We went to Paris to visit the dentist, but not just any dentist. An American dentist, fabulous Dr. Jane. Sure, there are plenty of dentists in Provence. But, the profession of dental hygienist does not exist in France. Here cleaning is merely detartrage, scrapping the tartar off the teeth, a procedure carried out by the dentist which takes all of 10 minutes or less.
Not good enough for Americans who have been brainwashed about the importance of a thorough cleaning by a hygienist every six months. In Germany where we previously lived most dentists have hygienists. After moving here, we’d trek back to Germany once a year for a proper cleaning. (Since it was such a long journey, we made due with one cleaning per year.) Fellow American and friend Lynne came to the rescue. She found Dr. Jane in Paris. Our teeth have never been so clean.
Dr. Jane Matkoski, who hails from New York State, does high tech teeth cleaning, first with ultra sound followed by a special process called Air Flow. She covers your eyes with a cloth, then puts goggles on top of the cloth and air polishes the teeth. “Today’s flavor is cassis,” she told me. I like cassis, but this was salty and none too pleasant. BB likened the procedure to sand blasting. Whatever, it does the job par excellence.
One fourth of Dr. Jane’s patients are Americans. She also has many international patients who are used to a real teeth cleaning. “The French just don’t get it,” she said.
While teeth were the main reason for the trip, it was a good excuse to visit my favorite city. We had time to see friends, to visit Le Café des Chats, to tour the Marais district with a Paris Greeter, to apply for visas for our upcoming trip to Myanmar – and to check out the Christmas lights in the City of Light.
On a previous trip to Paris in December, I found the holiday illumination on the Champs Elysees spectacular. This time I was underwhelmed. Perhaps it’s a sign of age, but lots of colors and flashing lights are not my cup of tea. This year giant hula hoops that change from blue to red encircle the bare trees lining the legendary boulevard. Tacky – in my opinion.
There’s nothing tacky, however, about the wondrous windows at Galeries Lafayette. Amazing, moveable scenes, five from the tale Beauty and the Beast. Mesmerizing for both children and their parents. The classy windows at Au Printemps, this year sponsored by Prada, are also dazzling.
Thanks to Satié, the cousin of my Japanese sister-in-law Yoshie, we did not miss these Parisian holiday highlights. Satié lives in Paris. After dinner together, she suggested we stroll by the windows.
As a cat lover, I had to visit Le Café des Chats which opened in September, modeled after a cat café in Tokyo. Cats, 12 of them, all colors and sizes, lounging in windows, on chairs, benches, and in kitty beds. Some are sociable, but many were soundly sleeping, the favorite pastime of felines.
Upon entering rules are recited by the café host: Don’t feed the cats. Don’t let the cats drink from your cup or glass. Don’t disturb the cats if they are sleeping. Photos allowed, but no flash. Before entering the rooms with the cats, you must disinfect your hands – a dispenser is on the counter.
The two-level cozy café in Paris’ third district was packed during our visit. The café has generated a lot of publicity and is popular with locals as well as tourists. Reservations are a must. Coffee, teas, wine, desserts, salads and tartes can be savored while watching cats. It was fun but frustrating. My pathetic photo skills required flash in the poor light. So, no super kitty pictures. The food was good –a seafood salad for BB and a tarte with caramelized onions, blue cheese, cranberries and pecans for me.
A blog (http://aixcentric.wordpress.com) led me to Paris Greeters, an organization of volunteers who give guided tours of their neighborhoods. There is no charge but you are requested to give a donation. Sign up on line before visiting Paris, specifying your interests, and you are matched with a greeter.
Claudine Chevrel, who has lived in the Marais since 1972, led us through this beautiful district. Historic buildings, her favorite shops, churches and monuments were on the tour.
Le Marais, literally “the swamp,” was mostly farmland in the Middle Ages, producing vegetables for the city on the Seine. By the 16th century, the nobility and upper middle class bought up the land and built great estates. For the next couple of centuries, family palaces and grand buildings found their home in the Marais.
The arrondissement (administrative district), which is now very expensive and chic, was not that way when she moved there many years ago, Claudine said. “I prefer the Maris 10 years ago. It used to be a real neighborhood.” There were lots of local shops and groceries, she explained. Many have been replaced by expensive boutiques and art galleries. “Everyone knew everyone. Now lots of foreigners who don’t live here year round have bought apartments.”
The Marais has both a large Jewish community and one of the largest Gay communities in Europe. We especially liked the Jewish area. Numerous shops tout that they offer the “best falafel.” Claudine says the best is at the restaurant Chez Marianne which also has a bakery where BB bought a thick slice of nut strudel – they offer 12 different kinds for 3 euros per slice.
“I always meet interesting people who want to see Paris in a different way,” says Claudine. “Americans prefer this type of tour. They like to meet Parisians. They ask lots of questions, about everyday life, taxes, schools.”
After the two-hour plus tour we set off to find her favorite restaurant, Le Louis Philippe, which we had passed during our walk. En route we came across Caruso. As we have a weakness for all things Italian and there are few Italian restaurants in Provence, it was our lunch stop. Buonissimo! Exquisite pasta, and BB’s dessert, Cassata Siciliana, was deliciously decadent, cake smothered in a mascarpone-cream-candided fruit-alcoholic combination. I found several recipes on line and will try to duplicate it soon.
Before boarding the TGV for a fast train ride back to Provence, we met friendsLeonard and Claudine for lunch at L’Epigramme, a restaurant in the 6th district which is included in “Best Restaurants Paris.” I had a very juicy and tender piece of beef. The others went for dorade, a popular fish in France. All were happy.
Next visit to Dr. Jane, we’ll go back there, and to Caruso, and tour another neighborhood with a Paris Greeter.
Dr. Jane Matkoski, 12 rue Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre (5ème), 01 46 34 56 44 firstname.lastname@example.org
Le Café des Chats, 16 rue Michel Le Comte (3ème). Metro: Rambuteau or Arts et Metiers. Make a reservation at email@example.com
Paris Greeters, www.parisgreeters.fr
Caruso, 3 Rue de Turenne (4 ème). Metro : St. Paul, www.ristorantecaruso.fr
L’Epigramme, 9 rue de l’Eperon (6 ème). Metro : Odeon, 01 44 41 00 09
When in Paris, we always stay at a charming chambre d’hôte (B&B) in our favorite neighborhood, Saint-Germain-des- Prés, (6ème). 90 euros per night, one room with a double bed, breakfast included. Geneviève Cuirot: firstname.lastname@example.org
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If you have suggestions for Paris restaurants, please pass them on. I have not posted any recipes lately, but for your holiday cooking, check on Holiday Fruitcake and Holiday Pork Roast in the recipe column at right.