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.

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