Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Dinners in Paris

Our first dinner in Paris (this trip) is simple:  escargot and two fondues at Le Latin near Place Saint-Michel and the Sorbonnne:   savoyarde (several cheeses melted in a hot pot and served with sliced charcuterie and potatoes) and mixed (duck and beef cooked at the table in a pot of boiling oil).

 Escargot, fondues savoyard and mixed

The next day, we stop by a favorite restaurant near our hotel, just off l'Etoile/Arc de Triumphe:  La Mascotte.  There we dine on salad with buratta and prosciutto and a lamb stew.  Delicious.

 Salad, lamb stew

Our next dinner is a real treat at Baieta, a new restaurant we had read about, now with one Michelin, star awarded this year.  We dine on seven courses of fabulous delights:  sea bass tartar, crispy egg yolk (with haddock and leeks in vinaigrette), stewed octopus (with sweet gnocchi potatoes in velvet crab broth), monkfish and john dory, duck (with caramelized carrots), lacquered pears (with cider, biscuit walnut, chestnut whipped cream, apple sorbet), and shortbread (with fennel flavor, lemon whipped cream, pastis, lemon sorbet).  Wow!

 Seven courses at Baieta

The next day, we dine at another old favorite, Le Poincare, near the Trocadero, sharing French onion soup, duck foie gras, a sausage platter, and swordfish.

 Onion soup, foie gras

 Sausage, swordfish

Our final night, we ask our hotel concierge if there is a nearby restaurant where we can get duck confit and we are guided to Il était une Oie dans le sud-ouest ("He was a goose in the southwest"), a haven for lovers of southwest French food, such as homemade duck foie gras, duck confit, duck sausage, ....  We settle for foie gras torchon (torched), confit de canard (duck confit) and cassoulet.

Restaurant filling up, foie gras

 Duck confit, cassoulet

 What a great way to end a trip to France!

Friday, April 24, 2020

Hameau de la Reine in Versailles

The Hameau de la Reine ("The Queen's Hamlet") is a small, rustic village built for Marie Antoinette in 1783 near the Petit Trianon to serve as a private meeting place for the Queen and her friends.  The hamlet was designed in a meadow with lakes and streams and rustic buildings surrounding a pond.  The town contains a mill, a working farm, a dairy, a dovecote, and gardens complementing each building.

 Hameau de la Reine

The houses of the hameau were all designed by the famous French architects Richard Mique (who also created several gardens at the Petit Trianon and was executed during the French Revolution for conspiring to save the life of Marie Antoinette) and were built along a path around the pond.

 Houses of the hameau

On the far side of the hameau, the farm provided milk and eggs and other farm products for the queen.  Possessing such model farms was fashionable among the French aristocracy of that time, adding to the illusion that the Petit Trianon was located deep in the countryside, rather than on the grounds of the Palace of Versailles.

 The hameau's farm

The Hameau de la Reine was abandoned after the French Revolution and was renovated in the late 1990s and included in the visitor sights at Versailles.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Gardens of Versailles

The Gardens of Versailles were started before the reign of Louis XIV, but, in 1661, Louis XIV commissioned the gardener André Le Nôtre to renovate and extend the gardens, including widening the Royal Way and digging the Grand Canal.  Louis XIV considered the gardens just as important as the Versailles palace and their development took over 40 years, in parallel with the development of the palace.  Each project in the Gardens was reviewed by the King himself, who was eager to see every detail.

 Looking down the Royal Way to the Grand Canal

The Grand Canal

Thousands of people, sometimes even entire regiments, worked on the creation of the gardens, moving large amounts of soil, creating courtyards, groves, and parterres, digging the Grand Canal, and relocating trees from different regions of France.  Here are a few of the garden areas we run across.

 Garden areas

Garden paths

To maintain the design, the garden needs to be replanted approximately once every 100 years.  Louis XVI (the last King of France, from 1774-1792) did so at the beginning of his reign and the garden was next replanted during the reign of Napoleon III (in power 1848-1870).  The garden was destroyed by storms in the late 20th century, the most devastating in December 1999, and has been fully replanted since then.

Palace of Versailles, viewed from the Royal Way