October 4, 1247
For the past several summers a most horrible pestilence has swept through this fair city. Whether it be from the wrath of God, fleas, or the stagnant, foul-smelling water emanating from the city’s wells, nearly half the population has disappeared since I visited last. In spite of the smell of death, which has yet to entirely recede from the air, it did not take me long to appreciate what it was that keeps me coming back again and again to this little Frankish gem along the Seine.
Paris is a city cluttered with a confusing zigzag of streets. On foot, it is unsafe and nearly impossible to navigate. If you have the fortitude to dodge speeding carriages along the narrow paths, which lack adequate footpaths for pedestrians, you will truly get to savor the dank, putrid, garbage-strewn paths upon which Parisians travel every day. The air is alive with the sounds of wheels running on cobblestone, families arguing inside their homes, and pigs squealing as they are butchered on the front steps of the local boucherie.
After a short stroll, I always return to my hotel for a brief nap. There are numerous inns in and around the city that are comfortable and reasonably priced. My favorite is Mon Petit Chou (My Little Cabbage). It is a picturesque cottage along the Seine run by an elderly prostitute named Genevieve. She is very accommodating and is prepared for just about anything. Her establishment is home to what I deem the best that the Parisian nightlife has to offer. Wink! Wink!
Every trip to Paris requires a visit to their Grand Market. Here one can find fresh produce, linens, and farming implements for sale at prices too good to pass up. Vendors are more than willing to consider interesting trades. In my experience the locals have always been most friendly, but on this particular occasion (perhaps a bit unnerved on account of the recent plagues), I was accused of being a pawn of Satan and came as near as I’ve ever been to being burned at the stake. I guess that is what I get for attempting to consume an entire block of cheese on my own!
On Saturday, following an unmemorable bowl of gruel the previous evening at the new establishment that had taken over my erstwhile favorite restaurant (the previous owners being dislodged by plague, I presume), I dined at le Château—Paris’s newest hot spot, located just across from the shockingly modern new cathedral Notre Dame. It was a lively crowd of clergy and knights of the robe who had come to enjoy le Château’s fabled cuisine. I dined upon a roasted country hen spoiled to the perfect degree and coated in a rich collection of herbs and something I could not quite put my finger on. The knowledgeable wait staff recommended the 1232 claret from the Dejeaux Valley in Aquitaine. It had a peaty flavor and complex undertones of jasmine, cauliflower, and sweat.
The head chef (a one-time Scottish mercenary) is a combustible fellow who hurled a spear at me after I suggested that the flavor of the beets could be enhanced by serving them thinly sliced. Not immune to good sense when he hears it (luckily for me), he, as I departed, subserviently confessed that I had been right on.
The best time for a visit would be in the autumn well after the diseased months of the summer but before the chilly winter months and the months of spring—assuming you do not enjoy being covered in flies! Bring a tunic, as it tends to get a little bit chilly at this time, especially after nightfall.
If you can afford it, bring your own cow, as the milk and butter I sampled on my most recent visit left much to the imagination. Additionally, many of the wells are filled with dead animals and are the source of a tawny and foul-tasting liquid. The well behind the Cathedral of St. Chapelle has always yielded fresh water with a baffling yet intoxicating flavor of burnt cinnamon.
As my excursion came to an end, I settled into my carriage for my tour of the Almohad Sultanate in Iberia. Naturally, I was almost entirely covered in leaches. If you can think of a better way to remedy a case of the chills and jitters, I’ll eat my hat!