Friday, August 31, 2018

Archelle, Alchimie, Intuition, and a baby

August 31, 2018 --  We've been busy with work -- the textbook business is thriving, I'm happy to say -- but you want to know about Paris.  What I have to tell you is about three lovely dinners we've enjoyed during the past three evenings, all in the 15th arrondissement.

I begin with L'Archelle, on the Avenue Segur, on Tuesday evening.  This place is new to us this year, after my having discovered it on lafourchette.com as I surfed for restaurants near us with high ratings.  The location is graceful -- a broad avenue that is quiet, and lined with tall trees, near UNESCO. 
The dining room of L'Archelle on the Avenue Segur

The interior of the place is warm and welcoming, with light wood panelling and pale blue wallpaper peppered with images of tropical fish.  The chef is a quiet, mature man who certainly knows what he is doing.  We began our dinner with a mushroom and foie gras tart in a pool of rich, brown sauce.  Then I indulged in a parmentier, a country dish with duck confit on the bottom, topped by puréed potatoes and shredded cheese.  Tom had a delicious veal rib-eye, topped with seasonal mushrooms and served with steamed potatoes and veggies.  His dish also had that delicious, rich brown sauce.

Tropical fish wallpaper at L'Archelle

Mushroom and foie gras tart at L'Archelle.

Veal rib-eye with steamed potatoes and veggies at L'Archelle.

Parmentier at L'Archelle.

L'Archelle Restaurant.

We were surprised that we were the only people dining at l'Archelle that evening; this place should be full every night!  We thanked the chef as we were leaving.  He was gracious, and he told us that the reason the place was empty was that this was the first night he was open after vacation.  His regulars are still on their way back to Paris.

But the next night, as we headed out for dinner at L'Alchimie, we noticed that they're back!  Parisians are back from vacation and they are filling up the sidewalks, hurrying to and fro, as they always do.
l'Alchimie, by Chef Eric Rogoff.

Yet L'Alchimie retains the charm and calm of the countryside, here in the middle of the city.  We were warmly welcomed by Chef Eric Rogoff and his wife, who does a marvelous job of neatly printing the menu on a blackboard.  We each ordered the sole meunière, and this time, we let her debone it.  I trust her.  When they were ready, she showed us the attractive plates with the whole fish, then she took them back into the kitchen.  Sure enough, when she brought the sole back, deboned, the dishes were still hot (hooray!) and the fish filets were in pools of melted, clarified, slightly salty butter.

The accompaniment was broccoli flan -- a welcome change from bland steamed potatoes that normally accompany sole meunièreSole meunière can be expensive in Paris; at L'Alchimie, however, it is reasonable -- and it is the best.

The sole meunière, after deboning, at l'Alchimie.
Peach and nectarine, in a mirabelle mousse, with an almond crumble on top -- that was my marvelous dessert.  It was exactly what I hoped it would be: fresh, fruity, and creamy, and not too sweet.  Tom had the rich, dark chocolate fondant cake with a scoop of top-quality ice cream.

As we left, we stopped to thank Chef and Madame Rogoff.  He told us he had an announcement: the restaurant will be moving next month!  He wanted to be sure we knew, and told us that we can check the resto's Facebook page to learn about the new location.  He hasn't yet decided which location, but it may be in the 14th arrondissement.  I asked if he was moving to a larger space, and he said, emphatically, yes.  We are so happy for them to be moving up, even though we will miss having them so close by. 
Madame Rogoff's neat writing on the menu blackboard.
Peaches and nectarines in a golden-plum mousse topped with crunchy almonds.

But we will go, even into the depths of the 14th, to dine at Chef Eric's place again and again.   As I've said many times, l'Alchimie is my favorite restaurant in Paris.  We've been dining there since it opened, ten years ago.  The food is always delicious, the place is charming, it is not too fancy, nor is it bedraggled.  Great care is taken with the food, drink, and service.  And yet is is relaxing and fun to dine there.  We wish the Rogoffs every success.

Another small inn for insects, this one in the Parc Lambert.

Last night, we dined at Intuition Gourmande, a place we discovered in a recent year.  The chef is Mathieu Sebban-Sedefdjian.  Tom especially wanted to return there, so as soon as the place re-opened after vacation, I booked a table.  The location is near the stately town hall of the 15th, and close to the beautiful and popular Parc Saint Lambert.  We walked around the park three times on our way to dine.

Duckling filets at Intuition Gourmande.

Being the first diners to arrive, at 7:30PM, we were given our choice of tables, so we picked one in the front corner of the beautifully dark-wood paneled dining room.  Soon others arrived, including a French man, his Australian wife, and their baby.  They sat near us.

The baby seemed to like looking at me and smiling, so we made nice faces at each other.  But when I was distracted by ordering dinner, the baby began to cry.  The baby cried more.  And more.

When the couple's food arrived, they couldn't eat because they were trying to calm the baby.  Tom offered to hold the baby, and his offer was readily accepted.  So, Tom and I got some baby time in.  It was fun for us and for the baby.  No crying.  Everyone in the dining room was happy about that.

When the couple had finished their main courses, the man took the baby back and we chatted with the Australian mom.
Beef filet with pepper sauce and mashed potatoes
at Intuition Gourmande.

We learned that she is an academic, and the university she works for is in Melbourne.  Tom's good friend Bill Breen (from undergraduate days at Duke) is a professor in Melbourne, too, and Tom has been there to visit.  So we had lots to talk about.

We enjoyed our dinner, too.  Tom had a beef filet, and I had ducking filets.  All was beautifully prepared. 

Tom ordered a café gourmand that came with three miniature desserts, which we shared. 

As we walked home, we paused at a corner where we could see the Eiffel Tower, as it twinkled away at 9PM, like a magic wand over the city.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

A life without screens

August 28, 2018 -- We have no window screens in Paris.  Generally, we do not need them because there are so few flying insects.  This year, however -- for the first time -- we've had a couple bees who routinely fly into our kitchen.  I like to think that this is because Parisians are installing bee hives on roofs at record numbers, and because small community gardens are being encouraged everywhere.

The City of Paris does control the rate at which bee hives are installed.  Keeping a balance between new gardens and new hives is important, evidently.

There are bee hives on the roof of Notre Dame de Paris.
Perhaps someone has received permission to install a hive near us.  Or perhaps the bees have been attracted by the little dollops of fruit preserves that my husband leaves on the counter after he has a snack.  Bees like these fruit preserves; Tom is careful to select preserves that have more fruit than sugar -- only the best!

I don't like sweet food as much as Tom does, so I refer to his preserves as "that sticky, gooey red stuff."  But the bees sure do like it.  They're in Tom's camp.

I felt sympathy for the bees this summer.  I let them eat all the little dollops of preserves until there were just some particles left, which I then cleaned off the countertop.

Tom has found that the best place to buy preserves near us is the Thomas Fromagerie.  What do preserves have to do with cheese?  Well, there are certain kinds of cheese that taste good with fruit preserves -- namely, chevre.  And both cheese and preserves are often consumed on French bread. 

On our walks, we notice more and more little community gardens popping up in the sidewalks, in the dirt rectangles around the base of street trees.  You know the gardens are authorized when you see a little sign (issued by the City) that says so.


We don't see the increasing numbers of bee hives on roofs, but we read about them.  Now they are on top of the famous department store, Galeries Lafayette, as part of a thick roof garden.  The New York Times ran an article recently about the bee hive phenomenon on Paris roofs.

Ironically, honey from the City of Paris is more pure than honey from the French countryside, because the City forbids the use of pesticides almost everywhere, and the countryside has become dominated by megafarms growing monoculture crops that require pesticides.

Honey is a sweet food that I do use; I put it in my vinaigrettes.  We often have salad for lunch, and I never buy "industrial" salad dressings in bottles. I make my own.  In my opinion, a slight drizzle of honey is needed to take the edge off the vinegar.

Consuming honey made with pollen from plants growing near you is supposed to boost your immune system.  So at home on Sanibel Island, where we live next to mangroves, I buy mangrove honey at the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation.  In Paris, I buy honey made from flower pollen.  The community gardens sprouting up everywhere generally contain flowers, with a few herbs and tomato plants mixed in.

Some restaurants will sell bottles of honey, preserves, or other items that they use in their cooking.  I've bought honey that way before.  Last night, we dined in a place that specializes in charcuterie; so the restaurant has a shop where their patés, terrines, and saucissons are sold.

We had planned to dine at Le Lutin dans le Jardin in the 6th arrondissement, but that restaurant had some kind of emergency and cancelled our reservation.  I learned of the cancellation while Tom was on a 5PM conference call with his publisher in New York.

Octopus with green beans and saucisson at Arnaud Nicolas.

So I promptly reserved at Arnaud Nicolas, a new resto named for a young man who specialized in charcuterie from the young age of 24.  He has supplied the restaurants of Alain Ducasse and others, and now at last has opened his own place on the Avenue de la Bourdonnais, in a sizeable space formerly occupied by a classic restaurant that specialized in foie gras.

The old foie gras place used to have a toaster at each table, including the tables out on the sidewalk!  It is important to have warm toast for your foie gras, in some people's opinions.

Gone are the toasters.  A sleek, new decor graces the restaurant, which is a little pricey.  We shared a delicious starter of poultry and foie gras terrine en croute with puréed onion confit on the side.  I had a beautiful and tasty main course of octopus, green beans and thin slices of saucisson.  Tom's fish, a cod with artichoke hearts, was a bit bland.  But the dessert that we shared, a baba au rhum, was scrumptious.

On the way home, as we crossed Rue Emile Deschanel, we looked up in time to see the Eiffel Tower twinkling for a few minutes. 

I will be sad to leave it this year.


Monday, August 27, 2018

A pacifist General

August 27, 2018 -- In gazing at the map, I just noticed that a busy intersection that we cross almost every day has a name:  the Carrefour du Général Jacques Pâris de Bollardière.

Seeing a name like that, I had to look it up on Wikipedia.

Let me tell you first that this intersection is at the western end of the grand École Militaire, the war college that presides over the end of the Champ de Mars, opposite the Eiffel Tower.  Directly across from it is the Peace Pavilion, which is nestled in one end of the Champ itself.

The École Militaire
The façade of the École Militaire is pock-marked from bullets of past skirmishes and conflicts.  The place is still a war college, and so military types can be seen coming and going there every day.

Yet the party that happens on the Champ de Mars every night, with participants from all over the world, is a testimony to the possibility of world peace. 

War and peace -- that's what that area is about.

So who better to name this intersection for than General Jacques Pâris de Bollardière (1907-1986), a French army general who was a pacifist.  According to Wikipedia, he "became famous for his non-violent positions in the 1960s."

The Eiffel Tower and the Peace Pavilion, last night.

Although Jacques enlisted and went to the famous military academy at Saint-Cyr, he was guilty of insubordination and was demoted to the rank of sergeant.  (Something similar happened to my father while he was training in the Army Air Force during WWII.)

Jacques just didn't like authoritarianism, an attitude which served him well later as he decided to join the French Resistance rather than go along with the Vichy collaborationist government.

He had joined the French Foreign Legion and so was posted to Algeria.  But he was in Brest in 1940, and he realized what was happening.  So he crossed the Channel in a fishing boat to answer Charles de Gaulle's call for the Fighting French.  The Vichy government considered this to be treason, and so Jacques was given a death sentence.  But the collaborationist government would have to catch him first, which it never did.

Le Germinal Brasserie, on the Avenue Emile Zola
In his service in the special forces during the war, he had exciting and dangerous parachuting assignments into France and Holland.

During the first Indochina War, Jacques was put in charge of a paratrooper half-brigade.  But, according to Wikipedia, "he came to draw parallels between the anti-colonialist forces he was fighting against and the maquis group he led during the Second World War."  The pacifist roots were taking hold.

In the early 50s, Jacques was teaching paratrooper tactics in this very École Militaire, in Paris, by the intersection now named for him.
Le Blavet, a river in Brittany

The Algerian war for independence began in 1956, and Jacques became known for his efforts to build relationships with Algerian people -- both the Arab/Berber people and the descendants of French people who had immigrated there (Pied-Noirs).  He opposed the government policy of torture (as did John McCain, RIP).  When human rights abuses increased, Jacques asked to be relieved of command.

He was arrested and served 60 days for agreeing with journalist Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber's coverage of the Algerian war.  Then he resigned from the Army in 1957.

Like many French retirees, he returned to the land of his childhood, in this case, Brittany.  He worked in industry until he decided that the industrial "environment was inevitably dehumanizing"  (Jacobin magazine, 20 June 2018). In fact, Jacques connected all the dots; he thought that "the same French State that ran roughshod over Breton or Basque culture had likewise repressed Vietnamese and Algerian identity" (Jacobin magazine, 20 June 2018).

He went through a period when he read the Bible and Ghandi, more and more.  By the end of 1970, Jacques was a full-blown pacifist; he was a founder of the Movement for a Non-Violent Alternative.  He continued to be an activist for peace until the early 1980s.  He died at his home, Vieux Talhouët, in Brittany in 1986.  (BTW, that home is for sale now at 525,000 euros.)

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Here's to many more!

Lafourchette.com gives us incentives to go beyond our normal comfort zone.  It grants points, called "yums," for every reservation I make using its service.  We dine out often, and so my points have accumulated to the level where some of them will expire at the end of the year if we don't use them.  Only some restaurants accept the points.  So to use these points, we have to go where those restaurants are located.
The Square Adolphe Chérioux, on our way to Place Falguiere Le Bistro, yesterday evening.

Many of these restaurants are highly rated.  Those are the only ones I consider.  So we have now used yum points at two places this summer -- Les Truffes Folies (7th arrondissement) and L'Entente (2nd arrondissement).  Tomorrow we will dine at Le Lutin de Jardin in the 6th arrondissement.  At each place, we received a 25-euro discount (costing 2000 yums each), on top of a Lafourchette.com discount of 20 or 30 percent (on food items only, not beverages).

So if the normal tab for food items is 90 euros, we can get a 30 percent discount, bringing the total to 60 euros, and then another 25 euros off, bringing the final total to 35 euros (food only).  Not bad, eh?

Square Necker, with rare privets and a bandstand gazebo.
Not all restaurants on Lafourchette.com offer 20 o 30 percent discounts.  Some offer more.  An increasing number offer no discount at all.  But Lafourchette is still worth using for reserving at those places, because the customer still accumulates yums and the online reservation system is such a breeze to use.  Another benefit that I appreciate is the record of all my past reservations.  If I cannot remember the name of a place where we dined two summers ago, I can just scan through the list of my previous reservations until I recognize it.  That's handy, especially for a blogger.

Now, you may wonder why I use Lafourchette.com instead of its English-language version, TheFork.com, which is based in the U.K.

There are three main reasons, in no particular order:

1.  We prefer that the restaurant's staff knows that we speak French when we make a reservation.  This relieves the staff of some anxiety; we want to put them at ease.  Nobody wants to appear foolish in speaking another language badly, and that includes the French who aren't confident of their English language skills.

2.  On LaFourchette.com, I see reviews written by French speakers.  On TheFork.com, I see reviews written by English speakers.  I find that our criteria in judging food, service, ambiance, and location are much more aligned with the French speakers' criteria than with the English speakers' criteria.  That is probably because we've been summering in Paris for 21 years.  It may also be because I am a somewhat serious cook (as was my husband Tom, once upon a time).  And some things that bother British or American tourists in Paris don't bother us at all; some things that British or American tourists don't even notice are important to us (and the French).

3.  Lafourchette's sample menus in French are understandable and clear to us; but just like the menus in the restaurants, the English translations are usually woefully lacking -- in some cases, comically so.  Generally, it is just much easier for us to understand the menus in French.

Lamb shank at Place Falguiere Le Bistrot

I find the reviews to be very helpful.  I do glance at the number of reviews that a customer has submitted; if they are not "experienced" diners, I don't give much credence to the review.

Numbers matter:  if a restaurant's rating is 8.8 (out of 10) or higher, and there have been a significant number of reviews submitted for that restaurant, that catches my attention.

Poached salmon with homemade pasta and Carbonara sauce at
Place Falguiere Le Bistrot
Tomorrow, for example, we will dine at Le Lutin Dans le Jardin, which has an 8.9 rating on Lafourchette.com with over 8,000 reviews submitted.  On Tripadvisor (which now owns Lafourchette/TheFork), this restaurant has a 4 (out of 5) rating, with 279 reviews submitted.  Lafourchette reviews carry more weight, in my opinion, than Tripadvisor's because you have to have completed a reservation before you can submit a review on Lafourchette.  That prevents people from "padding" a restaurant's rating with fake reviews (positive or negative) when they've never set foot in the place.

The discount offered at Le Lutin is unusually high, at 50% off food items.  But the prices are higher than average, too.

So tomorrow, we will get 50 percent off, and an additional 25-euro discount.

Another reason to go to Le Lutin, besides its good reviews and value, is the experienced chef, Stéphane Cauet.  According to the restaurant's web site, this 40-something-year-old man from Picardy apprenticed at the Ecole de Paris des Métiers de la Table et de l'Hotellerie and at the Auberge d'Armaillé in Issy Les Moulineaux [just outside of Paris, near the 15th] with Patrick Bassement (restaurant Au Menil a Savigny Sur Orge, for 20 years), a student of Paul Bocuse and Michel Guerard.  After 20 years of experience during which he worked for several restaurants and participated in creating a number of different restaurants in Paris, Stéphane then decided to create Le Lutin Dans le Jardin.  It opened in 2007.

Knowing all this before we dine at a restaurant makes the dinner a richer experience.   Online information, offered by the restaurant web sites, restaurant reviews, Lafourchette and Tripadvisor are good resources.

At this point in time, I have submitted 255 reviews to Lafourchette.com, and 65 reviews to TripAdvisor.  Here's to many more!

Saturday, August 25, 2018

The ups and downs of a real estate venture

August 25, 2018 -- The Place Vendome was a real estate venture by Jules Hardouin-Mansart.  Before that, in the 1600s, it was the site of the near-Paris stately home and gardens of the Bourbon-Condé family.

The Place Vendome
This family descends from the illegitimate son of King Henry IV and his mistress, Gabrielle D'Estrées.  That son was named Cesar de Bourbon, and he was given the title of Duke of Vendome, which is a city southwest of Paris, in the Loir-et-Cher region.

When Hardouin-Mansart began his venture, it was just the beginning of a series of failures that somehow, eventually, led to the majestic square that we call the Place Vendome today.
The column in Place Vendome.

The first failure was Hardouin-Mansart's; he was unable to make his dream come true.  He sold out to Louvois, Louis XIV's minister of finance, whose dream was to build a square like the Place des Vosges, a very successful real estate development of the previous century (early 1600s).

But Louvois met with financial failure, and the investor John Law took over.  Law managed to complete the square and to build himself a home there.  But he'd also invested heavily in real estate in the French colonies in America.  Law went bankrupt in the Mississippi Bubble -- one of the first known real estate bubbles to burst.

It was then that the Bourbon-Condé family came back into the picture.  They bought much of the square in the 1700s, including part of the site of the Hotel Ritz where they maintain apartments.  According to Wikipedia, the Bourbon-Condé family would like to re-establish a palace on the square, depending upon the Ministry of Justice's possible plans for expansion.
The Boucheron Jewelry store undergoing exterior renovation.
The scaffolding is covered by a beautifully silk-screened fabric.

We'd walked for an hour to reach the Place Vendome yesterday, because Tom wanted to see this glamorous place again.  Nothing much has changed, except that the façade of the Boucheron Jewelry store is being restored and so is covered by a fascinating silk-screened fabric at the moment.  We continued on the Rue de la Paix (Street of the Peace), which is an ironic name given that, in 1702, the Place Vendome was first called the Place des Conquêtes (Place of Conquests), a memorial to French army victories.

The artist Gustave Courbet was so offended by that conflict in names that he gave it as part of his rationale for destroying the Place Vendome's column when he was president of the Federation of Artists during the Paris Commune in 1871.

After the Commune, Courbet was convicted of this vandalism and fined 323,000 francs, which he could not pay.  He fled to Switzerland, and the French government sold his paintings for a pittance.  Courbet died in exile, and the column was re-erected.

The Rue de la Paix leads to the magnificent, old Opéra Garnier, which we gazed at briefly before continuing on the Rue du Quatre Septembre -- a street named for the date in 1870 when Napoleon III's regime fell.

On our way to the right bank, we passed through the Place du Palais Bourbon.  This palace, now the home of the National
Assembly of France, was built originally in 1722 by Louise Francoise de Bourbon, a "legitimized" daughter of Louis XIV.
She was the duchesse de Bourbon.

Near the lovely Guimard-designed Quatre Septembre subway station's entrance, on the Rue Monsigny, is a brasserie/restaurant named L'Entente, which features English cuisine.  That's where we dined.  The resto proudly advertises that it features English cuisine made entirely with French terroir produits (products of the land) EXCEPT for the cheese.  The English are so proud of their cheese!

This dinner was outstandingly good.  We each had the delicious lemon sole with new potatoes and homemade tartar sauce.  I ordered a side of green beans.  These beans were of the thin variety, which is very easy to overcook.  But these green beans were done perfectly -- just to that line between crispiness and tenderness.  And they were seasoned expertly with just a touch of mustard, garlic, and butter.
Desserts at L'Entente.

Desserts were wonderful, too.  Tom had a super-rich triple chocolate cake with sour cream and I had a creamy tart with a tangy rhubarb sauce on the side.

The owner of the place, Oliver, stopped by our table to chat for a while.  He wanted to know where we were from, how we'd heard about his restaurant, etc.  He asked where in Florida, specifically, that we came from.  That launched a little repartée about places in Florida.

In answer to his second question, I told him that I found out about his restaurant on LaFourchette.com.  He said, "You mean The Fork?"  And I said yes, but that I usually use the French version of it.  (I like reading the French customer reviews and menu samples.)

Oliver is originally from London, and he'd been involved with the excellent Poissonerie restaurant on the Rue de Seine in the past.  He strongly recommended that we come back for the Sunday brunch at L'Entente, because it is elaborate and substantial.  Check it out:

Wow.  This is far more than most brasserie Sunday brunches have to offer.  We don't usually do Sunday brunch, but if we did, I'd go to L'Entente.
The Palais Bourbon, a few years ago.

We certainly will go back to L'Entente for dinner.  It is good to have a place we know in the 2nd arrondissement.  We don't dine on the right bank very often.

After dinner, we walked back toward the Place Vendome and caught a taxi on the Rue de la Paix.  I enjoyed whisking through the city at night in a cab.  The Place de la Concorde is surprisingly dark at night.  We crossed the Seine on my favorite bridge, the grand Pont Alexandre III.  The full moon shone on the Seine.  I was surprised again at how relatively bright our neighborhood's Rue du Commerce is.

The dark and the light, the British and the French, war and peace . . . .


Thursday, August 23, 2018

Party on!

August 23, 2018 -- Every night is a party on the Champ de Mars.  The party is peaceful and festive.  The partiers come from all over the world.  Those who are picnicking on the grass are mostly young adults, but some families with kids are there, too, especially now that the sun is setting earlier, and the first hourly twinkling of tower lights occurs at 9PM instead of 10.

The crowd of partiers on the Champ de Mars is thicker the closer you get to the Eiffel Tower.
I'd say it is all legal, but technically it isn't.  The rule prohibiting the consumption of alcohol in the Champ is roundly ignored and unenforced.  The undocumented immigrants who illegally sell Eiffel tower trinkets during the day are selling beer, wine, and champagne from ice buckets in the evening.  They work hard.

Several days ago on the subway, when we were coming back from the far reaches of line 10, a man boarded with two large shopping bags full of 6-packs of Heineken beer.  He proceeded to unpack them so that he had loose bottles separated here and there by pieces of cardboard from the packs he tore up.  By the time he disembarked at the Motte-Piquet station (near the Champ de Mars), he was ready to add ice to the bags and sell some beer.

Obviously, beer prices are cheaper out on the edges of Paris than in the middle, where the Eiffel Tower is.  This young man was maximizing his profit margin.

I have different feelings about the illegal selling of the Eiffel Tower trinkets as opposed to the alcoholic drinks, although I'd never buy either on the Champ.

When these men sell the tower trinkets illegally, they are directly competing with the legal souvenir shops located in the areas all around the Champ de Mars and Trocadero.  The owners/managers of the souvenir shops pay lots of taxes and have many expenses related to their legal shops.  The illegal selling of those trinkets hurts these legitimate shopkeepers.  I do not approve of the illegal selling of those trinkets on the Champ de Mars.

The alcoholic drinks on ice are another matter.  There is nobody legally selling these ready-to-consume beverages on the Champ, but there is obviously a huge demand for them.  A few people who plan ahead bring their picnic hampers with them, fully stocked.  But most people on the Champ, especially in the evening, have been out and about elsewhere during the day.  In the evening, they're tired and they rest on the grass, waiting for the Tower's light show.

The ban on drinking there is not enforced.  People want these beverages.  The vendors add value by icing the drinks and having them readily available.  Therefore I approve of this activity.  A need/desire is being met.  Local stores benefit, if anything, when the vendors sell out; they go to the nearest Monoprix, Franprix, Champion, or Carrefour and re-stock.

Wine is neatly displayed on the walls at Pietro Commerce.  Prices are very reasonable:  11 euros for a 50cl pitcher, 15 euros
for a bottle of the wine of the month.  Pizzas are 14 to 16 euros each.
The next day, early in the morning, especially on the lawn up close to the tower, you can see amazing quantities of empty bottles and cans that the partiers leave behind.  These people were thirsty!  Trash is piled like small mountains around the full receptacles.  The well-equipped "little green men" are out in force in the early morn, picking up, sorting, and disposing of the refuse that is scattered on the lawn and piled up in small mountains.

In spite of the alcohol they consume, the nightly revelers generally remain harmless and peaceful.  Rarely do we see out-of-control drunks on the Champ.  Party on!

***

Good pizza is not easy to find in Paris.  But you can always find it
at one of the five or six Pietro locations.
We'd had a long day working at the computers, and when we were done, we realized that at the end of the day, temperatures had crept back up into the mid-eighties F.  So I reserved, put on a sundress, and we walked to Pietro Commerce, our local air conditioned Italian restaurant.  We dined on pizza, and asked for a box for the leftovers.  No problem.  Then we shared a baba au rhum for dessert.

After dinner, we walked up to the Champ after depositing the leftovers at home, arriving just in time to see the tower twinkle again.  We stood in the middle for a few minutes, right in front of the Peace Pavilion, and I made another video for you, so you can see what the party is like.  The twinkling lights start after the first 20 seconds or so.




Wednesday, August 22, 2018

For the people

The simplicity and starkness of the church of Saint-Jaques-du-Haut-Pas is striking, especially after you've visited many churches throughout Paris.  The two main reasons for its plainness are the poverty of its original parishioners and the presence of the Jansenist movement in its early history.
The organ at the Saint-Jacques-du-Haut-Pas church.  Tom found this part
of the church's floor, a dark wood herringbone, to be very interesting.

The parishoners wanted a more Gothic-style church (like that of the other Saint Jacques' church, Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie, of which only the bell tower remains -- the well-known Tour Saint Jacques), but they could not afford it.  Because of the difficulty in raising funds in the impoverished parish, the church of Saint-Jacques-du-Haut-Pas took a long time to build. 
Inside the church of Saint-Jacques-du-Haut-Pas.

The Catholic church heirarchy wasn't terribly supportive of the poor folk in this area.  When they didn't even have a parish yet, they'd taken to praying in the Benedictine monastery located there.  The monks felt inconvenienced by this imposition, and so demanded that these common people leave.  So in 1582 the bishop gave permission for a small church to be built on the site at what is now the rue St. Jacques and the Rue de l'Abbé de l'Epée.

The congregation quickly outgrew the small church, so Parliament created a new parish there in 1633.  Then the decision was made to name the new church for Saint Jacques Le Mineur, the other Saint Jacques (or Saint James in English).  The church is also dedicated to Philip the Apostle.

The nearby abbey of Port Royal was the home of the Jansenist movement.  When the Jansenists installed an annex near the site of the Saint Jacques church, their influence was felt. Wikipedia says that Jansenism "was a Catholic theological movement, primarily in France, that emphasized original sin, human depravity, the necessity of divine grace, and predestination." Jesuits didn't like Jansenists, and accused them of being like Calvinists.  I can see that, but I don't think Calvinists are all that bad.

Finally, Anne Genevieve de Bourbon, who was a protector of the Port Royal abbey stepped up and offered significant funds to construct the church.  The main work was finally completed by 1685, thirty-two years after Parliament created the parish.
The Rue Mouffetard, in the 5th arrondissement.

Jean-Denis Cochin was the priest at Saint-Jacques-du-Haut-Pas from 1756 to 1780.  He was mainly occupied, throughout his life, with helping disadvantaged people.  He founded a hospital for them nearby; it was named Hôpital Saint-Jacques-Saint-Philippe-du-Haut-Pas initially, and it treated poor workers who were injured in nearby rock quarries.  Later, it was named for Father Cochin.  Today, Hôpital Cochin is a major public assistance hospital, and home to the system's central burn treatment center.  Since 1990, it has also been a biomedical research center, specializing in genetics as well as molecular and cellular biology.

In the late 12th century, before the Benedictines were installed at the site of what is now the Saint-Jacques-du-Haut-Pas church, that land was owned by the Order of Hospitallers, a medieval Catholic military order which was headquartered in Jerusalem.  I find it odd to think that the Catholic church had military orders, but those were the days of the Crusades. 

The Hospitallers' main job was to care for the poor, sick, and injured people who made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  They originated in Italy, in a place called Altopascio, hence the name Haut Pas.  They built a small chapel on this site in 1360, but Pope Pius II suppressed their order in 1459.  That's what left the land open to the Benedictines in the 1500s. 

Isn't it interesting that the site's early development was dedicated to helping the poor and that was reinstated with the departure of the Benedictines and the arrival of the parish of Saint-Jacques-du-Haut-Pas?

***
The church of St. Médard, at the southern end of Rue Mouffetard.



Our long walk began with a subway ride to the Place Maubert and a walk down the rue Montagne de Sainte Genevieve, a humble and non-gentrified spot in the 5th arrondissement.  Then we continued down the rue Descartes and rue Mouffetard, which some people claim is the oldest street in Paris.  But I think, how can that be, because it was outside of Paris when it was built?

Details.  The pedestrianized Rue Mouffetard is charming as can be, with its cobbled surface, colorful shops, and quaintness galore.  At the end of it, we visited the St. Médard church briefly.  After admiring the flowing fountain near the church, we continued westward.
Lovely scarlet and gray leash for a cat, for sale on rue Vavin.

On the Rue des Feuillantines, we paused to see that the City of Paris has a technical school there for glass artisans, including people who make verrieres -- these glass-and-metal structures and awnings that we admire so much.  This was also the site of the Barbet school, which was attended by Louis Pasteur from 1838 to 1843.  Earlier, Victor Hugo spent part of his childhood here on this street named for the convent of the Feuillantines.

After we visited the church of Saint-Jacques-du-Haut-Pas, we walked along the southern edge of the Luxembourg gardens and skirted over toward the Boulevard Montparnasse on the colorful rue Vavin.  Right in front of us was one of our favorite brasseries, Le Select, so we stopped for refreshments.

Refreshments at Le Select, on the Boulevard Montparnasse.


After a good, long pause, we continued down the boulevard to the Rue de Sevres, back into the 15th arrondissement.  We paused again to rest on a bench in front of the future home of the left bank Hilton Hotel.  The main building it will occupy is the former centrale téléphonique from 1900 (renovated in the 1930s) on the Avenue de Saxe.  When it was established in 1900, it was one of seven centraux téléphoniques in the city's "new" telephone network.  Some of today's phone network's apparatus is still in the structure, and it will remain there when the Hilton opens.
The former centrale téléphonique on the Avenue de Saxe is scheduled to open
as the new left-bank Hilton Hotel in 2019.

We meandered over through the Boulevard Breteuil and Place Georges Mulot neighborhood to the Avenue de Suffren, where I spotted a small apartment that I'd seen listed for sale, next to the Hotel Bailli.  It looks nice, but would be noisy since it faces the sidewalk on the street level.
Restaurant Félix, on the Avenue de Segur, in the 15th arrondissement.

At last, it was time for dinner at Félix, on the Avenue de Segur, where we dined on July 16.  I promised myself then that I'd try the razor clam starter course, which I did.  It was excellent, even though one of the clams had some gritty sand in it.  That's probably the supplier's fault, not the restaurant's. 
Razor clams starter course at Félix.

We each selected the delicious filet mignon de porc for our main course, and we finished with a café gourmand (includes three small desserts) for Tom and creme brulée for me.  The creme brulée was divine.  The evening was lovely.  By the time we walked home, we'd logged 8 miles and lots of memories for the day.

Filet mignon de porc, above, and assorted small desserts, below.



Tuesday, August 21, 2018

He had another life



August 21, 2018 -- "He had another life," the web site explains.  "He was a surgeon, who decided to put down the scalpel to dedicate his life to his passion for wine and food."  

So, Francis Firmin became a restaurateur of a tiny Parisian left-bank bistrot with a dozen little tables.  He found an experienced chef, Alexandre Vialatte.  Together, they improvise and create delicate and delicious dishes.

Long ago, before doctors were well educated,  surgery was performed by barbers.  Hence, the name of Francis's restaurant, Firmin le Barbier.  Chefs work well with knives, too.  So perhaps Francis's post-retirement career is a natural transition.

His bistrot is located at 20 rue de Monttessuy, very near the Eiffel Tower, in the 7th arrondissement.  That's a pleasant 35 to 40 minute stroll from our apartment.  I'd made a reservation on lafourchette.com because the restaurant's ratings are so high.

Quenelle at Firmin le Barbier.
When we arrived at the tiny place at 7:30PM, several tables were already occupied.  After studying the menu, we both decided to get the quenelle with Nantua sauce.  A quenelle is a soufflé-like dumpling; this one is served in a crawfish sauce with a Béchamel base.  That sauce is pretty much a crawfish bisque, and our quenelles were floating in it.  Surprisingly, a few tasty mushrooms were tossed in as well.  




Baba au limoncello
We love the quenelles at the Vagenende on the Boulevard Saint-Germain, but those are too copious.  The serving size is way too big at the Vagenende, and the dish is super rich.  At Firmin's place, the dish is sized right and isn't so heavy.

So we were able to have dessert:  a limoncello baba (sponge cake) for Tom, and a chocolate tart with a bit of lemon sorbet for me.  It was a fine dinner, and the service was very attentive.  We thanked Chef Alexandre profusely when we left.

On the way home, we arrived on the middle of the Champ de Mars just in time to see the Eiffel Tower twinkle.  I made a video of that for you: