August 6, 2016 -- The Avenue de la Bourdonnais is situated perfectly to offer the quintessential Paris to anyone who strolls along its broad expanse from the Seine down through the seventh arrondissement to the École Militaire.
|The Dome brasserie on the Avenue de la Bourdonnais|
First, Tom wanted to see the Eiffel Tower, so we walked up the rue du Commerce to the Champ de Mars where, we discovered, the grassy lawn is being restored in three stages. From now through the end of the year, sections of the park are being fenced off and re-seeded. Wood chips were evidently put down on the “lawn” for the Bastille Day fireworks, probably because the lawn had turned to mud from the excessive rains earlier in the summer. The wood chips are not beautiful, but the Eiffel Tower is still as lovely as ever.
The wood chips still cover the section of the Champ near the Peace Pavilion, and the re-seeding has commenced farther up the Champ, toward the Eiffel Tower. Also at that end, by the right foot of the Tower, the seventh arrondissement was having its annual fair. The first booth we saw was occupied by the same Native American musicians we saw at this fair last year.
We were impressed by their talented playing of handmade woodwind instruments, and so we bought their Sacred Spirit CD. As we walked on by all the booths offering various kinds of colorful country cuisine, our stomachs rumbled.
|Straw sculptures on the Champ de Mars|
Straw sculptures here and there at the fair added a comical “country” touch to the festive scene.
At the foot of the Tower, we veered off to the right to the Avenue de la Bourdonnais. The David Martinot florist shop was closed for vacation, but we stopped to admire shell sculptures in the shop’s windows. Surely Sanibel Shellcrafters have made something like these before? But this is the first time we saw such roses made into eggs using little clamshells.
|Shell sculpture at the David Martinot florist shop.|
We passed by the foie gras restaurant called Au Petit Sud-Ouest noting that the toasters are still there, amusingly lined up on the little tables along the sidewalk, and that the menu prices seem to have been reduced.
The Avenue de la Bourdonnais sports many attractive brasseries on various corners, and it also has more than its share of colorful, ubiquitous souvenir shops. But it does offer some unique shops as well, like a place that has large hams hanging in the front window. I am not satisfied with the ham in plastic packets sold at the grocery here, so I said to Tom, “Let’s go into this shop finally, and buy some good ham.”
The ham shop is adorable, in a shabby, old-fashioned way. Red-and-white plaid tablecloths adorn three bright green tables on the sidewalk in front of the shop, which is run by a couple of cute older people.
|The Parma ham shop on the Avenue de la Bourdonnais.|
Upon entering, we realized that this is an Italian ham shop! So we bought a little Parma ham and some Salame Felino. As the lady was slicing, weighing, and wrapping the ham and salami for us, her husband chattered incessantly, in Italian, with his buddy who had just wandered into the shop after us. He was saying something about “the Americans,” but we don’t know what. I looked around while we waited. This shop, it seems, is THE place to buy authentic Italian cheeses, which are hard to find in Parisian groceries or fromageries.
The prices were reasonable.
We thanked the lady as we left the shop, and we didn’t go far before we stopped, opened the butcher-paper packages, and sampled the ham and salami. Both were delicious. We were so happy that we finally stopped in this place; we knew we could postpone no longer. Soon, that shop will disappear, I’m sure.
We do love French cheeses, too. We just discovered how much we like Saint Marcellin. We had stopped in the Thomas fromagerie on our first day (Thursday) to buy our usual favorite, Salers, and I saw the small rounds of Saint Marcellin. On a whim, we bought one. I’d read about Saint Marcellin in an Alan Furst novel that I recently finished, so I wanted to try it. We both enjoyed that first little round so much on Thursday evening, that we decided to return to the this fromagerie on the rue du Commerce as we ambled back from our walk along the Avenue.
Then we crossed the street to buy a superb, warm baguette from the Maison Kayser bakery.
After rejuvenating at the apartment, we went out again in the evening to dine at my favorite Parisian restaurant, L’Alchimie. I’d made a reservation online, and I’m so glad I did: this was Chef Eric Rogoff’s last evening before he goes on vacation for a couple weeks.
|Spicy duck and roasted Daikon at L'Alchimie.|
He made us a fine dinner last night. We started by sharing a slice of foie gras terrine, which was served with a melon and port gelée. Then Tom had duck with spicy honey and a spicy confit of daikon (radis blanc). I ordered the sea bass, which came atop a pool of broth and softly cooked fennel with a few clams.
Tom’s dessert was an apricot tart with a scoop of peach sorbet.
All of this was wonderfully delicious, as dinner always is at L’Alchimie, in our experience. We wished Chef Rogoff a very happy vacation, and told him we’d be back there to dine toward the end of the month.
|Sea bass with soft fennel and clams, in broth, at L'Alchimie.|
That was our first dinner in Paris this summer. We’re a month late in arriving, but better late than never. The previous evening, we were just too fatigued with jet lag to go out. We did, however, snack elegantly on cheese from the fromagerie, fruit from the FranPrix grocery, and an organic baguette from the bakery on the rue Fondary.
On our street, we were surprised to see that the discount grocery that we’ve relied on for years is gone. It is now a Carrefour City grocery, and was mysteriously closed when it should have been open on Thursday. We tried again on Friday and voila, it was open. It is all brand new inside, and is a far more modern and elegant store than the discount Dia had been. Going to Dia, in fact, had been a little like going to a third world country, but the produce could be really good, at excellent prices. Carrefour City will not be as cheap, but it is certainly cleaner, brighter, and better managed. Change happens.
|Apricot tart with peach sorbet, glass of port, at L'Alchimie.|
Another, mostly pleasant change we experienced on Thursday. The taxi rides from the airport to the city (and vice versa) are now charged at one flat rate. From Charles de Gaulle airport to the Left Bank is 55 euros – a price we haven’t seen for some years. The route the driver chose through the right bank and then over the Pont Alexandre III (my favorite bridge!) could not have been better; we were savoring the sights as we peered through the windows in our slightly foggy, jet-lagged state.