Berlin’s high toned places.

On a very cold winter morning, an icy cold one, one might say, as minus six degrees Celsius is rather frosty, almost Siberian a temperature, I decided to go to town. As Brandenburg Gate is near to Friedrichstrasse and Dussmann’s, my CD supplier de choix, I later went for a touristic stroll, I hadn’t been there in months, and when some very stylish people with a lot of Louis Vuitton luggage left the Hotel Adlon right in front of it and took a taxi, presumably to the one airport that works in this town of non-working airports, I saw some people take photos of them. They must have been famous, although I have no idea who they were. Not a clue. As I was nicely dressed in my Dsquared jacket with that giant black fur collar that gives me a somewhat Russian nobility expression, a modern version of Prince Bolkonsky, at least that’s what I like to tell myself, I decided to linger around in front of the famous hotel, as if I would wait for my personal assistant with my luggage, imaginary huge black Goyard trunks, and to give people the oppurtunity to take pictures of me. But nobody did. I would rather have been arrested for loitering with intent…

Maigret’s Paris.

Paris in 1958 was very different from today, from the Paris I know. First of all, it was so very dirty. It was none other than André Malraux, de Gaulle’s guy for everything cultural, who had all the blackened historic façades cleansed, he wanted Paris to be the City of Lights again, the most important operation in urban architecture since Baron Haussmann changed the face of Paris altogether in the 1850s and ’60s, and there was quite some dirt that had laid up since then, believe you me (and by me, I mean my mother, she should know, she did live in Paris in the early 1960s). Second of all, one of my favourite areas, the Marais, was considered a troubled district, it was quite run down in those days, don’t imagine you’d have found any of today’s fashionable cafés and restaurants there, no art galleries, no stylish designer stores, no perfumed air emerging from the Guerlain and Diptyque boutiques, certainly no gays, not even closeted ones, instead you would find a butcher right on Place des Vosges, just like in Jean Delannoy’s 1958 movie “Maigret Sets A Trap”, and a butcher who let you witness his bloody business through his shop windows at that. It was a different time, one might say, I say it was a better time – or more precisely, it was a more authentic time, a time where there was not yet a Louis Vuitton store between the Flore and the Deux Magots to please people suffering from logomania in every possible spot, or otherwise Simone de Beauvoir would have had to look for another place to work and have her p’tit noir. By the way, neither she or Jean-Paul Sartre were very fond of Malraux, trop réac politically, and I think, she might have sensed the side-effects that Malraux’s polishing of Paris would bring. Who knows? Luckily, she died long before the Louis Vuitton people opened their store on Boulevard Saint-Germain.

In love with omelettes.

My omelettes are all a disaster. They never look like an omelette should look like. They rather look like some sort of flattened scrambled eggs, strangely stacked on a plate. My omelettes aux champignons are the worst, I always overdose with mushrooms because I sliced far too many in the first place. I just can’t help it. Then why do I continue making them, one might wonder… I’ll tell you why. Because an omelette is the next best thing to a marriage proposal. And I keep saying yes, yes, yes, a million times yes, to them…

The best worst coffee of Paris.

The Flore. This is the place where Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre worked on their essays, plays and novels, literary milestones that made them rich and famous (well, not really rich, but very, very famous), all while having lots of coffee and even more cigarettes. As for the cigarettes, I cannot say which brand they were smoking and if I would have liked their taste, I’m a Dunhill kind of guy, the blue ones, but as far as the coffee is concerned, gee, no wonder they were so embittered about society. I hate that brew. It’s so nicely presented, the coffee is served in a jug, you got another one for your milk, hot milk on top, you pour and mix it yourself, according to your taste, you get an extra glass of water, so all in all one really can’t complainbut still, I do. This coffee is just awful, it‘s way too strong, it tastes like overdosed Nescafé, strangely bitter, brutal, a simultaneous attack on your taste buds and your stomach, you take one sip and you immediately have to light a cigarette to recover from it—and it takes a lot of time to recover. But that’s actually the only good thing about it, as a convalescent, you spend your time soaking up the atmosphere while watching the passers-by, just as long as it takes to let this wonderful spot called St.Germain-des-Prés sink in really deep. I can do this for hours at a time while that nasty coffee is getting cold. And if you should feel like re-reading “Les Mandarinsor Les Mots“, there’s a bookshop just next door on Boulevard St.Germain, so you can start right away, right there where it was written.

With a little help from my crêpes.

When you’re somewhat blue, for any reason at all, or when the world seems to fall apart, or when there’s nothing really new on Netflix and you’re still angry with the producers of The Crown because that thing that happened in season 2, you know, in that episode where they had Jackie Kennedy comment disparagingly on the royal household in general and Her Majesty in particular, and then they had poor Elizabeth, as some sort of after-effect, take off all vexed to Ghana to dance away not only her marital problems but also her government’s post-colonial misconduct just to prove Jackie wrong, you do remember that, don’t you? Anyway, that thing was all made up! God bless The Guardian for their investigative journalism, it’s been a real life-saver as I had almost told anybody I know I had always known what a bitch Jackie was, and then it turned out she wasn’t a bitch at all, just the perfectly dressed, stunning little trooper she always was. In such moments of humiliation nothing presents a better cure than homemade crêpes, just spread some English orange marmalade (in honour of the Queen) and some Cointreau (in honour of Jackie’s French extraction) on it, no need to flambé the stuff, and there you go again. God save us all!

Toughen up!

After a day of work in the garden—and more importantly: in the rain—one cannot expect me to carb up with caviar blinis, can one? When you feel like a lumberjack, eat like a lumberjack, I say. Sautéd beans, sausage, potatoes, and lots and lots of marjoram is the heartiest way of getting one’s strength back. And don’t forget to have a beer with it instead of the usual claret…

Walking on sunshine.

After one of the hottest summers ever, I expected myself to—for once!—enjoy the rainy days of November. Alas, there is no rain. Not a drop of it. There’s nothing but sun. Blue sky, green pastures, singing birds, warm air, this autumn looks and feels like spring, an exceptionally beautiful one at that. And so I’m able to continue to take my constitutional after lunch in that blissfulness called the countryside. The only bad thing about it, the whole thing gives you an appetite, something I wanted to avert at any cost.