One of the things that I love about my job as a tour guide is that it forces me to look at Paris through the eyes of a visitor. I’ve been here four years, and honestly, sometimes I don’t even see the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe or Luxembourg gardens for what they are… in my world, they’re just the background to the millions of other things I do every day, and while there’s a certain satisfaction in that — it must be the same reason people move to New York and immediately want to be a New Yorker — it’s nice, every once in awhile, to be reminded of why Paris is special.
That being said, there are some people who have an altogether infuriating approach to their trips here, something that I have to clench my teeth and bear so that they don’t get offended and go complaining to someone about my attitude problems. So I always smile and nod when they tell me about the whirlwind week they have, trying to see two or three museums in a day and hardly actually seeing anything at all.
That’s not to say that everyone is like this. A great majority of people, once they’ve gotten over the fact that I’m not French, asked me where I’m from and how long I’ve lived here — “Four years! Wow! You’re so lucky!” — ask me what I would do if I only had a few days here. “You know. Aside from all the guidebook stuff.”
It’s my favorite question, and yet I have hardly any idea how to answer it. It depends on my mood, on the day, on the weather, on whether or not I’ve had breakfast yet.
“Do you like shopping?” I may ask. “Go to rue Dauphine in St-Germain-dès-Près. There’s this little boutique there… oh! And a restaurant. You have to go. Rue Christine.”
“Is it Thursday? There’s this outdoor market at Maubert-Mutualité. And there’s a cheese store. You have to go. They vacuum pack your cheese for travel.”
But more often than not, my answer involves Montmartre, that holy grail of neighborhoods, the place I have always wanted to live. I know the boutiques and shoe stores. I have a cheese man I know by name, and the baguette there is by far my favorite in Paris. I love the tiny, serpentine streets. I love the restaurants. I love the families, the children who seem at home riding their scooters up and down rue des Abbesses. It’s far, and I’m aware of this… but to me, it’s worth it.
It helps my case that most people have heard of Montmartre. They’ve seen Amélie or they want to visit Sacré Coeur, so it’s not a difficult sell. But still, some look at me with furrowed brows as I explain where it is, and they shake their heads. “Oh, no. That’s too far.”
Too far? You flew here from America. I’ll draw you a map. Here, let me circle it on your plan du métro. Honestly, if I were anywhere, and a local got as excited about anything as I get about Montmartre, I’d be there.
This dish has nothing to do with Montmartre or Paris. It’s just delicious and very easy to make, and I think you should take my word for it that it’s worth it.
In my world, that’s enough.
I was visited by the Fairy Hobmother! I had left a comment over at Cake, Batter and Bowl — I hadn’t even realized there was the option to get something out of it, but a little while later, I got an e-mail from Jennifer, offering me an Amazon gift card… as well as the opportunity for one of you to win. If you comment on this post, you might get a visit — and a gift card — as well. I love spreading the wealth.
Roasted Chicken Thighs with Tomatoes and Onions
1 28 oz. can (800 g. can for European cooks) whole peeled tomatoes
2 onions, sliced
8 chicken thighs (or a combination of thighs and drumsticks)
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F (205 C).
In a large baking dish, scatter the onions and tomatoes for even distribution.
Rinse and dry the chicken thighs and place them in an even layer in the tomato and onion combination. You can allow the tomatoes to come up the sides of them a bit, but leave the skins up and dry to get nicely roasted crispy skin. Sprinkle salt over them.
Bake for about 40 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear.