Notes From A Paris Diary: 2. Sounds and Tastes of Ile Saint Louis

Sounds

We live directly across from L’Eglise Saint Louis. Right next to it is a grade school.

We’re constantly reminded of these neighbors by sounds. Sounds that, to some, might be noise but to us signify the daily flow of life on the island. The bells of the church ring a few times a day and, at noon and six o’clock, their uninterrupted clanging announces the Angelus.}


To me, it is not at all unpleasant; in fact, I find it quite melodious, a reassuring reminder of a certain past. And yet, it makes me wonder: Is this ringing all that remains of this call for devotional prayer? I am not religious but I do value connections with the past.

The children of the school assert their presence a few times a day; most notably around noon, when their collective voices compete for attention with the Angelus bells at 12 pm on the dot. The voices usually descend upon the neighborhood earlier and they persist for at least an hour longer. Screeching and screaming (Think banshees of American folklore) often cut through the usual high buzz of children’s chatter. It never really bothered us and now that we’re used to it, we miss it on Wednesdays when the school is closed.

 

Tastes

There are three boulangeries on this tiny island of about 10 x 2 blocks. Also, two well-stocked fromageries, and umpteen Berthillon ice cream shops. Our block has one of all of these. There is also a produce store with beautiful fruit and vegetables that cost at least twice as much as elsewhere. If a disaster struck and we’re stranded from the rest of Paris, we won’t starve, at least for awhile.

The fromageries, especially La Ferme Saint Aubin, would more than satisfy the adventurous foodie. We’ve gone back to La Ferme a few times, twice in two consecutive weeks for the softest, ooziest cheese ever. It is a Saint Felicien labeled La Tentation. And what a temptation it is! Crafted from raw cow’s double-crème milk (though its original was made with goat’s milk), it’s more unctuous and tastier than soft triple-crème cheeses we’ve had. During this stay, we’ve hardly bought one kind of cheese more than once because there’s so many to try. But La Tentation? Two of us could slurp slowly and with relish a half-pound round in one seating.

It is grape season; so grapes are plentiful in the market—common table grapes, black, red, green and fragrant muscat grapes from both France and Italy. Then, there is chasselas, a wine grape selling for two to three times more. Does it taste at least twice as good? Your judgement, of course. I do try most things at least once and, if you like grapes, I say this is one to experience.

They’re near-perfect globes often less than half an inch in diameter, each a burst of juicy sweetness balanced with the most subtle tartness. They do have seeds and, because they’re small, the proportion of skin to flesh is higher than most table grapes. But I don’t mind, not after that explosion in your mouth from biting into a globe.

 

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