notre dame

The Cat at Chez Bebert

Or Le chat chez Chez Bebert

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A stray animal at a restaurant in the US is…let me backtrack.
You never see a stray animal in the US.
Keeping a pet inside a restaurant? Nope. I mean, unless you want your permits and stuff revoked- then it’s cool (why did you open a restaurant in the first place?).
Abroad, though, things are a little…different.

You can, um, “be one with nature” during a culinary experience.
I once ate a grec outside of Notre Dame, sitting on the floor, as rats skittered by in the moonlight.
Rats.
As big as my thigh.
I think it was the fact I had never really seen one in person before that prevented me from going through any shock.
One…two…ooh, there’s a big one!
As long as these things would not come near my food, it was cool.

These are little daily treats of Parisian life. It’s a city- you deal with all sorts of things! This is not clean, Winnie-the-Pooh-land gated communities. There is grit in the streets and there are germs in your hands, so don’t rub your eyes.

Furthermore, some respectable dining establishments are not free from animals. Oh, no.
There was a restaurant down the street from my Château that had some bomb-ass couscous, and payday had just rolled around. My friends and I decided it was the perfect time to go get some delicious grub.

We settled in, placed our order, and a few minutes later, out came our heaping plates of couscous, steamed vegetables, and meats. Mouths watering, we dug in like those two kids in Jurassic Park (Except more savagely, of course. We were starving grad students. Those two were just bitches hiding from some whatever dinosaur. We were against T-hesisaurus Rex. Pshh.)

Littlebitch

Anyway, in the middle of the smorgasbord, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. This was significant, since I was really into that lamb.
Something was staring at me, intently. I peeled my eyes off my plate and onto the edge of the seat- a cat.
I took another bite.
WAIT! What the effffff? A cat!?
I looked at it again. It did that licking thing cats do, and it sunk in that this creature was going to quite possibly pounce and take away all my delicious couscous, and vegetables, and lamb!
Nooo!
I pointed it out to my friends. There were two types of reaction: amusement, and utter disgust.

Had I not previously seen stray cats inside a supermarket as a child growing up in Venezuela, this would have probably made me panic. But it was cool- as long as this little feline did not play games with my food.

Scoffing and gagging (or was he just gagging?), one of my friends had to stop eating. Why the hell was there a cat in this restaurant?

I flagged down the waiter.

“Sir, there is a cat”, I said.

“Yes. Yes, there is”, he replied. AND HE PET THE CAT.

It sunk in: as all things cats…THIS CAT OWNED THE RESTAURANT.

I sat there, confused but beginning to get one of those really good chuckles.

At this point my gagging friend was in sheer agony, clenching his fists at the ceiling and imploring “Where am I? What am I?”

Next to me, my other friend was starting to get friendly with the cat. I warmed up to the idea, until it jumped up on our table and panic set in. I don’t know how it happened, or who did it, but less than a fraction of a second later, that cat was on my lap, purring (I guess it’s a cat thing) and I just sat there, like a fool with a fork.

Our waiter came around again, on his way to another table. He cooed at the cat while my friens and I smiled like (american) lunatics.

This cat was here to show is he was boss. He had an agenda.
He burrowed and stretched and tossed and did cat things until my friend and I made a place for him, between us. And then he napped.
He disn’t say bye, though.
Catshole.

And this is my Paris cat story.
I lost the pictures and I hate myself a little bit for it right now. But I do hope you enjoyed it.
I’m going to go pet my dog now.

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So you’re coming to Paris, huh?

As I’ve said before, there’s something mythical about Paris. Whether it be the picture of the Eiffel tower pasted on everything that says “travel” or the whoring out of (faux) French culture spread through the world, everyone feels entitled to this city.

Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Elysées…
All tours take you there- all tourists want to see it.

Oh, for fuck’s sake.

This is not Paris, you fools!

You’re telling me that you’re hopping on a jet plane for (what I’m assuming it’s HOURS) to get to a foreign land, to ride a bus without a roof to go see something that is not at all representative of anything here?
I want to yell and scream at silly tourists who just come to duckface under the tower.

THIS. IS. NOT. PARIS.

People come here to get awed, no?
Well, awe is not elbowing your way through a mass of Asian tourists, it’s not riding the silly bateaux mouche (though it it is kind of nice), or dining atop the Eiffel Tower (you actually lose perspective of the city because you’re so high up).
You want to be truly awed? You want to experience something cool- something different?Look beyond your own nose!(!!!)

I’m just going to take a small example here: Notre Dame. The big, imposing Cathedral that dominates Île de la cité is incredible, however(!), its surroundings are just as beautiful and interesting. Odds are you’re coming to see it from the Saint-Michel area, and if so, you will most likely hit this tiny, non-descript church on the corner beforehand. Well, this church’s name is Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre, and it is built on foundations older than Notre Dame itself by almost 5 centuries. Yeah, you’re welcome.

Also, there’s a park right on the grounds of the church, Place René Viviani. A lot of people go there for the great Notre Dame shots, but they fail to see what I believe is what makes the park (and the reason I like it so much): A monument to the jewish children of the arrondissement who were deported during the Vichy government. Before the names and ages of the children are listed, the glass memorial asks for one thing: “Passerby read their names for your memory is their only sepulcher”.

If that’s not a tangible piece of history, I don’t know what is!

You’re going to see Place de la Concorde? When you get off the métro, look behind you, at Hotel Carillon and look at the doormen- their outfits are beautiful!

You finally went in and want to take a picture of the Rose Window at Notre Dame? Go for it, but save your camera memory for the chapel all the way in the back, dedicated to the Crown of Thorns. Better yet, attend service. Even if you’re not Catholic or don’t even believe in anything, the experience is incredible.

You want to take a picture at the Eiffel Tower? Take it from Passy, an affluent residential neighborhood right by the tower (line 6, stop Passy. Boom).

The real charm to Paris- the real­ Paris lies in its tiny, winding alleyways. The best way to truly get to know the city? Go off the stupid tourist trail, and get lost on foot in these passages.

You want to experience French fine dining? Why? You’re not even going to like the escargots you will most likely order, you will most likely get overcharged, tip like the tourist you are, and leave the establishment as hungry as you came in.
My advice? Eat in the streets or at mom and pop places.
Eat a “grec” (gyro) at Rue Saint-Severin. Look for the guy that looks like Anthony Bourdain- he makes the best ones. Eat a panini or a crêpe at Génia, right next to the big McDonald’s at the Cluny-La Sorbonne metro station. My girl Zoyla will hook yo hungry ass up.

You want to go ape-shit at the Louvre? Do please, by all means! But remember there is also Musée d’Orsay, Musée du Moyen Âge, free expos at Hôtel de Ville…

The list of things to do in Paris is endless! ENDLESS!!

Also, do please have a level of decency!
Expect to get pushed and shoved if you decide to open your map in the middle of a sidewalk. If you take the escalator because you’re too tired/lazy to walk, keep to your right. It’s like the highway- the left lane is the fast lane. People (power)walk/run on the left and they will be rude if you’re blocking them.
The trick to Parisians is to at least say hello in their language (and I know you know how to say this!). Do it with a smile, and they will most likely be civil to you. Overall, though, I find it that they will go out of their way to help you.

Paris is a big city, just like New York or Chicago. People are on a schedule, so just keep that in mind.

Also another tip, Concorde is the absolutely worst place in the world to buy métro tickets. So, don’t.

I know this is a very passive-aggressive post, but believe you me, I do it with all my love. It really does irk me when people pay incredible amounts of money to come here and they don’t even see a hundredth of what the city truly has to offer. It’s not the Eiffel Tower that matters- it’s the city around it that makes it what it is!

Paris is magical, specially as a traveler. Do not dilly-dally so much with the small stuff- get out there and explore!

(Recommendations of places upon request! :D)