Monday, September 30, 2013

Unfocused Sightseeing

Today's lunch wasn't too exciting.  I had a salad and Bill had a mushroom omelet.  The fries that came with his omelet looked and tasted delicious.

The sightseeing wasn't particularly focused.  We went to see a couple of things we'd not had time to find before.  The first goal was to find the shortest street in Paris.  This took us on a convoluted route that was difficult to follow.  At Port St. Denis I noticed a very nice statue of St. Francis with a pig.  I haven't been able to find out anything about this statue on the internet.

The shortest street was, indeed, short.  It consists of a small set of stairs connecting two other longer streets.

The final goal for the day was finding the spot on Rue de la Ferronnerie where King Henri IV was assassinated by François Ravaillac.   Ravaillac had attempted to take holy orders but was rejected by two religious orders because of his hallucinations, which he considered religious visions.

Today's baguette won 8th place in the 2013 contest.  We have only 9 more to try to complete our project.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Architectural Details

Today we returned to the book "Secrets, Legends, and Mysteries of Old Paris" to find a few interesting things to look at.  At 57 rue Turbigo we found this sculpture on the front of the building.  It demonstrates that even though Baron Haussman dictated a unity of style in the redevelopment of Paris, there was still latitude for architects to display some unique touches.

This half-timbered house on rue Volta was thought to be the oldest house in Paris until 1979 when research showed it dates only to 1644 and the title of oldest house goes to the Nicholas Flamel house in the Marais.

On a building on the edge of Place du Caire there are three depictions of the Egyptian goddess Hathor with her cows' ears.  Above her are some faux hieroglyphics.  Sorry for the photo quality - the tree in the square made it difficult to get a good shot.

At the very top of this building, among the "hieroglyphs," is a depiction of a man whose nose is about the same size as his head.  In the early 19th century there was an apprentice artist named Bouginier whose nose was the subject of much joking among his friends.  His fellow apprentices left depictions of it all over Paris and this one in Place du Caire is the only one remaining.  Victor Hugo referred to Bouginier's nose in "Les Miserables."

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Studio and Apartment of Le Corbusier

We got a relatively early start this morning because we were planning to visit the studio and apartment of the modern architect Le Corbusier, which are open to the public only on Saturdays.  His apartment and studio are located on the top two floors of  a building he co-designed in the far west section of the city.   Here's what the building looks like from the outside.

The apartment is about 240 square meters, which makes it huge when compared to our 33 square meter rental apartment.  However it's a modest size when compared to typical American housing.  There's a narrow balcony around two sides of the apartment with about a 3-foot tall wall on the edge of the balcony.  Le Corbusier wanted to be able to see the  Bois de Boulogne from the bed, so the bed is raised about  4 feet off the floor - a little odd looking. Today you can see fairly attractive apartment buildings from the bedroom, but I couldn't see the Bois de Boulogne.  The kitchen is small and efficiently laid out.  The apartment has an open plan and uses glass blocks to allow plenty of light in.

On the east side of the studio, directly across the street, is a huge new stadium that replaces the wooded area that would have been there at the time the apartment building was constructed.  Somehow I think that Le Corbusier would not be pleased.

Today's baguette is the 4th place winner of the 2012 contest.

No lunch photos today.  We've been eating so much bread, cheese, and pastries recently that we opted for a simple salad lunch.  However, we've noticed that in Paris almost all salads are loaded up with ham and cheese, and the salads we ate today were no exception.


Friday, September 27, 2013

A Long Walk on the Promenade Plantée

Today we walked to Place de la Bastille to have lunch at Leon's of Bruxelle, a Belgian chain specializing in mussels and french fries.  It was a very pleasant lunch.  The photo of my mussels may appear blurred because they were steaming when I took the picture.

We took the Métro to the southeast edge of the city to buy kouglof, which is available at this particular bakery only on the week-ends.  I've been wanting to try it ever since I read about it here.  It's a bread-like yeast cake with raisins.

The weather was perfect, and I noticed we were not far from Promenade Plantée, so I suggested a walk.  Promenade Plantée is a linear park built on an abandoned elevated railway, a forerunner of the High Line in New York City.  It begins near Place de la Bastille and goes all the way out to Bois de Vincennes in the southeast corner of the city.  According to Wikipedia it's 2.9 miles long.  We were near the Bois de Vincennes when we started our walk, so we walked toward Place de la Bastille.  The park has a few short stretches where it appears you're out in a wilderness area.  It also has lots of manicured garden areas.  There's a bike path that runs parallel to the walking path, and lots of variety in the terrain.   There are tunnels, tables where you can play chess,  and even several small waterfalls.  I apologize for the placement of the photos.  I haven't quite figured out how to do the formatting in Blogger.

After we'd had enough walking we left the park to buy our baguette of the day, winner of 3rd place in the 2012 contest.  Then it was back to the Métro and home.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Oldest Church, the Oldest Sign, and a French Writer's Lucky Toe

Today we walked to Le Marché des Enfants Rouges (Market of the Red Children) for lunch.  The name comes from a former orphanage in the area which provided red uniforms for its children.  It sells some fresh produce but most of the space is taken up by small restaurants.  We ate at a Moroccan place where Bill had stuffed sardines and I had couscous with leg of lamb brochettes.  Delicious!

From there we took a walking tour from a book we found in our apartment, "Secrets, Legends, and Mysteries of Old Paris."  This tour begins near the Sorbonne.  We found a statue of Montaigne in a small park across from the Sorbonne.  Legend has it that if you rub his toe and make a wish the wish will come true.  I tried it and it worked!  See the last photo in this post to find our what my wish was.

Not too far away was the oldest church in Paris, Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre,  located just steps away from the oldest tree in Paris.  The church is now used for Melkite Greek Catholic services.  It looks like a small village church and is very modest compared to many of the huge Gothic churches throughout the city.

Several blocks away is the oldest sign in the city.  It depicts St. Julian the Hospitaller (not to be confused with Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre) and his wife ferrying a passenger in a boat.  Julian accidentally killed his parents.  Filled with remorse, he decided to leave everything behind him and settled in a remote area near the Seine where he established a hospital and offered to ferry people across the river.  One day he ferried a leper across the river and it turns out that the leper was actually Jesus, who forgave him for his tragic accident.

The tour then took us in the neighborhood of the Pantheon, which was quite hilly.  We decided to call it a day and hopped on the Métro to return home.  Near our Métro stop we stopped at a bakery and this is when my rubbing Montaigne's toe paid off.  The pastry on the left is a religieuse, so named because it is supposed to resemble a nun in her habit.  The one on the right is called Paris-Brest and according to Wikipedia it was created to commemorate the bicycle race of the same name.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


We didn't have a specific destination in mind when we left our apartment around noon today.   We walked east to Belleville, a gritty working class neighborhood noted for its graffiti art.  We ended up at a cafe called Biarritz where I ordered what was listed as filet mignon of pork with mushrooms and Bill ordered a salad de terroir (related to a sense of place).  We were both happy with our meals even though Bill's salad had some unidentifiable ingredients.

We had a few afternoon errands to take care of, so returned to the apartment and didn't leave again until early evening.  Again without having a specific destination in mind we walked roughly west.  We found this.

Continuing southwest we came across the ornate headquarters of the BNP Paribas bank.

After a short distance we reached the Opera (do you think it's ornate enough?) where we hopped on the Métro and returned home.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Croix de l'Evangile

We left the house much earlier than usual today (before 11:00), and our first mission was to find the Croix de l'Evangile.  I had read about it here.  We took the Métro to northeast Paris and walked along Rue L'Evangile into an industrial area.  It was much farther than we expected - nearly a mile from the Métro stop.  We were nearly ready to give up when we spotted the crois de carrefour marking the crossroads of Rue L'Evangile and Rue D'Aubervilliers.  According to the Paris Invisible website, there are many of these throughout France, but this is the only remaining one in Paris.  Jesus' toes are shiny from people rubbing them and there are flower and candle offerings at the base of the cross.  Rather than walk back to the Métro station, we got on the first bus that came by, with no regard to its destination.  The route happened to go by the city hall of Montmartre, and we hopped off the bus.  We hadn't been there since the first time we were in Paris, in 1999, when our son and his wife married in a ceremony performed by the Communist mayor of Montmartre in that city hall.

This is on the less touristy side of the hill where Sacre Coeur is located, so we worked our way around to the side of Sacre Coeur where we found the bakery that won 2nd place in the 2013 Best Baguette contest.  After buying today's baguette we decided to go to lunch at a place our son recommended, Tartine, near the Marais.  We went there by Métro and had a delicious meat and cheese plate with our wine.  From there it was a leisurely walk home.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Street Art

First on today's agenda was lunch at Au Petit Suisse near the Luxembourg Gardens.  Surprisingly, after 3 weeks in Paris, I hadn't had quiche yet.  The salmon spinach quiche I had for lunch today remedied that.  Bill had a salad with cheese and ham.

While walking around the neighborhood I noticed this beautiful door.  We stopped at a nearby Savoyard co-op and bought cheese, sausage, and jam.  Savoie is a French department near the Italian Alps.

From there we took the Métro to the southeast part of the city to check out some street art that I'd read about here.

I found this cat mural on my own when we passed by it on the Métro just before the Nationale stop.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

What We Saw on Our Walk Today

We moved to the Canal St. Martin neighborhood last Monday, but my sister and her husband arrived in Paris the next day, so while they were here we focused on doing and seeing the things they were interested in.  Today we spent the entire day exploring our new neighborhood.  Canal St. Martin flows from the Seine to the northeast corner of Paris.  It's a very popular neighborhood and lots of young people live and hang out there.  On Sundays, portions of the streets along the canal are blocked to traffic and a party atmosphere ensues.  We walked along the canal checking out the brunch menus, and within 3 blocks of our apartment came across a 20-piece brass band playing alongside the canal.  It was very entertaining and we stopped to listen for about a half hour.   You can see a passarelle, or pedestrian bridge, in the background of the photo.

From there we walked to Le Comptoir General which is a market area built to resemble an African bazaar.  Food and drinks were available and there were several places where you could purchase vinyl records.  There was an art area for children and a tiny museum of "supernatural" artifacts.  I wasn't sure if photos were allowed, but I took one anyway.  It's tiny doll legs on the insole of a shoe.  I have no idea of its significance.  There were lots of political posters about Francophone African countries

Further on along the canal we came across a huge flea market.  Beyond that, not far from Place de la Bastille, was a restaurant called La Fee Verte (the green fairy), specializing in absinthe.

We stopped for gelato at Place de la Bastille and then returned home.  On the way we passed a beautiful tile sign.  Google Translate was worthless in helping me figure out what it says.  My guess is the building was formerly a public bathhouse.

Sorry, but no real food photos today.  It was a snack day and the photo of the gelato was blurry.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Behind Balzac's House

Janet and John leave Paris today, so we decided to show them a picturesque street we discovered two years ago.  It's a tiny cobblestone pedestrian alley that opens up to become a narrow cobblestone street behind Balzac's house.  Balzac had chronic financial problems and when creditors would come to the front door looking for payment he'd slip out the back door on to this street.

Here's the front of Balzac's house - now a museum.  As you see, he lived close to the Eiffel Tower.  The house is built into a hill and the back door is at least one story below this front portion of the house.

Our lunch was at an Alsatian restaurant, Le Relais d'Alsace near Les Halles, the former food market area of Paris.  We all had flammekeuche, a sort of German pizza with cheese and bacon or ham.   The crust is very thin, like matzo.  We'd had it before and thought Janet and John might enjoy it. They did.

Several of us had dessert and they were scrumptious.  In the photo are a chocolate mousse and a chocolate cake with a liquid caramel center in a creme anglaise sauce topped with ice cream.  Not shown is a cafe gouurmand, a tiny cup of coffee served with small portions of 4 different desserts.  It was a very successful farewell lunch.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Orangerie

My favorite small art museum in Paris is the Orangerie (although the Picasso Museum is a contender if they ever re-open after a years long renovation).  Today my sister and her husband visited it with me and I was glad that they agreed with me.  Of course the main attraction is the large Monet water lily paintings, which you are no longer permitted to photograph.  If they were the only pictures in the museum it would still be worth the price of admission.  However, there's also a very nice group of modern paintings collected by Paul Guillaume and his wife and given to France in 1959.  I particularly liked the Renoir and Matisse works.

On our way to the Orangerie we noticed a collection of about 10 shrines to French citizens who lost their lives in World War II.  It's very common and moving to see these and there are always flowers at them.  Some of them are located at the actual spot where the person died.

The Tuileries (where the Orangerie is located) is a classical French garden, but near the west entrance is a large Dubuffet sculpture.

We tried another new restaurant today, Chez Marianne, a popular Middle Eastern Jewish restaurant located in the Marais district.  It offers composed plates where you select 4, 6, or 8 items from a list of about 20 items, depending on how hungry you are and what you are willing to pay - sort of like the "compose your own bento box" place that we ate at about a week ago.  It was a bit challenging because the menu is in French only and offered lots of food with which we were unfamiliar.  However, we managed to successfully order a meal that we enjoyed.  I had pastrami, hummus, artichoke salad, and Greek style mushrooms.

Our New Favorite Crepes Place

I've been avoiding this type of breakfast for as long as possible because they can be addictive.   I stopped at Du Pain et Des Idées for pastries before meeting Janet and John in their hotel.  On the left is pain au chocolat, in the middle are pistachio "snails," and on the right are apple chaussons (slippers).

The first thing we did after breakfast was head to Ile St. Louis to try to re-create a photo of the back of Notre Dame that Janet had seen on a calendar.  We managed to find the spot where the photographer had taken the shot, but my result was a bit disappointing.  Is it possible the professional photographer wasn't using a point and shoot camera?

The rest of the day was taken up by exploring the St. Germain and Palais Royale areas.  When it got to be late afternoon we realized we hadn't eaten since the pastries in the morning and we headed to Breizh Cafe, a creperie near the Marais that was new to us.  We were very happy with this place.  I had the basic ham and cheese galette for dinner and the basic salted caramel crepe for dessert.  The others had more elaborate crepes and all of us were very satisfied.  In the background of the dessert photo you can see Janet's pear, chocolate, and whipped cream crepe.  We shared a bottle of Breton cider.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Raclette and Fondue

My sister and her husband arrived in Paris on Wednesday for a few days.  Bill and I had spent the day running a few errands.  I notice that each time I come to Paris there are more ads with English phrases or entirely in English like this one for Converse.  We've been seeing this particular ad on the Métro a lot.
Janet and John arrived in the early evening and we walked several blocks to a restaurant that serves fondue and raclette (you melt cheese on a grill and then spread it on potatoes and meat).  The dish in the foreground is fondue with cepes (a meaty mushroom similar to a portabello).  In the background is Bill's plate of meat and cheese before he began melting the cheese in the small skillet provided.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Dali's Sun Dial and the Road to Hell

Today's mission was to find the sun dial Salvador Dali gave to the city of Paris in 1966.  It wasn't hard to find:  it's on Rue St. Jacques near the corner with Boulevard St. Germain.  The scallop shaped face symbolizes the pilgrims who traveled Rue St. Jacques on their way to Santiago de Campostelo.  I don't recommend using this sun dial to determine if it's time to return to work after lunch because it doesn't work.  (By the way, all this information is from MuseumChick.)

After that it was lunch in an Italian restaurant on Boulevard St. Germain.  We shared a pizza with épaule and artichokes.  We knew that "épaule" means shoulder, and we weren't exactly sure what we would be getting.  Turns out that it was ham.  We also got a caprese salad and a small pitcher of wine.

It's paved with good intentions.
From there we went to Montparnasse to find the Passage D'Enfer (the way to Hell).  It was quite peaceful looking with gates at each end to prevent unwanted traffic.

Our final stop of the day was to get the baguette which won first prize in 2013.  It's very good, but in truth, I'd be proud to serve any of these prize winning baguettes.  They're all excellent.  We've now tried 7 of the 20 winners of 2012 and 2013.