Monday, July 31, 2017

Picking the peaceful path

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  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.
He fell even deeper into love when his dessert arrived – a parfait, with coconut, pineapple, apricot flavors dancing together in iced and whipped cream harmony. 

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.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Sights in the Seventh

Hotel de Choiseul-Praslin on the rue de Sevres.
July 29, 2017 – An elegant anachronism on the rue de Sevres caught our attention on our walk through the 7th arrondissement yesterday.

Now the office of La Poste’s bank, this lovely building has a historic plaque posted out front which tells the following story (translated from French):

This stately home, built in 1732 by the architect Sulpice Gaubier, was bequeathed in 1746 by the Countess de Choiseul to her nephew Cesar-Gabriel; ambassador, then minister, the Count de Choiseul had a brilliant career:  in 1762 he was given the title Duke of Praslin.  He attached his name to this home which he enlarged, embellished and occupied from 1745 to 1765.  In 1768, the home was sold to the father of the Count de Saint-Simon, founder of Saint-Simonism [a French political and social movement].  Rented in 1800 to the scholar/scientist Adamson, it passed through several hands before it went in 1876 to an owner who, just up to his death, did remodeling work that was particularly unfortunate.  In 1886, the stately home was taken by the government which housed its National Savings Bank in it.  In spite of its misadventures, the building remains an attractive testimony to the architecture of the 18th Century.

La Banque Postale acquired the building around 2000 and spent 30 months restoring it.  It was opened on September 15, 2011, and was included in the public Heritage Days event that month.

Chapel of St. Vincent De Paul, above, and a closer look at the reliquary above the altar (below).

Nearby on the rue de Sevres is the chapel of the Vincentian Fathers, also known as the Chapel of Saint Vincent de Paul (not to be confused with the St. Vincent de Paul church, which is in the 10th arrondissement).  This beautifully restored chapel has an elaborate altar.  Above it is a glass reliquary containing the body of St. Vincent de Paul. 

The body was exhumed to be placed in this reliquary, and that was acceptable until it was damaged by flooding, after which the body did decay.  What is on display now in the reliquary is the saint’s skeleton covered with wax. 
Stained glass window in the St. Vincent de Paul chapel.

St. Vincent de Paul was a 17th Century priest who did the work of Jesus, caring for the destitute, orphans, outcasts, and poor.  He was a humble man, and I wonder what he would think of such an elaborate reliquary displaying a wax image of his body.  But that’s me, thinking like a Protestant.

The saint’s heart is in another reliquary in a nearby chapel of the Daughters of Charity at the Shrine of the Miraculous Medal (on the rue du Bac, across from Bon Marché, at the rue de Babylone).

The Chapel of Saint Vincent de Paul is attached to the Lazarists Mission.  That mission was founded by St. Vincent de Paul in 1625.  The Lazarists constructed the chapel in 1826-27 to honor their founder.  The chapel was restored in 1983 and 1992, but was not officially declared to be a historic monument until 1994.

Looking through the gate to the Lazarists Mission.
The organ in this beautiful, elaborate chapel was made by the famous Aristide Cavaillé-Coll in 1864.  It must have replaced an earlier organ, because from 1845 until his death in 1852, the organist at this chapel was none other than Louis Braille, the teacher of the blind who invented Braille.

The former Hopital Laennec, situated across the street from the chapel, was also named for someone who invented something life-changing:  Dr. René Laennec, who invented the stethoscope.

This hospital was originally the site of a hospice, founded in 1634 by Cardinal de la Rochefoucauld.  When that hospice was moved to Ivry, just outside of Paris, in 1873, the hospital was renamed in honor of Dr. Laennec.

Since 2000, the work of the former Hopital Laennec is done at the huge Hopital Européen Georges-Pompidou in the outer edges of the 15th arrondissement.

The Hopital Laennec buildings became part of a big “Paris 7 Rive Gauche” urban renewal project.  Now beautifully restored, the hospital buildings are becoming office space.  The hospital’s historic chapel, built under the regime of Louis XIII, will be saved, but the sacristy of the chapel was demolished in 2011 due to a “human error” on the part of the demolition contractor!  New housing units along the rue Vaneau side will complete the "multi-use" aspect of the project.

Top of the chapel at the Hopital Laennec.

After taking in these sights, Tom and I rested our feet in the Square Boucicaut, next to the big Bon Marché department store.  This lovely little park is named for Marguerite Guerin Boucicaut, the widow of the department store’s founder.  She ran the department store for ten years after her husband’s death and until her death.  Two years after her husband had died, their only son died.  Widowed and childless, she bequeathed a large part of the Boucicaut family fortune to the public hospitals of Paris.
Some flowers in the Square Boucicaut.

Other beneficiaries of her will included the employees of Bon Marché (according to seniority), institutions that aided young workers, associations that protected painters and writers, the archbishop of the Catholic church, the construction fund for reformed churches, the grand rabbi of Paris, a retirement home outside of Paris, and finally, the Louvre and Luxembourg museums, which received her collection of paintings.

Marguerite had come from a humble background in the town of Verjux.  Her father had deserted the family, and she went to work as a laundress in Paris.  She moved up to a job in a creamery, where she met Aristide Boucicaut, a regular customer.  When they became romantically involved, his family did not approve of their relationship.  So, they just lived together and had a child in 1839 before they married in 1848.

Throughout her life, Marguerite cared deeply about working people and the poor.  Through her generosity, she helped Paris become the vibrant city that it is, and she helped France become a country where health care is available to all – no matter how poor.

We are all her beneficiaries.

Friday, July 28, 2017

From the Seine to India

The Square Dupleix is a small and typical Parisian park that we frequently walk through on our way to the Champ de Mars.  It is the centerpiece of an attractive, quiet neighborhood that is surprisingly close to the Eiffel Tower.  The square is dominated by two playgrounds for children, and an old-fashioned gazebo in the center – a good place for band concerts, although we’ve never heard one there.

There is just enough open space left over to erect a small circus tent.  Every summer, the Gontelli circus sets up there for weeks.

When we walked through Square Dupleix yesterday, the circus was in action.  Moms, dads, and kids were lined up to enter the colorful little tent, to see what wonders it might hold.  Recorded circus music drifted though the air.

The flowers at the Square Honore Champion on the rue de Seine are gorgeous.

We crossed the Champ de Mars and crossed the avenue de la Bourdonnais so that we could walk through the magical tropical garden at the Musée du Quai Branly.  As we entered through the gates, the security guard took a really good look inside my little bag, instead of the cursory glance that the bag usually gets.

We crossed the Quai Branly and descended to the banks of the Seine.  There was no mob walking along the banks because it was a weekday; on weekends now the banks are crowded with pedestrians.  The Berges de la Seine project has been a huge success; pedestrians rule, and the highway along the Seine is no more.  Yesterday, we walked comfortably among just the right number of pedestrians.
Faust, the restaurant under the Pont Alexandre III, was heavily damaged by flooding last year.  Now
it is looking better than ever, and it has added high-top "terrace" seating under the bridge.

Nowadays you can count on seeing several temporary attractions set up along this stretch of the left bank.  Yesterday’s attractions included a vibrant section featuring the wonders of Colombia.  We sat on a bench for several minutes to watch the scene, which included some Latin dancing.

Later, we checked out a photo display about Dalida.  The purpose isto promote an exhibition about this French entertainer’s wardrobe, currently showing at the Palais Galliera, the fashion museum for the City of Paris.

At the Pont des Arts, between the Louvre and the French Academy, we climbed back up to the street level to walk along the rue de Seine, looking into the many trendy art galleries, until we reached the busy little rue de Buci.  By the time we were near the Mabillon metro station, it was close enough to our dinner reservation time that we decided just to take the metro all the way to the Charles Michel station, and spend a few minutes sitting on a bench, watching people in the Place Charles Michel.

At rush hour, this is entertaining because so many people are criss-crossing the Place, and they make a diverse display of almost-frenetic activity.

Looking into Faust as the restaurant prepares to open for the evening.

Then it was time to walk over to Annapurti, and Indian restaurant on the rue Lourmel.  I’d noticed its good reviews in, and when we’d walked past it on our way home from Le Blavet the night before, I thought it looked clean and inviting.

We had no idea how good it was going to be.  What a surprise!  This little place with not-so-lavish Hindu décor is a gem.  The food did not arrive at the table too quickly; we took that as a good sign, that everything was being freshly prepared.  And it was!

The samosa and pakora starters were perfectly and beautifully presented.  The three classic Indian chutneys were clearly homemade, and the spicy one made my taste buds dance.  The garlic naan also seemed to be homemade, and was infused with some herbs in addition to the garlic.  It was served piping hot from the oven.
An old sealed-off well tucked into the end of a street in the Village St. Paul.

Tom’s lamb biryani was served with a separate bowl of tamarind sauce; its deep, rich, dark red color was very representative of its taste.  The korma sauce was heavenly – made with crème fraiche instead of heavy cream, and incorporating only the choicest ingredients – like clearly top-quality cashews – this was a sauce you’d expect to find in a pricey restaurant. (Our total bill for dinner was just 62 euros.)

The top-quality lamb in both the biryani and korma was tender, moist, and flavorful. 

We shared a kulfi for dessert.  In the past, I have not particularly liked this Indian version of ice cream.  But at Annapurti last night, I learned to love it – because it was so good.  The flavor we had was saffron and pistachio.

Now we have a new favorite Indian restaurant in Paris, and we’re delighted.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Joan of Arc and Lady Liberty

July 27, 2017 – Wednesday and Sunday are the market days for our Grenelle neighborhood.  I like to rise fairly early so that I can process photos and write before 10AM, which seems to be the ideal time to walk through the outdoor market on the boulevard de Grenelle.  By that time, the vendors are completely set up, even the latecomers, and the shoppers are shopping.  There are others like me who just walk through the middle of the market, gazing at the wares in each stall, looking at all the people, without buying anything. 

The Lulu dans ma Rue stall in the Grenelle market.

I combine this walk up and down the length of the Grenelle market with a walk up to the rue Cler, a pedestrianized market street.  In between, I walk along the end of the Champ de Mars, with the war college on my right and the peace pavillion on my left -- war and peace.

After walking through the pedestrianized section of rue Cler, I walk home via the rue de Grenelle and the Champ de Mars.

Yesterday, as I was walking from the boulevard de Grenelle to the rue Cler, a couple of the young women who I call the “do-you-speak-English scammers” were behind me.  They were pestering everyone they passed, trying to scam them.  Most people brushed them off quickly.  A few who had not encountered them before, or who had not been warned about them, were taken in for a few moments – but not for long. 

Two female scammers walking behind me at the end of the Champ de Mars

Scammers bothering a tourist as his wife is trying to catch up with him.

One poor man couldn’t get away from the scammers because he was waiting for his wife to cross the street, wheeling her suitcase behind her.  Jet-lagged tourists hauling luggage are favorite targets for the scammers, I’m sure.

Yesterday the scammers never approached me, even though they were in front of me, behind me, and passing me several times along that end of the Champ.  I was looking very Parisian, I guess, with my black clothes, gray silk scarf, and sunglasses even on a cloudy day.  So I wasn’t taken as a tourist.
But I did have my camera in my palm, and I took a couple photos, surreptitiously, of the scammers at “work.”  I really wanted to get away from them, but wasn’t able to do so until I crossed the boulevard de la Bourdonnais, leaving the Champ behind me.

In the afternoon, the five of us went for a walk up the Ile aux Cygnes to the Pont de Bir Hakeim.  We paused to look at the Monument de la France Renaissante, which is a gorgeous statue reminiscent of Joan of Arc on her horse, symbolic of the spirit and power of France.  I love that this symbol of power is the image of a strong woman, and I was sure to point that out to Olivia and Sarah.  They thought that was very cool.

Monument de la France Renaissante

A little earlier, we'd looked at the Statue of Liberty at the other end of the Ile aux Cygnes.  Strong women at each end of the Ile -- that was not simply happenstance.  This Statue of Liberty originally faced east, toward the Eiffel Tower,  It was turned to face west, in the direction of her big sister in New York City, in 1937, for the World's Fair.  Look what happened to liberty in France in the next several years!  Never forget.

This Statue of Liberty was moved to Japan for a year in 1998, then returned to Paris in 1999 -- all 14 tons of her.
Looking up at the Statue of Liberty on the Ile aux Cygnes

We dined well at Le Blavet on rue Lourmel last night.  Dan and I had the duck breast, while Tom and the girls had the beef filet.  Lovely starters and desserts were consumed as well.  The restaurant, one of our longtime favorites, offers delicious food at good value.

The girls were absolutely exhausted.   This morning, Dan and the girls left very early to take their flight home to Louisville.   The girls said it was a wonderful vacation – all three weeks of it – in France, Spain, and Italy.

In their absence today, Tom and I set about a thorough housecleaning of the apartment.  The cleaning lady is on vacation in Portugal, so the job is ours.  But who better to vacuum and to dust the thousands of books than a professor emeritus from The Ohio State University, who has a Ph.D. in American Literature from Indiana University and a B.A. from Duke?  Who better to scrub all the germs and grime away from the bathroom and kitchen than a science writer who worked for a research institute and a college of engineering?

We did it.  The place is gleaming, and quiet.
The Eiffel Tower as seen from the Pont de Bir Hakeim

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Hopeful surprises and favorable hazards

Notre Dame, as seen from the Pont de l'Archeveche
July 26, 2017 – The adventure often starts with a ride on the metro.  All five of us took the line 10 to the Place Maubert.  We climbed the metro steps and emerged on the Place as the last of the vendors were packing up their wares.  Market day was over by 2PM. 

Olivia, Sarah, and Tom Cooley ride the metro.

As we walked up the rue de Bievre, Tom and I told Olivia and Sarah about the Bievre (a French word for “beaver”), which is a stream that flows into the Seine.  As “civilization” progressed in Paris, the stream became an open sewer, and eventually was covered over.  But the street name of Bievre lives on, and so does its story. 
Graffiti in the Village St. Paul
[Translation of the graffiti at left:
There aren't accidents, there are hopeful surprises of fortuitous circumstances, and the favorable hazards.]
Graffiti in the Village St. Paul
The Bievre enters the city near the border of the 13th and 14th arrondissements, according to Wikipedia.  But you can’t see it; it is under the street level in Paris.  You just have to believe it is there.

Once upon a time, the Bievre served the famous Gobelins tapestry factory, which is in what is now the 13th arrondissement.  Perhaps we will visit Gobelins sometime this summer.

When we reached the end of the Bievre, we crossed the Seine on the Pont de l’Archiveche, which gave us a lovely backside view of Notre Dame.  We entered the little park which is now the entrance to a memorial monument to those deported to concentration camps during World War II.  The guardienne of the monument told us about how to enter and move through it. 
Cleverly painted shop window
 in the Village St. Paul

Trompe l'oeil painting of a door
in the Village St. Paul

Olivia and Sarah have been learning about the World Wars and the Holocaust, so they were interested in seeing the exhibit.  The guardienne had instructed us to be very quiet as we proceeded through the exhibit, and the girls were indeed quiet, attentive, and respectful.

When we exited the monument, Tom and Dan decided that we should walk up the middle of the Ile Saint Louis.  The girls were content just to walk along the colorful street; they felt no need to go into the shops.  They’re like me.

We left the island so that we could explore the St. Paul neighborhood in the 4th arrondissement.  Wandering aimlessly through the courtyards of the Village Saint Paul and then into the Marais, I temporarily lost my sense of direction.  That rarely happens.

We stopped for refreshments at Le Sevigne (15 rue de Parc Royal).  I was excited to see that the place serves Mariage Freres tea.  I’d told Olivia and Sarah about that brand, and was pleased to see them have the opportunity to try it.  We sat under a large crystal chandelier at a plain table in a room with old stone walls.  The girls each consumed a thé gourmand while Dan and Tom had ice cream treats and Dan drank some strange red martini-like cocktail.  We all shared a plate of excellent, piping hot fries.  The Sevigne did not look like much from the street, but it was a delightful surprise. 

We carried on, walking through the Marais, including the rue de Rosiers in our path, and finally reached the Hotel de Ville (Paris City Hall).  As part of the pervasive campaign to promote Paris as the site for the 2024 Olympics, an athletic track has been set up in the big square in front of the Hotel de Ville.  It is a strange contrast with the decorative old building.

We crossed over to the Ile de la Cite where we saw plenty of souvenir shops.  Olivia wanted a black “Le Chat” t-shirt and Sarah wanted a Paris sweatshirt.  Olivia and I ventured into a shop together.  I found the right shirt for her, in the right size, and bought it.  Then Tom, Dan and Sarah entered the shop and, with lots of help from the shopkeeper, found the right sweatshirt for Sarah.  The girls also bought Eiffel Tower keychains for their friends and a beautiful, pink silk Paris scarf for their half-sister, Hannah.

Sometimes those ubiquitous sourvenir shops can be helpful.

Shops in the Village St. Paul

I led the pack through the swarming crowd in front of Notre Dame, through the Square Viviani, past the ancient church of St. Julien le Pauvre, past the odd little green medieval house that Tom and I could have bought at one point, through the Huchette, past the church of St. Severin, the Canadian bookshop on the rue de Parcheminerie, and right down to the metro at Cluny La Sorbonne.
And so ended the day’s adventure, but the evening’s fun was about to begin.

The athletic courts on the other side of the fence here in the St. Paul
neighborhood are on the site of what was once a crowded and colorful
Jewish ghetto.  The neighborhood was demolished in an ill-advised
"urban renewal" which was undoubtedly fueled by anti-Semitism.

Dan, Olivia, and Sarah deciding which way to go when exiting the Village St. Paul.
We dined near the apartment, at l’Alchimie, my favorite restaurant in Paris.  Situated in a quaint, country-looking building on the rue Letellier, the resto is run by the talented Chef Eric Rogoff and his elegant wife. 

I ordered one paté foie gras starter dish for us all to share.  The girls had not yet tried foie gras, and Eric’s foie gras was definitely the one to use to introduce them to this classic.  They both liked it, even after I told them it was goose liver!

Gargoyles on the St. Severin church.
Tom and the girls had beef tenderloin in a luscious brown pepper sauce; Dan had a turbot filet; and I had a stunning whole sole meuniere – perhaps the best I’ve ever tasted.  Madame had asked me ahead of time if I would like the chef to debone the fish, and she was not surprised at all when I said I would do it myself. 

That heavenly fish came with the absolutely correct steamed potatoes.  The others each had a dark, rich moelleux au chocolat for dessert, and I was content to watch them eat while I finished a glass of cold, crisp sauvignon blanc. 
Panorama of the Hotel de Ville (thanks to Autostitch software).

Back at home in the apartment, the five of us settled down to quietly use our devices, as we often do.  Tom checks his email on his computer, Dan checks on airline reservations using his phone, the girls use their phones to text their friends about all they saw and did in Paris today, and I read the Washington Post on my Kindle Fire – a modern day Norman Rockwell scene.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Les Invalides

Altar in the Dome chapel.
July 25, 2017 – The St. Louis church at Les Invalides was originally constructed in two parts in the 17th Century.  The round dome section was the royal chapel, which was turned into the site for Napoleon’s tomb in the 19th Century. 

The other section was the veterans’ chapel.  A glass wall separated the two and there were two separate altars.  This separation allowed the king, Louis XIV, and his soldiers to attend mass separately from the poor, disabled veterans who lived in the Invalides complex.  Protocol at the time dictated the need for this separation.

Louis XIV had the complex constructed so that poor or disabled veterans would not have to live on the streets of Paris. 

Les Invalides no longer houses large numbers of aged veterans, but there are still about 100 who live in the complex.  The complex also includes a medical center for veterans.

But most of Les Invalides is now the museum of the army.  Dan wanted to go there yesterday, so the five of us trekked up the avenue de la Motte Picquet and bought our tickets.  Our granddaughters have been learning about World Wars I and II lately, so we particularly focused on that part of the museum.  We also visited the dome chapel, which is magnificent.

On the way home, we stopped for refreshments at La Terrasse.  The granddaughters like tea; I loved watching them consume two thé gourmands in that elegant setting.

Napoleon's tomb.
A scale model of Les Invalides.

In the evening, we tried a new place, La Ficelle, on the rue Frémicourt.  Our starters and main courses were very, very good, but the desserts were ho-hum.  The resto tacked on several supplements, so it turned out to be a fairly expensive dinner. 

The girls are positive about everything – the weather, the food, the museums, all the walking, etc.  They do not complain.  And they seem to enjoy our company.  When I point something out to them, the response is usually, “Oh, cool!”  Such enthusiasm!  Not bad for sixteen, eh?

The Dome at Les Invalides.

Looking down at Napoleon's tomb.

Looking across the rotunda toward the altar.

Looking up, at the base of the altar.

Starter course at La Ficelle: chopped beets with nuts and sorbet.  Yumm!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Paris, from the sky

July 24, 2017 -- Pictures bring words to life.  Writer’s block doesn’t happen to me.  When it threatens, I simply turn to look at the photographs that I took yesterday – or even earlier.  Then the story pops into my head.

The photograph of the façade of the Saint Sulpice church, which I took with my sister in mind (she likes that façade), reminds me that the weather was a little cool and windy.  Tom and I noticed posters promoting a sale of men’s clothes.  The posters were sandwiched around posts and small trees all around the Place Saint Sulpice.   We recognized the address as that of the former workshop for Emile Lafaurie.

The Saint Sulpice church

The cooler weather inspired clothes shopping.  Who wants to try on clothes when the weather is hot and humid?

From our September stays in an apartment on the rue du Canivet, we knew about Emile Lafaurie.  His men’s apparel business has grown, but back in those days he toiled away, designing clothes, right there in the little space on the rue du Canivet.  The back of the space has a metal verriere ceiling, with frosted glass, providing just the right light for sewing by hand.

Now the space is empty, cleverly renovated with interior walls of varnished chipboard, and opened occasionally for a sale of odd lots of Emile’s clothes and shoes for men.  Tom likes the shirts, especially.
Poster advertising the sale of Emile Lafaure clothing.

We entered the workshop, and Tom tried on clothes for a while until he decided upon a handsome, long-sleeved blue shirt with tiny little red and white anchors all over it – perfect for a former Navy officer who lives on Sanibel Island.  The shirt also looks great with Tom’s casual, dark blue jacket that he wears in cool, damp weather. 

When he paid for the shirt, he decided to wear it so he wouldn’t have to carry a bag.  He hates to carry anything when we walk in Paris.  He needed that extra layer between his t-shirt and jacket because the temperatures dropped to the 60s – which is cold for South Floridians.

We ambled around the Luxembourg Gardens for a while.  We admired the new message on the old pavers on the narrow rue Férou, a message that clearly tells drivers that pedestrians rule that little rue.  We noticed on that same street that the upper floors of the building that contains the best apartment that Hemingway ever lived in in Paris is in need of serious repairs.  The wooden shutters are falling apart, and that isn’t quaint or cute.

The rue Ferou, where pedestrians have priority.

While we were walking, Dan and the granddaughters were at the Cluny museum, taking a look at the magnificent Unicorn tapestries.  We’ve seen these tapestries multiple times, so we just rode the metro to the 6th arrondissement with them, then went our separate ways for a couple hours.

After our walk, we stopped in the Café de la Mairie for a drink, and we called Dan, who has Tom’s phone.  Tom and Dan and the girls met a little later, and went to the Café Bergamote for refreshments.  I took the metro home so that I could watch the end stage of the Tour de France. 

That final stage is when the Tour comes into Paris.  I simply LOVE the aerial views of Paris that this last day of the Tour provides on TV.  Why do I love looking at Paris from the sky?  I do not know. 

The apartment one level up from the street at 6 rue Ferou was the best place Hemingway ever lived in Paris.

This time, the videographers were focusing on more left bank sights than usual because of the slightly different entry point the Tour took into the city – the Porte d’Orleans instead of the Porte de Versaille.

A huge new Defense Ministry complex south of here has recently been completed.  Observing it from the air made it possible to see what a complicated and lovely architectural achievement it is.  We’ve noticed the construction going on for the past couple years.  Now it is done, evidently.  Some are calling it France’s version of the Pentagon, but I think it is even more architecturally interesting than that.  Plus, it has the largest solar-panelled roof in the city.   The cost of the complex?  4.2 billion euros.

The Musée du Quai Branly and its beautiful tropical garden were featured.  The new domes of the Russian Orthodox Church shone brightly.  The magnificent Grand Palais was a centerpiece of the show;  the Tour rode right through it!  The Grand Palais has great possibilities for the 2024 Olympics, so the City was cleverly showing it off.

The magnificent fountain in the Place Saint Sulpice.

When Tom, Dan and the girls came home, the end of the Tour was still happening, so we all watched together for a while.  Then they asked me to make a reservation for dinner via  They wanted to go to the new Italian place, Pietro Commerce.

So we did.  It was impossible to entirely consume the copious servings of pasta, etc. But the food was very good.

I saw visions of plenty early in the day, too, when I took my market walk.  This is a Sunday or Wednesday morning walk when I take in the full length of the market under the tracks at the Boulevard de Grenelle, then retrace my steps, walk up the avenue de le Motte Picquet to the end of the Champ de Mars, pause to look at the Eiffel Tower looming over the Champ, walk on to the colorful pedestrian market street of rue Cler, walk its full length and turn left to go back to the Champ de Mars, cross it, and walk home. This is about 8,000 steps.

Add to that an afternoon walk and an evening walk and soon I’m at 15,000 to 20,000 steps for the day.  You’ll notice that by combining an afternoon walk with a metro ride, we are covering much territory in Paris this summer.

And the beat goes on.