Sunday, August 19, 2018

The blind leading the blind -- to reading

At Friday night's dinner, the food was ordinary but the company was extraordinary.  We were dining with our dear friends Ron and Elisabeth at La Boussole, in the 6th arrondissement, just off the Place Saint Sulpice.  They told us about their adventures over the past year, including taking a cruise ship from New York to Marseille -- one of those re-positioning cruises -- in March.  It was a joy to see them.  We hope they will come to see us on Sanibel Island next March.

The fountain on Place Saint Sulpice.

Inside the church of Saint Sulpice.
Before we arrived at their apartment, we walked all the way from the 15th.  Along the way, we saw (at a slight distance) a demonstration; people were marching up the Avenue Duquesne, probably headed toward the Hotel Matignon, headquarters of the French prime minister on the Rue Varenne.  We couldn't tell what they were demonstrating about, but it looked as if many were carrying newspapers or posters featuring a photograph of an African leader.

When we were in the 6th, we paused to see the great fountain in Place Saint Sulpice, and to make a brief visit inside the magnificent church of the same name.  A small choir was chanting back in the chapel at the end of the sanctuary, filling the vast space with beautiful harmony.

After dinner, we took a taxi home and slept well.
Old doorway for the Valentin Haüy Association.

Yesterday we walked over to the Breteuil area again, this time to check out the open air market on the Avenue de Saxe.  This market is usually extensive, because there is ample space for it in the middle of this broad avenue.  But with August vacation time, many of the spaces for stalls were empty.  Tom said he liked it that way; there wasn't such a hectic crowd to walk through. 

We sat on a bench in the park in the middle of the Avenue Breteuil while we considered our next move.  I just had to see where the Valentin Haüy Association was, as well as the old school for blind children.  We paused first at the far end of the Avenue de Saxe where a new Hilton Hotel is going into three buildings, set to open next year.  Construction is ongoing.  One of the three buildings that the 118-room four-star hotel will occupy is an interesting and grand old government/institutional building of some kind.  I haven't yet discerned its history.

Continuing on to Rue Duroc, we were surprised to see that we were passing the headquarters of the PRG, the Parti Radicale de Gauche.  This seems like such a quiet and conservative neighborhood, but you never know . . . .
Doorway of the Parti Radicale de Gauche.

And then we found the Valentin Haüy Association.  At the corner of Boulevard des Invalides and Rue Duroc, the Association operates a shop that sells so many things that make life easier for blind and visually impaired people.  We gazed at the gadgets that we could see in the shop windows; it was closed at the time.

Continuing around the corner, we found the great old school for the blind, where Louis Braille invented braille by age 16. He actually presented his system to his peers for the first time in 1824, when he was 15.  A military code created by Captain Charles Barbier gave Braille the inspiration for his tactile system for reading.  Braille redesigned and streamlined the symbols used in Barbier's system.  Interestingly, he used a leather awl -- the tool that had blinded him in a childhood accident -- to make the embossed dots.

Louis Braille was a star pupil at the school for the blind, and he went on to become a teacher there.  His braille system for reading was not widely adopted until after his death, which came at the young age of 43, perhaps from tuberculosis.  Two years later, the braille system was finally adopted at the school.

The National Institute for Blind Youth -- the old school for the blind.

I was surprised that there was no historical marker on Boulevard des Invalides, near the school's entrance, to explain the significance of the school and Braille. 

We walked up the Boulevard Dusquesne to La Terrasse, where we had a long but light lunch.  Our table and chairs were so comfortable that we didn't want to leave.  But finally we did.

In the evening, we had a lovely and simple dinner at Le Café du Commerce, right behind our building.  And so it goes . . . .
Le Café du Commerce

Friday, August 17, 2018

A few of my favorite things

August 17, 2018 -- Years before he retired, my husband Tom was a sartorial wonder.  He bought nice Italian suits, fine men's shirts, and colorful, whimsical ties and socks.  He looked like a stylish businessman or lawyer, but he was a college professor.  Many of his colleagues were decidedly frumpy in their attire; but not Tom -- until he started wintering in Florida.  Then the Hawaiian shirts and khakis took over.  (In Paris, his "uniform" is black t-shirt, black or tan jeans, and cotton short sleeved shirt -- not Hawaiian -- with Trask shoes.)

He still is particular about his socks, but no longer chooses colorful, whimsical socks.  He's now into black socks that aren't too difficult to put on.  So when I passed Mes Chausettes Rouges on the Rue Cesar Franck in the Place Georges Mulot neighborhood on the Feast of the Assumption holiday, I studied the display in the shop's window.

Mes Chausettes Rouges has the exclusive rights to sell Gammarelli socks online.  Gammarelli is the family of tailors who make all the robes and mitres for the cardinals and the Pope in Rome -- hence the emphasis on RED socks.  But Mes Chausettes Rouges sells other colors, too, as well as Mazarin socks.  Mazarin makes the green socks for the members of the French Academy, who wear black tailcoats with green olives embroidered on them.

The socks are mostly cotton but they are knitted with a fine Scottish yarn that makes them feel more like mercerized cotton -- soft, smooth, and not heavy. 

I took Tom see the shop yesterday, and he bought a pair of the Gammarelli variety, in black, for a whopping 20 euros.  He'll try them, but I think he will opt for something else because he wants thicker socks for walking.  When he finds the right black socks, he'll buy a dozen pairs or more so that they all match and he doesn't waste a minute of precious life looking for the matching sock.  His priorities have shifted through the years.
Interesting older commercial building on Rue Bellart,
by the former slaughterhouses site.

Not far from Mes Chausettes Rouges, on the Rue Bellart, I spotted a building that looks older than the rest of the neighborhood.  It stands just across the street from the former site of the slaughterhouses, so it must have been standing when the slaughterhouses still stood.  It really looks like two small buildings, joined by a verriere (glass-and-metal) enclosure in the middle.  Two rectangular windows in the front have the appearance of the kind of openings that would be used to serve customers.  I wonder what these charming little structures were, originally.

We noticed three or four small shops that specialize in restoring and framing art.  Three small workshops provide art lessons for adults and children.  None of these places were open because of vacation time, but it was fun to discover them.

The artistic legacy of Rosa Bonheur (1822 to 1899) is apparent.  One of the streets in the Place Georges Mulot neighborhood, as I've already mentioned, is named for her.

She was the first female artist to be inducted as a Chevalier in France's Legion of Honor, in 1865.  Empress Eugenie herself presented the award.  Rosa is particularly known for her paintings of animals.  Among those paintings are scenes at the slaughterhouses of Grenelle, Villejuif, La Villette, and Vaugirard.  She dressed as a man to get into the slaughterhouses; otherwise, the butchers would hassle her.  She even got a permit from the police to dress as a man (travestir).  Her brother, the sculptor Isidore Bonheur, created the two magnificent bull statues at the entrance to the Parc Georges Brassens -- formerly the entrance to the Vaugirard slaughterhouses.

The café boat on the Seine where we most often stop for refreshments is named for Rosa.   Her portrait is one of four featured in bas relief on the fountain in the Place Georges Mulot.  The scene in her painting below was from the horse market on the Boulevard de l'Hopital, in what is now the 13th arrondissement.  The painting is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Horse Market, by Rosa Bonheur
Having achieved success and renown, later in life she bought a chateau and farm near Fontainbleau where she and her animals lived in comfort.  She almost always dressed as a man then, and was openly gay.  Life as a lesbian wasn't easy in the 19th century, but it was possible for her because she had self confidence and was successful; she could write her own rules.

We left the Rue Rosa Bonheur when it was time for refreshments.  Walking down the Rue Lecourbe, we settled on a beautiful Art Nouveau café at the corner of Rue des Voluntaires.  We had a mercurial and disfunctional server who was about to give his boss a nervous breakdown.  But we managed to enjoy our snack and move on in time to search for dinner.

On the way we walked down the Rue Blomet, and discovered a park we'd not noticed before. 
The sign at the entry to the park tells it all, so I'll translate it for you:

The Moon Bird Square, 1969.  Formerly the Square Blomet, renamed in 2010, this green space was created at the site of former workshops occupied by numerous artists, including Alfred Boucher, Pablo Emilio Gargallo, André Masson, Joan Miró, and Robet Desnot.  

The square owes its name to the bronze sculpture The Moon Bird (1955) by Joan Miró, given by the artist to the City of Paris, present in the Square since 1974, rendering hommage to the poet Robet Desnos (1900-1945), who died a month after his liberation from the Theresienstadt concentration camp in what is now the Chech Republic.

The Moon Bird, front and back.

When asked about how he came up with his ideas for artwork, Miró answered, "Well I'd come home to my Paris studio in Rue Blomet at night, I'd go to bed, and sometimes I hadn't any supper.  I saw things, and I jotted them down in a notebook.  I saw shapes on the ceiling .  . . ."

Well, I think that explains The Moon Bird.

Our lovely friend Hollis Jeffcoat, the artist, may she rest in peace, met Monsieur Miró when she lived in Paris.  I think it must have been in 1974, when he was back in town to be honored by the City of Paris and when he gave The Moon Bird to the City.
The vegetable tian is the layered thing in the upper right corner.

Thinking of Hollis, we walked on to the Rue Cambronne and turned left.  After a few blocks, we reached our dinner destination, Les Favorites, at the corner of Rue Vaugirard. 

The dinner was excellent.  I had a small bass served whole (but de-boned already) with colorful vegetables scattered all over the plate as well as a vegetable tian.

Tom selected the rack of lamb for his dinner.  Both dishes were superb in every way.  This was our second visit to Les Favorites, and it seems it will live up to its name.

Rack of Lamb at Les Favorites.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

A museum to see

August 16, 2018 -- While staring at the map of the area around the Place Georges Mulot neighborhood, I saw a museum that I didn't know existed:  the Musée Valentin Haüy (pronounced like "Ah, oui!").  Not surprisingly, it is a museum about the blind.

I knew that a very old school for the blind is in this area, and that Louis Braille had been a student there.  Valentin Haüy founded that school, and the museum's web site claims that it was the first school for blind children.  That makes sense, because Paris had been the site of the enormous hospital for the blind, Quinze Vingts, since 1260.  That hospital still exists, in a more modern form, next to the Bastille Opera.
La Place de Breteuil.
The middle street crossing through the Place Georges Mulot is named for Valentin Haüy, who established that school for blind kids in 1785.  Louis Braille invented his "tactile code for writing" when he was a student there, at age 16, in 1825.

The museum was established in 1886 by Edgard Guilbeau, a blind man.  His purpose was to highlight the importance of the invention of Braille, and to "situate it in its historical context."  The museum chronicles the history of access to education for the blind.

The Rue Valentin Haüy, looking from the Place de Breteuil toward the Place Georges Mulot.
Maurice de la Sizeranne, a teacher at the school, established the library that is associated with the museum in 1886.  Its collections include documents about blindness and visual impairment, as well as the writings of blind or visually impaired people. 

Twenty-seven languages are represented in the library's collections -- first and foremost, English.

Nicolas wine shop on the Place de Breteuil,
at the corner of the rue Valentin Haüy.
A few years after he established the library, M. de la Sizeranne founded an association for the well-being of the blind, and named it also for Valentin Haüy.  The museum and library are now a part of that association, headquartered at 5 rue Duroc.

Without my glasses, I am legally blind.  I also live with early adult-onset macular degeneration, the threat of a detached retina,  low pressure glaucoma, and the beginnings of cataracts.  Hence my interest in this institution for the blind and visually impaired.  I'm not walking with a white cane yet, but I am empathetic.

To reach the museum for the blind from the Place Georges Mulot, we would cross over the Avenue de Breteuil at the Place de Breteuil, where the magnificent Pasteur statue is situated.  If, instead, we turned right at the statue, we'd be in the lower end of the Avenue de Breteuil, where the broad green space in the middle has been turned into a neighborhood park.

The neighborhood around the Place Georges Mulot is outlined in red;
this is the former site of the Grenelle slaughterhouse.

The most charming aspect of this park are the small rectangular gardens that the neighbors have recently planted.  Each garden has a theme or a lesson associated with it.  The neighbors have a Facebook page about their little gardens:  Jardins de Breteuil.  Check it out.  Photos below.

Red fruit garden.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Flowing water and hard rain

August 15, 2018 -- Surprise!  Paris has artesian wells.  In the 19th century, as the city was expanding, engineer Georges Mulot was hired to find these springs with water under pressure, and to dig wells so that the water could serve the needs of residents and businesses of the left bank.  He started work in the 1830s and, after 7 years and 10 months of efforts, finally dug a successful well in 1841.  The location was not the most savory:  the courtyard of the Grenelle slaughterhouse.

Georges Mulot dug an artesian well here, so the place is now named for him.
A tall font in the form of a column with three tiers was then constructed in the middle of the Place Breteuil, where the statue of Pasteur now stands.  The artesian well's font fed a nearby water tower (chateau d'eau) that was part of the city's water system.

Georges Mulot went on to dig several more artesian wells in the Paris region and in Algeria.  Later, when the Grenelle slaughterhouse was gone and the font had been replaced by the Pasteur statue -- about 1905 -- the new residential neighborhood that was built on the site included a fountain in the middle, on a square named in honor of Georges Mulot.  The neighborhood around the square is a quiet network of streets consisting entirely of attractive Haussmannian apartment buildings like the one below.

For a long time now, I've known that this neighborhood around and including the Place Georges Mulot is where I would choose to live if I lived in Paris.   The neighborhood has everything: beauty, peace, quiet, a couple small groceries, bigger groceries not far away, the Avenue de Saxe outdoor market not far away, a lovely neighborhood park at the southern end of the Avenue Breteuil, a few good, small restaurants, a butcher shop, a wine store, a bakery nearby, a private library, an extensive taxi stand on the Place Breteuil, the Segur and Sevres-Lecourbe metro stations (lines 10 and 6) adjacent, a reasonable air-conditioned hotel (Bailli de Suffren -- for guests) on Avenue Suffren, and more.

Many people think this neighborhood is in the ritzy 7th arrondissement.  It is not; it is in the populous and large15th.  This part of the 15th sticks like a thumb out of the arrondissement's eastern side, surrounded by the 7th, 6th, and 14th arrondissements.  It also includes the Montparnasse Tower and the sprawling and ancient Necker children's hospital complex.

Being in the 15th is important to property owners because taxes are lower than they are in the 6th or 7th.  I'm not sure about the 14th.

Pasteur statue in the Place de Breteuil.
The beginning of Rue Lecourbe is just across the Boulevard Garibaldi from the Georges Mulot neighborhood.  Tom and I both have come to appreciate and be charmed by the mix of shops and restaurants on the long stretch of the wide, busy Rue Lecourbe from this beginning to the town hall of the 15th arrondissement.

Adorable private library on the Place de Breteuil.
Off the northwest side of the neighborhood, off of the Avenue de Suffren, are globally important institutions:  UNESCO and the European Space Agency.  This morning I examined the photographic exhibition on the fence along the  Suffen side of UNESCO.  It is part of the Hard Rain Project, about efforts to achieve a sustainable Earth (named for the Bob Dylan song, It's a Hard Rain Gonna Fall).  See a film about the ambitious project here.

When you're in the Georges Mulot neighborhood, you don't have a clue that the enormous Necker children's hospital is not far away.  The same is true of the Pasteur Institute.  You also don't see any sign to indicate that this was formerly the Grenelle slaughterhouse site.

Whole Earth photographic exhibit is part of UNESCO's Hard Rain Project.

In 1810, Napoleon called for the creation of five slaughterhouses just outside the Paris boundaries because. At that time he banished the numerous "tueries" (open areas where animals were killed) and  forbade the driving of live animals through the city streets.  He did this not just for public health reasons. The butchers' association at one time was a powerful, profitable, and somewhat violent group. Napoleon had to divide and conquer.

His 1810 decree effectively albeit indirectly put the butchers who killed the animals and the butchers who cut up and processed the meat into separate groups.  The latter group became more divided when some specialized in sausages and charcuterie, others in poultry, still others in horsemeat, beef, or pork.
European Space Agency, off the Avenue de Suffren

Personal descriptions of the early tueries are a nauseating read.  A long time ago, the tueries could be almost anywhere -- at the butcher's convenience.  Animals could be killed in the streets,or on the sidewalks; blood flowed in the gutters.  People complained about blood sticking all over their shoes.  The butchers then tried to organize specific areas for tueries.  But the real solution was to construct engineered slaughterhouses like those at Grenelle (now the Place Georges Mulot neighborhood), Ivry (later called Villejuif (near the Boulevard de l'Hopital), Montmartre (now the Jacques Decour high school on Avenue Trudaine), Popincourt - later called Menilmontant (at the rues Parmentier and Saint-Maur -- the only Kosher abattoir), and Du Roule (on the Avenue Miromesnil).  As the city grew to absorb these locations, new abattoirs were constructed at Vaugirard (now Parc Georges Brassens) and La Villette (now Parc de la Villette).

After reading a number of items on this subject, I opted to return to my normal fish-and-veggies default dinner last night.  We dined at Axuria on the Avenue Félix Faure, where I had sole meuniere with mixed vegetables and puréed potatoes, which I shared with Tom.  We had started with sharing an order of 9 escargots.  Tom's main course was a nice piece of pork, with veggies and Grenaille potatoes.  All of the food would have been good if it had been hot enough, which it was not.  Oh well.  We will try Axuria again next year, hoping that the problem(s) will be corrected.

One thing was heavenly perfection at Axuria:  the soufflé Grand Marnier.  Aaaahhh.

A doorway on the Avenue de Suffren.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Joyful day

Where do we go when it is really time to eat?  La Gauloise, of course.  Both of us were hungry; we'd walked several miles.  I had only salad for lunch, and no breakfast.  I don't eat red meat that often anymore, but I was ready for a steak.  Tom is always ready for a steak, with ice cream for dessert.  I've had no soufflé yet this summer; it was time for a soufflé.

We've been dining at La Gauloise every summer since 1998.  That restaurant is traditional, dependable, professional, elegant, and correct in every way.  The beef filet at La Gauloise is tender as butter, almost.  The pepper sauce is fine.  The fries are superb.  The service is genteel. 

So I shall simply post some photos, and let the images do the writing.

And we have a joyous announcement: we have a new grand-nephew, Winfield Elon Gray, born yesterday at 4PM (10PM in Paris) in Boston!

La Gauloise has a large terrace, but we opt to eat inside because it is
beautiful, and there are no smokers.

Soufflé au Grand Marnier and Berthillon ice cream.

Monday, August 13, 2018

The melange of the 15th

The church of St. Cristophe de Javel is an unusual melange of modern architecture and gothic fantasy.  An early use of some concrete pre-fab construction, the church was built in the 1920s, when my parents were born.  The construction of the presbytery (home of the curate) and bell tower came first, in the early 20s, and the rest of the parish church was built in the late 20s.  The first benediction was said there in October of 1930. 

The church of St. Christophe de Javel, designed by architect Charles-Henri Besnard, 1881-1946.
Tom examines the side entrance on the Rue de la Convention.

Approaching the church from the northeast on the Rue du Capitaine Ménard.

We've admired the unusual church for years. In the 90's, its façade was cleaned and restored, the renovation of the chapel of the virgin happened in 2004, and the Art Nouveau stained glass windows were restored in 2015.  
The side of the church at 28 Rue de la Convention.

When this church was conceived, the area around it was replete with factories, especially those that produced chemical products.  This is where bleach was invented, and so it is called Eau de Javel in French.  My friend W didn't know this, and so she could not find bleach in the grocery last month.  I was with her when she went back to the store, and I showed her the Eau de Javel bottles near the laundry detergent.  Their labels didn't say "bleach" anywhere.

A huge Citroën automobile factory was also near the site of the church.  That factory departed for the suburbs decades ago, and the site was turned into a grand park for families and garden enthusiasts to enjoy.

We walked past the church on our way to the park yesterday afternoon.  The weather was warmer than the preceding days and warmer than today.  Because the humidity was low and a breeze wafted, we enjoyed the warmth of the sun and the temps in the mid-80s.

Our walk in the Parc Andre Citroën began with the shady, color-themed gardens along the northeast side.  New exercise equipment has been installed at the edge of two gardens.  Tom checked it out.

We crossed the expansive central lawn where the hot air balloon is stationed to the gardens tucked into the western corner of the park, and then strolled along the southern edge which was somewhat shaded by adjacent large modern office buildings made of glass and steel.

The park was built with too much infrastructure and too many water features to be practically maintained, so the canal-like water feature along the southern edge of the park was empty and in disarray.  The logical thing to do here is fill it with dirt and plant native vegetation.  

The dancing waters fountain next to the greenhouse at the southeastern end of the park was operating.  Kids are allowed to play in this fountain during hot weather.  They were there in droves.  What a happy sight and sound! (video below)

We had refreshments at La Buvette du Parc, a concession near the dancing waters and not far from the old factory entrance on the southeast side of the park.  Then we were ready for the long walk home along the Rue St. Charles, the Rue de la Convention, and the Avenue Félix Faure.

Looking into the old Grenelle cemetery
We peeked into the open gate of the old Grenelle cemetery, and later paused on a bench while we examined one of those ubiquitous plaques that say "so-and-so lived here in his building from 0000 to 0000," where "so-and-so" is usually the name of some famous person.  In this case, the plaque said "Jerome Bozel, Plumber, lived in this building 1972 to 1979."  It is a joke, and, on the internet, I learned that there are several plaques exactly like this one affixed to buildings in various parts of Paris.  

Even though our walk was a 5-mile loop through the 15th, we'd only covered a fraction of this mighty arrondissement -- the largest of the 20 Paris districts.  
Rest assured, there is more to come.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Jardin des Plantes and Boulevard Saint Germain

August 12, 2018 -- The Jardin des Plantes is a wonderland.  Small white butterflies and round, fuzzy bees went about their work as we walked and watched, bedazzled as if we were in a Walt Disney movie.  Flowers of a thousand varieties were happily packed tightly in their formal beds, exuding color and enthusiasm for the beauty of the day. 

The Jardin des Plantes.

I have come to adore traditional French gardens, and that is what predominates the long, wide central swath of the Jardin des Plantes.   The appropriately imposing Museum of Natural History anchors the southern terminus of these formal gardens.

Off to one side are other, more English style gardens, with mature trees and meandering paths.  There is also a maze, a folly, the old zoo, and a couple of grand greenhouses.  Off to the other side is more museum.

The giants of botany and natural history are celebrated here:  Buffon, Lamarck, Linneus, Cuvier, Jussieu, and more.

This wondrous park began as the king's medicinal garden, in the 1600s.  After the Revolution, it was no longer the Royal Garden; it was renamed the Jardin des Plantes, and to this day, it is the main national botanical garden for France.

The walk through the formal gardens is the highlight of the summer for me.  That's how much I love that place.

Hôtel de Charme for Wild Bees and other Insects

After we'd soaked it in, we turned off to the right and were entertained by more insect promotion.  The Jardin here has a "hôtel de charme" (charming hotel) for insects; much more elaborate than the "gites" (bed-and-breakfasts) for bugs that we saw the day before, across the river in the 12th arrondissement. The gardeners of the 12th and the 5th must be in some sort of friendly competition when it comes to bug accommodations.

Along with plaques explaining the purpose of the bug hotel were several plaques about bees, all in French.  Some of the information is translated below:

In France, there are 900 species of wild bees.  These play an important role in the pollinization  of wild and cultivated plants, and that's why it is important to let them have places for reproduction.

The pollinating insects are the source of a real ecological service that is threatened today by urbanization, the intensification of agriculture, and climate change that disturbs their populations.

If the sign of this threat is the decline of the honey bee, what about the more common wild species that provide a large part of this service?

This hotel is for wild bees and other pollinating insects.  The compartments have been constructed to reproduce different habitats that are becoming more rare in urban areas and, as well, favor the installation of foraging species that are looking for a place to make their nests.

All the wild bees are welcome in the hotel!

  • The rubicultural bees [bumble bees?] look for stems of plants filled with marrow sufficiently tender so that they can easily dig their nests to the dimensions that suit them.
  • The carpenter bees that use dead wood and dig into it (branches, dead sticks)
  • The "tapissiere" bees that nest in cavities such as in wood perforated by other insects like beetles, or in rock fissures.  The females of some species cover their nests with plant fibres or cut small rounds in leaves.

Do wild bees sting?

Contrary to wasps and bees raised in hives for collecting honey, the solitary bees never attack.  They only sting if we grab them, and then only the females sting because the males don't have a stinger.  Observe them in serenity.

Many bees were flying around in the Jardin des Plantes, and so they were often in our faces.  Nice to know that there is no need to worry.

When it was lunchtime, I reserved a table with the TheFork (lafourchette) app at Les Trois Carafes (3 rue Linné), a place just across from the southwestern entrance to the botanical garden.  We discovered this place years ago when it was new, and I gave the restaurant one of its first positive reviews. 

Roasted duckling filet with potatoes salardaise.

Yesterday, we .discovered that it is still just as good as it was then.  I ordered the daily special: a roasted duckling filet in a honey-based sauce with potatoes sautéed in duck fat.  A separate little pot of green beans and snow peas completed the course.  Tom had a beef filet on a "nest" of shredded potatoes and some julienned raw veggies.  For dessert, we shared a pistachio-infused creme brulée.  We sat outside, across from a large fountain featuring alligators and the massive gate to the gardens.  It is hard to imagine a more delightful lunch. 

After lunch, we walked up to the environs of the Arab Institute to begin our planned walk down the boulevard Saint Germain.  Even on a Saturday, the boulevard was a busy place.  We made it as far as Mabillon, and then opted to take the metro home. 

After a light dinner in the evening, we walked up to see the Eiffel Tower twinkle at 10PM -- a magical way to end a lovely day.