morning. Luckily, there was no blood, though the damages to the property were not insignificant. Those girls are troopers, though––they marched straight back out into the streets of Paris to find a suitable bar, leaving the three of us to survey the bedroom in shock.

(Funny enough, they came back only an hour or so later. We suspect the fact they couldn’t walk too well made it difficult to get into any self-respecting establishments, but that’s just guesswork.)

With that, we called it a night, after discussing Adriana’s escape strategy. Reinforcements were e-mailed the very next morning.

RECIPE OF THE DAY: PLUM CLAFOUTI

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