One Sad Duck Confit At Montmartre

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Sandeep’s disappointment was palpable as we ascended the steep cobbled street towards Montmartre. It was my idea to check out the place. Sandeep had been to Paris several times but has not been to Montmartre even once. I insisted that we visit because it used to be the hub of some of our favourite artists, like Van Gogh, Modigliani and Lutrec. I thought it would be a shame not to walk on the streets they use to tread.

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Upon alighting from the taxi, I understood right away Sandeep’s reservation in going there. The moment we stepped out of the car, we were mobbed by ‘artists’ asking to draw our portraits for a few euros. They were incredibly persistent and hounded us for several minutes until they spotted a new prey. Sandeep is passionate about art and has little patience for posers; Montmartre seemed to be teeming with them. A bohemian hang-out turned tourist trap.

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But despite all this, I still found the place charming. In my mind, I stripped down the current touristy ambience of the area and tried to imagine how it would have been back then; the cafes, the pubs and the artists. I imagine it would have been quite scintillating with those colourful artists, writers and musicians swarming the place.

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Before exploring the village entirely, we decided to have some lunch. We were eyeing an outdoor eating area but chose to eat in a proper restaurant where there’s an option to use the washroom. Upon entering the place, I had an eerie feeling that we made a poor choice as there were very few people eating there. In spite of the swarm of tourists outside, the restaurant looked strangely deserted.

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A waiter who looked like the living caricature of Woody Allen came to take our order once we sat down. I stifled my laughter as he scribbled our orders on his notepad. He was very much the embodiment of the ‘French-Waiter’ cliche. Though the scowl on his face dampened the cartoonish hilarity of his waiter uniform, he still looked pretty comical in his cerulean tilted beret with matching cerulean striped apron.

There was nothing funny, though, in the dishes that he laid down on our table after a few minutes. In fact, the duck confit and the side dish of potatoes and veggies looked quite sad and ill-humoured.

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2 duck confit with side dishes plus beer and red wine about 80 euros

I wanted to kick myself for choosing that place when after roaming around, I could see more restaurants that seemed to offer better food. Strolling in between the cafes lining the slightly elevated roads made me feel like I am really walking in a small French village. And the aroma wafting from their kitchens smelt divine and ambrosial. It was just how I imagined a European village would be.

We kept walking aimlessly but eventually reached the Sacré-Cœur Basilica. From the steps in front of the church, despite the huge crowd, you’ll be able to behold a breathtaking panoramic view of the city of Paris.

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IMG_1753.jpgParis looks gorgeous from up there, and no amount of hawkers and posers or bad food could diminish the romance and charisma of Montmartre.

 

Grilled Chicken and The Hangry Hulk at De Pijp, Amsterdam

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“It’s just somewhere around here, honey. Let’s walk a bit more. You’ll love it, I promise you. “ Sandeep reassured me once more as we walk the length of Albert Cuyp Market. I could hear the tension in his voice. I knew he could see me slowly metamorphosing into THE HANGRY HULK and he has to get some food in me as soon as possible. (That was not a typo. If you don’t already know, hangry is the combination of the two words hungry and angry. A common condition in women like myself who lose our shit when starving.)

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It was then three in the afternoon already, and we still haven’t eaten anything yet besides our measly airport breakfast. We were underslept and exhausted. We needed a comforting meal, but Sandeep was dragging it on and on to find this magical food stall that he loves. I told him I would be happy with a burger from McDonalds when we passed it earlier on the way there, but he insisted on finding this gastronomical wonder. He probably thought it would change my life or something once I tasted it. I did understand even then though, that he wanted to share this special treat with me, but during that desperate moment, the sweetness of his gesture was lost on me.

“I think this is it!’ Sandeep announced triumphantly in front of a food truck serving grilled chicken, meatballs and sandwich rolls.

The tall guy wearing a black apron behind the counter was very animated and was calling the women ladies, almost theatrically.

To me, he said, “Are you ready, lady?” as he handed me the enormous burger I ordered.

The stall seemed like a popular spot and was the most crowded food stall among the area. The tables next to it were constantly full. Customers came and went in rapid rotation while we were eating there. Some people were even fine with just standing while they eat their grilled chicken sandwiches and meatballs. Others also came to buy some takeaway.

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Lunch for 2 with cola about 9 Euros

Sandeep loved his grilled chicken wings and chicken sandwich rolls, costing him 2 euros each. My 150 grams burger at 3 euros was a bit dry and had a flavour I am not very fond of, so I did not ‘love it’. I could taste cumin in the patty quite strongly mixed with some other spices I often taste in Indian Kebabs. It was the wrong thing to order I thought later on, and if not for my sour mood, I would have liked the food too, I ‘m sure.

Though I did not enjoy the meal, my energy was replenished. I began to appreciate the quaintness of the market as we strolled back towards the main street.

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Albert Cuyp market offers a variety of items for sale at a fair price. There are stalls for all kinds of souvenirs, clothing and accessories, flowers, meat, cheese, seafood, even CDs, books and vintage records.

We also passed by a huge dried fruit and nuts stall. There were peanuts, walnuts, figs, chocolate balls and the tastiest nougat I’ve eaten so far. It was not so sweet and almost as soft as a marshmallow. We got 200 grams for 2 euros if I remember correctly.

By the time we exited the market, my mood has improved considerably. We sat down for a cup of coffee (6 euros for a cappuccino and latte) enjoying the outdoors devoid of pollution, chaos and jarring noises. That part of De Pijp seemed almost idyllic; filled with people just enjoying their evening, some hanging out with their friends, some passing by on bicycles, a few patiently waiting for the trams that occasionally pass by.

I heard laughter coming from a group of youngsters farther away. The faint laughter sounded dream-like, adding a tone of cheer in the scenery. I leaned back on the chair, relaxing while I sipped my coffee, taking it all in. It was a wonder to witness a peaceful and orderly scene not often seen in modern and bustling cities. I knew right away that Amsterdam is an extraordinary city, very, very special, and that I would love being there.