Sep 26, 2014

Room With a View: Pavé de Larzac


As if living in Paris isn't inspiration enough, one of the things that really gets my creative juices flowing is the view out my apartment window. It's unusual in that we look out over the Seine, a bridge over the Seine, street performers, the tips of the Notre Dame towers and spire, and garden space, along with some classic Parisian architecture. It's a view that's golden, in this case quite literally.

Please note: There were no filters used or adjustments made to this photo. The world was just golden on this particular day! It was unusual, but not the only time the view takes our breath away. It's a regular occurrence.
Who says lightning doesn't strike twice? Here it is, thrice:

At sunrise and sunset:


And moonset:


In rain...

And, more unusually, snow:


Wait! Where did Notre Dame go? As a San Franciscan, it doesn't freak me out when entire monuments disappear behind thick fog. But it does seem photo-worthy to me, because -- as a San Franciscan -- what does freak me out is that it's the only time in over three years in this apartment that it's happened.

In light and shadow:


We appreciate the view and make the most of it, even when we're looking down over hordes of tourists, marchers, bike tours, and performers.

A more typical Parisian apartment view would be the infamous "vis-à-vis" looking straight into another building. You're just lucky if the building across the street (and its resident population) is an attractive one. Real estate agents proudly boast of apartments that have the privacy of no vis-à-vis.


Just so you can picture me, sitting here, inspired and writing, here are views of me at my desk, and a picture of the view from my desk chair. (Yes, my desk is always that messy. At least.) Virginia Woolf, eat your heart out.

We have several good friends and visitors that marvel at -- and tease us about -- our incredible location, saying, "You can't get any better than that!" How on Earth could we get a better view, and be any closer to the center of Paris?! Well....you see that building that's blocking our perfect view of Notre Dame? We have friends who have just moved to Paris for a year sabbatical, and guess where they end up finding an apartment...
We can actually stand on our balconies and wave to each across the river. Here's what they see when they look back at our apartment.

They can also look out over the Seine at Hôtel de Ville and over picturesque rooftops as far as Sacré  Coeur.

Even the view down their staircase is pretty.
And the pièce de résistance: On the other side of the apartment, they have a beautiful, near-full view of Notre Dame. Or at least, it will be even more beautiful once the security grill is fixed.

Though the view is partly what sold our friends on the apartment, they are now anxiously waiting for the grill to be fixed and raised. But even then, they might be jealous of the view that Pippa has at school. The big kids -- the 5th graders that is -- climb up five stories to the converted attic classroom. With backpacks. They then climb down to go to morning recess, back up to class, down to lunch and recess, up to class, down for afternoon recess, up to class, and down at the end of the day. That's 40 large flights of stairs every day. Naturally, they complain about it. And I have some sympathy, until I go to the classroom for a Back-to-School night and see the view.

Look carefully at the photo above: It's an unusual angle in the city to see Sacré Coeur like that to the right of Notre Dame. There's also a sliver of a view of the Eiffel Tower over the rooftops on the other side.

And there's a great view right out the window by first Gigi's and then -- two years later -- Pippa's desk to the Panthéon. I feel like you could charge tourists admission fees to come up to their classroom. How can they not be inspired to learn, especially about French language and French history, with this view?


But frankly, perhaps the best views of all are those from our second choice apartment way back when we were apartment-hunting. We strongly considered the place, almost exclusively because of the views out both sides.

Neither the apartment nor the location was as nice as where we are living; the apartment itself was dingy; the furniture was a modern, blocky eyesore; the building was sad and dark; the street was grungy and felt out of the way. So I'm not sorry we chose as we did, and I promise, I won't complain about our view. But it does go to show that even with a great room with a view in Paris, human nature is what it is, and we always covet -- even just a little bit -- something a little bit better.

THE CHEESE: Pavé de Larzac

Sometimes, a picture really does say it all. This old-timey, golden-hued drawing shows you what you need to know about this cheese: it's a sheep cheese, made in the country-side. Yup. It's actually a "thermized" milk cheese -- meaning the milk is heated, but at a lower temperature than pasteurization. I haven't found a good translation for the word in French "thermisé", so I'm just making that up. The meaning is correct, however. This is not just warming the milk as part of the cheesemaking process but actually warming it to kill some harmful bacteria. However, it's not pasteurized, so it's not a guarantee that all the harmful bacteria are killed, and it's done this way purposely in order to keep the beneficial bacteria alive and kicking.

Made by a cooperative in the department of Aveyron in the Midi-Pyrénées region, this is considered an artisanal cheese, as it uses milk from various farms. It's also artisanal in the sense that it's a very finely-made, high-quality cheese -- delicious, creamy, earthy, and floral, with a real taste of the plants and land upon which the sheep graze. In the winter, when they can't graze, they are fed principally with hay and grains grown on the farms.

It's called a "pavé", or cobblestone, because of its shape and the pattern on the crust, which both look very brick-like, indeed. The Pavé is hand-ladeled into the molds and removed by hand, too, which helps explain the lumpiness of the rectangle.


From my window, I can look down on the pavés, the cobblestones, on the old streets below. But that's not why I choose this cheese to pair with this story. Actually, this is one of the half-dozen new cheeses I happen to have in the apartment one day when I receive an e-mail request from my alumni magazine for "a shot of yourself with cheese that also says Paris" to accompany an interview. I receive the e-mail while sitting in the apartment with a friend visiting from New York who happens to be a photographer. I happen to be having a good hair day. The lighting happens to be perfect. I have to admit I do change shirts to wear something that references France (the Marinière-style shirt).


So even though the editor is in New Jersey, and I am in Paris, I am able to send her a series of photos, using our room with a view as the location, within half an hour of her request; she is stunned. I doubt she's ever had a more efficient response!


  1. One of my (3) daughter lives in Montmartre, and her appartment comes with access to a huge private roof terrace.
    I had always thought she must have the best view of Paris, but honestly, the view from your living room wins hands down !


    1. And yet, I bet I would love and be jealous of her view, too, because it would be novel to me!


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