Monday, August 22, 2016

La Vagenende and the Vagabond Cat

August 22, 2016 -- Wings on our heels, we walked quickly and painlessly to the Luxembourg Gardens yesterday.  The flowers there have never looked so lush and vibrant.  All the rain in late Spring and early Summer was ideal for them.  The grass is greener over there, in the Luxembourg Gardens, than it is on the Champ de Mars.

The Luxembourg Gardens

We entered the park in our usual way, after strolling through the Place Saint Sulpice and down the rue Férou, past the long wall with the Rimbaud poem, Le Bateau Ivre, past the luxurious apartment where Hemingway lived with Pauline.

The Place Saint Sulpice

After crossing the rue Vaugirard, we were in that glorious park that the French Senat owns, and so graciously allows the people to enjoy.

The apiary was even looking better than ever, with all the bee boxes in good condition, and the little fountain in the middle spewing away.

The apiary at the Luxembourg Gardens, with small gray metal fountain.

The great Medici fountain, on the other side of the park, was also in fine form.  Ducks were paddling, great goldfish-like carp were carping, and people were sitting along the water’s edge, mostly looking at their cell phones.

Tom said he was feeling great – far better than the first time we took our granddaughters to the Luxembourg Gardens.  That was right before he had chemo the first time – several years ago.  Tom said he was also feeling better than last summer when we were in Paris.  I feel a great lightness of being upon hearing that.

Memorial to Edouard Branly, physicist, in the Luxembourg Gardens.

There was no better state of mind for enjoying that glorious green space in the heart of Paris, on a perfect summer day.  Every day is a blessing, but some are more blessed than others.

Toward the dinner hour, we strolled up the Avenue de Tournon – so obviously a former Roman road – so straight, so wide.  Where it changes names to the rue de Seine, its scale changes as well.  On the rue de Seine, you know you are in Old Paris.  When we cut over to the rue de Gregoire du Tours we sensed the age of the city even more, as the streetscape became even cozier and more intimate.

Interior of La Vagenende.

We paused outside Glozaria, a Brazilian-Portuguese restaurant, to examine the menu.  We’ll be dining there soon with friends.  A young woman from Portugal and Brazil came out to chat with us.  She’s only been in Paris for ten days, and she wanted to practice her English.  That’s always easier to do with English speakers who also speak French.

Then it was time for dinner.  Back around the corner on the Boulevard Saint Germain, we entered La Vagenende, another stunningly beautiful Art Nouveau former bouillon where we like to have the occasional Sunday dinner.

Interior of La Vagenende.

I can never resist the Quenelles de Brochet, Sauce Nantua (crawfish sauce), at La Vagenende.  Tom ordered the rack of lamb.  Both dishes take extra time – a full 20 minutes – to prepare, the menu cautioned.

No matter.  We ordered six large escargots to share to keep the hunger pangs at bay.  These snails were served in their big shells, with lots of garlic-parsley-melted butter inside.  We savored them, then waited peacefully in that dining room so lovely that we felt like we were in a fairly tale, or on a movie set – someplace not quite real.

Quenelles at La Vagenende.

The quenelles in their copper pot, like free-floating soufflés, were smooth, rich, and fluffy.  The crawfish sauce was really a bisque or Béchamel sauce, and was exactly as it should be.  Tom’s lamb was rosy and flavorful.  His fries were excellent – almost exactly like Christian Vivet’s truffle fries at the Bleu Rendez Vous Bistro on Sanibel Island, back home.

Rack of lamb and fries at La Vagenende.

Dessert was a shared order of profiteroles – almost as good at the ones at Le Pario.

Even though we had walked all the way over to the 6th from the 15th, we decided that we should walk home as well – at least as far as the Tour-Maubourg metro station – because of this rich dinner.

At the beginning of our walk to the 6th, we noticed a Lost Cat poster on the rue de la Croix Nivert.  I photographed it.  Then this morning, as I was processing yesterday’s photos, I realized that this cat pictured on the poster was very much like the cat we saw in the garden of the Musée du Quai Branly on about August 8.  Without this journal, I would not have been able to remember the approximate date.

Wanted:  We have lost a Chartreux-type cat.  If you have seen a solid-gray cat of
a certain corpulence, please contact us at 0622157725.

That’s quite some distance, between the poster site and the garden, but still it is less than a mile, I think.  The poster did not state when the cat disappeared.  Is that because the cat’s owner/staff just left him out during vacation?  Therefore the date of disappearance is not exactly known?

Nevertheless, I texted the information I have to the phone number on the poster.  I hope that cat and owner/staff are reunited.

I would have described the cat we saw in the garden as a bedraggled Russian Blue.  But I am not familiar with French cat breeds.  Evidently, there is a French breed called Chartreux that looks a lot like a Russian Blue.  The poster called the missing cat a Chartreux.  I read the description of the Chartreux in Wikipedia, and was amazed at how many details about the Branly garden cat’s fur and build matched the description in Wikipedia.

The Medici fountain in the Luxembourg gardens.

One of the most intriguing sentences in the Wikipedia article on the Chartreux is, “Legend also has it that the Chartreux's ancestors were feral mountain cats from what is now Syria, brought back to France by returning Crusaders in the 13th century, many of whom entered the Carthusian monastic order.”

Not refugees from Syria, but captives from Syria.

These cats lived in the wild in France until the World Wars.  After World War II, the Chartreux were almost extinct.  (Did people eat cats during the food shortages???)  The Chartreux were brought back from the brink of extinction by European cat breeders.

If I were an abandoned or lost cat, I am certain that I’d be attracted to the garden at the Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac.  There I’d find clean water; fish, mice, and ducklings to eat; lots of swamp and jungle vegetation to prowl through; and shelter from the rain.  But I would not find protection from cruel Winter weather.  I do hope the lost one is found soon.

French man on a Velib bicycle in front of a fine, very old door at 74 rue Guynemer, by the Place Saint Sulpice.

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