petite anglaise

April 1, 2006


Filed under: city of light — petiteanglaiseparis @ 4:46 pm

With an hour to while away before meeting the bank manager, I decide to take a stroll down memory lane and take in some of my old haunts. The weather is, in turn, cloudy and menacing, sunny and optimistic. Wandering around my old quartier is likewise bittersweet.

There are things which make me smile knowingly – grateful for their constancy. The makeshift sign in the traiteur‘s shop – proudly boasting that once again, this year, they are the national champions “dans la fabrication du fromage de tête!”, for example. I beg you, please do not enlighten me as to what “fromage de tête” is, it’s one of those things I’d rather die not knowing. I fear it has more to do with heads than cheese, and that’s as far as I’m willing to let my mind venture.

A few paces further, nostrils teased by the pungent aroma of spit roasting chickens, I see the butcher’s assistant and note with amusement his familiar (drawn on) moustache with fanciful curlicues. He calls out a jovial “Bonjour Mademoiselle” as I pass, and I silently thank him for not saying Madame today.

Rue de la Roquette: the location of my first Parisian chez moi, crammed full of ghosts, mice and the odd cockroach. I see my younger self meandering tipsily homewards in the early hours, blissfully unaware of the existence of Guy Georges. A carefree, reckless me, buying fresh croissants at 5.30 am after a night dancing at the Rex club; pupils swollen to the size of saucers. A less jaded me, striding out into the city armed with my guidebook, determined to explore every inch of the city on foot.

I pass my laundrette (immortalised in the film Chacun cherche son chat) where girls sit flicking idly through magazines, while the warmth and hum of spin cycles lulls them into a pleasant torpor.

Glancing at my watch, I am startled out of my rêverie and hasten to retrace my steps towards the bank. I don’t have enough time to venture along rue Richard Lenoir, to the old apartment Mr Frog and I shared opposite the Gymnase Japy, where Tadpole was conceived.

But I’ll be back.


  1. Despite being brought up to try food before condemning it, I think I would balk at fromage de tete – it has absolutely nothing to do with cheese at all, I’m afraid! Lovely post.

    Comment by Katja — April 1, 2006 @ 5:48 pm

  2. It all sounds so romantic… like something you would read in a book or watch on TV. I love it!

    Maybe someday I will get there and be able to experience the lovely things you write about!

    Comment by Sarah-Jean — April 1, 2006 @ 5:59 pm

  3. Hey Petite- I’m a longtime reader, and I thought I’d finally thank you for your blog. I’ve been doing a bit of rediscovering of Paris myself lately– I think that the spring weather is probably responsible for my renewed awareness of the good qualities of this town. Unlike you, however, I will only associate the rue de la Roquette with visits to the stressful Préfecture titre de séjour office!

    Thanks again for sharing your stories, and congratulations on the decision to buy. I hope I’ll be ready (and courageous enough) to make that step one of these days.

    Comment by Romanbrent — April 1, 2006 @ 6:03 pm

  4. Sounds to me like you’re doing a great job of saying your au revroirs to your past… both honoring your memories and releasing them so you can move on and create many wonderful NEW memories in your new home. Isn’t it nice to be able to reminisce? (Did I spell that right?)

    BTW is your new apartment in Paris or in one of the ‘burbs?

    Comment by The Bold Soul — April 1, 2006 @ 6:16 pm

  5. Dammit, curiousity forced me to ask my in-house translator. I wish I hadn’t, you wise woman you!

    Apparently it’s available in Belgium too …

    Comment by Di — April 1, 2006 @ 9:53 pm

  6. A walk down memory lane…… honours our past but also shows us how far we have come, and allows us to dream of the way forward.

    You are taking the steps forward Petite and I know they will be happy steps…….


    Comment by Kasey — April 1, 2006 @ 11:37 pm

  7. Really beautiful post…so much visual. I didn’t want it to end. :0(

    Comment by Dina — April 2, 2006 @ 12:14 am

  8. You are a very very lucky mademoiselle to be in love with the city you live in.

    Comment by Sarah — April 2, 2006 @ 12:50 am

  9. Pleasant memories. I’d love to be back.

    Comment by joeinvegas — April 2, 2006 @ 5:09 am

  10. Don’t you feel like things in life come “full circle” then a new phase begins? I often see parallels in my life and think to myself, “Yeah this feels like the loop’s closing again…and on we go to the next circle”. I can’t express what I mean. Perhaps I’m just daft…forgive me! LOL

    You’re moving onto the next phase…or so it seems to me. What do you think?

    Comment by Kiora — April 2, 2006 @ 6:15 am

  11. wonderful post. i love going to reconect with old apts. or places, and seeing some of the things that never change. i also love the excitment of moving onto the next chapter

    Comment by erinz — April 2, 2006 @ 7:02 am

  12. You are so right about the “fromage de tête”. Not to mention things like “tête de veau”.

    Comment by Lost in France — April 2, 2006 @ 10:30 am

  13. It’s often a lovely thing to visit the old you and remember the journey to the you now- isn’t it?

    Comment by Nicole — April 2, 2006 @ 12:45 pm

  14. I can never handle these trips without a little bit of mourning. Isn’t it interesting how the little details stand out at these times? Good observations.

    Comment by fjl — April 2, 2006 @ 1:50 pm

  15. It all comes back now. The unkept spitoons littered with cigarette butts and crumpled lottery tickets. Gorgoyles beckoning the gauloise-wizzened barman for refills of Record 33. Nostrils teased by the stench of piss wafting from laneways off the rue des Lappes. No toilets in the bars and restaurants, just vacuum-operated drainage holes with a power-hose flush. Ah the filth of the place. You won’t find filth like that anywhere else today. I would go on, but it’s making me dreary-eyed.

    Comment by Trevor — April 2, 2006 @ 2:41 pm

  16. Is that TREVOR?

    Comment by Creaks — April 2, 2006 @ 4:47 pm

  17. Fromage de tete or ‘hoofdkaas’ in dutch is not terrible at all , but mustard really makes it good. Why would it be worse than liver (yuck), snails (mmm),the ovaries of ‘oursins’ or the ‘pommes d’amour'(and it is not the apple on a stick that I saw at the butcher in Orléans, it comes in pairs)?

    Comment by judy — April 2, 2006 @ 7:06 pm

  18. well, I’ve never eaten any of the above apart from liver Judy, so I wouldn’t know. I draw the line at gésiers and liver and all other innards are firmly off limits.

    Oh, and I once ate a snail. It was like chewing a garlicky eraser. Never again.

    Comment by petite — April 2, 2006 @ 7:45 pm

  19. one of the women I work with brings in Vietnamese sandwiches on occassion, and they have head cheese on them. It’s pretty tasty, but she refuses to tell us what exactly it’s made of, for fear it’ll put us off the sandwiches in the future . . . but it can’t be that much worse than black pudding, could it?

    Comment by emily — April 2, 2006 @ 9:31 pm

  20. Petite, moi non plus je ne compte pas goûter au fromage de tête une seule fois dans ma vie… ni les tripes, ni les ris de veau, et plus jamais la cervelle (=brain, pour ceux qui parlent à peine le français), bien que petits à la cantine on nous ait fait la leçon sur tous ses bienfaits – heureusement la “vache folle” est passée par là et on n’embête plus les enfants avec ça !

    Comment by Artemisia — April 3, 2006 @ 7:08 am

  21. The elves at Google must be wondering where all the ‘fromage de tete’ quries are coming from. Looks delicious to me….

    Comment by meredic — April 3, 2006 @ 8:06 am

  22. Fromage de tête: looks like lumps of meat, gristle and tripe, all set in jelly. Definitely one to make you gip (ooh, haven’t used that word for yonks. Definitely suffering form target language deprivation :-( ). Ris de veau, however, is delicious and not really as squishy in the mouth as one might imagine.

    Watch this space : a new blog is coming your way!

    Comment by Dave — April 3, 2006 @ 3:28 pm

  23. Definitely a garlicky eraser, petite. Been there, done that. Ugh!
    Bobbles out.

    Comment by Bobbles — April 4, 2006 @ 3:01 am

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