La Cave des Abbesses: Dingy, Dusty, Perfect.

February 19th, 2013 § 0 comments

Montmartre, that steep hill in Paris, has always attracted tourists in droves. They are drawn to the storied artistic and literary traditions of the neighborhood and the film Amelie, (set in Montmartre) only fueled that tourist fire. At the highest point of Montmartre sits La Basilica du Sacre Coeur, the big wedding cake of a cathedral with fabulous views of the Paris panorama. A few blocks away from La Basilica is Place du Tertre, the low point of international tourism. Souvenir junk. Lousy restaurants. And, scores of “artists,” all busy at their easels turning out vapid crap. With all of this in mind, HG has some reluctance about telling you of his favorite Montmartre hangout — La Cave des Abbesses (relatively untouched by tourism — at least for now). It’s just up the hill from Place des Abbesses, the busy, colorful square often enlivened by a carousel and street musicians. The Cave is a wine shop with hundreds of tasty, modestly priced wines. Unadvertised by any signs is a back room cafe with old tables, battered chairs, nondescript posters and a bar. Slightly dingy. Poorly lit. Dusty. In a word, perfect. It has been HG’s custom to sit there drinking white wine and slurping oysters (usually the very good oysters are priced at one Euro an oyster). There are very pleasant platters of cheese and charcuterie. Good bread (there’s a prize winning baguette baker across the street). The atmosphere is welcoming. All pretense is left at the door. Time passes in a wine drenched haze. When HG first discovered The Cave, he and BSK were lodged in a rented Montmartre apartment. HG dropped into La Cave to pick up some wine before crossing the street to buy smoked salmon, pate, ham, cheese, a baguette (and, possibly, a roast chicken) for an evening meal with BSK. What harm could a glass of wine do before the errands? Well, that “one glass of wine” proved fictional. For a day or so, multiple glasses of wine were drunk, errands were forgotten, oysters were eaten and roast chickens remained shop-bound, turning slowly under the rotisserie as HG fell deeply in love with The Cave. This did not make a famished BSK happy as she waited for meals that never came. Finally, BSK solved this bibulous problem by taking the intelligent “if you can’t beat em, join em” step and accompanied HG on the evening shopping (and drinking). Sometimes the errands were postponed. After all, what’s wrong with a meal of oysters, sausages, grilled vegetables and cheese? (With wine, bien sur.).

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