So I jumped on the subway this Saturday afternoon and headed over to Monique’s place beside the Pompidou Center. She’s off to Miami mid-November to stay with her daughter and two grandchildren, so we had some catching up to do before she leaves. During Hurricane Irma’s assault on the Caribbean and southern Florida in September, her daughter had to evacuate. On the other side of the USA, my good friend Lori who lives in Santa Rosa, California, also had to evacuate. She witnessed fire and devastation all around her. Scary! Here in Paris I’ve experienced two natural disasters, but nothing as severe as Hurricane Irma or the Sonoma County fires. In December 1999, France was pummeled by hurricane-strength winds of over 150km/hr. The windows and roof of Notre-Dame cathedral were damaged, and more than 10,000 trees were uprooted. And last year in June 2016, the river Seine, at its highest level for more than 30 years, overflowed and flooded parts of the city. I had to rush home from work and empty out my storage unit in the basement of the building. Word on the street was that we’d see rats pouring down the roads. I’m happy to say that my storage unit never flooded and I didn’t see a single rat.
But I digress. Arriving at the foot of Monique’s street, I spied an ice cream shop that I’ve been hearing a lot about lately. It’s Lebanese and it’s called Bachir.
Later in the afternoon we walked over for some cones. Monique ordered mango ice cream topped with whipped cream, I ordered the Lebanese specialty, Achta, which is rose-flavored milky ice cream made with mastic, rolled in chopped pistachios and topped with real whipped cream. As I ate the slightly chewy ice cream, I wondered what mastic was. It’s a resin, I later learned, from the mastic tree found in Greece and the Mediterranean region. Mastic, apparently, is a synonym for gum. It releases a refreshing, slightly pine or cedar-like flavor.
Monique and I met 19 years ago when we both worked in an American law firm in Paris. Today she runs her own bed and breakfast business in her large apartment situated mere steps from the Pompidou Center in central Paris. If you’re interested in staying there, drop me a line.