July 31, 2017 -- Intuition Gourmande sits on the little rue Pétel, around the corner from the grand town hall of the 15th arrondissement. It caught my eye several years ago because its menu, posted on the front window, looked right, and it wasn’t translated into English. The windows were clean. The interior was warmly paneled in wood and the banquettes were covered in red velveteen. I found a good review of the place, and we would have dined there before this year except that we kept missing it due to its closing in August for vacation. I just never remembered it in July, and then August would come and it was too late.
|The back of the dining room at Intuition Gourmande.|
But on Saturday evening, I booked a table there. I did it on time because on Thursday, I sat down at the computer and methodically went through our favorite restaurants’ reservation calendars, one by one, on lafourchette.com. I made a list of who was closing when, and when they’d be re-opening, if it was before the end of August.
Because of that tedious task, we made it to Intuition Gourmande this year. We are so glad we did! We shared a starter course of couteaux (razor clams) with peas and lardons (ham/bacon bits). The smokey flavor on the peas and lardons was a perfect complement for the razor clams – something the chef knew by intuition, I imagine.
|Razor clams with peas and lardons.|
We each had travers de porc (pork ribs) with a dynamite homemade barbeque sauce. These ribs were so tender, moist and flavorful that Tom’s face brightened and his dimples showed as he smiled. “I love this place!” he exclaimed.
|Travers de porc with artichokes.|
And so we now have another favorite place in the Grenelle neighborhood.
Yesterday we hopped on the number 6 metro again, this time in the direction of Nation. I must pause here and say something about this number 6 metro, particularly the La Motte-Picquet station.
In 2000, Tom had his arm broken by a pickpocket in that station. His wallet was gone, taken by the pickpocket’s partner, who quickly disappeared. But Tom made the mistake of grabbing the pickpocket’s arm and holding on. Simultaneously, the pickpocket twisted his arm free (cracking Tom’s in the motion) and head-butted Tom in the face.
Tom was down on the pavement, whoozy and bleeding from his lip, as the pickpocket fled by running down the up escalator. We noticed that the security cameras in the escalator areas had been knocked askew, and nothing had been done about it. The staff in the station’s office did nothing for us. So we think they were complicit.
|Wine cart now used as part of a flowerbed in the Parc Bercy.|
Later, after we’d talked to the police at the police station and to the banks on the phone at the apartment, Tom sought medical care at the ancient public hospital, Hotel Dieu, where the nice and scholarly Dr. Martin failed to diagnose the break in his arm. That was done by our regular doctor the next week, when we were home in Columbus.
Through all these years, because of that trauma, I have subconsciously avoided the La Motte Picquet station, and in particular the line 6 elevated metro at that station. This year, however, I broke through that wall and we have taken the line 6 from that station several times.
The station, meanwhile, has been renovated. The old wooden escalators have been replaced by newer, narrower escalators. The security cameras are firmly in place. I’ve even seen metro security police in that station, on the line 6 platform. I hope the two unhelpful men who used to work in the station’s office have retired and left Paris, as retirees often do.
|Old building in the Parc Bercy|
We thoroughly enjoyed yesterday’s ride on the elevated line 6, all the way to the Bercy station. We had some good views of the 14th and 13th arrondissements. Part of the way was underground, as we passed through the Montparnasse hill. But the rest of the way, we were charmed by the elevated station platforms that looked as if they could be small town train stations.
When we finally passed over the Seine and disembarked at the Bercy station, we walked around to the Place Leonard Bernstein and entered the Parc Bercy. In the past, we’d just taken our regular line 10 to Gare d’Austerlitz and walked for a while along the river before crossing over to the park on the Passerelle Simone de Beauvoir. That’s an okay way to go, but taking the metro to Bercy is a much more direct way to the park.
|Tom, a Floridian feeling at home beneath |
a palm tree in Parc Bercy
That park is not to be missed. Although it is not an old park (1997), it has very old trees. That’s because it was created in an area that was once home to narrow, cobbled streets with little stone wine warehouses everywhere. Trees were planted long ago along these narrow streets to keep the wine at more even temperatures, I’m convinced.
The park designers (architects Bernard Huet, Madeleine Ferrand, Jean-Pierre Feugas, Bernard Leroy, and landscapers Ian Le Caisne and Philippe Raguin) left the cobbled streets intact, for the most part. The warehouses are gone, but evidence of their past existence remains. Embedded in most of the cobbled streets are tracks that were used to move heavy barrels of wine by horse- or donkey-drawn carts. One of the carts remains in the park, used now a part of a flowerbed.
The flowerbeds are amazing riots of color and ebullient foliage at Parc Bercy. They make me happy. Leaving the Parc Bercy at the southeast end brought us right into the Court St. Emilion, a street where the stone wine warehouse buildings remain on a cobbled pavement with embedded iron rails. The warehouses now house shops and lots of restaurants.
|A beechwold in the Parc Bercy.|
We missed Bercy and the Cour St. Emilion last year, so we noticed plenty of change. The Nicolas restaurant where we dined in the past is no longer as lonely. It has far more competition now. In fact, the competing places were just too crowded for our mood yesterday. We selected the Frog, a British restaurant, instead of the crowded French country cuisine restos.
At the Frog we were served a delicious club sandwich and a fine hamburger, along with perfect fries. The Brits can cook.
|Club sandwich, burger and fries at the Frog.|
Another stereotype-busting change that we’ve noticed is that Parisians now dress down – a lot. I’m talking blue jeans, sneakers, and t-shirts everywhere, every day of the week, even in really nice restaurants. French women often wear sneakers with dresses.
Two years ago, I bought some faded blue jeans here at Monoprix, thinking I’d wear them on weekends. Now I wear them regularly.
I wore them yesterday for our Sunday walk. After lunching we walked through a corner of the park and exited on the street leading to the church of Notre Dame de la Nativité Bercy, a plain edifice that almost looks like a bank. After walking through a tunnel under the train tracks, we took the rue Charenton to the Jardin de Reuilly. There was a lot of sunbathing going on in that garden.
There we were able to pick up the Promenade Plantée, a walk that we’ve been wanting to take. We ambled along the Promenade, admiring all the flowers and wall murals, until we reached the rue Ledru Rollin, in the Quinze Vingts neighborhood, which is named for the opthalmology hospital between that street and the Opera Bastille. That hospital was originally established in 1260 by Louis IX.
|Heron, duck, and turtles on a pond in the Parc Bercy|
Tom asked me what Quinze Vingts means. I could not remember, so I looked it up. According to Wikipedia, “The name Quinze-Vingts, which means three hundred (15 × 20 = 300), comes from the vigesimal (based on 20) numeral system used in the Middle Ages: it referred to the number of beds in the hospital, and was intended to house 300 poor, blind city-dwellers.”
We walked along the rue Ledru Rollin until we reached the other end of it. I must say this is a very pleasant commercial street in the 12th arrondissement – much nicer than the rue Charenton.
We took the line 8 metro from Ledru Rollin to home because it is far less crazy than the metro station at the Bastille. I noticed that we had made choices that followed a pattern of preferring peace and calm over crazy crowds all day.
At home on the balcony, we had a peaceful summer dinner of pear and blue cheese salad, on a bed of lamb’s lettuce with a honey vinaigrette. And it was nice.