“If you are lucky enough to have visited Paris as a not-so-young person, then
wherever you go for the rest of your life, even if it’s Palatka, Florida; Shangba, China; or Flint, Michigan (okay, maybe not Flint), it stays with you, for Paris is a portable snack — but like the best snack ever: a crepe jambon et fromage on a cold day, for instance.” – JL Stankus


We left the windows open at night so the room was cold in the morning and the cold was good.


We woke to the municipal workers watering the trees in the square at Place Emile-Goudeau below us. I went to the window and saw one of them as he watched a young woman washing the big window of the pâtisserie on the corner.

She wore the Converse “Chucks” that were the rage, tight dark hip-hugger jeans and a bright pink blouse that rose up as she stretched, her olive skin winking at him. This was Montmartre waking up.


Downstairs we ate the little chausonne aux pommes, flaky with a subtle apple filling. They were shaped like fat little clams and reminded me of Michigan and I wanted later in the day to have some trout with dry white wine. Oysters too, if there was enough money. I was waiting on payment for a story, but Eugene at the front desk said there was nothing.


We walked down the steep Rue Ravignon to Rue des Abbesses, passing the little carousel. The cold air felt good and we were no longer hungry but full and satisfied, the cafe creme still leaving a satisfying warmth that mixed well with the mini suisse and all the rest.

Suzanne laughed and said, “Oh, look! The Hoosiers were at Elysee Montmartre last night! I didn’t know and we missed them.” She bent down to more closely view the decal on the rail outside of Eglise Saint-Jean-de-Montmartre. “I’m sure their show was grand.”

“We had a good night at Les Deux Moulins with Amelie, though. It was a fine Bordeaux. I’m sure The Hoosiers will play again.”


“Oh, Jacques, you’re right. We will see them again somewhere else. I’m sure of it.” She looked up at me and we hugged as we neared Place Pigalle, the light on her face and her smile worth more to me than all of Paris. “We have all the time in the world even if it is only four days.”

Gardens, Puppets & Giant Children

We exited the Metro at Place de la Concorde and walked through the Tuileries to Le Theatre de Guignol. It was closed until the afternoon but we stood for a long moment looking at the magical space with its tight but wild shrubbery and short paths, imagining the children that would be there in the afternoon sun.


The Gypsy women near the Arc de Triomph begged money and I told them that when my story sold I would come back and give them money, but for now we had to get to La Tour Eiffel to view our prospects for the day.

At the top I told Suzanne that I felt as though we were large children and the city was a toy landscape laid out on our playroom floor.


“You are so silly, Jacques, but I love you.” I swore my love back to her and we hugged and swore like sailors as the cold wind howled in our ears. Then we descended to the ground to become adults again.

Notre Dame et Quartier Latin

R Kent joined us by the Charlemagne statue. He was gracious and kind to us as we crossed the Pont au Double to Shakespeare and Company on Rue de la Bucherie. Inside he noticed a book that was regarded as good, but he did not agree.


Outside again we were cold and he said he knew of a great good place to get chocolat chaud, so we agreed to go there. It was nice to walk and hear of RK’s adventures with the lovely Isabelle, but we were sad that she was working and would not be able to join us.

He told us of a picnic last year on the Pont des Arts with Xander and Brad and their girlfriends and he and Isabelle, and about the man with no home with whom Xander shared food, but the man became upset with the food and spat at them. Suzanne and I guessed you had to be there, and despite the spitting, we wished we had been.

We were sad, too, that Xander was not there with us, but RK said he was finishing the book, being very focused. We understood completely, but still we were sad. RK made us happy again.

We detoured through the Jardin de Luxembourg because the wonderful smells of the patisseries and boulangeries and cafes could not reach us there as we were not ready to eat.

Sitting within view of the Sénat, we talked some more and he told us about the French equivalent of “break a leg” in the theatre. We would never think of merde in quite the same way afterwards.

The wind was blowing cold, but we smiled and vowed to press on.


The place RK wanted to go was closed, but we found a good cafe on the Place St.-Sulpice and got our drinks.

“Did you hear him?” said RK. “That waiter cut me. Didn’t you hear him cut me?”

“Did he call you a name?” I asked.

“No, he repeated my order with an exaggerated accent! He was making fun.”

I hadn’t noticed, but it was fine later when RK left a tip and the waiter smiled and called him “cheeky.”

The three of us laughed and walked to Bd. St. Germain, then we said goodbye to RK who had to get back in time for dinner with Isabelle’s family.

Suzanne and I continued on to the Musee d’Orsay and saw Gauguin’s mysterious and dark wood carvings and his paintings of the Javanese women.

We were hungry for dinner by then and wondered — looking at Cezanne’s and Matisse’s landscapes and Van Gogh’s flowing blue L’eglise d’Auvers-sur-Oise –if they were hungry when they painted them. We figured they were, but not hungry for food.

Since we were not like them in quite that way, we were hungry for food, so we headed north of the city to Rue Lepic to eat and talk and think about all we had experienced that day and the days before.

Although we would leave soon, we knew this was not an ending and we were very happy.

TAGS: , , , , , , , , ,

JIM SIMPSON is an award-winning fiction writer and freelance music critic. A native of the wilds of Florida's Gulf Coast, he now resides on the scruffy fringes of Atlanta, Georgia.

He frequently writes about music, with his taste spanning all genres: Bluegrass, Americana, Classic Country, Alternative Country, Western Swing, Blues, Classical, Rock 'n' Roll, Punk, Reggae, Klezmer, and British Isles Folk (to name but a few).

He once sang Happy Birthday (with about 10,000 other people) to Joni Mitchell, and has seen such legends as Miles Davis, The Incredible Jimmy Smith, Rockpile, Blue Rodeo, King Sunny Ade, David Bowie, Joan Jett, Robyn Hitchcock, R.E.M., Elvis Costello and Bob Dylan live in concert. He has interviewed such musical luminaries as Those Darlins, John Linnell of They Might Be Giants, Marshall Chapman, Charlie Louvin, Derek Hoke, Jim Avett, the Secret Sisters, and Meghan McCormick.

Jim has been at work on his first novel for longer than he originally planned, and if all goes well it should be in bookstores sometime before his death.

One response to “A Portable Snack Because We Had Neither the Time nor Money for a Moveable Feast”

  1. Jim Simpson says:

    Original comments follow:

    Comment by Josie Renwah
    2008-04-26 20:31:53

    Thanks for bringing me along on your stroll through the city, JS.

    It was lovely to see RK too. And in his scarf. I miss his scarf, shame he wasn’t wearing the beret… . What book was it he was going on about?

    The gallery was grand – I rifled through your flikr account but I’m pretty sure I left them all in order. I really like the shots of you two at the bottom of the tower – so tourist kich – perfect!
    Reply to this comment

    Comment by Lenore
    2008-04-27 12:30:36

    i am so hungry now. i just want to eat everything. i will gain weight, and because i’m single, it will be your fault when i never meet a guy cause i’m too fat.

    i want to have a picnic with you guys! i’ll be like your really annoying little sister and grab your hand and make you smack yourself with it while repeating: “why you hitting yourself?” over and over.

    seriously, you made me very hungry.
    Reply to this comment

    Comment by kip
    2008-04-27 12:49:28


    Good stuff to hear about your adventures in Paris with the consummate BreakDowner abroad – RK.

    Can someone tell me why it’s always Paris that Americans want to visit? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not jealous but I would like to know why it seems that every person related to TNB and their fifth-degree-of-separation Chinese cousin go to Paris. There are many other cities in Europe that just as European and slightly less tapped out touristically.

    Reply to this comment

    Comment by Jim
    2008-04-27 13:59:41

    JR – I can’t recall the title/author of the book, but RK said he wasn’t enjoying it. Your rifling of my flickr page went unnoticed — you’re very neat!

    LZ – I seem to habitually make you hungry. Remember the breakfast food kick? Toast, donuts, more donuts …

    KT – There’s a reason Paris is so popular. Really, it’s unbelievably lovable while unctuous and supercilious. It’s a place where you can feel very at ease and simultaneously intimidated. Maybe only masochistic tourists (say THAT ten times fast!) like me go there.
    Reply to this comment

    Comment by Alexander Maksik
    2008-04-28 01:46:44

    God, talk about a guilt. I feel terrible. And totally self-involved. And a shirker of NB ambassadorial responsibilities. I’m sorry. But it IS true. I WAS being disciplined. And I would only have been a weight.

    And as for Kip’s question . . . if you have to ask. And you ARE jealous. Besides, you keep threatening to visit.
    Reply to this comment

    Comment by Jim
    2008-04-28 05:02:05

    Don’t worry about it, Xander, we’ll catch up with you next time. Maybe we can all meet in Madrid.
    Reply to this comment

    Comment by 1159
    2008-04-28 08:37:28

    I agree, nice to see RK.
    Sometimes I feel like the Rube of TNB.
    But I have been to Paris.
    Paris, Tennessee.
    Reply to this comment

    Comment by rk
    2008-04-28 09:39:35

    I loved this post, and no, not just because you were so kind to feature me in it. I just thought it was really well written, your own personal poem to this magnificent city.

    Sooner or later, everyone comes to Paris. That’s just the way it is. (And echoing XM, when can we expect your long overdue visit?)

    Yes, the scarf is alive and well, as is the cap (NOT A BERET!!!).
    And the book I mentioned was Adam Gopnik’s Paris to the Moon, which everyone except me loves.

    Paris awaits you!

    Reply to this comment

    Comment by Rebecca Adler
    2008-04-28 13:37:36

    Aw, it sounds like you had a great time. And isn’t that chocolat chaud amazing? Gotta say, the food in France is absolutely the number one thing you’ll miss, at least it is for me.

    Glad you had a wonderful trip! And thanks for sharing it with us.
    Reply to this comment

    Comment by Lillerina
    2008-04-28 15:44:22

    I saw the Hoosiers a few months ago.
    They were very good.
    I am sure they will play again and you will see them.
    I am also sure it will be worth the wait.
    Reply to this comment

    Comment by Jim
    2008-04-28 19:52:46

    RA: Yes, the food was amazing, and even when I wasn’t quite sure what I was ordering, the result was superb.

    L: We thought it was a great name for a band, especially since my wife is from the “Hoosier” state of Indiana (the big joke being, “Hoosier daddy?”).
    Reply to this comment

    Comment by Kaytie M. Lee
    2008-04-30 17:37:51

    I guess all roads lead to Paris, eh?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *