Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Winding up the Long Weekend in Paris

Spring in Paris -- bring an umbrella!  Spring rainstorms drift across the city through the day and, while the showers are not severe or long, the umbrella keep us dry through all of them.  Even if the day looks clear, we see people carrying an umbrella as they head out.  They know it could change any instant, and, sometimes, every hour or two.

Passing Parisian shower

The Champs-Élysées looks more gloomy in the rain, with the Grande Roue de Paris ferris wheel, located in Place de la Concorde, in the distance.

Champs-Élysées, rainy and clear

But, April showers bring May flowers, and they are coming out all over the city.  Here are a few of the delightful surprises we run across.

 Spring flowers emerging everywhere!

And, in the park, the ponies are out for rides, but with few takers on a cold, rainy, spring weekday.

Ponies in the park

We'll share a few street pictures.,

 Modern street on the right bank

 Cobblestone alleyway on the left bank

And one more museum, with lines extending outside in the rain.  We watch one father instruct his daughter, as they come out the Metro station, how to keep an eye out for puddles and walk around them.  They then get in line at Musée Jacquemart-André for the exhibition L'atelier en plein air - Les impressionnistes en Normandy (The open air studio - impressionists in Normandy) with 50 or so paintings, from private collections and museums in Europe and America, of the stunning and diverse landscapes of Normandy painted by Monet, Degas, Renoir, Pissarro, Boudin, Morisot, Caillebotte, Gonzales, Gauguin, and others.

Line at Musée Jacquemart-André

 Entrance from inner courtyard at Musée Jacquemart-André

We have not been to this museum previously, although we walked past many times, but this time we buy tickets and enter.  The museum is in a 19th century mansion, with rooms furnished in the style of that period.  Now owned by the Institute of France, it has a fabulous collection of collection of paintings, sculptures, tapestries, objets d’art and rare furnishings, in addition to serving as a host for other exhibitions such as this impressionist collection.

One of our last stops in Paris is Ladurée, a luxury bakery and sweets house dating from 1862.  Ladurée is one of the world's best-known premier sources of macaroons, selling more than 15,000 each day.  We stop in at their  store on the Champs-Élysées and load up to treat our friends when we get home.

Ladurée entrance and macaroon counter

Buying perishables definitely marks the coming end to another great adventure.  The next day, we wheel our suitcases the 2-3 blocks over to the Arc de Triumph and catch the Air France bus, renamed Le Bus Direct on May 12, 2016 and now run by Paris Aéroport, back to Charles de Gaulle airport and head home.  In prior trips, we've traveled to/from the airport by rental car, taxi, RoissyBus operated by Paris RATP to Place de l'Opéra, RER regional train, and the Air France bus.  If our hotel is near the Air France bus stop (which it has been these last few trips), the bus is the way to go.  Le Bus Direct runs ever 30 minutes, take 45-60 minutes to get into the city, and we can buy our tickets over the Internet before we leave home.

Air France bus, now Le Bus Direct

At Charles de Gaulle, we check in, head through security, and settle into our seats for the trip home.  Tourism is currently down in Paris and that means that we get an empty middle seat between us and can spread out and enjoy the flight more.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Other Food Experiences in Paris

The French passion for food is evident everywhere.  Even the Galleries Lafayette department store cafeteria is great (and popular) for lunch.  Cold plates, cheese plates, salad bar, grilled food - they have it all.  I have a roast beef plate, Laura has a salad and a cheese plate.  Along with 1/2 bottle of red wine.  That'll keep us going a few more hours.

Lunch at Galleries Lafayette

And afterwards, an espresso (with sugar and chocolate)

Another day, we stop by Pizza Vesuvio on the Avenue de Champs-Elysées.  Sharing a Pizza Regina (tomato, moazarella, ham, and mushrooms), along with a carafe of wine, is a great lunch.  And, we get to watch all the people go by on the Champs-Élysées.

Lunch at Pizza Vesuvio
Sitting right on the Champs-Elysées

The next day, we stop by Pizza Vesuvio for a glass of wine on our way to dinner at Léon de Bruxelles and they recognize us from the previous day, stop to chat and offer to take our picture.  As we leave, the hostess tells Laura to wear her purse in front just to be safe.  Friendly, helpful, knowledgeable, and professional - that's almost always our impression of the local people we meet in Paris.

 A glass of wine at Pizza Vesuvio

There is also good food right on the street.  This crepe cart in Place de la Concorde is doing a lively business.

Crepe cart

One stop we always make is at E.Dehillerin, the great cookware shop on rue Coquilliere, near the Louvre and the Les Halles shopping mall/transit hub (formerly the Paris central fresh food market), in business since 1820.  The narrow aisles are always packed and we all squeeze by each other as we admire the equipment and make a small purchase or two.


 Narrow aisles, lots of great stuff!

But, enough cookware, let's visit some local neighborhood markets.  Our first day, we wander through a market near our hotel.  Several days later, we find one a few blocks from the Louvre as we are walking to E.Dehillerin.  We stop and admire the fresh meat, fish, bread, cheese, and produce.

 Neighborhood market

We wish we lived here and could purchase some of these great ingredients and take them up to our kitchen.  Maybe someday, even if only for a short stay.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

More Dinners in Paris

But, first, before we settle somewhere for dinner, we must have the obligatory aperitif/pre-dinner drink elsewhere.  Only after that are we prepared to saunter out into the world and track down the elusive meal.  After all, this is Paris, and according to the BBC, there are only about 40,000 restaurants in Paris to choose from.

 Aperitif at various locations around Paris

For our Friday night dinner, we treat ourselves to a real gastronomical extravaganza at La Gaigne.  We first dined at La Gaigne when it was a small place with a few tables in the Marais.  We read a glowing review in the New York Times and decided we had to try it and it was incredible.  We went back the next year and then, again, last year at their new location near Gare Saint-Lazare.  It's still incredible!

We study the menu at La Gaigne for a while, then decide on the month's tasting menu (English version), five courses of pure delight.

 Tasting menu at La Gaigne

Several times we get carried away with dining and forget that we are also taking pictures!  Here's a few from when we manage to remember.

A few nibbles with our champagne

Black pudding loaf with foie gras, carrot and beet chips

 Ring of red radishes over cream of green peas

 Filet of John Dory, artichoke puree, braised stuffed artichokes

 Roast breast of Dombes duckling

Desert and another glass of champagne
Crispy tile pastry with lime sorbet and lots more

Along with this all, we have a bottle of Pomerol recommended by our server/sommelier (not taking the suggested wine parings, although he does bring us each a glass of Mareuil Clos Saint Andre to accompany the ring of red radishes over cream of green peas, telling us that the white wine is a better complement to the delicate flavors of that dish).  On our way out, we take their picture and tell them we'll be back next year!

The friendly, knowledgeable staff helped make a wonderful experience!

The next day, it's hard to decide, but since we dined three times  in local restaurants where we were the only non-Parisians, it is time for a more traditional touristic meal.  We pick Leon of Brussels (Léon de Bruxelles) on the Champs-Élysées for moules frites and don't regret it.  It isn't the same as dinner in Brussels, but close enough for a Paris trip.

 Leon de Bruxelles for moules frites

Moules in one hand, frites in the other!

 And, of course, chocolate for desert
Profiterole without the pastry - awesome!

Sadly, it will be soon time to head home from our long weekend in Paris, wanting a few more days and maybe a side trip to Reims to visit the champagne caves or St. Emilion for some Bordeaux and great food (all easily reached from Paris on the TGV high-speed train, 45 minutes to Reims, a day trip, and 3.25 hours to Bourdeaux, overnight stay in a wine chateaux).